Formulating an anti-dandruff shampoo with sophorolipids.

What are bio-surfactants?

Biosurfactants are amphiphilic compounds typically produced by yeasts and bacteria, which are secreted into the aqueous fermentation media in which the cells are growing. Biosurfactants possess the characteristic property of reducing the surface and interfacial tension, using the same mechanisms as chemical surfactants.

In short, biosurfactants are a class of surfactants that are produced by yeasts and bacteria via fermentation.


Sophorolipids are a class of biosurfactants that give a formulator a range of performance properties in formulations over a pH range from 2 to 10, which is the standard range for the majority of cleaning, cosmetic, agriculture and oil and gas formulations.  Sophorolipids provide improved wetting properties in comparison to other biosurfactants and are created by naturally occurring yeast found in honey, unlike many other biosurfactants that can come from either genetically modified organisms (GMO) or pathogenic organisms.

SLES free anti-dandruff shampoo

Utilising HoneySurf™ in personal care formulations using the INCI names “Rapeseed Sophorolipids” is a great way to a 100% natural bio-surfactant into your formulations.  The Removal of SLES and other traditional surfactants gives the formulator a new set of ingredients, to help formulate greener more sustainable bio-products.

In this application, washing was done over a 1-week period, washing daily with 2 applications per wash. The shampoo gave excellent foaming, and a marked improvement in dandruff over the course of the treatment, as shown below.

Figure 1 visible reduction in dandruff after 4 days.

Day 1                                                            Day 2                                                                    Day 3

SLES free antidandruff – Shampoo pH 5.8
 IngredientINCI -Name Active matter of ingredient [%]Quantity [%]amount to add per 1000kgOrder of the addition
1Betaine  cocamidopropyl betaine3031007
2HoneySurf LF  rapeseed sophorolipids632329
3HoneySurf HF  rapeseed sophorolipids604668
4citric acid citric acid1001103
5PQ7 polyquaternium-7100.5506
6Lactic acid lactic acid1000.552
7Sodium benzoate sodium benzoate1000.555
8co-polymer thickener xanthan gum10011012
9Fragrance, peppermint/tea treementha piperita (Peppermint)

melaleuca alternafolia (Tea Tree)

10sodium hydroxide Sodium Hydroxide1000.656.54
11Water Aquato 1006791&10

How to formulate

  • Add 479kg of water to the Vessel
  • Add the citric acid, lactic acid, and dissolve until a clear liquid then add sodium hydroxide to neutralise - pH 5.8
  • Add sodium benzoate and PQ7
  • Add betaine and HoneySurf HF and then HoneySurf LF - adding this will make the mixture go cloudy
  • Add the rest of the water and stir until clear - pH at this point will be about pH 5.8
  • Adjust pH if required
  • Add thickener
  • Finally add colour and perfume as desired

If you have any questions or would like to know more please feel free to contact us directly at

All guide formulations provided by Holiferm are for information purposes only, and are not designed for commercial use, as such Holiferm takes no liability for their use. These are designed to create a spark for the creative mind of other formulators.