Bubbles of nothing to make a product really ‘something’


Director, Institute of Personal Care Science (IPCS), Australia


Creating the right bubble, cleansing and mildness profile for your next foaming formulation can be hard to achieve, especially at the required price! In addition to surfactant selections within the required budgets, there are multiple incompatibilities, philosophy and stability issues you need to be aware of. This article will take a look at how you can make the most effective surfactant selections to suit your target market needs, development budget and still achieve the required performance and aesthetic attributes.

Foaming personal care products are used every day by consumers in various ways: facial cleansers, shower gels, shampoos, hand washes and even toothpastes! So, what are the fundamental elements that should go into surfactant selection when creating your next foaming formulation?


There are 3 key issues a formulator needs to overcome when creating a surfactant product:

Price: this is invariably the biggest challenge. Most surfactant materials come as 30-70% dilutions, meaning that a significant amount needs to be added to a formulation for a suitable ‘active’ content to be present. Body or hair foaming products are typically around 13-15% active surfactant content, which could easily equate to at least 30% (or more) raw material used – at a cost that is significantly more than just ‘water’. They also tend to come packaged in bottles or tubes of 150-200mL; making their cost per unit more than a basic emulsion in a 50g jar. However, these products are applied for a short amount of time and then washed away… consumers have a perception issue with paying even what would be considered ‘moderate’ pricing for wash off product ...