Friday, March 13, 2009

Leave in conditioner

So you've got well cleaned, conditioned hair, but perhaps you need a little something more to chase off the static or fly-aways. Or, if you're like me, you're a frizzy haired girl. Try making leave-in conditioner for that extra oomph you need after washing.

You'll notice this is pretty much the same as a regular conditioner, but it has more water and less conditioning agent in it. We keep in the same amount of good stuff -- the proteins, the silicones, the fragrance oil - because those are what we really need to de-frizz and manage our hair!

Please note: This recipe only works with Incroquat BTMS-50. I can't guarantee it with another version. 

1 to 2% Incroquat BTMS-50
.5% preservative
up to 1% fragrance oil
water to 100%

Melt the Incroquat BTMS-50 in a heatproof container in a double boiler. Measure your water and add that to another heat proof container in a double boiler. Heat and hold until the BTMS is melted, then pour the BTMS into the water container and mix. When the mixture has reached 45C or lower, add your fragrance oil and preservative.

This will work well for a basic conditioner, but where's the WOW in it? In the conditioning post, I listed a few things you might want to include in a rinse-off conditioner...those things are awesome for a leave in as well! (Please read this post for information on each ingredient and why we're including it. I didn't put it here because some of my posts are getting really really long!)

2% Incroquat BTMS
2% condition-eze 7 or celquat H-100 or honeyquat (cationic polymer)
2% cetrimonium chloride (for detangling)
4% glycerin (humectant, makes the mixture thicker, which is nice)
1% aloe vera (I don't know if this little makes a difference, but I use it anyway)
1% hydrolyzed protein (I use cromoist)
1% panthenol
2% cyclomethicone
2% dimethicone
1% fragrance oil
.5% to 1% preservative (I use liquid germall plus)
water to 100%

Weigh the BTMS, cetac, glycerin, aloe vera, and water into a heat proof container and put into a double boiler until the ingredients melt. Mix well and leave to stand until the temperature reaches 45C, mixing occasionally. Add the hydrolyzed protein, panthenol, cyclomethicone, dimethicone, fragrance oil, and preservative at this time, and mix well. When the mixture is at room temperature, bottle in a spray bottle.

I use 2% BTMS to emulsify the silicones - if you aren't a fan of silicones, then you could add up to about 4% oils in there and still see it emulsify properly. If you want to add oils on top of the silicones, I'd take it to 3% BTMS and reduce your glycerin to keep some of the humectant-y properties but make it less thick, or keep the BTMS at 2%, add your oils, leave out the silicones, and save the silicones for an anti-frizz spray you make separately (90% cyclo, 10% dimethicone). Warning: 3% BTMS is going to make a very thick leave in conditioner, more like a lotion, so put it in a bottle, not a spray bottle.

If you can't find it, you can leave out the cetrimonium chloride (cetac), but if you can find it USE IT! It's incredible for detangling! (The only place I've been able to find it is at the Personal Formulator. It is worth the shipping costs - which are pretty reasonable to Canada - if you get tangly hair. I asked at Voyageur, and they could not get it...sigh!)


France said...

Hi Susan!
I just put in an order for Cetac and IPM!!
The leave in conditioner, do you spray it on? (pardon my ignorance!)... also, do you still use shampoo and conditioner prior to the leave-in? and you apply it to wet hair prior to drying, right?
I know you're busy, so just answer when you can... no rush!!


Emma said...

Hi! What's the difference btween BTMS and BTMS-50? I was looking at a recipe for a deep hair conditioner that called for a conditioning emulsifier, which I figured would be BTMS, but I wasn't sure what the difference between either one was.

SwiftCraftyMonkey said...

BTMS is INCI Name: Behentrimonium Methosulfate (and) Cetearyl Alcohol and BTMS-50 is INCI Name: Behentrimonium Methosulfate (and) Cetyl Alcohol (and) Butylene Glycol. The key difference is the amount of behentrimonium methosulfate - the cationic quat. It's about 25% in BTMS and 50% in BTMS 50. Which means you are going to increase the amount of BTMS you use in a recipe to get the same conditioning level.

To be honest, in this recipe you can probably substitute the BTMS for the BTMS-50, but for a liquid conditioner you'll want to do the following...

a. add cetyl alcohol to the BTMS at 25% the amount of BTMS (normally you'd add 50% to match the amount of cationic quat);

b. up the amount of BTMS in a recipe. If you want 6%, you'll want to increase that amount by 50% to ensure you have enough cationic quat to 9%; and

c. add a humectant like glycerin or something else to compensate for the lack of butylene glycol.

Hope this helps!

SwiftCraftyMonkey said...

Hi France. Sorry I missed your comment in all the excitement of getting married and going on my honeymoon!

I spray the leave in conditioner into my hair but I suggest spraying it into your hand and applying it so it doesn't get all over the bathroom. I still shampoo and condition, then apply the leave in conditioner. (I use an anti-frizz spray in here as well). If I dried my hair, I would use it before drying! (It would take all day to blow dry my hair, so I just leave it to dry on its own!)

You are going to love the cetac. I mistakenly left it out of my conditioner bar recipe this weekend and I can feel the difference. My hair is softish from the amount in the leave in conditioner, but it is still tangly! ARGH!

France said...

Thanks for the reply Susan!! And that little bit you posted here in the comments about BTMS vs BTMS 50! WOW! What a great piece of information! That should probably be a post in itself for people who don't always get around to reading comments, that's a GREAT thing to know!

Linda said...


Thanks again for your wonderful advice!

Just wanted to let people know that I've found some Cetrimonium Chloride at! Yeah! ( so this is for all you European ladies! :)

ella_noe08 said...

Hi Susan,

So just to be sure I understand, because I DO have BTMS, not BTMS-50, if I were to use this leave in conditioner recipe as a guideline, you're saying to actually up the BTMS to 4% and then add how much cetyl alcohol to that as well? 1%?...25% of the original 2% or 25% of the 4%?
Sorry for the confusion, just trying to clarify:)

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Ella! The reference above for the liquid conditioner, not the leave in conditioner.

I'd suggest increasing the BTMS-25 to 4%, but leaving the other ingredients the same. This will give you about 1% total behetrimonium chloride - which is a good level for leave in conditioning.

I wouldn't include cetyl alcohol in a leave in - it'll weigh your hair down too much!

Sensational said...

hello, I'm trying to make a moisturizing rinse conditoner, do you have a recipee for that. Thanks

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Sensational. I'm not exactly sure what you mean, but if you click on the <a href="'>hair care section of the blog</a>, you'll see all the recipes relating to hair care.

Anonymous said...

So, I have adapted the leave in conditioner recipe to match my ingredients (I used papaya oil instead of silicones, and aloe butter instead of liquid aloe), and added water as a replacement for all the other ingredients in the water phase that I did not use. The final product came out very liquid, with quite some foam from the mixing with the stick blender (100g batch). I used Optiphen as preservative, and I bottled it.

Question: was it supposed to come out that liquid? I know that this can be sprayable, but I just wanted to check it out with you.

Second , would optiphen be safe to use in a sprayable product?

Anonymous said...

p.s. I have used sodium lactate instead of glycerin . and I realized I forgot to add the proteins :))

but in the end it's quite nice to test something new, isn't it ?:-))

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

This is a very watery product - on par with water (which might sound silly, but now you get an idea of the viscosity!) - because we want it to be sprayable.

It looks like Optiphen is a good choice - click here for the post on this preservative - but it isn't a broad spectrum preservative and needs another one for mould. (Click here for all the preservative posts!)

zignorp said...

Hi Susan,
First, I wanted to say THANK YOU so much. I am getting back into crafting after a few years, and I am so appreciating your blog and your whole approach. I was preparing to make a leave in conditioner, and am starting with this recipe with some tiny modifications. I'm getting my ingredients together, and just re-read your weight vs volume post. I was getting ready to weigh everything, then I read, from that post:
"My suggestion - use weighted measures when you can. I know, I've posted most of my stuff in volume measurements because it's easier with smaller batches, but if you want to make larger amounts,"
(which confused me a little)
I just wanted to confirm that I can convert percentages in this recipe to weighted grams, and that's how I should proceed.

Anonymous said...

Why does a leave in conditioner becomes white flaky at the roots of the hair the very next day and why does it itch?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Rosi. Neither of those things are normal. Can you post your recipe so we can figure out what's going wrong? Please stop using the product immediately - itching isn't a good thing and is the sign of irritation. Wash your hair to get the product out of it, and don't use the product again! Please post your recipe so we can figure out what might be causing this problem!

Anonymous said...

Here's my recipe,
100% water, 2% cetac, 4% glycerin, 10% avocado oil, 5% cetearyl alcohol, 6%BTMS, 1% preservative.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Sorry for the delay in answering, but I didn't see this comment until now! I think the problem is that you're using rinse off levels of ingredients in a leave in conditioner. I'd start with 2% BTMS-50, 1% cetearyl alcohol, and reduced oils. What preservative are you using?

Anonymous said...

Hello dear Susan,
I added polyquat 4 to a leave in conditioner at 2% and then at 1% and i didn't really like it because the leave in lost it's slip. I could not run my fingers through the hair as i was applying it. Is it normal or did i do something wrong? 5% cetearyl, 5% mineral oil, 1% polyquat 4, 3% cetac, 3% sorbitol, water, preservative.
Thanks a lot,

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan

I am having issues with the basic formulation separating - could this be due to under or over mixing?

Should I be adding another emulsifier?

Thanks - Sarah

Anonymous said...

How would you make this leave in conditioner to have the consistency of a lotion?

Alona Williams said...

I just had a question about the percentages....
When using a recipe with percentages listed instead of grams or ounces, do I just decide how many grams or ounces I'm looking to make and then use ingredients in proportion to that? Meaning, if I'm making 8 ounces of conditioner in total, i would use whatever% of the 8 ounces?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Ana. I suggest making a regular conditioner. You can find those in the hair care section.

Hi Alona! I answer your question in this post, which can be found in the FAQ!

Ella said...

Hi Susan! I want to share my story with leave in conditioner. It all started one day after i washed my hair and realized i ran out of all conditioners and there is no way i can get a comb through the mess i had on my head - so i wrapped my hair in towel and went straight to computer to see what i can find on your blog:)
Recipe looked simple, i had almost all the ingredient at hand so i decided to give it a try. Recipe was almost identical - i only left out cetac(can`t get it anywhere!)and increased water amount, i used Polyquaternium-7 as my my cationic polymer and oat proteins (for my frizzy hair those work better than silk proteins).
Here comes the "me being in a hurry and doing silly things" part...I kind of wanted to try different method instead of heat and hold - the quick version of "throw all of the ingredients in one pyrex cup and heat it in the microwave". Believe it or not - it actualy worked, BUT only that time and never again-i ended up with "shake before use" product the next 2 times i tried to do it like that. Now i always do things the way you described it and it never failed.
I am very pleased with finnished product - although i didn`t use cetac, it still detangles my hair and makes them a lot easier to brush. I noticed that my hair dry a lot faster and when they are dry the feel soft and more manageble.
I also tried a silicone-free version, and used argan/avocado oil instead-not bad, but i like it better with silicones. My hair look shinier and they feel softer.
I also prefered polyquat over honeyquat. I tried one without aloe vera and didn`t noticed any difference. And one time i used propilen glicol instead of gliceryn-same moisturizing effect but i noticed i had less curly hair(i have naturaly wavy hair)-don`t ask me curls just dropped the next day...
I would encourage everyone to try it - kids like it too, my niece loves her conditioner (with jelly beans fragrance:) and is now actualy happy when it comes to brushing her hair.
I tried it on dry and wet hair, works great both ways.
It is a good recipe, easy to adjust, i tried many versions and liked them all.

Ella said...

Oh, i forgot to mention- when i was doing all in one phase emusification i meant i put all ingredients that need to be heated together - cool down phase was added later at 45 deg.Celsius ;)

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Ella. Email me at to let me know which e-book you'd like for this review!

Jessica Bourque said...

Long time reader, first time commenter :P I know you hear this A LOT, but I have to say it too. I am in love your blog! Now on to the reason I am actually asking a question. I always try to find my answers before I ask, since I know you're a busy bee, but I'm totally stumped. I made a similar version of the (above) leave in conditioner. Everything seemed fine when I was making it, weighed out all my ingredients, heated and held (well maybe not the full 20 minutes, closer to 15), re-weighed my water. Added the water to the oil and stick blended the crap out of it. Waited until the mix was down to about 40* to add the cool down phase, and stick blended again. Let it cool some more and poured it into my brand new mister bottles.
I excitedly and apprehensively (I had one other water heavy emulsion separate on me) checked it this morning, and... It separated :'(
Here's the version I made:
Heated Water Phase
77.21% distilled water
2% polyquat 7
2% cetrimonium chloride
3.86% glycerin
1% cromoist
Heated Oil Phase
3% incroquat behenyl TMS-50 (from voyageur)
2% coconut oil (76*)
Cool Down Phase
1% panthenol (liquid from voyageur)
2% cyclomethicone
2% dimethicone
.5% liquid germall plus
2% vital hair and scalp (voyageur)
.36% spanish sage EO
.5% rosemary EO
.5% lavebder EO
.07% tea tree EO
I made about 600 grams worth to boot! :( Can you please tell me what I may have done wrong?
And can I personally (safely) use this? I would hate to throw it all down the drain.
Thank you <3

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Jess. You've added a ton of oil soluble ingredients into this product, oil soluble ingredients that need to be emulsified. You have 7.5% oils and 3% BTMS-50, which might be too low. You may have to increase the BTMS-50 - which is a bad idea as this is supposed to be a leave in conditioner - or eliminate some of the oil soluble ingredients, like the coconut oil or essential oils.

Can you use it? Sure, why not? Just shake it before hand.

I hate to be an "I told you so" kind of person, but this is why I suggest making a small batch of product the first or second time as you might not like it or it might fail!

A Fajardo said...

Hi Susan, for the anti-frizz spray of 90% cyclomethicone and 10% dimethicone, do you still need preservative? I was thinking since they weren't diluted with water, they don't need it? Thanks!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi A! You're right! They don't need a preservative!

Pam said...

Hi Susan You were right when you said that after you made your own conditioner, you won't want to go back to buying it elswhere! I haven't made conditioner but, I made some leave in conditioner this wk.end. IT WAS WONDERFUL!! It made my hair softer than it's ever been before. I have a question for you. The day after I made & used it, it seperated. I have never had my lotion do this before. Here are the ingredients I used: water-86% Aloe Vera(bought from the grocery store)-2% BTMS-2% glycerin-4% honeyquat-2% hydrolized oat protein-1% Panthenol-1% dimethicone-2% Lavender EO-1% phenonip-1%. I shaked it before I used it again. I hope this is OK because I Love the way my hair feels with it. Should I stop using it & make another batch? Thank You

Pam(again) said...

Hi Susan I wrote that post above a few nights ago. I don't know how to delete it but, I figured out what I did wrong. I didn't stir it enough at the end. I just kind of stirred it together-I know better! I'm sorry-I know your time is valuable. You have alot of questions to answer. I learn alot from your blog. And, emulsifying is one of them. I just need to learn to slow down & think!

Camirra Williamson said...

I tried this formula as written (african hair) and it didnt work for me. it wasnt moisturizing enough, but it didnt cause a negative affect. my mom, who has short chemically processed and dyed gray hair, loves it! makes he hair really soft. she says it the best she ever tried.

so susan i didnt listen to you when you said too much conditioner left in you hair isnt so great. i thought "2% btms 50 doesnt work, so i need to up it to 6% btms 50 since i got african hair"... no, no i didn't lol it will be interesting to note that it actually made my hair feel dry and stiff until i rinsed it out. so im going to go with your suggestion and try 3% BTMS 50 LOL.

alia said...

can i use rice quat as the only conditioning agent for fine limp hair in leave in and rinse off conditioners?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

HI Alia. Sure! You can do whatever you want with a conditioner. It isn't enough as a rinse off conditioner, but I've made many posts on this blog in the hair care section with a light conditioner as the main ingredient.

Have you taken a look at the hair care section of the blog? So many of the questions you've asked recently can be found there.

Let ue know how the recipe turns out!

Shawnte Styles said...

Hi I read on the chemist corner the the leve of cetrimonium chloride usage in a leave in conditioner should be at .25% in the US and in the Eu it should be 2%. Do you know this information to be true.

nennycakes said...

Hi Susan. I made this exactly as above only with the quat subbed out with amodimethicone. I made it three times and all three times it separated. I add the amo in with the h20, btms25, glycerin and cetac. I heat and hold and stick blend. Is it supposed to separate, is: is this a shake before use kind of item? Thanks for much for all you do!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi nennycakes. In order to help, I need your exact recipe with proper ingredient names by percentage and the exact process you followed.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Oh, wait, you used BTMS-25. The recipe calls for 50. That's why it separated. You can't alter the main emulsifier like that and expect it to work well. Sorry, it wasn't designed to work with that ingredient.

nennycakes said...

Susan, my bad. I didn't realize BTMS meant BTMS50. The supplier recommended BTMS25 for leave in. I should have double-checked for your recipe. Thanks for answering me!☺

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi nennycakes! I've written what is probably dozens of leave in conditioners since I wrote this one - you can find them in a search or through the hair care section - and I've always used Incroquat BTMS-50. I've updated the post to note that.


Hey Susan! Just came across your blog and as a beginner in DIY making im obsessed with your blog! but i was just wondering if i can leave out the hydrolised protein for this leave in conditioner recipe? in my country (indonesia) idk why but its hard to find that thing! or do you have any idea what to do to substitute the hydrolysed protein?
thanks so much!


Hey Susan! Just came across your blog and as a beginner in DIY making im obsessed with your blog! but i was just wondering if i can leave out the hydrolised protein for this leave in conditioner recipe? in my country (indonesia) idk why but its hard to find that thing! or do you have any idea what to do to substitute the hydrolysed protein?
thanks so much!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Graciaindr! Sure! I have many other formulas on the blog that show how to do that, or you can just leave it out and add more water. It's a great ingredient for hair, though, so I'd recommend trying to find an amino acid or protein for your products.