Soybean oil-based surfactant proven to improve cleaning, foaming and conditioning in shampoo

By Andrew MCDOUGALL contact

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Soybean oil-based surfactant proven to improve cleaning, foaming and conditioning in shampoo

Related tags: Sodium laureth sulfate

Scientists have developed a new non-toxic, environmentally friendly soybean oil-based polymeric surfactant (SBPS) and having studied it for potential application as a surface-active ingredient for shampoos, found that it improves cleaning, foaming, and conditioning.

The use of natural product ingredients is trending in the industry, as it is more prevalent in the personal care area than in any other segment of the surfactant market, and the team from North Dakota State University say that its formulations meet major requirements of multifunctional shampoos.

They show properties of mild detergency, foaming, good conditioning, and aesthetic appeal, which are comparable to commercially available shampoos, according to the study.

In addition, examination of the SBPS in combination with sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), a common anionic surfactant, in model shampoos showed that the presence of the SBPS enables the concentration of SLS to be significantly reduced without sacrificing shampoo performance.


Surfactants usually have both hydrophobic and hydrophilic components in their chemical structure, and are effective cleaning agents because of the ability of the hydrophobic part of the molecules to interact with dirt, while the hydrophilic fragments serve to suspend the surfactant and bound dirt in water.

However, no single surfactant can successfully provide proper hair cleaning, easy rinse-off, and desirable hair appearance and texture without chemical damage to the hair, which is why shampoos and shampoo conditioners (2-in-1) usually contain a primary surfactant, which cleans and foams, and other surfactants, which serve another role such as delivery of active ingredients.

In this study, the hydrophobic portions of the surface-active macromolecules was derived from soybean oil, while the hydrophilic portions were based on ethylene glycol units.

Using both surface tension measurements and fluorescence spectroscopy, high surface activity and the formation of micelles for the SBPS in water was demonstrated.


To experimentally assure applicability of the soy-based macromolecules in shampoos, either in combination with common anionic surfactants or as a single surface-active ingredient, the testing of SBPS physicochemical properties, performance and visual assessment of SBPS-based model shampoos was carried out.

This involved testing for cleanability, foaming characteristics, viscosity, as well as appearance.

The results were compared to those with only SLS as a surfactant as well as to commercially available SLS-free shampoos, finding that the presence of SBPS improves cleaning, foaming, and conditioning of model formulations.



Popadyuk, A., Kalita, H., Chisholm, B. J. and Voronov, A. (2014), Evaluation of soy-based surface active copolymers as surfactant ingredients in model shampoo formulations. International Journal of Cosmetic Science, 36: 537–545. doi: 10.1111/ics.12153

Related topics: Formulation & Science, Hair Care

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