Polyamide-3

What is it? Polyamide-3 can be used to thicken oils (without adding opacity like waxes and fatty thickeners!), and because it’s also a great film-former it improves the wear time of our formulations. It is part of “a group of oil structuring polymers that create impressive films on the skin, lip and eyelash, delivering water and wear resistance benefits in colour cosmetic and sun care applications.” (source).

There are three different products with the INCI polyamide-3, all made by Croda as part of their OleoCraft™ line. I have found two available for sale to home crafters. TKB Trading’s Polyamide-3 (“Citrine Clear Wax”) is OleoCraft™ MP-30. I asked Making Cosmetics about their Polyamide-3 product and they told me it is “very similar to OleoCraft™ MP-32.”

Despite identical INCIs, these products perform slightly differently. Learn more with this super-helpful document!

INCI Polyamide-3
Appearance Clear, sticky, slightly yellow beads
Usage rate 1–30%
Texture Raw Polyamide-3 is firm and sticky
Scent Nothing noticeable
Approximate Melting Point MP-30 softens at 97°C (207°F), MP-32 softens at 99°C (210°F)
Solubility Oil
Why do we use it in formulations? I primarily use Polyamide-3 as a thickener/gelling agent for anhydrous formulations. If you want to add a bit of viscosity and gloss to an oil blend, Polyamide-3 is the ingredient for you! You can also create clear oil gels with Polyamide-3.

Polyamide-3 is also an effective film former and helps extend the wear time of colour cosmetics by reducing rub-off. Polyamide-3 “is an oil structuring polymer that creates impressive films on the skin, lip and eyelash, delivering water and wear resistance benefits across a variety of colour cosmetic and sun care applications.” (source)

Do you need it? No, but if you want to make gelled oil products and/or your own lip gloss base I haven’t found anything better!
Refined or unrefined? Polyamide-3 only exists as a refined product.
Strengths Polyamide-3 does some amazing things that can be hard to achieve! It gels/thickens oils while leaving them clear and it improves the wear time of colour cosmetics.
Weaknesses It’s difficult to source outside of the USA.
Alternatives & Substitutions I would start with a different Polyamide-3 product, though you may have to adjust the concentration to get the desired level of thickening.

As always, when making substitutions, it’s important to understand what an ingredient is bringing to a formulation, and why it was included. If polyamide-3 was included for thickening, you’ll need another thickener. If it was included for rub-off resistance/film-forming, you’ll need another ingredient that can do this job. Generally speaking, polyamide-3 will be fairly hard to substitute out if it’s being used to thicken/gel oils and keep them clear or if it’s being used to improve rub-off resistance in a formulation containing oils.

How to Work with It I find Polyamide-3 needs direct heat (not a water bath) to melt.
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, Polyamide-3 should last two or more years.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks Croda’s OleoCraft™ polymer line also includes OleoCraft™ LP-20 (INCI: Polyamide-8), which works with low to medium polarity oils. You cannot use this instead of Polyamide-3 without making some changes; it could potentially work if you shift the polarity balance of the oils in your formulation.
Recommended starter amount 50g (1.76oz)
Where to Buy it  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier. I have only found it for sale in the USA at TKB Trading and Making Cosmetics.

Some Formulations that Use Polyamide-3

Crothix™ Liquid

What is it? Crothix™ Liquid is a 45% solution of solid CROTHIX™ (PEG-150 Pentaerythrityl Tetrastearate). Both versions of Crothix™ are made by Croda Inc. and are only available under the Crothix™ name.

We use Crothix™ Liquid to thicken liquid surfactant products, and it does this beautifully. Products thickened with Crothix™ Liquid have a really gorgeous professional, glossy, high-end consistency. Crothix™ Liquid also reduces irritation and improves skin feel on rinse-off.

INCI PEG-150 Pentaerythrityl Tetrastearate (and) PEG-6 Caprylic/Capric Glycerides (and) Water
Appearance Clear viscous liquid
Usage rate 1–8%
Texture Smooth, viscous liquid.
Scent Faintly detergent-y; does not come through in finished products.
Approximate Melting Point Liquid at room temperature
Charge Non-ionic
Solubility Crothix™ Liquid is water-soluble
Why do we use it in formulations? Crothix™ Liquid thickens liquid surfactant products beautifully and easily.
Do you need it? I highly recommend having some Crothix™ Liquid on hand if you create liquid surfactant-based cleansing products (shampoos, hand washes, body washes, face washes, etc.)
Refined or unrefined? Crothix™ Liquid only exists as a refined product.
Strengths Crothix™ Liquid is an excellent and very easy to use thickener for liquid surfactant products. In addition to contributing gorgeous, silky, glossy thickening it also makes formulations milder and improves their skin-feel on rinse-off.
Weaknesses Crothix™ Liquid is not globally available.
Alternatives & Substitutions This will depend on the formulation; as Crothix™ Liquid is included to thicken surfactant formulations, you’ll need a different way to thicken the formulation.

If you can purchase solid CROTHIX™ (PEG-150 Pentaerythrityl Tetrastearate), that can be a good alternative. You’ll only need 45% of the liquid amount, but it does need to be melted into the formulation, so you can’t easily add it at the end. I’d try including 1% solid CROTHIX™ in the heated phase of your formulation and adjusting from there as needed.

Some surfactant formulations will thicken well with salt, which is a very inexpensive option. This typically works best with formulations that have a decent anionic surfactant concentration.

You can also try using a gum or other gelling agent (like carbomer). There are a lot of possibilities and variations in this category, so it’s very important to know your ingredients and understand your formulation so you know what works well together and what provides results you will enjoy.

Alternatively, if the formulation is water-thin without any thickener, you can package it in a bottle with a foamer top and skip the thickener altogether!

How to Work with It Crothix™ Liquid is pretty flexible when it comes to incorporating it into our formulations.

Crothix™ Liquid can be added at the very end of the making process, adding approximately 1% at a time and stirring gently between additions until the desired final consistency has been reached. Croda recommends heating Crothix™ Liquid to above 50°C and adding it to a room-temperature formulation, but I’ve never found this to be necessary.

Crothix™ Liquid can also be included in formulations right from the start and can be hot or cold processed.

I like to make a formulation once without including the Crothix™ Liquid, and then add it at the end as needed, documenting how much was added. I’ll then remove that amount from the distilled water in the formulation, add the Crothix™ Liquid to the formulation, and make it again to ensure the final consistency was correct. For example: say I added 3g Crothix™ Liquid to a 100g (3.5oz) of body wash to get the desired end consistency. For my next batch, I would reduce the water by 3% (3g added onto a 100g batch makes that 3g 2.91%, which I’d round up to 3% for simplicity’s sake), add 3% Crothix™ Liquid, and then make it again to ensure the final consistency is what I’m looking for, adjusting as needed.

Keep in mind that the amount of Crothix™ liquid required to thicken a formulation can vary with the essential oil and/or fragrance oil used.

The product’s final pH should be in the 5–9 range.

Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, Crothix™ Liquid should last at least 2 years.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks
Recommended starter amount 30g (1.06oz), more if you create a lot of surfactant products.
Where to Buy it  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier.

Some Formulations that Use Crothix™ Liquid

Polyacrylate crosspolymer-6 (Sepimax ZEN)

What is it? Polyacrylate crosspolymer-6 (SEPIMAX™ ZEN) is a gelling agent and pseudo-emulsifier.

It is pre-neutralized (unlike some carbomers, which are extremely acidic and need to be mixed with a strong base like NaOH after hydrating to bring the pH up) and has a much higher electrolyte tolerance (up to 10% salt) than the similar Aristoflex AVC.

INCI Polyacrylate crosspolymer-6
Appearance Slightly lumpy white powder
Usage rate 0.15–5%
Texture Polyacrylate crosspolymer-6 creates rich, velvety feeling gels.
Scent Nothing noticeable
pH 3–6
Solubility Water
Why do we use it in formulations? Polyacrylate crosspolymer-6 (Sepimax™ ZEN) thickens our formulations. In lower concentrations, it can suspend ingredients like glitter and exfoliants, and in higher concentrations, it can create rich feeling transparent gels and gel-creams. Polyacrylate crosspolymer-6 (Sepimax™ ZEN) can also stabilize oils, creating pseudo-emulsions, much like Aristoflex AVC.

It has a lovely sensory profile, and can be used to thicken surfactant products while also increasing and improving the foam. Polyacrylate crosspolymer-6 (Sepimax™ ZEN) works in products with pH 2–8.

Do you need it? No, but it is very useful!
Refined or unrefined? Polyacrylate crosspolymer-6 (Sepimax™ ZEN) only exists as a refined product.
Strengths Creates lovely, smooth gels and has a higher electrolyte tolerance than other gelling agents like Aristoflex AVC. I also like that it is pre-neutralized, meaning you don’t have to add a strong base like NaOH after hydrating it.
Weaknesses Depending on where you live it can be difficult to find.
Alternatives & Substitutions This will depend a lot on what you’re doing with it. If you are using Polyacrylate crosspolymer-6 as the base for a gel or gel cream I’d recommend Aristoflex AVC as an alternative, though Aristoflex AVC is very intolerant of electrolytes, so if you are counting on the electrolyte tolerance of Polyacrylate crosspolymer-6 that won’t work. You could also look at different carbomer products, like Carbopol® Ultrez 21 Polymer, though be sure to research them thoroughly to ensure they meet the needs of your product and that you are working with them properly.

If the Polyacrylate crosspolymer-6 is serving to stabilize an emulsion at a low concentration (usually less than 0.5%) you could use Aristoflex AVC (assuming there’s no electrolyte conflict) or a natural gum like xanthan, though that will impact the end feel of the final product.

How to Work with It Pre-disperse Polyacrylate crosspolymer-6 in the liquid oil or glycerin in a formulation before adding water or water-like ingredients (hydrosols, aloe vera juice, etc.). Cover the mixture and leave it to rest for at least an hour to allow the Polyacrylate crosspolymer-6 to hydrate, and then stir thoroughly to combine.
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry,
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks Polyacrylate crosspolymer-6 (Sepimax™ ZEN) is manufactured by SEPPIC.
Recommended starter amount 30g (1.06oz)
Where to Buy it  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier or Amazon.

Some Formulations that Use Polyacrylate crosspolymer-6

Sunflower Wax

What is it? Sunflower wax is a vegan wax made from the winterization of sunflower seed oil.
INCI Helianthus Annuus Seed Wax
Appearance Dusty beige pellets; typical of many other waxes.
Usage rate Review the results of this experiment to learn more; I likely wouldn’t use it much above 30% as it is such a potent hardener.
Texture Hard, smooth pellets.
Scent Nothing noticeable
Absorbency Speed Varies with concentration. Above 30% mixtures don’t seem to absorb at all. Lower usage rates tend towards slow absorbency rates. Review the results of this experiment to learn more.
Approximate Melting Point 74–77°C (165–171°F)
Solubility Oil
Why do we use it in formulations? Sunflower wax is included in formulations for hardening and thickening. It has a creamy skin feel that is somewhat similar to beeswax, but hard to find in vegan waxes.
Do you need it? No, but if you are vegan I would recommend it more as vegans don’t use beeswax.
Refined or unrefined? Sunflower wax only exists as a refined product.
Strengths Very potent hardening wax with a unique creamy/astringent skin feel.
Weaknesses Harder to find than other vegan waxes.
Alternatives & Substitutions I’d probably try a blend of beeswax (for the creaminess) and candelilla or carnauba wax (for the hardness).
How to Work with It Include sunflower wax in your heated oil phase
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, sunflower wax should last at least 3 years.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks Learn more about sunflower wax here!
Recommended starter amount 30g (1.06oz)
Where to Buy it  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier or Amazon.

Some Formulations that Use Sunflower Wax

Sodium Stearate

What is it? Sodium Stearate is saponified stearic acid—the sodium salt of stearic acid.
INCI Sodium Stearate
Appearance Fine white powder
Usage rate 0.5–20%
Texture Smooth powder
Scent Nothing noticeable
Approximate Melting Point 245–255° C
pH 10–11
Charge Anionic
Solubility Water, alcohol, cosmetic esters
Why do we use it in formulations? Sodium Stearate has a couple of really neat uses in cosmetics. It functions as a thickener/gelling agent and co-emulsifier. You’ll commonly find it in deodorants, where it is combined with propylene glycol or propanediol to create a solid stick base that actives can be added to.
Do you need it? No, but if you have a formulation that calls for it there’s no substitution.
Refined or unrefined? Sodium stearate only exists as a refined product.
Strengths Excellent thickener/gelling agent.
Weaknesses Harder to source than many ingredients, high pH.
Alternatives & Substitutions I haven’t found any viable alternatives for sodium stearate when used as a gelling agent with propylene glycol/propanediol.

As a thickener, you might try stearic acid, but keep in mind stearic acid is not water-soluble like sodium stearate is.

How to Work with It Slowly sprinkle sodium stearate into the hot aqueous phase to dissolve, whisking to incorporate.
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, sodium stearate should last at least two years.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks Sodium stearate + propylene glycol or propanediol creates a very cool semi-translucent gelled solid!
Recommended starter amount 100g (3.5oz) or less.
Where to Buy it  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier or Amazon.

Some Formulations that Use Sodium Stearate

Carnauba wax

What is it? Carnauba wax is a hard, yellow wax from the leaves of the Copernicia Cerifera palm in Brazil. It is the hardest vegetable wax.
INCI Copernicia Cerifera Wax
Appearance Thin yellow flakes
Usage rate Typically 30% or less will be sufficient. Learn more here.
Texture When melted it creates very firm, glassy products. Learn more here.
Scent Mine smells like pretty much nothing, but I have heard from readers that theirs has a very strong scent that comes through in finished products. I would recommend sourcing a refined version and inquiring with the supplier about the scent before purchasing.
Absorbency Speed Average
Approximate Melting Point 80–85°C (176–185°F)
Solubility Oil
Why do we use it in formulations? Carnauba wax offers excellent, glassy hardening to our products, and thanks to its high melting point it can be an especially good choice for hot climates. I will sometimes blend it with beeswax to get the creaminess of beeswax and the glide of carnauba wax.
Do you need it? No; I’d recommend having one of the “C” waxes (candelilla or carnauba), but they’re similar enough that I don’t think you need both.
Refined or unrefined? I would recommend sourcing a refined version and inquiring with the supplier about the scent before purchasing.
Strengths Strong, glassy, glossy hardening wax.
Weaknesses Carnauba wax does not give the creamy consistency beeswax does, and as such it can be a bit disappointing in products if you are looking for a creamy end product.
Alternatives & Substitutions Candelilla wax is a good alternative.
How to Work with It Include it in the heated oil phase of your formula; it must be melted into the product.
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, carnauba wax should last at least
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks Carnauba wax is sold in three different grades: T1, T3, and T4 (learn more here). You’ll want T1 for your cosmetics.
Recommended starter amount 50g (1.76oz)
Where to Buy it  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier or Amazon.

Some Formulations that Use Carnauba Wax

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