Varisoft® EQ 65 (Distearoylethyl Dimonium Chloride, Cetearyl Alcohol)

What is it? Varisoft® EQ 65 is a natural, biodegradeable cationic emulsifier/surfactant. It is both ECOcert and COSMOS certified. It contains approximately 65% active matter.
INCI Distearoylethyl Dimonium Chloride, Cetearyl Alcohol
Appearance White/slightly off-white pellets
Usage rate 1–10%
Scent A bit fishy
Approximate Melting Point 80°C (176°F)
pH 3.0–6.0 (5% solution)
Charge Positive
Solubility Oil
Why do we use it in recipes? Varisoft® EQ 65 gives our products “conditioning” power (slip, improved comb-through & detangling, improved hair feel), though not as much as less natural alternatives like BTMS-50 and behentrimonium chloride (BTMC). It also functions as a complete emulsifying wax.
Do you need it? No
Refined or unrefined? Varisoft® EQ 65 only exists as a refined product.
Strengths Natural, relatively easy to use cationic emulsifier/surfactant.
Weaknesses I find it does not perform as well as less natural alternatives like BTMS-50 and behentrimonium chloride (BTMC).
Alternatives & Substitutions You’ll need to use something else that is both a complete emulsifying wax and conditioning/cationic. BTMS-50 would be a good, easy alternative. Behentrimonium Chloride (BTMC) can be a good alternative; pure BTMC does not contain any stabilizing ingredients so if a recipe calls for 5% Varisoft® EQ 65 I would recommend using 3% each BTMC and 2% cetearyl alcohol. The maxiumum recommended usage rate for BTMC is 3%.

Non-cationic emulsifying waxes (Polawax, Emulsifying Wax NF, Olivem 1000, Ritamulse, etc.) are not good alternatives for Varisoft® EQ 65 as they are not going to bring that conditioning element to your formulation. They’ll emulsify the product, but that’s it. This is likely not going to ruin the product, but it will definitely negatively impact the performance. If it’s a hair conditioner you will definitely notice a decline in detangling and the silkiness of the hair. If it’s a conditioning body butter, there’s really no reason to use something Polawax in place of the Varisoft® EQ 65; the Varisoft® EQ 65 was included primarily for the conditioning element, not the emulsifying element, so using a non-cationic emulsifying wax in its place is somewhat useless. In an anhydrous application I’d probably try replacing Varisoft® EQ 65 with 50% cetyl or cetearyl alcohol and 50% soft or liquid oil (more of whatever is in the recipe). That will likely require some tweaking for proper consistency, though. You would likely be better off looking for a body butter recipe that doesn’t use Varisoft® EQ 65.

You could try incorporating a different cationic ingredient like a polyquaternarium into your formulation to replace the conditioning part of the Varisoft® EQ 65, and then using a non-cationic emulsifying wax. You will need to watch solubility and usage rates, though.

How to Work with It Include Varisoft® EQ 65 in the heated oil phase of your concoctions; I find it typically does not fully melt in water baths, so I usually have to finish melting my oil phase in the microwave.

The pH of the final product needs to be below 5 as Varisoft® EQ 65 breaks down in higher pH environments. General recommendations for final products are in the 4–4.5 range.

Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, Varisoft® EQ 65 should last at least one year.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks I find Varisoft® EQ 65 creates funny little transparent pellet blobs when I try to melt it in a water bath.
Recommended starter amount 100g (3.5oz)
Where to Buy it  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier.

Some Recipes that Use Varisoft® EQ 65

PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil

What is it? PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil is a water soluble soft-solid solubilizer/oil-in-water emulsifier.
INCI PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil
Appearance Beige unctuous, solid paste
Usage rate 1–10%
Texture Thick, sticky, smooth paste
Scent Characteristic
Absorbency Speed Slow
Approximate Melting Point 30°C
pH 5.5–7 (3% in water)
Charge Non-ionic
Solubility Miscible in both water and oils
Why do we use it in recipes? PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil can function as a co-emulsifier (oil-in-water) and solubilizer. It can also contribute thickening and texture to our products. I’ve used it in body oils to give them a bit of added viscosity and allow the oil to self-solubilize with any water on the skin. PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil is also a popular ingredient in hair pomades.
Do you need it? No
Refined or unrefined? PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil only exists as a refined product.
Strengths Good solubilizer and thickener. Very versatile.
Weaknesses Not natural, not always widely available.
Alternatives & Substitutions You’d need a different PEG hydrogenated oil to get both the water solubility and the thickening. You can try splitting out the PEG part (Olivem 300, polysorbate 80) and the thickening part (a soft butter, perhaps?) to get both parts from two ingredients.
How to Work with It Include it in the heated oil phase. It doesn’t strictly need to be melted to work with it, but that does make things easier.
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil should last about two years.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil has the coolest stringy-gooey consistency!
Recommended starter amount 100g (3.3oz)
Where to Buy it  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier or Amazon.

Some Recipes that Use PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil

Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer (Aristoflex AVC)

What is it? Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer (Aristoflex® AVC) is a gelling agent and oil-in-water pseudo-emulsifier (according to the manufacturer it can stabilize up to 15% hydrophobic ingredients). It can be used to quickly create lightweight gel-creams. It is a synthetic polymer. Unlike some other gelling agents, it is pre-neutralized and does not need to be pH adjusted.

Clariant (the manufacturer) productes an entire line of Aristoflex® products; the “AVC” distinction is important! The AVC variety is marketed as the most versatile of the line.

INCI Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer
Appearance Fine white powder
Usage rate 0.5–2%
Texture Creates silky smooth gels.
Scent Nothing noticeable.
pH 4–6 (1% in distilled water)
Solubility Water
Why do we use it in recipes? I primarily use it to create lightweight gels with small amounts of pseudo-emulsified oils.

It can also be used as a co-thickener/emulsion stabilizer in products containing other primary emulsifying/thickening ingredients, and to gel concoctions that contain high concentrations (upwards of 50%) of ethanol.

Do you need it? No, but it is wonderfully fun and very useful for certain types of projects.
Refined or unrefined? Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer (Aristoflex® AVC) only exists as a refined product.
Strengths  Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer (Aristoflex® AVC) quickly creates beautiful gels. It can also create “pseduo-emulsions” by stabilizing non-water-soluble ingredients (oils, silicones) into an otherwise aqueous formula. Clariant (the manufacturer) says “the stabilizing effect of Aristoflex® AVC is explained by the cross-linked structure of the polymer, providing a yield value and thus ‘trapping’ the oil droplets or solids (e.g. pigments) in the water/polymer matrix.”
Weaknesses Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer (Aristoflex® AVC) does not play well with electrolytes—you’ll notice an immediate loss of viscosity as soon as electrolytes are added. Avoid ingredients including electrolytes like aloe vera, sodium lactate, salt, and urea. If your end product is significantly thinner than expected, double-check the ingredients for anything containing electrolytes.
Alternatives & Substitutions At this time I can’t suggest anything terribly suitable. You could try using a different gelling agent like hydroxyethylcellulose for the gelling job, and then incorporating a solubilizer like Cromollient SCE for the emulsifying/stabilizing part. This sort of two-part alternative will require you to at least partially re-develop and re-test the formula.
How to Work with It Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer (Aristoflex® AVC) can be hot or cold processed. It can be pre-dispersed in the oil phase (as you would a gum) before blending in the water phase with a high shear mixer. I’ve also had good results mixing together all the other ingredients in the recipe before sprinkling the Aristoflex® AVC over the surface of the mixture and blending that together with a high shear mixer.

Keep the pH of the final product in the 4–9 range. A pH above 9 will release ammonia.

Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, Aristoflex® AVC should last up to three years.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks For clear gels, use at least 1% Aristoflex® AVC, or include ~5% glycerin or other solvent. Distilled or de-ionized water will give the best results.
Recommended starter amount 30g/1 ounce
Where to Buy it  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier. So far I’ve found it at Windy Point Soap Making Supplies (Canada) and LotionCrafter (USA).

Some Recipes that Use Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer (Aristoflex® AVC)

BTMS-25

What is it? BTMS-25 is a cationic (positively charged) emulsifying wax. Because it’s cationic it is also “conditioning”—it adsorbs (creates a very fine coating) on skin and hair, giving an amazing finish that is unique to cationic ingredients. It contains 25% of the active ingredient, Behentrimonium Methosulfate (compared to BTMS-50, which contains 50%). I find BTMS-25 makes thicker/firmer products than BTMS-50 due to the higher concentration of a hardening/thickening ingredient.
INCI Behentrimonium Methosulfate (and) Cetearyl Alcohol
Appearance Small white waxy beads
Usage rate 1–10% of the overall product; ~25% of the oil phase to emulsify.
Scent Can be a bit fishy, but this usually doesn’t come through in finished products if used below 10–15%.
Approximate Melting Point 60°C (140°F)
pH 5–7 (2% solution)
Charge Cationic (positive)
Solubility Oil
Why do we use it in recipes? It gives our products the most luxurious, wonderful skin feel and leaves hair feeling stunning—easy to comb through and all kinds of silky. It also functions as a complete emulsifying wax, and offers noticeable thickening.
Do you need it? If you want to make hair care products you’ll want a conditioning emulsifying wax—I tend to prefer BTMS-50 as it is more potent, but if you can’t get 50, 25 is a decent alternative. It is also wonderful as the emulsifier in lotions and as a conditioning add-in for body butters and balms!
Strengths Great conditioning skin and hair feel. Depending on where you live it may be easier to get than BTMS-50.
Weaknesses It’s more expensive than most non-cationic emulsifying waxes, and if you use a lot of it (more than 10%+) it can make your products smell a bit fishy.
Alternatives & Substitutions You’ll need to use something else that is both a complete emulsifying wax and conditioning/cationic. BTMS-50 is also a cationic emulsifying wax, but it contains twice the amount of active as BTMS-25, so you might want to consider using less. Behentrimonium Chloride (BTMC) can be a good alternative; pure BTMC does not contain any stabilizing ingredients so if a recipe calls for 5% BTMS-25 I would recommend using 1.25% BTMC and 3.75% cetearyl alcohol. The maxiumum recommended usage rate for BTMC is 3%.

You can also look at alternatives like Varisoft EQ 65 and Emulsense HC, but be sure to familiarize yourself with the formulation requirements for those options as they can have quite narrow effective pH ranges and other requirements. I also find they are not as potent as BTMS.

Non-cationic emulsifying waxes (Polawax, Emulsifying Wax NF, Olivem 1000, Ritamulse, etc.) are not good alternatives for BTMS-25 as they are not going to bring that conditioning element to your formulation. They’ll emulsify the product, but that’s it. This is likely not going to ruin the product, but it will definitely negatively impact the performance. If it’s a hair conditioner you will definitely notice a decline in detangling and the silkiness of the hair. If it’s a conditioning body butter, there’s really no reason to use something Polawax in place of the BTMS-25; the BTMS-25 was included primarily for the conditioning element, not the emulsifying element, so using a non-cationic emulsifying wax in its place is somewhat useless. In an anhydrous application I’d probably try replacing BTMS with 50% cetyl or cetearyl alcohol and 50% soft or liquid oil (more of whatever is in the recipe). That will likely require some tweaking for proper consistency, though. You would likely be better off looking for a body butter recipe that doesn’t use BTMS.

You could try incorporating a different cationic ingredient like a polyquaternarium into your formulation to replace the conditioning part of the BTMS-25, and then using a non-cationic emulsifying wax. You will need to watch solubility and usage rates, though.

How to Work with It Melt in the heated oil phase.
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, BTMS-25 is very shelf stable. I’ve had some for upwards of three years that hasn’t changed at all.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks I find BTMS-25 can be a bit stubborn about melting in a water bath, so you might need to give your heated oil phase a quick burst in the microwave to get it to melt fully.
Recommended starter amount 100g (3.3oz)
Where to Buy it Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier. In Canada you can get it from Voyageur, in the USA you can get it from Lotion Crafter.

Some Recipes that Use BTMS-25

Behentrimonium Chloride

What is it? Behentrimonium Chloride is a cationic emulsifier and conditioning ingredient. Unlike Behentrimonium Methosulfate (BTMS) it is often available without any stabilizing additives like cetearyl alcohol, so you’ll need to add some of your own in order to create stable emulsions with it.
INCI Behentrimonium Chloride
Appearance White pellets or flakes
Usage rate 0.5–3%
Texture Products made with behentrimonium chloride tend to have a smooth, powdery finish.
Scent Strong fishy odor
Approximate Melting Point 90°C (194°F)
pH 6–8
Charge Cationic
Solubility Oil
Why do we use it in recipes? Behentrimonium Chloride is an excellent conditioner, helping improve comb-through, reduce static, and soften coarse hair. It is most typically used in cream-type hair conditioners, both leave-in and rinse-out.
Do you need it? No, but I’d recommend trying a store bought product that uses it as the primary conditioning agent—some people find their hair really prefers Behentrimonium Chloride to Behentrimonium Methosulfate (BTMS).
Refined or unrefined? Behentrimonium Chloride only exists as a refined product.
Strengths Behentrimonium Chloride is an excellent conditioning active in hair products.
Weaknesses Behentrimonium Chloride smells pretty bad, though I don’t find it tends to come through in finished products. Its higher melting point can also make it difficult to work with (it doesn’t like to melt in water baths).
Alternatives & Substitutions BTMS-50 is a good alternative.
How to Work with It Melt it in your oil phase; I find it typically needs some form of direct heat (microwave or stovetop) to melt through. Be careful not to burn it!
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, Behentrimonium Chloride should last at least two years.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks  Behentrimonium Chloride is made from canola oil and is Whole Foods Premium Body Care approved.
Recommended starter amount 100g (3.3oz)
Where to Buy it  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier or Amazon.

Some Recipes that Use Behentrimonium Chloride

PEG-6 Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides

What is it? PEG-6 Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides is a water-soluble emollient made from medium chain triglycerides typically sourced from coconut oil. The HLB value is approximately 12.5–14.
INCI PEG-6 Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides
Appearance Thin clear liquid
Usage rate 0.5–5%
Texture Smooth, slick liquid
Scent Nothing much
Charge Non-ionic
Solubility Water, alcohol, and oil
Why do we use it in recipes? PEG-6 Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides are pretty versatile! I primarily use this ingredient as the active cleansing ingredient in micellar water formulations; I’ve experimented with every liquid surfactant/solubilizer I own and only PEG-6 Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides  produce good results.

PEG-6 Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides can also be included in body washes and other surfactant products to make them gentler and more emollient, and as a solubilizer.

Do you need it? If you want to make micellar water I consider it to be essential. Otherwise, no.
Refined or unrefined? PEG-6 Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides only exists as a refined product.
Strengths Excellent skin feel, even in leave-on applications. Versatile, gentle ingredient.
Weaknesses Not considered natural, can be harder to find than other surfactants.
Alternatives & Substitutions In micellar water I have not found any suitable alternatives to PEG-6 Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides. In other projects other water soluble “oils” like Olivem 300 will work well.
How to Work with It Include it in the water phase of your products; PEG-6 Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides can be hot or cold processed.
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, PEG-6 Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides should last at least 2–3 years.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks PEG-6 Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides are in no way interchangeable with Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides.
Recommended starter amount If you’re primarily using PEG-6 Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides for micellar water 30mL (1fl oz) will go a very long way. If you also wish to use it as a water soluble emollient I’d purchase at least 100mL (3.3fl oz).
Where to Buy it  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier or Amazon.

Some Recipes that Use PEG-6 Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides

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