Friday, June 11, 2010

Conditioners: Using hydrolyzed proteins

I love using hydrolyzed proteins in my products for skin and hair. They act as humectants, emollients, and film formers in our shampoos and conditioners, and they can increase the substantivity of your product by binding to the fatty alkyl groups found in our cationic compounds and cetyl alcohol (in other words, they make your hair more conditioned). The lower the molecular weight, the better they will penetrate your hair and skin. The higher the molecular weight, the better they will film form.

If you're looking for film forming or high molecular weight proteins, you'll want to choose something like oat protein (I use Cromoist by Croda). These are more suitable for normal to oily hair as we really don't want something to penetrate our hair to moisturize from within.

If you're looking for a humectant to moisturize your hair from within the hair shaft, then you'll want a low molecular weight protein like silk. This is more suitable for dry hair as it behaves a humectant from within your hair.

If you're looking for a combination of the two, consider a blend of high and low molecular weight proteins - something like Phytokeratin, which contains hydrolyzed soy, corn, and wheat protein - that will give you the benefits of both types. Or just use 1% low molecular weight proteins and 1% high molecular weight proteins in your shampoo or conditioner.

89% water
2% hydrolyzed protein of choice

0.5% to 1% preservative
1% fragrance or essential oil

Use the general or alternate instructions for making conditioner.

I generally use hydrolyzed proteins in all my conditioners at 2% - leave in, rinse-out, intense or treatment - because I have found this to be the optimal level in my hair care products. You might like to include more - start at 2% and work you way up to 5% maximum. Remember, these are not cheap ingredients, so you don't want to waste them, and they can be too film forming or humectant-y for some hair types.

They are water soluble and should be added to your heated water phase of your shampoo or conditioner.

Let's say you're like me - an oily haired girl with frizzy hair. We'd want to choose something film forming instead of moisturizing, so we'll want to use a high molecular weight protein like oat protein. If you wanted to add some lovely hydrosols and extracts, we could try some rosemary extract and rose hydrosol for oil control.

20% rose hydrosol
70% water
2% hydrolyzed oat protein

0.5% preservative (liquid Germall Plus)
1% oily hair essential oil blend
0.5% powdered rosemary extract

Oily hair essential oil blend: Equal parts rosemary, clary sage, cedarwood, and lime or lemon essential oils.

If you're a dry haired girl, low molecular weight proteins like silk are your friend, and I'd suggest including them in every hair care product you make as you really want to use all the moisturizing ingredients you can get! Aloe is a great inclusion for any dry haired conditioner and chamomile is a must. I would also include at least 2% panthenol in any product for dry hair - you can go as high as 5% if you like, and include it in the cool down phase. As with the recipe from yesterday, we'll include cetyl alcohol to increase the conditioning of this recipe.

3.5% cetyl alcohol
20% aloe vera
64.5% water
2% hydrolyzed silk protein

2% panthenol
1% fragrance or essential oil blend
0.5% to 1% preservative
0.5% powdered chamomile extract

Join me tomorrow for more fun formulating conditioners by including silicones!


kontakt said...

I've seen you mentioning this before, that silk proteins are smaller than most ofters. But why? The proteins used in hair products are usually hydrolysed, pretty much meaning "cut in smaller pieces". If you hydrolyse them all the way, you get amino acids. (Some shampoos etc. do contain amino acids.) If you hydrolyse tham almost all the way, you get polypeptides - small chunks. Even less degree of hydrolysation, bigger parts of protein.

I can't get into my head why the origin of the protein would make any difference here. Wouldn't the degree of hydrolysation decide the size, i.e. molecular weight?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi kontakt. This is a really great question. I'm writing specifically about hydrolyzed proteins, not about taking it down to amino acids or polypeptides.

For oat protein to be oat protein, it's composed of specific molecules with a specific molecular weight. Without said molecules, it's no longer oat protein, it's something else. My understanding is the proteins are hydrolyzed to make them water soluble, not necessarily to make them smaller.

You appear to have a background in chemistry, so I'm happy to provide you with more information or offer a few links if you want some more researching fun!

When it comes down to amino acids and polypeptides, I don't think the origin makes a difference. If you can find keratin in dog hair, it's not going to look any different than keratin from human hair or horse hair. Keratin is keratin (okay, I'm being really simplistic as there are tons of different types of keratin, but let's just pretend for a moment I'm talking about one type of keratin). The molecular weight will be the same from any origin. Having said that, I wouldn't really be comfortable with "dog hair keratin" so I understand the origin is important for marketing purposes.

In summary, hydrolyzed proteins are hydrolyzed to make them more water soluble and they are still identifiable as their original protein (oat, corn, silk, etc.), whereas the amino acids and polypeptides will be broken down to be the core constituents of those proteins and will be the size of the amino acid or polypeptide they should be.

kontakt said...

You could very well be right, but I'm not really able to wrap my brain around a protein cut in pieces but still identifyable as that protein. If we were talking amino acid composition, okay! but?

Most proteins in themselves are water soluble. The fibrous ones - structural proteins like collagen and keratin are exceptions, ah, it is the structural proteins that are used! My background is biochemistry/cell biology, so I am used to mainly consider the water soluble ones. They have more dynamic tasks, and there are zillions of them while the structural proteins are fairly few. Silk protein must also be fibrous, of course.

So I understand the need of making them water soluble, yes. I don't remember the exact reaction when a protein is hydrolysed to smaller pieces, but the water solubility could improve, I guess you get some hydroxyl groups (-OH) in the ends or something like that? So "hydrolysed protein" in context doesn't mean only that it is hydrolysed, but also that it is mildly hydrolysed? Sounds plausible.

Since they are fibrous proteins, they are probably repetitive - more or less the same amino acids over and over. So the amino acid composition could vary a lot between protein of different origin. So the protein being "identifiable" actually does make sense. (It wouldn't with a batch of globular water soluble proteins from any source, not unless you purify a specific protein which is expensive and time consuming.)

Actually, I pondered on this before I found your blog. I think you are right. Yes please, if you have any links, gimme!

Brandi Yates said...

I have hydrolyzed wheat protein. Is it best for oily or dry hair?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Brandi. I'm answering your question in the Weekend Wonderings for Sunday, July 13th. The short answer is yes, all hair types seem to benefit from it!

Tammi MacClellan Heupel said...


Ok, please don't laugh...I have been researching making solid conditioner bars & that brought me to your wonderful blog ( thank God! :)

Just one question...first, I am not a cosmetic chemist, nor did I ever think I would be doing anything like chemistry. My question is this: if one has a corn, wheat or soy allergy, can they still use a hydrolised protein of corn, wheat or soy?

I am guessing that on the hydrolised protein level the allergen may be gone? I say that because I've searched on sites that sell it, but have found no answers.


Tammi from Kent

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Tammi. I'm not laughing - it's a good question!

In all honesty, I don't really know. There just isn't any good information out there on this topic. So I will default to saying don't use it when you're worried about allergies. When it comes to allergies, I don't mess around - when in doubt, leave it out!

alia said...

there are so many types of proteins
oat protein soy protein wheat protein silk protein
my question is
how each of these should be used for different hair types
can any of these make hair straighter?
can more than one type of protein be used when formulating a single hair product
which proteins would make a good combination?