Decyl glucoside is a beneficial ingredient in many types of skin and hair care products, including cleansers, shampoos and body washes. Considered relatively new for use in the beauty industry, decyl glucoside's benefits have led to its ever-increasing popularity for inclusion in products. The ingredient may also be referred to as d-glucoside decyl, decyl-b-d-glucopyranoside or b-d-glucopyranoside.
The primary role that decyl glucoside plays in skin and hair care products is that of a surfactant or cleansing agent. To understand the function of a surfactant, one must first understand some of the basic properties of liquids. Although liquids are fluid and take the shape of the container into which they are added, one drop of fluid has a distinct rounded shape. The shape of a drop is possible because liquids possess what is known as surface tension. This force helps to counteract external forces that surround a drop of liquid, so that it maintains its bead-like shape.
Each liquid has its own surface tension, and the higher the force of the tension, the more difficult it is to disrupt or destroy a drop of the liquid. The natural oil produced by the skin (sebum) and most other types of oils have a relatively high surface tension. When water runs over oils, the surface tension prevents the tiny oil droplets from being washed away, which is why washing your face, showering or bathing in just plain water is not an effective way to clean the skin and hair.
Surfactants like decyl glucoside lower the surface tension of liquids, including oils. When you apply a formula that contains the ingredient to your scalp, face or body, decyl glucoside makes it possible for water to remove the oil. In addition to its surfactant actions, decyl glucoside also helps products to produce a thick lather or foam.
Many types of surfactants are available on the market today, and the majority of these are derived from chemical origins. As a result, they have the potential to cause skin irritation, particularly in those with sensitive skin. Unlike most surfactants, decyl glucoside is derived from natural sources. The ingredient is made by combining the glucose sugar found in cornstarch with the fatty acid decanol found in coconut.
Sometimes called a biosurfactant, decyl glucoside is completely biodegradable and is often included in products found in natural and organic skin and hair care collections due to its environmentally-friendly properties. Products that feature decyl glucoside as a secondary surfactant may use concentrations of as little as 2 percent. In formulas where decyl glucoside is the primary surfactant, the concentration of the ingredient may be as high as 40 percent.
Decyl glucoside may also be added to skin care products that contain both oily and more watery ingredients to act as a stabilizing agent. When the ingredient is used in this way, decyl glucoside lowers the surface tension of the oily ingredients, so that they can remain mixed with the other ingredients in the formula. This prevents the product from separating and makes it require less shaking before use.
Research into the effects of decyl glucoside has found that the ingredient is far less likely to cause skin irritation than other types of surfactants. In fact, in one clinical study, decyl glucoside was found to cause no adverse effects when placed on normal, healthy skin for as long a period as 24 hours. The ingredient is used in products for all hair and skin types, including in products designed for use by children and those with sensitive skin. As of 2012, the safety of decyl glucoside had not been evaluated by any prominent consumer protection panels; however, the ingredient does comply with regulations established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the EU Cosmetics Directive in Europe.
It is important to keep in mind that decyl glucoside does have a rather high alkaline pH. People who suffer from skin allergies may be unable to use products that contain decyl glucoside because of this. Signs of skin allergies to decyl glucoside include redness, itching and mild swelling. An allergic reaction to the ingredient could occur with the very first use or not result until the product that contains the ingredient has been used several times.