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Home Cosmetic Science Talk Formulating Natural hand wash formulation

  • Natural hand wash formulation

    Posted by Zoya on March 24, 2023 at 2:45 am

    Hi everyone.

    I’m trying to formulate a natural hand / Body wash using amphoteric and nonionic surfactants as main surfactants and an amino acid surfactant (sodium cocoyl glutamate) as foam booster (under 1%). I have used so many combinations in the last months but still without success (formulations are quite drying or irritating to the skin with and without the anionic surfactant too). On the other hand I see Products on the market using the same surfactants I use, so it has to work out somehow.

    My ingredients: Cocamidopropyl Betaine (50% ASM), decyl/Lauryl glucoside, sodium cocoyl glutamate powder(92-100% ASM). I also make attention to the final pH which is 5.5 (by adding citric acid).

    As my system must be at least 98% natural, I have to use CAPB below 10%.

    My “best” formula (without irritancy and drying out skin - but awful skin feel): 10% capb, 3-4% nonionic surfactant and anionic below 1%.

    I also tried to use cocoyl glutamate in higher percentages with nonionic and/or amphoteric surfactants but I had the same experiences.

    Im wondering if anyone have experiences with the surfactants above, any advice, idea..? What do I miss? Any other ideas on natural surfactants?

    Thanks a lot!

    Zoya replied 2 months ago 8 Members · 26 Replies
  • 26 Replies
  • gordof

    March 24, 2023 at 3:49 am

    dear zoya

    It depends a little on what your “natural” claim means if you just want to use 100 % Naturally Derived Ingredients I would go in the following direction.

    Use :


    Potassium Cocoate Sodium (38%) Around 4.5%

    Coco-Sulfate (93%) around 10 %

    Decly Glycoside around 20 %

    Stearic Acid 15-20%

    Caustic Soda(50%) 4-5%


    Glycerin 20 -30%

    1.3-Propandiol 15-18%


    Guar Hydroxypropyltrionium Chloride 0.1-0.2%

    Production is easy. Heat everything to 85 °C let it stay at this temperature for a few minutes to have completed the Reactions and mixing. Let the air get out before pouring.

    Of course there are a lot of other formulations and variations out there but this one felt for me until know with my limited knowledge about bar products the best because of the high humectant amount and the conditioner.

    • Zoya

      March 24, 2023 at 11:20 am

      Dear Gordof.

      Thank you for your reply. Right now I’m developing a liquid body wash but I definetly try this bar soap formulation in the future, it seems really nice with its high humectants and emollients. 🙂

  • PhilGeis

    March 24, 2023 at 6:04 am

    You need preservation.

    • Zoya

      March 24, 2023 at 11:23 am

      Dear PhilGeis.

      Sure, I’m using sorbic acid and potassium sorbate as my preservatives and have a gum (cosphaderm X soft) and glycerin to thicken the system because salt doesn’t do the trick here. 🙂

  • PhilGeis

    March 24, 2023 at 12:19 pm

    Even at the right pH, that is not enough for this kind of product. You need something for Gram negative bacteria.

    • This reply was modified 2 months, 1 week ago by  PhilGeis. Reason: typo
  • Graillotion

    March 24, 2023 at 2:02 pm
    • Zoya

      March 25, 2023 at 1:46 am

      I knew I ‘d better stick with the good old sanitizer… 😉

  • mikethair

    March 24, 2023 at 8:05 pm

    I don’t see anything “natural” in this formulation.

    We took a different approach…..saponified plant oils to produce a hand wash. And the advantages included that there was no need for preservatives as the formulation was self-preserving. We manufactured under certified GMP conditions and all microbial tests were met.

    And the product was very kind to the skin, with none of the issues you have described.

    • Zoya

      March 25, 2023 at 1:59 am

      Sorry, I correct: naturally derived. The aim here is to keep the product’s pH close to the skin’s natural pH, this is why I can’t go with oil saponification. The raw materials I use are naturally derived with a few synthetic part. since the aim for the product is to be Cosmos approved, it must be at least 98% naturally derived. This is a new approach I have to implement in surfactant systems.

  • Abdullah

    March 25, 2023 at 2:30 am

    Are those amounts active surfactant percentage or actual product?

    How much sorbic acid are you using? That may be the problem.

    Can you use SLES?

    • Zoya

      March 25, 2023 at 6:21 am

      Dear Abdullah.

      Thank you for your answer. 🙂 I use sorbic Acid at 0.09% and I’ve also did knock out tests for the preservative system, it seems that it doesn’t cause the problem. The percentages above are the weight percentages, the total ASM is low - around 7.7. It foams and cleanses well, but not that nice skin feel I would prefer (I’m not surprised because of the low surfactant level). Personally I don’t reallly like Products with High nonionic concentration because they seem to be too degreasing and causing skin dryness. I would better use high anionic or amphoteric with lower amounts of nonionics but in this formulation I can’t use CAPB above 10 weight percentage (because it’s syntetchical matter) and I also don’t have great experiences with higher glutamate concentration (it seems to be more irritating on my skin and also gives an aesthetically not too pleasing yellowis color to the final product).

      • Zoya

        March 25, 2023 at 6:23 am

        Oh and unfortunatelly I’m also not allowed to use SLES , SLS, SCS.

  • PhilGeis

    March 25, 2023 at 6:17 am


    Sure would be more cautious about “self preservation” unless you have in-use data. - packaged product.

    • This reply was modified 2 months, 1 week ago by  PhilGeis.
    • mikethair

      March 25, 2023 at 7:34 am

      Yes indeed, have in-use data going back 10+ years.

  • PhilGeis

    March 25, 2023 at 8:27 am

    Consumer data? Can you share it?

    • mikethair

      March 25, 2023 at 7:54 pm

      When you say “Consumer data? Can you share it?” What data are you looking for exactly? And in what format?

      With our Certified GMP Compliance data we have a lot of data going back 10+ years. And it is not clear what you are looking for here.

  • PhilGeis

    March 26, 2023 at 4:48 am


    For any preservative system, the marketer should have a reasonable assurance that it will not become contaminated in use - in the hands of the consumer - a function of formula, package and consumer practices. “GMP compliance”, most of which is tangential to micro risks, is not relevant as making it clean and passing the classic test fail the question. Further, bugs can grow after release in an apparently clean product. I think that is the biggest miss for most of the folks posting here. For classic preservative combinations, there’s a lot of data - most of which is in the hands of large companies, For an alternative system - and dilute soap with its vulnerabilities - that’s significant as washing products are the most susceptible in consumer use compromise.

    The EU Cosmetics Regulation governs how cosmetics and personal care products are made and placed on the market. It is the most comprehensive set of laws for our industry in the world, requiring cosmetics to be safe for human health when applied under normal or reasonably foreseeable conditions of use.


    • This reply was modified 2 months, 1 week ago by  PhilGeis.
    • mikethair

      March 26, 2023 at 5:05 am

      In essence, you have not answered my question “what data are you looking for?”

      For your information, we follow The EU Cosmetics Regulation and to date have not had any issues selling our products in the EU. The EU Safety Assessment Officer was happy with our data.

      And our Certified GMP Compliance requires us to keep retained samples for two (2) years beyond expiry at ambient temperatures. We are in the tropics, so this pushes products to their limits.

      And in our two in-house labs (physical chem lab and microbial lab) our Quality Manager would conduct ongoing lab tests every month (for two (2) years beyond expiry at ambient temperatures). This, in our opinion, provides a reasonable assessment of our products to be safe for human health when applied under normal or reasonably foreseeable conditions of use.

      And of course, there are our customers. If they detect product issues, we are easily contactable. To date, over 10+ years has never happened.

      <div>OK, then what would you suggest as an alternative?</div><div>

      Are you a manufacturer conforming to GMP Compliance, and placing products successfully in the EU market?


      • PhilGeis

        March 26, 2023 at 5:20 am

        Thanks Mike

        The assurance is yours - here’s an example of how P&G condiucted consumer testing and caimed method and preservative validation.

        This is not a question answered with preservative testing, GMP compliance or absence of consumer complaints. Consumer are unlikely to recognize contamination or attribute relevant infection to their cosmetics.

        Yes - I managed P&G global microbiology for decades. These same practices I describe can be found at Estee, Unilever, Avon etc.

        • PhilGeis

          March 26, 2023 at 5:43 am

          sorry - P&G - meant Procter & Gamble as in global Pantene, Head & Shoulder , Olay, Clairol, Old Spice, etc,

    • mikethair

      March 26, 2023 at 5:31 pm

      I guess as a scientist I have a more critical eye than most when reviewing published papers. I note that the paper you have cited here by Brannan is in fact written by P&G staff. While an interesting paper, it could never be considered as a critical, unbiased review of the correlation between in vito challenge testing with consumer testing for cosmetics.

      Are you aware of any subsequent published papers reviewing these findings by Brannan

      I also note that preservative adequacy was tested independently of container design. As we are all aware, container design is a big factor in protecting consumer skin care products.

      And if container design provides adequate protection, even poorly preserved products would not be contaminated by consumer use. This aspect was not investigated.

      And the final sentence “Additional studies are needed to assess these effects.” Yes, indeed. Have there been any additional studies?

      In my opinion, while there is some merit in these findings by Brannan, more work is required. Especially in determining the practicalities for manufacturers in adopting revised testing methods.

      • PhilGeis

        March 27, 2023 at 5:14 am


        Thanks for your comments. Please recall the discussion was about consumer testing in effort to determine in-use protection of consumers as is the practice of industry scientists from larger companies . Brannan et al. was offered as an example of a protocol. The wide ranges of consumer practices, esp. in a global context are hard to replicate with validity in the lab.

        Do I understand you’ve not conducted such a study on your system? I do suggest you consider such a protocol. In my experience, dilute soap esp. in shampoo context could be at risk.

        • This reply was modified 2 months, 1 week ago by  PhilGeis.
      • ketchito

        March 27, 2023 at 5:56 am

        “I also note that preservative adequacy was tested independently of container design. As we are all aware, container design is a big factor in protecting consumer skin care products”.

        There are few studies pointing about the negative effect of a bad chosen package (not only by removing some preservatives from the bulk, but also by allowing higher contact and transfer of microbe), so I wouldn’t say packaging is necessary a barrier to prevent contamination, at least not all the time.

        Also, the point that @PhilGeis made constantly about in-use testing is very relevant, and is unfortunately something that only big companies do. GMP conditions are ideal and something that won’t happen once the consumer starts using the product.

        • PhilGeis

          March 27, 2023 at 6:45 am

          Thanks and good points. There is no lab test that replicates with validity in-use challenge - the paper merely observed the efficacy of preservative in context of package and offered in vitro challenge data that apparently identified that level of preservative efficacy. What isn’t shown is that all the preserved products would have passed USP 51.

          I’m not aware of any in vitro test that considers preservation risk in context of package or, for formulas, manufacturing risk. That so many are happy with a “pass” in compendial tests is a major flaw in the industry - every recalled product passed a compendial test.

          In-use risk is what keeps most of the big companies in classic systems. The EO’s, organic acids, esters, glycols, eyes of newt/toe of frog and “naturals”ecocerts in general do not give that level of assurance. You’ll see a few rare excursions from those guys - specific formulations carefully constructed to meet their criteria and satisfy marketing but nothing that can work financially or effectively across the lines.

  • Reza

    March 26, 2023 at 2:02 pm

    Hello dear Zoya

    I think for the reduction of irritancy you can use D-panthenol, extract plant, and polyquaternium.

    • Zoya

      March 29, 2023 at 11:53 am

      Dear Reza.

      Thank you for your valuable response. I’m actually planning to incorporate a plant extract and waiting for my cationic guar gum to upgrade the skin feel. Still playing around with the percentages but I finally feel like I’m getting somewhere good with it. 🙂