Using Xanthan Gum as a Natural Thickener

All You Need To Know About Xanthan Gum For Skincare

Take a browse down the skincare aisle and you’ll spot lush, colorfully-bottled lotions and potions calling you closer. The creams glide on like silk. Gel formulas feel cool and refreshing upon application. From glass skin serums to nourishing body butter, texture plays a starring role alongside active ingredients in all skincare formulas.

But have you ever wondered what elevates your favorite products from watery and dull to opulently thick and sensory? Behind the scenes, it’s often a little ingredient called xanthan gum working its magic.

This ultra-versatile plant-based polysaccharide serves as the secret star for achieving five-star textures and mouthfeels. Derived from corn sugar, xanthan gum provides exceptional thickening, emulsion stabilization, and the ability to suspend particles evenly throughout a range of beauty formulas. And it performs its tasks beautifully even at low concentrations.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about incorporating xanthan gum into your skincare creations at home. Learn what gives xanthan gum its incredible texture-enhancing properties down to the molecular structure. So let’s explore the science and skincare magic of xanthan gum!

What Is Xanthan Gum?

Xanthan gum’s rise in the skincare industry begins like many great scientific advancements - with a serendipitous discovery. Back in 1963, researchers at the United States Department of Agriculture’s Northern Regional Research Center were rather perplexed by a slimy substance oozing from their celery stalks turned blackened and rotten. Little did they know, the secret behind this mucilaginous goo would transform into one of today’s most ubiquitous ingredients for lustrous texture.

The mystery substance was xanthan gum, produced as a byproduct of a bacterial reaction. Scientists identified the bacteria as Xanthomonas campestris - the culprit behind the plant cell damage. But an important revelation emerged - when this bacteria consumes sugars, it secretes a slimy polysaccharide composed of glucose, mannose, and glucuronic acid.

Now known as xanthan gum when in dried form, this polysaccharide mixture is commercially replicated on an industrial scale by fermenting corn sugar with the Xanthomonas campestris bacteria. The process yields a fine powder that when mixed with water, swells into a slick, viscous fluid. Thus, the discovery of the mighty yet subtle texture-enhancing abilities of xanthan gum was unlocked!

The molecular structure of hydrated xanthan gum is what provides its incredible thickening capabilities. It contains a cellulose backbone chain with trisaccharide side chains made up of mannose-glucuronic acid-mannose. These numerous side chains can connect through hydrogen bonds and polymer entanglement, allowing molecules to link together into a network structure.

As the side chains tangle, they trap water within, slowing mobility for increased viscosity. This allows just tiny amounts of xanthan gum - often 0.3% to 1% - to provide opulent thickness and suspension power. And the long molecular chains prevent separation, keeping particles like exfoliants beautifully dispersed.

Thanks to its natural fermented origin from sugars, xanthan gum classifies as a polysaccharide gum. Other popular gums used in skincare include acacia, guar, and cellulose. But xanthan stands above for its shear-thinning, electrolyte compatibility, and stability. Now let’s explore how it helps elevate skincare and cosmetic formulations!

Xanthan Gum Benefits for Skincare

Of the many polysaccharide gums available to formulators, xanthan stands supreme in its multifunctional texture-enhancing abilities. This powerful natural ingredient imbues skincare products with luscious viscosity, elegant feel, and reliable stability. Let’s explore the remarkable benefits xanthan gum brings to the table!

Unparalleled Thickening Capabilities

The ability to achieve an indulgent, velvety thickness that clings to the skin is perhaps xanthan gum’s most prized asset. Just a pinch elevates the richness of gels, serums, emulsions, and foams for a truly lavish application experience. The opulent texture also helps active ingredients penetrate optimally.

Xanthan creates viscosity through polymer chain entanglement and water trapping. As molecules cross-link, mobility slows for a lush mouthfeel. The viscosity scales proportionally with higher xanthan gum concentrations. But beware amounts over 1% in leave-on products, as excess thickening can feel unpleasant.

Emulsion Stabilization & Separation Prevention

From lotions to creams, emulsified products blend water and oil components using emulsifiers like lecithin. But over time, the two phases can start to separate. Enter xanthan gum to the rescue! It forms structural networks that suspend oil droplets evenly throughout the water for long-term stability.

No more frustrating shaking or remixed batches. Both commercial manufacturers and at-home formulators rely on just 0.2-0.8% xanthan gum for seamless emulsions that retain smooth uniformity.

Glitter, Scrub & Active Suspension

Beyond emulsions, xanthan gum also prevents particles like salt or sugar scrubs, mica glitters, and active ingredients from settling out in gels or serums. The tangled polysaccharide chains trap every addition in place, allowing products to feel and look homogenous.

Natural formulas especially benefit from safely delivering botanical actives over time without needing synthetics. Suspension capabilities also allow creative hybrid textures like foaming clay masks or gentle bead exfoliants.

Shear Thinning Ease for Application

As highly viscous as xanthan solutions feel in the bottle, they gracefully shear thin. This means the viscosity drops with pressure but renounces once the stress is removed. So products effortlessly glide during application but turn lush once on the skin. No stickiness or drag!

This pseudoplastic quality makes working with xanthan a breeze. It also allows creative hybrid textures like airy, whipped body mousse that apply light as foam yet offer intense overnight nourishment.

How to Use Xanthan Gum in Formulas

With its incredible versatility, xanthan gum serves as a texture-elevating ingredient across a wide spectrum of skincare formulas. But to properly access its powers, using the right amounts and practices is key. Let’s go over best practices for seamlessly incorporating xanthan gum magic.

Usage Rates and Concentrations

An important factor about xanthan gum is that just tiny amounts provide pronounced thickening effects. In leave-on products like serums, gels and emulsions, optimal percentages range from 0.3% to 1%. For reference:

  • 0.3% - Light viscosity enhancement for runny serums
  • 0.5% - Medium thickness for lotions and fluid creams
  • 0.7% - High viscosity for opulent masks and butters
  • 1% - Maximum concentration for most leave-on products

Higher levels over 1% tend to feel unpleasantly sticky. Wash-off products allow slightly more gum for indulgent experiences. Think foaming cleansers (1-1.5%) or hydrating hair masks (1-2% concentrations).

When calculating amounts, factor total product weight rather than just water content to determine percent composition. This ensures proper gum inclusion regardless of formula type.

Playing Well with Other Thickeners

Few ingredients work perfectly in isolation. Through strategic pairing with texture synergists like other gums or polymers, xanthan gum performs even better. Try combinations like:

  • Xanthan + Guar Gum: Popular tandem for stability
  • Xanthan + Cellulose: Lightweight serum viscosity
  • Xanthan + Carbomer: Luscious hydrating gels

Blending also allows the use of lower individual percentages for an additive thickening effect. This prevents any gum from feeling overly heavy on skin.

Mixing Best Practices

Though xanthan gum mixes easily into watery phases, improper technique can create dreaded clumps! Follow these guidelines for smooth sailing:

  • Fully pre-hydrate dry xanthan gum in an external small amount of water/glycerin
  • Use high shear mixing to fully incorporate hydrated gum
  • Quickly add to remaining water phase while rapidly stirring
  • Continue mixing for 2-3 minutes once added to fully disperse

By preventing direct contact with powders through proper pre-blending, you’ll avoid pesky gum clumps in your creation! Proceed to add remaining recipe oils and ingredients as usual.

Now that you’re a master at including xanthan gum, unleash your wildest product visions through the power of strategic texture design!

Xanthan Gum in Natural Skincare

As consumer demand grows for gentler, botanically-based personal care, formulating high-performing natural products poses unique texture challenges. Many conventional thickeners and emulsifiers rely on synthetic ingredients excluded from natural standards. Enter xanthan gum – the clean label hero with green beauty advantages from nose to tail.

All-Natural Fermented Origins

Sustainably produced through sugar fermentation, xanthan gum satisfies eco-conscious preferences for renewable botanical sourcing over petroleum derivatives. No ethically questionable origins or toxic processing here!

Xanthan also meets regulations from the most stringent organic and green certifiers like Ecocert, NatureWax, and the Soil Association. This clean processing pedigree makes xanthan gum a staple for natural brands seeking authenticity.

Botanical Formula Enhancement

Once included in natural formulas, xanthan gum further elevates botanical effects by enabling targeted delivery and gradual release. The excellent suspension capabilities ensure plant oils, extracts, and actives remain evenly dispersed rather than settling over time.

Thickened textures also aid absorption by helping active nutrients penetrate the skin without need for chemical penetration enhancers. The opulent feel additionally transforms application into a luxurious spa ritual.

All Skin Type Suitability

While the “clean beauty” label attracts those with sensitive skin, xanthan gum itself generally demonstrates low allergenic potential. With no added fragrances, preservatives, surfactants or irritants, most skin types tolerate xanthan well.

Of course, any ingredient can potentially provoke reactions in those with atypical intolerances. But generally, xanthan gum suits even the most delicate individuals - babies, those with medical conditions, post-procedure skin.

Versatile Applications

From serums to masks to body butters, xanthan gum elevates textures across all product categories. Its multifunctional benefits for thickening, suspending, stabilizing, and sheer thinning allow immense formula versatility for naturals.

Creative artisanal brands incorporate xanthan gum for uniqueness in offerings like:

  • Whipped body mousses
  • Crystal-infused gel toners
  • Fruit enzyme exfoliating masques
  • Cooling aloe styling gels
  • Luxurious facial elixirs full of botanical oils

Sample Skincare Recipes with Xanthan Gum

Soothing Aloe-Oat Gel


  • Aloe Vera Gel - 5.95 oz
  • Colloidal Oatmeal - 0.7 oz
  • Xanthan Gum - 0.35 oz


  • Sprinkle xanthan gum evenly over aloe vera gel
  • Mix on medium speed for 1 minute
  • Increase to high speed and mix for 3 minutes
  • Reduce to medium speed and slowly add colloidal oatmeal
  • Mix until uniform with no clumps, about 2 minutes
  • Transfer into pump bottle and refrigerate


This simple aloe vera and oat gel provides immediate soothing relief for irritated skin. The aloe vera gel contains cooling polysaccharides that help calm inflamed skin, while colloidal oatmeal relieves itchiness through its anti-inflammatory antioxidants. Xanthan gum thickens the gel to a spreadable texture while keeping the oatmeal powder smoothly suspended throughout the formula.

Overnight Replenishing Mask


  • Aloe Vera Gel - 2 oz
  • Vegetable Glycerin - 1.5 oz
  • Almond Oil - 0.6 oz
  • Vitamin E Oil - 0.15 oz
  • Honey Powder - 0.5 oz
  • Xanthan Gum - 0.1 oz
  • Optiphen ND - 0.15 oz


  • Rapidly mix xanthan gum into aloe vera gel
  • Add in vegetable glycerin and blend
  • Incorporate almond and vitamin E oils
  • Sprinkle in honey powder and optiphen
  • Mix 5 minutes until fully smooth
  • Transfer into airless pump jar


This luscious overnight mask provides intense hydration and nourishment while you sleep. The aloe vera and glycerin attract and bind moisture to the skin. Almond oil provides vitamin E to smooth fine lines. Honey powder improves moisture retention. Xanthan gum thickens the formula and keeps powders suspended evenly. Skin looks refreshed, supple and luminous by morning.

Detoxifying Charcoal Cleanser


  • Green Tea - 4.56 oz
  • Vegetable Glycerin - 1.6 oz
  • Charcoal Powder - 0.96 oz
  • Xanthan Gum - 0.32 oz
  • Lavender Essential Oil - 5 drops


  • Mix glycerin and xanthan gum thoroughly
  • Add mixture into green tea and blend 2 minutes
  • Carefully incorporate charcoal powder
  • Add in lavender essential oil
  • Lightly whip with immersion blender for foam
  • Decant cleanser into pump bottle


This foaming gel cleanser draws out impurities with clarifying green tea and purifying activated charcoal powder. Vegetable glycerin hydrates skin while the essential oil provides aromatherapeutic effects. Xanthan gum emulsifies the formula into a light, airy foam that lifts away dirt, oil and makeup without over-drying or irritation. Skin emerges fresh, clean and glowing.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is xanthan gum a safe ingredient? What about allergies?

Yes, xanthan gum has approval from major eco-certifiers like ECOCERT and the Soil Association. It also appears on the U.S. FDA's generally recognized as safe (GRAS) list. The majority of people tolerate xanthan gum well. However, a small percentage may experience minor irritation or allergic contact dermatitis. As with introducing any new ingredient, conduct a patch test first.

2. What should I do if my product turns out too thin and watery?

First, confirm the xanthan gum percentage falls within the proper usage rate for your formula type. Watery serums use 0.3-0.5% while thicker creams use up to 1%. If within range, try incrementally increasing xanthan gum by 0.1% until desired consistency is reached. Adding a secondary thickener like hydroxyethylcellulose also creates viscosity synergy.

3. Why does my formula seem thick in the jar but then turns runny upon application?

This issue occurs when the xanthan gum's shear thinning properties are too exaggerated. Reduce percentage by 0.2-0.3% and/or limit application points of high shear like pumping or shaking before use. Adding polymers like carbomer provides structure.

4. How does xanthan gum compare to alternatives like guar gum?

While guar gum also provides good thickening, xanthan better withstands temperature, pH and electrolyte variations. This makes xanthan more versatile across diverse products. Xanthan also demonstrates more pseudoplasticity for easier spreading. Combining both guarantees stability.

Final Thoughts!

We hope this guide offered an in-depth look into the science, benefits and applications of xanthan gum for elevated skincare textures. Its natural fermented origin and multifunctional properties for stabilizing emulsions, suspending particles, controlling viscosity and achieving luscious feel make xanthan gum an undisputed formulation superstar. We invite you to join us in exploring the possibilities by experimenting with your own creations using our recipe guide and recommended usage tips. Prepare to unlock next-level beauty potions once you incorporate xanthan into your skincare alchemy!

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