Sanyo Chemical
Surfactants are key ingredients in many cosmetics formulations. Learn how they are used as a cleanser, emulsifier, dispersant, penetrator or thickener. Surfactants can also be added as wetting, foaming or solubilizing agents to various product formulations. Discover the wide range of surfactants from Sanyo Chemical offering high performance and low-irritancy. Download formulation guides for your hair care, skin care and make-up applications.

Surfactant Applications and Key Benefits

What are Surfactants?

Whoever said oil and water can’t mix had perhaps never heard of surfactants. A surfactant or a surface-active agent is a compound which lowers the surface tension at the interface of two liquids, a liquid and a gas or a liquid and a solid. It has an amphiphilic molecular structure which means that the molecule is water-loving (hydrophilic) at one end and fat-loving (lipophilic) at the other. The surfactant molecules align themselves such that their hydrophilic groups (heads) are in the water phase whereas the lipophilic end (tails) extend out into the oil or gas (usually air) phase. Surfactants are classified as follows based on the charge of the head group.

  • Anionic Surfactants: The head group has a negative charge
  • Cationic Surfactants: The head group has a positive charge
  • Amphoteric Surfactants: The head group may simultaneously carry both anionic and cationic hydrophilic groups. Cations or anions are formed depending on ambient conditions such as pH.
  • Non-ionic Surfactants: The head group carries no charge

A surfactant is a key ingredient in many cosmetics formulations. It may be used as a cleanser, emulsifier, dispersant, penetrator or thickener. Surfactants may also be added as wetting, foaming or solubilizing agents to various products.

Sanyo surfactants

Surfactant Applications in Cosmetics


Surfactants are an essential part of all cleansing formulations. Dirt can bind to skin and hair through natural skin oils or oily contaminants picked up from the environment. Surfactants combine oil and water to lift the contaminants off the surface which can then be washed away with water. The choice of a suitable surfactant depends on the preferred chemistry, method of delivery and desired user experience.


Wetting is the ability of a liquid to spread on a solid surface. Products with poor wetting properties tend to ball up on the surface. Surfactants also act as wetting agents, making the product easier to spread while also helping lift up oil from the surface for removal. Surfactants are incorporated as wetting agents in the formulation of creams and lotions.


Bubbles are formed when air is incorporated into a liquid as a result of working the product on the skin or hair. A small amount of surfactant, added to a product, reduces surface tension between the liquid and air phases thereby reducing the work needed to generate foam. The surfactant also increases the stability of the foam by inhibiting coalescence of bubbles. Although foaming does not contribute to dirt removal, it is an important part of a pleasing user experience.


Creams and lotions are formulated to deliver beneficial lipid (oily) materials to skin or hair. The lipid material is combined with water and other ingredients to formulate an easy-to-apply product. Surfactants are used as emulsifiers to produce semi-stable oil-in-water (lotions) or water-in-oil emulsions (creams).

Why choose Sanyo Chemical surfactants?

Sanyo Chemical offers a wide range of surfactants to meet the diverse requirements of various types of cosmetic formulations. The range includes cationic, anionic, amphoteric and non-ionic surfactants suitable for all major cosmetic applications. Sanyo surfactants offer the following benefits:

Low irritancy

Harsh surfactants interact with proteins and lipids in the outermost layer of the skin, called the stratum corneum. They may cause this protective barrier to break down leading to redness, irritation, dryness, and itching. Anionic surfactants generally offer the best foaming and cleansing properties for cosmetic applications but they are also the harshest towards human skin. Sanyo’s anionic surfactants offer reduced irritation to the skin and eyes than conventional products because they contain less sodium lauryl sulfate due to narrow distribution of the number of EO-adduct moles developed by using Sanyo's original Narrow Range Ethoxylation.

Narrow Range Ethoxylation:

Narrow Range Ethoxylation can obtain alkylene oxide adducts having a narrow distribution of the number of alkylene oxide adduct moles. Sanyo discovered an effective catalyst for narrow range ethoxylation to develop this technique.

Excellent foaming properties

Foams are generally easier to generate and maintain under alkaline conditions. As the pH is lowered, the foam forming potential of surfactants is reduced. Sanyo surfactants show good foaming properties even in a weakly acidic medium. The range of products includes grades that generate stable, fine, rich and soft foams suited to various applications. Sanyo provide a wide range of foams according to your request.

Easily bio-degradable

Sanyo surfactants are easily bio-degradable which helps cosmetics manufacturers formulate products that are eco-friendly and sustainable.
The figure below compares the bio-degradability of Sanyo’s anionic surfactant BEAULIGHT LCA-30D to the conventional surfactant lauryl ether sulfate.

Biodegradability comparison

Sanyo surfactants offer the following additional benefits:
  • Low odor
  • Prevent excessive degreasing
  • Excellent solubility & detergency
  • Derived from natural higher alcohols
  • Compatible with other surfactants
  • Available as non-neutralized products
  • Compliance with safety and health regulations
Visit our application pages to learn more about Sanyo Chemical products.

Hair care
Skin care


Case Studies from Selecting the Right Surfactant for Cosmetics

Natural derived surfactants for cosmetics reducing skin discomfort

Surfactants are among the most essential ingredients used during cosmetic product formulation. Formulators are faced with several challenges when using surfactants to find the perfect balance between performance while conforming to market regulations and safety standards. Sanyo Chemical Industries provides formulators with naturally derived surfactants and a sulfate-free range of products allowing high performance and reducing skin discomfort.

Download the case study for more information.


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