STEPAN-MILD® BSB

What is it? STEPAN-MILD® BSB is a gentle pre-blended surfactant product featuring anionic, non-ionic, cationic, and amphoteric surfactants. It creates products with gorgeous, rich lather and a really lovely conditioned skin feel on rinse-off.
INCI PEG-80 Sorbitan Laurate, Sodium Trideceth Sulfate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Disodium Lauroamphodiacetate, PEG-150 Distearate, Sodium Laureth-13 Carboxylate, Quaternium-15
Appearance Yellow liquid
Usage rate I haven’t found a maximum usage level; 10–40% works well for most products.
Scent Characteristic; detergent-y
Active surfactant matter ~42%
pH 6.5–7.5
Charge Anionic, Nonionic, Cationic, and Amphoteric
Solubility Water
Why do we use it in recipes? STEPAN-MILD® BSB can be used to quickly and easily create surfactant products like body washes, hand washes, and shampoos. It’s a great way to start working with surfactants as you can use it as the sole surfactant product in a formulation.
Do you need it? No, but it is a nice “shortcut” surfactant product.
Refined or unrefined? STEPAN-MILD® BSB only exists as a refined product.
Strengths STEPAN-MILD® BSB is an easy-to-use blend that functions nicely as the sole surfactant-type ingredient in a wide variety of formulations.
Weaknesses I haven’t found it for sale outside of Canada yet.
Alternatives & Substitutions The easiest substitution would be a different pre-blended surfactant product, like Iselux Ultra Mild and Miracare Soft 313. Different surfactant blends do create different feeling finished products, but it’ll still cleanse. Depending on what you’re making you may need to do your own experiments to get a finished product you’re happy with.

Otherwise, you’ll need to create your own surfactant blend featuring different charges and prioritizing choosing mild surfactants. I recommend checking out this table, this FAQ article, and this series of posts to learn more.

How to Work with It Include it with the surfactant and/or water phase of your formulation. STEPAN-MILD® BSB can be hot or cold processed.
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, STEPAN-MILD® BSB should last two years.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks Thickens well with salt (NaCl).
Recommended starter amount 250mL (8 fl oz)
Where to Buy it  As of July 2020 I’ve only found it for sale at Voyageur Soap & Candle and Windy Point, both in Canada.

Want to compare different surfactants?

Check out my super-useful surfactants table!

Some Recipes that Use STEPAN-MILD® BSB

Plantapon® TF

What is it? Plantapon® TF is a pre-blended sulfate-free surfactant product made by BASF Care Creations as part of their “Plantapon®” range of surfactant products. The “TF” suffix stands for “tear-free” as this surfactant blend is marketed for use in tear-free and other sensitive skin formulations.

In addition to Decyl Glucoside and Coco Glucoside (two natural non-ionic surfactants), Plantapon® TF also contains Polyglyceryl-10 Caprylate/Caprate and Glyceryl Oleate. Polyglyceryl-10 Caprylate/Caprate is another gentle, natural, non-ionic surfactant that improves foaming; Glyceryl Oleate is a conditioning/re-fatting ingredient, helping make the overall product milder.

Plantapon® TF has been approved by the Natural Products Association.

INCI Decyl Glucoside (and) Polyglyceryl-10 Caprylate/Caprate (and) Coco-Glucoside (and) Glyceryl Oleate
Appearance Yellow liquid
Usage rate The manufacturer of Plantapon® TF suggests usage around 20%. It contains 60% active surfactant matter.
Scent Characteristic; detergent-y
Active surfactant matter 60%
pH 4.5–5.5
Charge Non-ionic
Solubility Water
Why do we use it in recipes? Plantapon® TF works as a lovely primary surfactant blend in our products. It is gentle, natural, and produces a beautiful, rich lather with really nice rinse-off.
Do you need it? No, but it is a nice “shortcut” surfactant product.
Refined or unrefined? Plantapon® TF only exists as a refined product, but it is considered to be natural.
Strengths Plantapon® TF is an easy-to-use blend that functions nicely as a primary surfactant, and could also be used as the only surfactant product in a formulation. If you don’t want to invest in a lot of surfactants it’s a good option for easily creating a variety of gentle foaming/cleansing products.
Weaknesses I’ve only found one place to purchase it.
Alternatives & Substitutions You’ll want at least one non-ionic surfactant (Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside, Coco Glucoside, Decyl Glucoside, etc.) and a water-soluble re-fatting ingredient (Olivem 300, water-soluble shea butter, Glyceryl Oleate, etc.). I’d probably start with 90–95% surfactant, and 5–10% re-fatting/conditioning ingredient.

You will likely want to test and adjust the pH downwards as well; most glucosides are quite basic, and the pH of Plantapon® TF is mildly acidic.

You could also try substituting Plantapon® TF for non-ionic surfactants in other formulations. With 60% ASM, it is very similar in concentration to Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside, Coco Glucoside, Decyl Glucoside, and Lauryl Glucoside, so you could likely swap it out 1:1 and still get very similar results in cleansers, shampoos, etc.

How to Work with It Include it with the surfactant and/or water phase of your formulation. Plantapon® TF can be hot or cold processed.

I like to add an amphoteric surfactant to formulations including Plantapon® TF as it does not contain one, but this is not required.

Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, Plantapon® TF should last two years.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks There are quite a few products in the Plantapon® range, so make sure you’re purchasing the correct one!

BASF lists Plantapon® TF as having “good” salt thickening. It is preserved with Sodium Benzoate.

Recommended starter amount 250mL (8 fl oz)
Where to Buy it  As of June 2020 I’ve only found it for sale at Voyageur Soap & Candle out of Canada.

Want to compare different surfactants?

Check out my super-useful surfactants table!

Some Recipes that Use Plantapon® TF

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)

What is it? Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) is a strong, anionic surfactant. It is often confused with Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLeS) and Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate (SLSa), which are both different (and milder) surfactants. This confusion is one of the #1 reasons people on the internet get mad at me. SLS is perfectly safe when used properly; learn more here.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) can also be found in some emulsifying waxes (Lanette® W, Vegarol EW 200) paired with cetearyl alcohol.

As of May 2020: I do not own SLS, have never worked with it, and have never shared a formulation using it. If I did own it I would probably use it for things like dish detergent and other household cleaners rather than for personal care products.

INCI Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
Appearance White powder
Usage rate 3–30%
Scent Characteristic of surfactants—detergenty.
pH 9.75–10.25 (1% solution)
Charge Anionic
Solubility Water
Why do we use it in recipes? Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) is an excellent cleanser and creates wonderful, luxurious lather. It’s also inexpensive.
Do you need it? No; I don’t own it and have never worked with it.
Refined or unrefined? Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) only exists as a refined product.
Strengths Strong, inexpensive, effective surfactant.
Weaknesses That strength can be irritating. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) also has a pretty bad reputation, which it doesn’t really deserve. Learn more here.
Alternatives & Substitutions I would choose something milder, like Sodium Coco Sulfate (SCS), Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLeS), or Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate (SLSa).
How to Work with It Wear a dust mask while working with SLS.
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, SLS should last at least two years.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) is often confused with Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLeS) and Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate (SLSa), which are both different (and milder) surfactants. This confusion is one of the #1 reasons people on the internet get mad at me. While SLS certainly can be irritating, so can many ingredients (traditional lye soap, for instance, would also be irritating to the skin if applied in high concentrations and left in contact with the skin for extended periods of time). SLS is not a carcinogen.
Recommended starter amount 100g (3.5oz)
Where to Buy it  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier or Amazon.

Some Recipes that Use Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)

I don’t own Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) or work with it.

Sodium Cocoamphoacetate

What is it? Sodium Cocoamphoacetate is a mild liquid amphoteric surfactant.
INCI Sodium Cocoamphoacetate
Appearance Turbid semi-viscous liquid.
Usage rate Typical usage in formulas would generally be in the 3–40% range. I have found no maximum usage level stated.
Scent Characteristically soapy/detergent-y.
Active Surfactant Matter 38%
pH 9 (10% solution)
Charge Amphoteric
Solubility Water
Why do we use it in recipes? We include Sodium Cocoamphoacetate in our formulas to make surfactant blends milder, function as a secondary surfactant, boost foam/lather, and increase viscosity.
Do you need it? No, Cocamidopropyl Betaine would be my first choice for a mild amphoteric surfactant.
Strengths Makes surfactant blends milder, boosts lather, conditions skin and hair.
Weaknesses Because it has a higher pH than Cocamidopropyl Betaine I find products made with Sodium Cocoamphoacetate usually require pH adjustment.
Alternatives & Substitutions Cocamidopropyl Betaine would be my first choice. Otherwise you’ll want to look for another liquid amphoteric surfactant. Read this for more information on substituting surfactants.
How to Work with It Include it in the heated water phase or cool down phase.
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, Sodium Cocoamphoacetate should last up to two years.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks Amphoteric surfactants have a positive (cationic) charge in acidic pH environments and a negative (anionic) charge in basic pH environments.
Recommended starter amount 250mL (8fl oz)
Where to Buy it  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier. Mine was gifted by Essential Wholesale.

Want to compare different surfactants?

Check out my super useful surfactants table!

 

Some Recipes that Use Sodium Cocoamphoacetate

Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLeS)

What is it? Sodium Laureth Sulfate (sodium lauryl ether sulfate/SLeS) is an anionic surfactant made from coconuts. It should not be confused with Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)—SLeS is much milder.
INCI Sodium Laureth Sulfate
Appearance Clear, viscous liquid or a smooth, thick paste—it is available at different concentrations and more concentrated versions are thicker.
Usage rate The CIR has not noted a maximum usage rate. Let the desired total active surfactant matter of your end product be your guide.
Texture Slippery, detergenty
Scent Characteristically detergenty
Active Surfactant Matter 26–70% (this varies with format; confirm with your supplier)
pH 7.5 (10% solution)
Charge Anionic
Solubility Water
Why do we use it in recipes? Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLeS) is an excellent lathering surfactant and is a great choice for a primary surfactant in any kind of foaming/cleansing product. It is also a fairly decent solubilizer.
Do you need it? No
Refined or unrefined? Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLeS) only exists as a refined product.
Strengths Fantastic lather, great cleansing.
Weaknesses It is still a sulfate, which some people prefer to avoid due to possible irritation or colour-treated hair. It also tends to get confused with SLS, which isn’t really a weakness of the product itself.
Alternatives & Substitution Generally speaking, you’d hope to replace any surfactant with one that is the same format and has the same charge. A similar pH and ASM would be nice, but those differences can be accommodated in the formulation. It is also nice if the surfactant has a similar feel and produces similar lather.

If you need a substitute for Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLeS), Sodium coco sulfate is another sulfate you may have on hand, though you will likely need to dissolve it in some water to create a liquid solution with a similar concentration to use it in place of SLeS. You can try Sodium C14-16 Alpha Olefin Sulfonate (Bio-Terge AS40) as an alternative liquid anionic non-sulfate surfactant, or even Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside, though it is non-ionic and does not have the same high-foam properties.

How to Work with It Include it in the water phase of your formulations; it can be hot or cold processed.
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLeS) should last at least two years.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks There is quite a lot of misinformation about the safety of SLeS. I recommend giving this a read. Neither SLS or SLeS are carcinogens.
Recommended starter amount 250g (0.5lbs) (solid surfactant bars and bath bombs will use lots!)
Where to Buy it  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier.

Want to compare different surfactants?

Check out my super useful surfactants table!

Some Recipes that Use Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLeS)

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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