Newbie Tuesday: Gels, gels gels! An introduction to Ultrez 20

I do love playing with gels. I can thicken a toner, make an eye gel, create a new facial cleanser, formulate an after sun gel with aloe, and so on. Let's take a look at two ingredients I've been using a lot to make gels lately - Ultrez 20 and Sepimax ZEN.

ULTREZ 20 (INCI: Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer) 
What is this exciting polymer that makes ooey gooey fun? From Lubrizol: "A self-wetting rheology modifier designed to impart moderate-to-high viscosity as well as stabilizing and suspending properties to personal care applications." In other words, it's a white powdery thingie that you add to water to create a gel that will thicken your creations.

Sounds awesome, but there's always a down side, eh? Gels don't tend to play well with electrolytes, cationics, or salts - three things we may want to include in our gels. Ingredients like aloe vera or sodium PCA contain a lot of electrolytes and salts. Cationic or positively charged ingredients are things like cationic polymers like polyquaternium 7 or honeyquat, as well as Incroquat BTMS-50 and some hydrolyzed proteins. (For instance, I know the silk amino acids from Voyageur Soap & Candle thins out Ultrez 20 thick gels.) As well, the final pH of a gel with Ultrez 20 should be around 4.5 to 5, so you can't add things like glycolic acid or AHAs easily.

Ultrez 20 notes that it can handle up to 10 to 12% surfactants, which isn't a lot, so this isn't the thing to thicken up a body wash or bubble bath with 40% to 50% surfactants. (Having said this, I have tried it and it will work well for a few months, so if you're going to use it quickly or want to make something like bubble goo for the kids, have fun!) It is great if you want to thicken up a facial cleanser with 10% surfactants that simply don't want to thicken any other way! Try thickening this foaming facial cleanser we made for foamer bottles with Ultrez 20.

I'll be sharing some surfactants that don't thicken well with Crothix or salt in the next few weeks, and they work well with this gellant! 

What do I mean by "it won't work well"? If the gel doesn't like your ingredients, it'll stop being a gel. It's not the worst thing in the world as the product will still work, but it won't be a gel any more. Or it'll thin out to be a thin gel instead of the thick version you want.

Here's the basic way to make a gel as recommended by the manfacturer (with my notes).

1. Add your Ultrez 20 to water and let sit for 3 to 5 minutes, depending upon how much powder you have used. (0.5% takes 3 minutes, up to 3% takes 5 minutes). Mix gently to get all the flakes wet. You'll know they're wet enough when they are transparent or clear in the container, like the picture to the left.

2. Add your anionic surfactants (check the information on your surfactant - for instance, coco betaine is an amphoteric.)

3. Add the neutralizer. This is a very alkaline ingredient that you add to the very acidic Ultrez 20 to create the gel. You can use an 18% sodium hydroxide solution, an 18% potassium hydroxide solution, or triethanolamine.

If you're using an 18% sodium hydroxide or lye solution, you'll want to use 2.3 grams of this solution for every 1 gram of Ultrez 20. If you're using triethanolamine, you'll want to use 1.5 grams of TEA to 1 gram of Ultrez 20. You could also use something like an 18% solution of potassium hydroxide at 2.7 grams to 1 of Ultrez 20, but I haven't tried that, so I can't guarantee anything, but it should work well.

Please note, in the recipes that will follow, I use a ratio of 4:3 for TEA or 18% lye to Ultrez 20 in the form of 1.6% TEA or 18% lye to 1.2% Ultrez 20. This means I'm using slightly more Ultrez 20 than I need, but I've found the pH and viscosity works really well for this ratio. I encourage you to be more accurate than I am being by using the proper ratio I mention above. Get yourself a really nice scale that weighs down to 0.01 grams and have at it!

If you choose to make the 18% lye solution, weigh out 82 grams of distilled water into a heat proof container, like a Pyrex jug, and add 18 grams lye to it. Mix well, then let it sit undisturbed until it cools down. (The container will get very very hot. This is an exothermic reaction or one that generates heat. How awesome is that?) When it has cooled, put into a clean bottle with the words "THIS IS LYE. DO NOT DRINK. IF YOU DO, AND YOU DIE, IT'S NOT MY FAULT. I DID WARN YOU" on it and store in a safe place.

4. Add amphoteric surfactants, silicones, cationics, salts, etc. in that order.

5. Add pearlizing ingredients like mica, glycol distearate and so on.

6. Add fragrance, dye, and preservative (you don't need to add preservative if you've done it in the gel).

So basically what you are doing is adding these gel flakes to water, getting them wet, then neutralizing the process with 18% lye solution or TEA to create a gel.

MAKING A THICK GEL WITH ULTREZ 20
96.5% distilled water
1.2% Carbopol Ultrez 20
1.6% triethanolamine or 18% lye solution*
0.5% liquid Germall Plus (or preservative of choice)

Follow the directions as noted above. As you can see in the picture, this makes a very thick gel that works well when you add liquids to them to thin it out.

When I'm using gels, I do one of two things - I make up a gel and add ingredients to it or I add the ingredients I'm using in place of some of the distilled water amount you see above. For instance, I might use 10% rose water and 86.5% distilled water for a product. Or I could make up this gel, then add 10% rose water. Adding something to the gel after it's made will thin it out, which isn't a bad thing as it's very thick.

Related posts:
Gels (revised for 2013)
One ingredient, five products: Gels
One ingredient, five products: Gels - making an aloe vera gel
How to make an eye liner sealant with gels
Formulating an under eye gel: Raymond's creation
Oil free gel moisturizer or make up remover with PEG-7 olivate
Gels: Hair styling products
Gels: Surfactant-y fun with gardener's hand scrub
Gels: Make a gelled toner
Gels: Hand sanitizer

Join me tomorrow as we take a look at using Sepimax ZEN as a gelling agent. We'll take a look at using these gels next Tuesday for the Newbie Tuesday post! 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.

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

You may also like