Understanding Natural Surfactants in Bath and Body Formulas

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 lathering 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 that are 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.


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 bubble bath formulas, where the cleansing is secondary to the bubbles.

Description: Coco Betaine is one of the most popular surfactants used in skin care 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 in-superior 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, but it can be blended with a nonionic surfactant which also makes it milder.

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

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


Polyglucose is considered to be part of a new generation of surfactants, it is derived from sugar and is considered an extremely natural and readily biodegradable surfactant, it is both mild and non irritating to the skin

From our experience, Polyglucose tends to have similar characteristics to nonionic surfactants, in terms of its gentleness and mildness and 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.

It 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 the end result 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 it won’t irritate the 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 a sensitive skin.

If you want to have fun creating, this is our favourite surfactant for making solid, bubble bath and body formulas.

10 thoughts on “Understanding Natural Surfactants in Bath and Body Formulas

  1. Emma says:

    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! =)

    • Verified Author Samantha Miller replied:

      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

  2. aya says:

    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

    • Verified Author Samantha Miller replied:

      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.

  3. mariana says:

    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.

  4. POOPAK says:

    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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