Natural Surfactants in Body Care

We’re all familiar with the ritual: rinse, lather, and repeat.

In fact, so complex is our relationship with foam, that we even celebrate a National Bubble Bath Day.

But where does all that foam really come from, and is it safe enough to be slathering it all over our body?

Well, the good news is YES it is safe, providing you are using products formulated with natural surfactants.

Below, we look at some of the surfactants used in the Naked Chemists bath and body care products.

Follow the link for further reading on the role of surfactants in personal care products.


Surfactants used in bath and body formulas

Coco betaine

Inci Name: Cocamidopropyl Betaine
Type: Amphoteric
Usage Rate: 5-40%

Lather: Coco Betaine creates a high-foaming lather, in cosmetic science, this would be described as having a “flash foam”; it bubbles up quickly, but soon dissipates. Think of bubble bath formulae, where the cleansing is secondary to the bubbles.

Description: Coco betaine is one of the most popular surfactants used in skincare today.

It is naturally derived from coconut and is a high-foaming surfactant. Because of its flash foam capabilities, many cosmetic chemists see it as an inferior surfactant. Coco betaine is also gentle enough to use in facial washes and baby formulations, it isn’t suited to being the only solitary surfactant within a formulation. Still, it can be blended with a non-ionic surfactant, which also makes it milder.


INCI Name: Decyl Glucoside
Type: Non-ionic
Usage Rate: 5-40%

Lather: This creates a lovely, rich, foamy lather; making it a popular choice for bath and body formulae.

Description: Polyglucose is considered part of a new generation of surfactants; it is derived from sugar and is considered an extremely natural and readily biodegradable. It is both mild and non-irritating to the skin. From our experience, polyglucose tends to have similar characteristics to non-ionic surfactants, in terms of its gentleness and mildness. Because it is so mild, it can also be used alone, as it works perfectly as a primary surfactant.

SCI Granules

INCI Name: Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate
Type: Anionic
Usage Rate: 5-50%

Lather: This surfactant is a great foam booster, which produces a really lovely, rich, thick lather – which is what you would expect from an anionic surfactant.

It is a great shaving foam ingredient; as a result, it is white and opaque.

Description:  Sodium cocoyl isethionate can be used as a primary surfactant, it is an extremely gentle and natural surfactant, derived from coconuts so that it won’t irritate your skin, it is great for bath and body products, as it leaves the skin feeling luxuriously moisturised.


INCI Name: Sodium Lauryl Sulphoacetate
Type: Anionic
Usage Rate: 5-60%

Lather: Produces a large volume of foam in bath and body products.

Description: This is a mild, water-soluble powder; it doesn’t irritate the skin, making it the perfect ingredient for sensitive skin. If you want to have fun creating, this is the surfactant we recommend for making solid bubble bath and body formulae, because it’s more natural and easy to work with.

14 replies on “Natural Surfactants in Body Care”

Hi! This article is very informative and helped my understanding a lot. I had one question: What is the difference between how the surfactants work? You mentioned that coco betaine bubbles generally dissipate quicker, why is that? I’ve been looking everywhere for an answer and I just can’t understand it. How do certain surfactants create bubbles that last longer, and others not as long? Do they work differently? Thank you so much.

First of all, THANK YOU for your amazing site! It’s obvious that pour a tremendous amount of time into this in order to help all of us. 🙂

I do have a question for you. Could you please explain Behentrimonium Methosulfate, and, specifically, why products containing this ingredient are labeled “sulfate free”? I’m certainly not a chemist, but I read that BTMS is actually used as an emulsifier and conditioner instead of a surfactant. But, wouldn’t it still be considered a sulfate? I’m so confused! :p Thank you! =)

Emma I really appreciate your feedback thank you, this site is something of a legacy it has to be said. Behentrimonium Methosulfate is not a surfactent it doesn’t foam or cleanse, it is used in a formulation to impart a slippery feel and help with sensory feel to impart a more silky feel to a product. i hope this helps. samantha

hello,thank you for the information very amazing website,but i have a question please i want to make a shampoo of my own and i am making a graduation project idea but i am kinda lost and i make my internship time in a cosmetic company and i do not know what do thats related to cosmetics but what i had in mind is to put an alternative surfactant ,do you have any alternative beside these that i could make an extraction of some kinda of food and use the substance as a natural surfactant please your help is highly appreciated

Hi Aya

Thankyou for the lovely compliment about the website, however I am so sorry but I just don’t have enough experience with surfactants to feel comfortable advising you in this area of formulation.

decyl glucoside is produced from reaction of glucose and fatty alcohol MOSTLY derived from coconut. You should mention the coconut as well, because some people are allergic to it.

DEAR samantha

do you have any idea about sarcosinate ?I am trying to formulate a natural shampoo for baby .could you help me to select a preservative for it that is natural?


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