Surfactants

detergent substances which lower the surface tension of the skin area to be cleaned, making the skin more wettable and thereby facilitating the cleansing.

They are classified as:
• Anionic surfactants – detergent substances which develop a negative charge in solutions and have an elevated cleansing power often at the expense of the hydrolipid film, making it very harsh (synthetic sulfate and sulfonate derivatives SLES, SLS; soaps, predominant in terms of quantity in detergents)
• Cationic surfactants – detergent substances which develop a positive charge in solution.
They have a low detergent and foaming activity, so their use is limited in cosmetic, conditioning (softeners and hair balsams) and antimicrobial products. (Quaternary ammonium salts)
• Non-ionic surfactants – detergent substances which do not have a charge in solution. These include detergents considered less harsh and more valid for correct skin cleansing.
• Amphoteric surfactants – detergent substances able to take on a positive or negative charge in solution according to its pH. They have a good foaming/detergent action and an excellent skin affinity.
They are used primarily as detergents for delicate skin, infants and feminine hygiene. Among the most well-known are alkyl betaines.

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