Mixing surfactants: Slowly and gently with a fork?

I mentioned this on Facebook and the old blog in the digest for the week, but I want all my writing to be in one place, so I’m sharing it here, too. 

When you’re making surfactant based products like shampoo, body wash, facial cleanser, bubble bath, and so on, mix very slowly in a zig zag pattern with a fork to avoid bubbles and foam. Never use a hand mixer or immersion blender as you’ll end up with something that looks like this, a shampoo that’s mostly bubbles. You’ll put it in a bottle, and when the bubbles rise, you’ll have half the volume you thought you had. (See below…)

As well, you won’t know what the viscosity really is and you could end up using the wrong percentage of a thickener like Crothix.

This is the difference in bubbly vs non-bubbly surfactant mixes. This is the next day, after my youth group. The bottle on the left had no bubbles – Melissa carefully skimmed the surface with a spoon until they were all gone – while the one on the right was whipped into foam.

One is almost 120 ml or 4 ounces (liquid), while the other is maybe 75 ml or 85 ml? That’s such a huge difference!

I always mix the surfactants together until uniform, then add the rest of the liquids to make it easier to mix. Add everything, including essential or fragrance oils, then let it sit for a bit before you add thickeners, like Crothix. I often wait overnight before thickening to make sure it has cooled down or warmed up to room temperature.

What methods have you found work with surfactants? Share your thoughts, comments, formulas, and more in the comments below!