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Science Explained - Surfactants

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Why are certain ingredients used over others? How can we enhance our formulations? Our ‘Science Explained’ series aims to explain the science behind commonly used ingredients, highlighting their properties and suitable application areas.

One of Surfachem's main ingredient technologies is surfactants, hence the company name. Surfactants are widely used across a across a range of industries including Personal Care and Cosmetics, and Household, Industrial and Institutional Care.

What are Surfactants?

Surfactants (surface-active-agents) are speciality chemical ingredients that reduce the interfacial tension between two liquids or between a liquid and a solid. Any ingredient that reduces surface tension is considered a surfactant, however in addition to their primary function, they may also function as wetting agents, emulsifiers, foaming agents, cleaning agents, dispersants and many more.

Surfactants are amphiphilic molecules. Their heads are hydrophilic, and their tails hydrophobic, therefore they contain both an oil-soluble and a water-soluble component.


Non-ionic Surfactants

Non-ionic surfactants are neutral - they do not have any charge on their hydrophilic end. Non-ionic surfactants are exceptional for emulsifying oils and are resistant to water hardness deactivation, making them extremely versatile within formulations.

Particular suitable for:

Anionic Surfactants

Anionic surfactants contain negatively charged hydrophilic head. They are highly soluble in water, due to the binding of their hydrophilic parts to water molecules. Anionic surfactants are usually the primary surfactant used within many cleansing and hair care products.

Particular suitable for:

Cationic Surfactants

Cationic surfactants are speciality ingredients that carry a positive charge on their hydrophilic end. The positive charge makes them particularly suitable for fabric softeners. They also function as antimicrobial agents, so they are often used in disinfectants.

Particularly suitable for:

Amphoteric Surfactants

Amphoteric surfactants are ingredients that carry both a positive and a negative charge. These speciality chemical ingredients are frequently used as secondary surfactants in shampoos and skin cleansing products to improve detergency, lathering, feel of use and to reduce irritation.

Particularly suitable for:

About Surfachem

Surfachem, a 2M Group company, is an international surfactant and speciality chemical distributor, offering an extensive ingredient portfolio, technical expertise and global capabilities.

About ‘Science Explained’

Surfachem, part of the 2M Group of Companies has a long-term commitment to Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) education.  Over the last few years, we are proud to have educated both children and adults, demonstrating the opportunities within the industry. Our ‘Science Explained’ series aims to broaden our education reach, and encourage STEM learning across all ages.

Thursday, 01 April 2021