Newbie Tuesday (on Wednesday): Gels, gels, gels! An introduction to Sepimax ZEN

We took a look at how to use Ultrez 20 yesterday, so let’s take a look at using Sepimax ZEN in our gelled products today.

Sepimax ZEN (INCI: Polyacrylate Crosspolymer-6) is a pre-neutralized polymer we can use to create thick gels without having to do a lot of mixing.

It works well with electrolytes, so we can use it to make gels from aloe vera and surfactant mixes easily. It can handle acidic pH levels, so we can use AHAs and glycolic acid at up to 4%. As it’s anionic or negatively charged, we can’t use positively charged or cationic ingredients, like honeyquat, polyquat 7, or Incroquat BTMS-50 in it. (Having said that, I have been able to make some things work, which you’ll see shortly…)

Sepimax ZEN is awesome with surfactants. At as low as 2% it increases foam and lather, and leaves behind a moisturized feel.

Sepimax ZEN can be thickened by mixing for about 10 minutes. Start with a lower speed – around 500 rpm – and move to 1500 rpm. Or weigh all the ingredients into a container, mix a bit to integrate the ZEN, then leave it for up to 8 hours to hydrate. But you have to leave it alone! (Okay, you can take a look from time to time, but don’t mix it or you’ll ruin it!)

It advertises on the fact that it can incorporate vegetable and seed oils as well as esters, like C12-15 alkyl benzoate, to create cream gels. It says it can do up to 40% oils, but I’ve had trouble going above 10%.

As an aside, it’s a great addition to a product that wouldn’t normally handle electrolytes, like a lotion made with Aristoflex AVC. (Look for those posts soon!) 

Sepimax ZEN is fantastic for making aloe vera gels as it can handle all those electrolytes! I’ve used up to 30% aloe vera with 3% ZEN to make a thick, hydrating gel. (Easiest way to do it – aloe, water, preservative, ZEN – let sit for 8 hours.)

I’ve found it makes really clear gels, too, like the one you see to the left. It may make a clear gel for surfactant blends, but won’t for products that contain oils thanks to the joys of emulsification.

How much can you use in a product? I’ve found that 3% is a very very thick gel, so I generally stick to 2% to 2.5% in a product. You can go lower, depending upon the ingredients you use. I suggest playing with it in your favourite recipes and keeping great notes on how it works! You’ll see me using all kinds of amounts in the recipes we make in this series as well as others.

96.5% distilled water
0.5% liquid Germall Plus or preservative of choice
3% Sepimax ZEN

Add the distilled water and preservative into a container and mix. Sprinkle Sepimax ZEN on the water. Wait 8 hours. Do not mix during that time. I know you want to, but don’t! After 8 hours – ta da! You have a lovely thick gel!

Or you can put the powder in the water, mix lightly with a fork until the product is wetted, then start mixing. Start at a lower speed with a beater on a hand mixer, then move to a higher speed for about 10 minutes.

I’ve found that when I mix the product, it’s not as thick as the version that sits for a while. But choose whatever works for you best!

We can create the gel the way I’ve done above, then add ingredients to it, or we can add the ingredients into the container, then gel it. In general, I tend to put all the ingredients into the container, then let it sit for 8 hours. You’ll see examples of those kinds of recipes next week and the week after. 
As an aside, I know I didn’t suggest buying Sepimax ZEN when I shared the shopping list, but you can get it at Voyageur Soap & Candle (Canada) and Lotioncrafter (USA), so I’ll be discussing it in this series as well as the Ultrez 20. 
Join me next Tuesday to play around with Ultrez 20 and ZEN to make some awesome facial products! 
If you’d like to play along or if you’ve missed a post, here’s a listing of the complete series…
Newbie Tuesday: We’re making facial products! 
Shopping list
Equipment list
Let’s start making facial cleansers! – Your skin type
Surfactants – what are they?
Meet the surfactants
pH of our surfactants
Facial products – the base recipe

Turning your cleanser into an exfoliating cleanser (part one) – physical exfoliants
Turning your cleanser into an exfoliating cleanser (part two) – physical exfoliants
Turning your cleanser into an exfoliating cleanser by adding chemical exfoliants
Modifying your facial cleanser into a foamer bottle recipe
Creating a facial toner (part one)
Creating a facial toner (part two)
Creating a facial toner (part three) – cosmeceuticals
Creating a facial toner (part four) – adding cosmeceuticals
Gels, gels, gels! Ultrez 20