Cationic surfactant vs cationic polymer in anionic Shampoo

What are the challenges, advantages and disadvantages of using cationic surfactant (Cetrimonium Chloride and Stearamidopropyl Dimethylamine) and cationic polymer (polyquaternium 10) in a sulfate based Shampoo? 


  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    Cationic surfactants don't work in anionic shampoos.  So, there is only disadvantages.

    If you want conditioning, you have to use a cationic polymer.
  • @Perry what do you mean by don't work? 

    Will it not clean the hair? 
    Will it not condition the hair? 
    Will the formula separate or something? 

    What would be the exact problem? 
  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    Cationic surfactants (positively charged) will interact with the Anionic surfactants (negatively charged) and in many cases combine to form a salt. This salt is typically insoluble and it will fall out of solution. The formula will separate.

    No, it will not condition hair. 

    In general you do not combine anionic and cationic surfactants.  Cationic polymers do not interact in the same way because they are longer molecules which don't form salts with anionic surfactants. 

    Cleansers use anionic surfactants
    Conditioners use cationic surfactants
    Typically, the two are not mixed. 
  • EVchemEVchem Member
    @Abdullah they have opposite charges and as a result will likely complex together. Reduced cleaning/conditioning  and i don't know about formula separation but precipitates could form. Instead of interacting with hair they will interact with each other. Polymers are a little different because they may still be able to deposit on hair (read up on conditioning shampoos or 2-in-1) while the surfactant is rinsed away. 
  • @Perry @EVchem thanks a lot
  • @Perry @EVchem when will this interaction and separation happen? 
    During Shampoo making or after some days and months? 
  • EVchemEVchem Member
    Uh I imagine it would depend on concentration of each and the particular surfactants' affinities. I don't know any specific literature studying how fast that occurs
  • @EVchem i made a Shampoo with %1 Stearamidopropyl Dimethylamine and you can feel more condition and less buildup in first use compared to same formula with %0.2 cationic guar. 
    It is very thick an no separation after 4 days. I want to know if this separation for other people happened when formulating, after some time or they haven't tried it by themselves
  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    You will only know if you do an accelerated temperature stability test. 
    Yes, my system with it separated.
  • @Perry temperature to what degree Celsius?

  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
  • BelassiBelassi Member, PCF student
    I know of only one surfactant that has a cationic (N+) ion and acts as a conditioning agent. It is Dehyton AB30 by BASF. It is a modified form of CAPB.
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