Monday, October 11, 2010
Cationic polymers: Polyquaterniums
So what is a cationic polymer? A polymer is "Any of numerous natural and synthetic compounds of usually high molecular weight consisting of up to millions of repeated linked units, each a relatively light and simple molecule." (From answers.com.) Acompound is something produced or created by combining two or more ingredients. A compound would be heterogeneous - not completely uniform, like a rocky road bar - and a polymer is homogeneous - where you can't tell each part from another. So our polymers are homogeneous and uniform; the BTMS, for instance, is a compound made up of various ingredients to make a product.
So a cationic polymer is a positively charged or cationic polymer that we use in hair and body care products to increase conditioning and film forming. Because it's cationic, it will be substantive and adsorb to our hair our skin to increase lubricity and moisturizing. In hair care products, cationic polymers will help our cuticle scales resist uplift when stressed, which keeps our hair in better condition. Adding a cationic polymer like honeyquat to our products will increase the mildness of our surfactant based products.
You can find all kinds of different cationic polymers at our suppliers' shops, but what's the difference between them? Cationic polymers generally have a number attached to them - polyquat 7, polyquat 4, and so on - and this number indicates what they're made from. Polyquat 7 is a co-polymer of diallylmethyl ammonium chloride whereas polyquat 10 is a quaternized hydroxyethylcellulose polymer. (Click here to see a list of all the various polyquaterniums!) All of them will be substantive to your negatively charged hair and skin, but some have different qualities and usage levels.
Polyquat 4 (aka Celquat H-100) comes in a powdered format with a pH of 6.0 to 8.0. Its usage is suggested at 0.5% to 1% in the heated water phase of your product, and I suggest you don't go over this amount as it is a great gelling ingredient that can thicken your surfactant mixes incredibly well. It can be used in hair gels and other holding products as both the thickener and conditioner. I like to use this one in body washes, shampoos, and leave in conditioners as 0.5% really does thicken it dramatically.
Polyquat 7 (aka Condition-eze 7) comes in a liquid format with about 8.5% to 9.5% active ingredients. It's a conditioning agent and humectant and can be used at up to 5% in the water phase of your products. I've written an entire post on this ingredient, so click on the name for more information!
Polyquat 10 comes in a powdered format and is suggested for usage in the water phase at 0.25% to 0.5%, although usage at up to 2% is just fine. (At 5% it can be considered very mildly irritating.) It will help to thicken your products and when included an emulsified product, it thickens well when used with xanthan gum. It is removed well from your hair with water and surfactants (anionic, like those found in shampoo, or cationic, like those found conditioners), whereas polyquats 4 and 7 can build up slightly if you don't wash your hair well with an anionic surfactant based product like a shampoo. (So if you're conditioner only washing, polyquats 4 and 7 will build up over time.)
click here for the abstract).
Honeyquat is also known as polyquat 50 and is derived from honey. It behaves as a humectant and cationic polymer on our hair. It can be used at up to 5% in the water phase of our products, although you'll want to add it during the cool down phase at lower than 55˚C or it can change colour and get a slightly weird smell. Click on the honeyquat link above for a longer post on this topic.
All of these products will reduce combing and electrostatic forces, and increase lubricity of our hair, leaving it easier to comb, less likely to tangle, and less likely to break. Remember - friction is not your friend, and reducing it means less damage to our hair from daily life! For your skin, polyquats offer moisturizing and conditioning, so you can include them in pretty much any product containing water, as long as you aren't using something like Tinosan, which can be de-activated by cationic ingredients.
You can use these polyquats in any surfactant based product - shampoo, body wash, and so on - to increase moisturizing and conditioning. And you can include them in conditioners as they play well with cationic ingredients like BTMS-50, Incroquat CR, cetrimonium bromide, and so on. Use them wherever you feel you need the qualities they offer!
Join me tomorrow for some more fun with cationic polymers as I continue my experiments in the workshop with syndet liquid soap!