Everybody needs a hero
When the night is dark, and everything has fallen apart, we look to the sky for a hero to swoop in and save the day. We love the idea of a lone individual, hidden in plain sight, that appears when the odds are stacked against us. This also sounds like the search for a hero ingredient to save our products, doesn’t it?
We expect a mysterious new active or botanical trend to appear and do the heavy lifting for the remainder of the ingredients in our bottle. We ignore the bulk of what’s inside our product already in our search for this hero. Why would we look to a surfactant, emulsifier or emollient to save the day, when a peptide or stem cell sounds much better? A man from Krypton makes for a better Hollywood blockbuster than the next-door neighbour.
However, product development, much like life, doesn’t work this way.
I present the case that the hero of product development is not the label claim; it is the ingredient that makes the consumer want to buy your product, again and again, it is the ingredient that gives the bulk of their experience. Picture an activated charcoal face wash that doesn’t foam, or a coffee scrub that’s lumpy and clumped together. The first purchase can be attributed to the label claims, I agree, but if the product doesn’t perform to expectation, the hero has failed. Consumers will blame their experience on the label claim, wrongfully so, and continue the search for a new hero. However, if the bulk of the product offered an amazing experience, they will also incorrectly attribute this to the hero ingredient – but they’ll buy it again. “Activated charcoal is great for my skin! I love it!”
Add to this the number of times I have seen a wash product with a list of villains that it doesn’t contain on the label. This still doesn’t offer the consumer a great in-use experience, it merely purports that it’s safe enough to purchase for the first time.
So, what are we overlooking? The bulk of our product. A great emulsifier can add luxury to the first touch of moisturiser to our skin, and unique emollients can continue that journey for our consumers. Likewise, dense, rich foam in a sulphate-free wash product will make them feel just as special.
The first stage of in-use experience for the consumer, with respect to foaming products, is product rheology. Yet they have no idea that they’re assessing this until they experience something unpleasant. Is it too watery? Is it too gummy? Or does it sit in the palm of their hand, exactly in a manner they believe a shampoo should?
The difficulty in formulating a viscous sulphate-free product is apparent to anyone that’s tried before. Salt doesn’t work like it used to. There’s a requirement for an array of gums or ethoxylated thickeners to make the product appear to the consumers as a wash product should – and sometimes they still don’t quite get there. We have already overlooked the surfactants, that we chose (sometimes) by name only, and attempt to shoe-horn them into the appearance of a wash product with these thickeners so there’s a chassis to add in the hero ingredient.
The beauty of Iselux® is that it thickens with electrolytes, like salt, and a run-of-the-mill co-surfactant such as Cocamidopropyl betaine. Better quality betaines will have a significantly lower use rate than others, but that’s another story. Chart 1 shows a typical salt-thickening curve.
This is the cheapest, and simplest, way to build viscosity in a surfactant product and Iselux® is the most effective its class that still retains all the other attributes required from a surfactant; like mildness and foam profile.
The second stage of a consumer’s experience with a wash product is the obvious one: foam. From a baby in a bubble-bath to relaxing while your hair is being washed in a salon, it is undeniable that luxurious, creamy foam makes the experience. This is the next realm where many sulphate-free products fail to fulfil their promise to the consumer. Yes, the end-product is saving one endangered species or another and does so with 12 different organic certifications, but that lack of dense foam is a letdown. The ability to have Iselux® made either from RSPO Sustainable Palm or from Coconut Only feedstock satisfies both sides of the palm oil debate while offering the consumer a foam profile that only sulphate-containing surfactants have been able to promise previously.
Upon close inspection, a comparison between Iselux® and SLES reveals a much smaller bubble size, which means a more dense and creamy looking foam. This also offers a more lubricious, and luxurious foam that adds body to certain products like a shaving foam, where the consequences of getting this wrong can be quite unpleasant for the consumer.
The third stage of the consumer’s journey with our products is how they feel after they’ve used it. The after-feel is important, and when we’re discussing surfactants, this is normally in reference to mildness. On a personal note, I have a baby wash product at home that I used to clean my hands after I changed the oil in my wife’s car. The surfactant in that product is excellent at emulsifying, so it cleaned the engine oil from my hands wonderfully. The catch here is that it’s also doing the same to the natural lipids on your skin, which is quite irritating. The surfactant choice not only needs to thicken well, and needs to foam well, it also needs to be respectful of skin.
Skin irritancy tests of Iselux® have shown that it is less irritating than SLS, SLES-2 & CAPB. They have also shown a mollifying effect in combination with other surfactants, reducing the inherent irritancy of individual surfactants. All this leaves the consumer thinking “wow, activated charcoal really feels great my hands…” without knowing who the real hero is behind the scenes.
Saviour of Formulators AND Blenders
When I was offered the chance to lecture to some Personal Care Science students, I thought “how can I make their future careers difficult?” I settled on discussing Iselux®, and sulphate-free technology, and then taught them how to make shampoo, at room temperature, with a hand whisk, in 15 minutes. Anywhere they go from here, and any other surfactant system they dabble with will have them scratching their heads in disbelief. “This was meant to be easy, what’s going wrong?”
The Iselux® range has a host of different forms and speciality blends to make life easy, regardless of the wash product we’re formulating. There are various liquid blends that will change the life of the production staff and blenders making the wash products on the factory floor. Being available in flakes, liquid and now powder form, Iselux® gives you the freedom to make whatever type of wash product you like, from liquid to solid, to DIY powder wash products or scrubs. There are also some performance blends to increase the simplicity in formulation and production:
- Iselux® SFS was the variant I showed the students. A specific Sulphate Free System blend of surfactants, featuring Iselux®, will make a shampoo or body wash in 15 minutes, without heating. Dilute in water, add your label claims, preservative, and salt. Bodywash done.
- Iselux® Ultra Mild is a pre-blend of surfactants selected and proven for mildness, for sensitive skin or baby products. As easy to use as Iselux® SFS above.
- Iselux® SLC – Structured Liquid Concentrate – is a way to add a large quantity of oil, or other incompatible phases, into a surfactant system. It will hold up to 20% oil in a freeze/thaw stable system. It can even be coloured and layered to appear as different layers in the packaging.
- Pureact SNDT-CB is an optimised blend designed for Combo & Syndet bars that are mild, totally smooth, and with a wonderful consumer experience. This also makes processing the bar easier too.
When we’re looking for a hero to save us, why ignore the product itself in search of an exotic botanical trend to swoop down from the skies? Using Iselux® in our wash products gives us the ability to provide the consumer with an experience that will make them think the label claim is the most amazing they’ve ever tried. Just like selecting a unique emulsifier or emollient will elevate our emulsions, Iselux® will be the hero hidden in your wash products, doing all the heavy lifting, working hard to save the day (for your label claims).