Saturday, February 15, 2014

Cleansing Agents Part 2

Hey, HHJs!  In my last post, I talked about the three types of surfactants usually used in cleansers:  anionic surfactants (negative charge), zwitterionic / amphoteric surfactants (hybrid charge), and nonionic surfactants (no charge).

This post is about some of the cleansing agents in these three categories to look for.  Based on what I’ve read, here is a list of some cleansing agents to look for in a cleansing conditioner or a shampoo:

Anionic surfactant-based products include:

Zwitterionic / Amphoteric surfactant-based products include:
  • Cocamidopropyl betaine aka cocobetaine or cocabetaine (used in Burts Bees Baby Shampoo and Jessicurl Hair Cleansing Cream)
  • Sodium lauroamphoacetate (used in Ouidad Curl Co-wash)

Nonionic surfactant-based products:

Some cleansing products may also contain citrus fruits, such as lemon or orange extract, or contain apple cider vinegar, which break up oil.  Also, some cleansing products may contain plant-based ingredients that are high in saponins.  For example, SheScentIt’s Blueberry Co-wash Conditioner contains yucca root.  Wikipedia has a long list of plant-based soap substitutes, which can be found here.  I know that yucca root is a surfactant, but I’m not sure what kind.  I’ve seen some articles refer to it as anionic and some refer to it as non-ionic. 

Finally, some cleansing conditioners may contain clays that have cleansing properties, such as kaolin, bentonite, rhassoul (also called ghassoul), or green clay.  While it is not marketed as a cleansing conditioner, I’ve found that Shea Moisture’s Purification Mask feels like it cleanses my hair.  It contains both African black soap and kaolin clay.

Based on personal experience, I can’t use shampoos containing sodium laurel sulfate, olefin sulfate or sodium lauroamphoacetate.  These cleansers are too harsh for my hair, so I avoid them.  Thus far, my hair seems to like sodium cocoyl isethionate; cocamidopropyl betaine; decyl glucoside; and PEG-40 castor oil, which are all mild cleansers.

If you can’t figure out the cleansers in your product, look for the INCI name, which may give you a clue.  SwiftCraftMonkey also has a wonderful chart of surfactants and a 17-page document walking through some of the key ones.

What are some of your favorite surfactants for cleansing your hair?

, , , , , , , ,


  1. Great post! I am on the hunt for a staple cleanser and this write up will be helpful in making that decision.

  2. Thanks! I'm happy this helps others too

  3. Excellent post! I just discovered your blog and already love your product review style as well as how you break down the ingredients!


Thank you for your comment. I love hearing from my readers!