Sustainability is about promoting economic and social progress while respecting natural ecosystems and the quality of environment. The consumption of products whose raw materials come from renewable or natural sources, and which are readily biodegradable, is commonplace. Alkylpolyglucosides (APG) are sustainable surfactants that meet these characteristics and are suitable for the EU-Ecolabel.
Alkylpolyglucosides (APGs): the sustainable surfactants with the best profile
Alkylpolyglucosides are surfactants of natural origin, 100% biodegradable, and comply with certifications such as EU-Ecolabel and Cosmos. All this ranks these surfactants as some of the most sustainable surfactants in the industry.
In addition, alkylpolyglucosides offer a low irritant profile and excellent skin compatibility, making them suitable for a variety of applications in both detergency and personal care sectors.
How to choose an Alkylpolyglucoside (APG) correctly?
Alkylpolyglucosides are non-ionic surfactants: they consist of a non-polar and a polar, non-ionised fraction. The absence of electrical charge in this type of surfactants makes them highly compatible with other ones. It is therefore common to combine alkylpolyglucosides with other surfactants of a different nature and with an ionic charge.
Alkylpolyglucosides are produced following the reaction between a sugar, usually glucose, and a fatty alcohol. They have a degree of polymerisation of the sugar of up to five, which means that they can be made up of up to five glucose molecules. For the fatty alcohol, the chain length can vary, usually from 8 to 14 carbon atoms, which allows the surfactant to be characterised and to be attributed one functionality or another:
- Shorter chains have a small hydrophobic fraction and therefore have a higher critical micellar concentration (CMC), at which concentration the surfactants start to self-aggregate and form the micelles that occur in foaming. This explains why short-chain alkylpolyglucosides are poor foaming agents.
- On the other hand, surfactants with longer fatty alcohol chains have a higher hydrophobic fraction, which results in a lower CMC and therefore are more foaming surfactants.
In addition to the foaming capacity of these surfactants, it is worth mentioning their high wetting power. Wetting refers to the ability of the surfactant to adhere to the cleaning surface and its consequent lowering of the surface tension at the liquid-surface interface. Therefore, surfactants with a higher CMC (requiring a higher concentration of surfactant to form micelles) are more wetting, and on the contrary, those with a lower CMC have a low wetting power. Thus, foaming capacity and wetting power are opposite properties that characterise these sustainable surfactants.
Alkylpolyglucosides can also be classified according to origin: fatty alcohol can be obtained from palm oil or coconut oil, both of which are 100% sustainable sources.
Furthermore, these surfactants resist high pHs and are stable over a wide temperature range.
The different types of alkylpolyglucosides that we offer at Quimidroga are:
Applications of alkylpolyglucosides
Alkylpolyglucosides are used in detergency and cosmetic formulations to improve foaming and foam quality: they usually generate a creamy foam that is more stable over time.
The almost non-existent irritant power of alkylpolyglucosides, their low toxicity and hypoallergenic properties make these sustainable surfactants ideal ingredients for formulations requiring high skin compatibility such as washing-up liquids. Other applications where alkylpolyglucosides are used include surface detergents and laundry products. In the latter, these non-ionic surfactants have the benefit of reducing the stiffness of fabrics due to their lack of charges and, therefore, generate a certain softening effect.
Regarding the personal care sector, alkylpolyglucosides are ideal surfactants for liquid body or facial cleansers, micellar waters or even shampoos. In addition, alkylpolyglucosides are highly recommendable in baby care products due to their low irritant profile, in wet wipes and in oral care products.
Naturalness in cleaning products in personal care
Sustainable surfactants are often related to the natural origin of these surfactants. Naturalness is a very important trend in the products we use, especially when it comes to personal care. Alkylpolyglucosides are sustainable surfactants of 100% natural origin, therefore they conform to the ISO 16128 standard in cosmetics (Relation to article Multifunctional cosmetic ingredients of plant origin according to ISO 16128). That is why alkylpolyglucosides are the most recommended surfactants for products where a high level of naturalness of the ingredients is to be claimed.