Home Cosmetic Science Talk Formulating Sulfate Free Shampoo with polyquaternium-10 Separating. Help?

  • Sulfate Free Shampoo with polyquaternium-10 Separating. Help?

    Posted by phil92 on May 9, 2024 at 6:11 pm


    I’m in the process of formulating a conditioning/hydrating sulfate-free gentle shampoo. I decided to use polyquaternium-10 Separating as a thicker and conditioning agent. The formula so far performs very well, with great viscosity, great feel, and good lather.

    However, I’m experiencing some separation. I’m guessing something in the formula is not compatible with the polyquat-10? maybe the surfactant system? Would appreciate any feedback or help solving this issue. See the formula below and process.

    Water 60.0

    Aloe Vera Powder 0.5

    Glycerin 4

    Sodium PCA 2

    Honeyquat 2.5

    Hydrolyzed Rice Protein 2.5

    Saccharide Isomerate 0.25

    Dl-Panthenol 1

    polyquaternium-10 0.50

    Sodium Lauroyl Isethionate 6

    Decyl Glucoside 6

    Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine 9

    PEG-7 3

    Argan Oil 0.3

    Grapeseed Oil 0.3

    EO Blend 0.75

    Glucose Sorb (Sorbeth-230 tetraoleate, decyl glucoside, sorbitan laurate) 1.5

    Optiphen Plus 0.8

    Citric Acid ~ 0.1

    Totals 100


    Mix polyquat-10 with glycerin, disperse into room temp water and mix for about 30 mins to fully hydrate.

    Add solution to heat (165f) add Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine, add Decyl Glucoside and then Sodium Lauroyl Isethionat. Mix until all is dissolved and combined.

    Add rest of water phase (aloe, panthenol, hydrolyzed rice protein, honeyquat, sodium pca, Saccharide Isomerate) mix until all is combined.

    in separate vessel mix oils and essential oil with peg-7, add to main vessel and combine.

    add glucose sorb (thicker)

    add optiphen Plus

    use citric acid to bring PH to 5-5.5

    Appreciate your help!

    phil92 replied 4 days, 19 hours ago 4 Members · 9 Replies
  • 9 Replies
  • phil92

    May 9, 2024 at 6:19 pm

    I have read a few different discussions here about this as well. have tried a couple of different tweaks to no luck. :/

  • Camel

    May 9, 2024 at 10:45 pm

    Hi Phil,

    There is a lot going on in this formula and I would recommend rethinking it. Glycerin is generally considered to be unnecessary in cleansers and can even impair foam. The aloe vera powder and dl-panthenol are likely serving no purpose and simply getting rinsed down the drain. The oils are also unnecessary; the purpose of a cleanser is to remove oil (as well as dirt and sweat), so when you add oil to a shampoo, you are making it harder for the shampoo to do its job. More importantly, the oils are probably what is causing the separation you are experiencing, as they can have a major impact on stability.

    With so many ingredients, it can be hard to tell what exactly the problem is, because there are multiple variables to consider. I would suggest removing everything from the formula except the surfactants and preservative, and then add each ingredient back one iteration at a time until you discover which one is causing the problem. Start with something like this first, and if no separation occurs, make another batch with the polyquaternium-10 and see if it remains stable:

    • Water
    • Sodium Lauroyl Isethionate
    • Decyl Glucoside
    • Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine
    • Glucose Sorb (Sorbeth-230 tetraoleate, decyl glucoside, sorbitan laurate)
    • Optiphen Plus
    • Citric Acid

    Finally, your preservative is probably not sufficient, and you should also add a chelating agent (like disodium EDTA or tetrasodium glutamate diacetate). Keep in mind I am not a professional.

    Good luck!

    • phil92

      May 10, 2024 at 6:54 am

      Hey @camel thanks for the feedback!

      I totally hear you. Definitely a lot going on in there. I tend to get carried away haha.

      I like the idea of removing everything and adding one thing at a time to see what’s causing it.

      I do need some ingredients In there for marketing purposes, but also, I do want the shampoo to be hydrating and moisturizing without stripping too much oil from the hair. Any suggestions on ingredients to use? I’m definitely open to getting rid of the oils if it’s potentially causing the issue although I do need essential oils for fragrance.


  • ketchito

    May 10, 2024 at 6:35 am

    Could you make one run without Decyl glucose and Glucose sorb?

    • phil92

      May 10, 2024 at 6:56 am

      I sure can! Are you thinking they could be the issue here?

    • phil92

      May 10, 2024 at 2:25 pm

      Hey @ketchito ,

      I made a batch without the decyl glucoside and glucose sorb. I got a clear solution, this is the closest I’ve gotten to something stable, with that being said I think I can tell that there will be some gel-like chunk that will settle to the bottom eventually. What was your thought around removing these ingredients? seems like there’s definitely something there.

  • ketchito

    May 13, 2024 at 6:34 am

    Hi! Polyquaternium-10 is a cationic HEC, and HEC can sometimes behave in a weird way with glucosides 😅

  • chemicalmatt

    May 14, 2024 at 3:39 pm

    This formula needs a hydrotrope with all that anionic surfactant and glucoside, glucamide as ketchito points out. Try disodium cocoamphodiacetate or dipropionate - or sodium xylene sulfonate if you can bear that on your label - at low concentration and you may resolve this. Also consider which polymer size of Polyquaternium-10 used. The common one for cleansing products is 400, but if you happen to be using 30,000 well…fugettabottit.

    • phil92

      May 14, 2024 at 7:56 pm


      Thanks for the feedback! I actually ordered some Disodium Cocoamphodiacetate last week to add to the formula. The idea is to remove the Decyl Glucoside. I’ll also be removing the sodium PCA and the oils (expect for the essential Oil blend). Currently i’m achieving a nice clear solution (possibly stable) by just removing these ingredients, hoping that adding Disodium Cocoamphodiacetate will also help.

      Good point of the Polyquat-10. Im using the one available at makingcosmetics.

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