Choosing surfactant blends for a low pH Glycolic face wash

ChemWizardChemWizard Member
edited January 2014 in Formulating
Hello Mentors,
Can anyone suggest a surfactant combination for a Face Wash of pH 3.5- 4 with 10% Glycolic acid?
Right combination of surfactants should give a good viscosity and also keep the pearls suspended..,

Trying to avoid using a thickener as nothing seems to work at that pH level.
Any thoughts?


  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    You can use SLS, ALS, ALES, or SLES in combination with Cetyl and Stearyl Alcohol.

    e.g Here's an ingredient list for M.D. Forte's product.

    Water (Purified), Ammonium Glycolate, Glycolic Acid, Cetyl Alcohol, Stearyl Alcohol, Sorbitol, Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, Methylparaben, Propylparaben
  • Chemist77Chemist77 Member, PCF student
    @Perry He hasn't mentioned the viscosity but guess he has to suspend some pearls as well, looking at the ingredient list mentioned by you I suspect if it would have a body enough for suspension of pearls. Or maybe ammonium glycolate has been used to thicken ALS in addition to the thickening by cetyl and stearyl alcohol. 
    Appreciate further comments and opinions. 
  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    Nah that wouldn't be enough to suspend pearls unless you used some Structured Surfactant technology.

    For suspending pearls, you'll need to include a Carbomer.
  • @perry Or Xanthan Gum? Since Xanthan thickens at lower pH levels.. and works well with the salt content too!

  • Chemist77Chemist77 Member, PCF student
    @Krupa Guess you have a winner there, I mentioned few days back that xanthan gum works wonderful with DHA which needs a very low pH for stabilization.
    @Chemwizard Try to use xanthan and see if it works in your formula.
  • Thanks Krupa....Actually I tried Xanthan Gum and it actually works very well, I just dont like the final texture it provided..
    I might cut down the level and see again!!

    @Milliachemist, I know you mentioned Ammonium Glycolate for Thickening ALS....First of all, do you know any suppliers who distributes Ammonium glycolate in US?
    Secondly, how can Ammonium glycolate help with viscosity? I thought it was just a pH adjuster or may be a neutralized version of Glycolic acid....
    I appreciate your inputs!1
  • Chemist77Chemist77 Member, PCF student
    @Chemwizard I see Ammonium Glycolate as a salt which is going to thicken the ALS that you have in the ing list mentioned by Perry, for your low pH product your glycolic acid is going to diktat the pH and not any salt I guess. As for Xanthan I knew you would complain about the final texture but then it is wonderful at such low pH. You might play with other ingredients to adjust the feel of the final formula. Optimize and proceed, and please do let us know how it came out. 
  • @Chemwizard you're welcome. I totally understand what you say about the final feel but I have read previously (not tried it myself yet) that adding a little alcohol to your formula decreases the snotty (for lack of a better word) feel of the xanthan in the final formula ---- @milliachemist What are your thoughts? Isnt there a way to reduce the snotty after feel? 

    What if you combine xanthan with a small amount of another thickener --- say cellulose? OR Mg Al silicate?
  • Chemist77Chemist77 Member, PCF student
    @Krupa honestly I haven't tried ethanol with xanthan but no harm in trying, and yes ethanol has a magical effect on PVA containing facial mask which is extremely aerated before addition of ethanol. Since there are no cationics involved Veegum can be tried too. Its anyway all about trial and error.
    Or how about a normal facewash and adjust the pH with glycolic acid instead.
  • I second the comment regarding Cellulose. I am a really big fan of HEC.Anything over 1.25% HEC gives quite a thick suspending result. I have used it at 1.8% and it was really, really thick.
  • @Mike, what about Methocel?/  any experience with it?
  • hey guys! I also have been having a couple of issues with a similar formula... a Mixed fruit acids/lactic cleansing milk... my formula keeps separating and does not pass accelerated stability... is it because of my emulsion system? the more acid i put in, the less stable it is!! 

  • MakingSkincareMakingSkincare Member, Professional formulator
    Cawarra, please can you start a new thread and provide the formula in full in % and the process that you followed and more details about the separation etc.
    Jane Barber (free online course)
    Formulation discussion forum (18,000 members):
  • I have a similar formulation that I've experimented with. I tried HEC with it and got a good result, but I feel HEC feels a sticky after feel. It does work well for thickening and suspending. I also tried out Glucamate LT (PEG-120 Methyl Glucose Trioleate (and) Propylene Glycol (and) Water) which if used used high enough creates a very thick solution. Just my experiences.
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