Monday, July 27, 2009

Cationic quaternary compounds: Incroquat BTMS-50

If any of this seems like Greek to you, please read the post on how conditioners work first...

To me, Incroquat Benehyl TMS-50 (INCI: Behentrimonium methosulfate (and) cetyl alcohol (and) butylene glycol) or BTMS is the grandmother of all cationic quaternary compounds. It's easy to find, easy to use, and it emulsifies silicones and oils very well. So what exactly is it?

The main conditioning agent in BTMS - behentrimonium methosulfate - is a cationic quaternary ammonium salt derived from rapeseed oil (the plant for canola oil). By putting it in salt form, it will dissolve in water, so we can access the condition-y goodness for our hair. The cationic part means it's positively charged, so it will stick to the negatively charged sections of your hair. It has a long carbon chain - 22 carbons, hence the prefix behe- and it will adsorb to your hair to condition it.

Carbon chains have a direct bearing on the efficacy of the conditioner. The longer the carbon chain - in this case 22, which is quite high - the better the detangling properties and lubrication of the hair. It is also related to the reduction in the electrostatic charge, which reduces the chances of flyaway hair.

Behentrimonium methosulfate will improve your hair's texture and controls static, but on its own it can feel oily and sticky. As you can see in the INCI, Croda has added a fatty alcohol (cetyl alcohol) and humectant (butylene glycol). These are added because a cationic quat on its own can feel sticky or oily; these ingredients mitigate those feelings to make it feel smooth and silky.

Adding a fatty alcohol like cetyl alcohol or cetearyl alcohol will help to reduce the combing forces for wet and dry hair by almost half and reduces the friction between strands of hair, so you can see how important adding a fatty alcohol to your conditioner can be. (If you're using BTMS, it's already in there, but you can add up to 1/2 the amount cetyl alcohol if you want something for your really tangly or hard to comb hair). And the fatty alcohol helps make the cationic quat more substantive.

As a note, you might find BTMS-25, sometimes called conditioning emulsifier or conditioner agent or "company name" BTMS. The INCI is Behentrimonium Methosulfate (and) Cetearyl Alcohol, and the behentrimonium methosulfate is about 25% of the pastille. Please visit the post - Substitutions - to find out how you can modify your recipes to include this ingredient.

2% hydrolyzed protein
2% panthenol
2% cyclomethicone
2% dimethicone - for the soft feeling, not de-frizzing
1% fragrance or essential oils
0.5% to 1% preservative (Tinosan is not appropriate here)
water to 100%

Weigh out the BTMS and hydrolyzed protein into a container. Boil some distilled water, then add it to this container. Heat and hold in a double boiler for at least 20 minutes and ensure all the BTMS has melted well. When the mixture reaches 45C, add the panthenol, dimethicone, cyclomethicone, fragrance, and preservative. If you don't like silicones, then leave them out and add 4% more water.

Join me tomorrow for a post on cetrimonium bromide, another exciting cationic quaternary compound!


Anonymous said...

I read the following from your pdf on conditioners:

"The main conditioning agent in BTMS
-*‐behentrimonium methosulfate
-*‐is a cationic quaternary ammonium salt derived from rapeseed oil (the plant for canola oil).

My questions are:

(Any of the shampoos that have ammonium sulfates in them totally wreck my hair. I can use SLeS shampoo fine. But the ALS ones are just awful.)

This makes me wonder, would the ammonium salt in the BTMS be bad for my hair too? Or is it a totally different kind of ammonium????

BTW, awesome blog! Just discovered it from a person on the LHC forum. Still reading and trying to understand. Thanks for all your great work! :) -k

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

This is a great question - I've actually tried to answer it in this post... I hope this helps!

Is LHC the Long hair care forum? I really should spend more time there - I can officially sit on my hair now (but I do need a cut as it's getting a little ratty) and I'm sure there are some great suggestions for reaching my goal of getting it to my knees!

Anonymous said...

Susan Barclay-Nichols,

Thank you for your reply, I'm going there now to read your post. :)

LHC is:

It would be great to have you there! We can all use your expertise! And your hair sounds wonderful!

My own is at hip length, wavy (2a), and fine. I'm K Angel over there!
It's a fun place to learn how to take care of our hair, but also there are a lot of really nice people there! :) The joke is: "You go to learn about hair and stay for the friends you make." I found that true in my case too! :)

Hope you join us soon! :) -k

SylettSoap said...

Is this BTMS COnditioning emulsifier or BTMS-50? I'm kinda confused.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi SylettSoap. It depends. If you read this post on reading INCI names, you'll see that many suppliers change the name of the ingredients rather than using a trade name like Incroquat BTMS-50. So you might see BTMS-50 listed as a conditioning emulsifier, Retailer X's conditioning emulsifier, and so on. BTMS-25 is also called conditioning emulsifier at some supplier's shops, so you need to check the INCI to see what you're getting.

For the most part, if you see something called conditioning emulsifier, odds are good it's BTMS-50, but you need to check to make sure that's what you're getting!

Tara said...

Have you ever noticed lotions with BTMS having a particularly disgusting scent? I've made a fragrance-free version and it was nasty. So I've tried making a few with france oils (from Nature's Garden), but there is still a disgusting scent and the fragrance smells very synthetically gross. Is it just me, or have you noticed anything like this in your concoctions?? What are your favorite scents for lotions?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Tara. You're one of the lucky few who can smell the BTMS really strongly! There is a slightly fishy odour that most people don't notice or really don't care about, but that usually fades once you've made the product. But there are some who can smell it through fragrances and and finished product, and it sounds like you're one of them. Sorry - there's nothing you can do about it, other than use less or use more fragrance.

As for my favourite fragrances for lotions - that sounds like a great post idea! (Although my current favourites are Cream Cheese Frosting and Clementine Cupcake from Brambleberry, and I always love oatmeal milk & honey.)

Tara said...

Thanks Susan. Maybe because I am pregnant, the smell is making me sick. Anyhow, thanks for your fragrance suggestions. Do you purchase all your scents from Brambleberry? I prefer to shop Canadian when at all possible :)

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Tara! I use a lot of Brambleberry scents, but I get them from Karen at in Maple Ridge, B.C., who imports them into Canada. Her service is amazing - if I order today, it'll be in my mailbox tomorrow - and she knows what she is doing!

I might make the odd journey to Bellingham, but I do prefer to shop local when possible. (Although I do consider Bellingham local to me as it's closer than Vancouver, and Anne-Marie's a very hard working small businesswoman whom I wish to support!)

Anonymous said...

I made my second intense conditioner tonight with BTMS (25 not 50) and Incroquat CR. I most certainly noticed a fishy type odor and didn't know what it was from until now! I figured it had to be the BTMS, Incroquat, or Honeyquat. I was smelling every ingredient to see where it was coming from. It really threw me because I used BTMS once before and never had this horrible smell. I also made the body butter for dry skin and slightly noticed it there as well. Didn't use BTMS in that only e-wax and cetyl alcohol, so I was even more perplexed. Anywho...Susan, I used 1 1/2 times BTMS 25 to equal the BTMS 50. Is that right? Also, when using 1 1/2 times the amount needed won't that make the finished product too thick? Thanks so much! D~

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi D. When you're making conditioners with BTMS-25 you have the choice of increasing the amount of BTMS-25 or just leaving it the same. If you use double the amount, it will be very thick (although if you're including cetrimonium chloride, this will thin it out), so feel free to adjust it to the thickness you like.

If you're making an intense conditioner with all kinds of oils and butters, you'll be putting it into a jar, so you won't mind the increased thickness. If you want to put it into a bottle, you'll have to decide how much you want to use. I have found 7% BTMS-50 is quite thick if I don't use cetrimonium chloride, but it still comes out of the bottle. Add a butter in there, and it might be nigh impossible to get it out!

I'm not sure about the smell in your body butter if you aren't using BTMS - perhaps your e-wax is a little fishy, too? (What kind of e-wax are you using?)

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan. My conditioner is super, jar-only, thick. It is almost too thick to use. It feels great in my hair though. I wanted jar thickness, but not like this. LOL! Next time I'll probably keep it at 7% with the BTMS 25 and not 11%.

My ewax is Crafter's Choice Emulsiying Wax Traditional from Wholesale Supplies Plus. Used it several times before and never noticed the fish. Oob it doesn't smell fishy, but the BTMS most certainly does. If this keeps happening I'm going to go with the Polawax and ditch the one I have.

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan,

Please help. I just want to get your take on this. A few weeks ago in my October 6th post I talked about my body butter having a fishy smell when I DIDN'T use BTMS. Well, I found out that smell was coming from my honeyquat. I opened the bottle and there it was! In addition, I found a post on a forum about the fishiness of honeyquat being normal or not. It seemed some had fishy and some had non-fishy. I called the supplier, Wholesale Supplies Plus, and after a few hours she called me back assuring me that it was normal. She hadn't heard of it being fishy, but the warehouse folks that pack the orders told her that it was.

Is this normal and is your honeyquat fishy smelling? That was my first time using it in the intense hair conditioner and body butter I made that week. My hair conditioner had both BTMS and honeyquat, so you can imagine the scent. I had to use a stronger fo and increase my % to mask everything. My body butter was only scented with essential oils (lavender and ylang ylang) and I can still smell the fish odor today.

Let me know your thoughts. I hope I don't have a bad batch as this is bit pricey. Thank you so much! D~

Anonymous said...

I just saw your post about Honeyquat from WSP being fishy. I ordered some from them in Aug or Sept, and made my usual lotion, subbing glycerin with the honeyquat. Boy, what a smell! It wasn't as stong out of the bottle. Mixed some into some MP to be sure it was the honeyquat -- same bad smell. Called WSP and was told it was a normal smell, but others have told me it should have no smell. Wonder if we got a bad batch?
Susan, what do you think?

soapilyeverafter said...

Hi Susan,
I was wondering if I can use BTMS-25 in the same proportion as BTMS-50 to make conditioner bars? I thought I read somewhere the answer was yes, but I wanted to be sure.

Also, I notice a fishy smell, but only after everything has been melted, so I am not sure where it is coming from- if anyone has found out what is causing it can you let us know? thanks!

Sânziene şi Mătrăgună said...

Hi Susan!

I just saw a product with INCI name :

Behentrimonium Methosulfate (and) Cetyl Alcohol

Now, that is new, it looks like "almost" BTMS-50 (no butylene glycol). But I can find no data about the % of behentrimonium methosulfate in it... I wrote to the supplier and I am waiting for them to upload the certificate of analysis for their version of BTMS, but in the meantime... did you ever hear about this product or its trade name? I have searched with little success, unfortunately :(

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Sanziene! It would be nice to have a version without the humectant for my frizzy hair, but I haven't heard of this. I wonder if it isn't a mistake?

Sânziene şi Mătrăgună said...

Hi Susan!

I just got word from the supplier ( and in the CofA I read:
trade name: varisoft btms
pH 7.7
quaternary (%) 24,1

so, there is something out htere for you too!

I think that my hair doe not like much cetearyl alcohol in my conditioner, so looking forward to use this one, even though it only as 24% of quats in it :)

Sânziene şi Mătrăgună said...

p.s. I just asked them to confirm that we're talking about cetyl and not cetearyl..... hopefully I will have what I thought I bought.... if not, I will be so displeased!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Let us know what you think of it! How will you bring down the pH?

Sânziene şi Mătrăgună said...

Oh, that would be with my beloved lactic acid :-)

Looking forward to try it but... I already have my doubts that this has cetyl in it :((( I THINK it has cetearyl, but waiting for the supplier

Kit Wright said...

Hello, where do you get all the products from? I would like to order them all from the same place if possible (uk)
Thank you. Kit

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Kit! If you visit the FAQ, you'll see a guide to suppliers in your area written by people who live in Europe. Check out what they suggest!

raquel said...

Great post AND comments. I wonder if you could detect from my conditioner formula why I am experiencing a bit of tackiness after the final rinse. Hair feel GREAT and detangles with ease while the conditioner is on my hair but the moment I rinse, I can't easily slide my fingers over the fingers almost skip if that makes sense. I don't use proteins because my hair is extremely sensitive to them and I prefer to avoid 'cones. Water 75%, Oil 8%, butter 5%, BTMS 7%, Emollient (Cetyl alcohol) 3% and 2% humectant (sodium lactate). I am planning to try increasing water and removing butter and maybe increasing the oil. My hair is very curly soft afro textured hair and I like maximum moisture in a conditioner but I've never experienced this tackiness with commercial conditioners that contain BTMS. Perhaps it's the Cetyl, which I thought my hair loved but it IS derived from coconut oil, which my hair hates due to its protein protection attribute. Help??

raquel said...

Regarding my comment above about BTMS tackiness, based on your other BTMS posts, my BTMS is BTMS-25 since its INCI is Behentrimomium Methosulfate (and) Cetearyl Alcohol. I thought that might be helpful. Thx

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Raquel. What humectant are you using? Which oils and butters? What preservative? I need more detail to be able to help!

Raquel said...

Hi Susan, here are the answers to your question...oil: extra virgin olive oil, butter: Shea, humectant: sodium lactate & the preservative: optiphen ND (INCI: Phenoxyethanol (and) Benzoic Acid (and) Dehydroacetic Acid). Thanks! ~ Raquel

ProudKinky said...

I read your post about adding BTMS in to whipped butters. When do I add this? I usually use shea and sal butters. I melt them and after they are melted, I add some coconut and avocado oils. I put it in the fridge for a couple of minutes and then take out and whip. At what point in this process can I add the BTMS? I have never used this ingredient before but I now understand it is great for African American hair types so I want to try it.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Proud Kinky. Melt the BTMS with the oils.

Jason Payne said...

Does the 25% rule (of oils) apply to BTMS-50? Is it more potent than other emulsifiers?

BTMS seems more expensive than other emulsifiers (about 2x the price of Polawax, I think) but the recommended usage is 1-10%. So I wonder.. could you make a stable lotion with, say, 2% BTMS?


Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Jason! Please visit either the FAQ or the newbie section of the blog to see the posts I've written in the past about this topic.

Katrina Bernaus said...

Hi Susan,
I'm a high school student doing a project on behentrimonium chloride and your posts have helped me understand the chemistry of conditioner so much better! I was just wondering how much of the information in this post on behentrimonium methosulfate can be applied to behentrimonium chloride.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Katrina! Yay! Chemistry! I'm glad I could help. I love love love chemistry so much! Okay, to your question - it depends on the application. If you are talking about conditioning, yes, totally. If you're talking about chemical make up, then no, I wouldn't use this information. If you could give me an idea of what you are writing about, I may be able to help further!

Katrina Bernaus said...

Thanks Susan!
Yes the project is all about hair conditioning and how behentrimonium chloride helps with that. Since the behentrimonium in both of the compounds do the same thing for hair your posts about how the cations work helped so much!
Thanks again,

Mya Symons said...

I've noticed that more and more natural conditioners are now using a combination of emulsifying wax and behentrimonium chloride instead of BTMS and BTMS-50. They seem to be using the behentrimonium chloride as a preservative also because it has antimicrobial properties.

I have two questions on this:
1) Can behentrimonium chloride be used by itself as the only preservative in a formula or would you need to combine it with an anti-fungal such as potassium sorbate for a complete preservative system? (The conditioner I love to use has propanediol and Behentrimonium Chloride but no preservative listed. I assume these two combined are enough preservative by themselves?)
2) Can BTMS be used as an emulsifier and Behentrimonium Chloride be used in the same formula as a preservative? Can they be used together?

Anonymous said...

I want to make a solid conditioner bar. In you liquid conditioner recipe, you use 7% btms50 and 2% cetyl alcohol, a ratio of 3.5 to 1. In your solid conditioner recipe, you use 60% btms50 and 10% cetyl alcohol, a ratio of 6 to 1. Why so much higher ratio for the solid? Is it the btms itself that makes it solid?

Thanks for your great information.


wbliss said...

To answer anonymous question, "This makes me wonder, would the ammonium salt in the BTMS be bad for my hair too? Or is it a totally different kind of ammonium????" It is a totally different ammonium. ALS or ALES has the NH4+ ion in place of the Na+ ion in SLS or SLES. BTMS has the nitrogen atom hidden deep within the molecule. So the chemistry is completely different. I would say try it. I know this is old from 2010 but people may want an answer.