Chelating Agents in Shampoo


 - By Kailey Bradt

Chelating Agents in Shampoo


What is a Chelating Agent?

Chelating agents are a category of ingredients responsible for preventing, and in some cases removing, build up in your hair by forming multiple bonds to a metal ion or metallic compound. 

Daily Shampoo vs. Chelating Shampoo

Recently there has been an increase of chelating shampoos on the market. Chelating shampoos are simply shampoos with an increased level of chelating agents, designed to remove build-up in the hair. The small amount of a chelating ingredient in an everyday shampoo is designed to prevent this build up as opposed to removing it.

Clarifying, Detox & Purifying Shampoos

There are two ways to remove buildup on the scalp- physically & chemically. To remove build up the physical way, ingredients such as salt, sugar, or clay-based microbeads are used. This focuses on removing build up on the scalp and not so much the hair. Chelating agents remove build-up in a chemical way, that impact hair more than the scalp and can be irritating to the scalp if used too often, because of the amount of chelating agents present in these formulations. It’s important to pay close attention to ingredient lists and marketing descriptions since terms like “clarifying” “detox” “purifying” are unregulated in the cosmetics industry. Additionally, other marketing terms that are used (which are more obviously marketing terms) are “build-up buster” “anti residue” and “resetting.” 

Chelating Treatments

Chelating treatments are a stronger version of a chelating shampoo, and sometimes not much of a shampoo at all! A surfactant is present, but isn’t always the first ingredient. Usually these are supplied as a single-use sachet or mono-dose system, so that the dosage is controlled. These treatments are used by professionals, but can also be used at home. Chelating treatments should no be used as frequently as a chelating shampoo as they have a higher amount of chelating ingredients and a noticeable difference can be seen after a single use.

Chelating Agents in Waterless Formulas

Chelating agents are especially significant in waterless formulations as they are responsible for making sure the products give the same performance no matter what the chemistry of the water being used is. This also ensures that no matter where the product is being used geographically, the product functions the same. For example, hard water can decrease the amount of lather in a shampoo and a chelating ingredient can prevent that. Chelating agents attach to compounds in hard water ensuring that the performance of the just-add-water formula is not compromised.

Chelating Ingredients

The most common chelating agents found in cosmetic formulations are tetrasodium EDTA and tetrahydroxypropyl ethylenediamine. The EDTA complex is commonly seen in cosmetics due to its broad effectiveness and compatibility with many ingredients. Some other chelating agents include ascorbic acid, citric acid, trisodium ethylenediamine disuccinate, sodium oxalate, potassium citrate and more

Sodium Phytate

At Susteau, we use sodium phytate as our chelating agent. Sodium phytate is a natural alternative to EDTA. The sodium phytate we use in our formulations is 100% naturally derived, has ECOCERT/COSMOS certification and is readily biodegradable.

ImageHannah Thornhill for Susteau