Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Thickeners: Cationic guar gum

I finally got around to buying some cationic guar or guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride (sometimes listed as GuarSilk) a few weeks ago from Creations from Eden (also available at the Herbarie) and I thought I'd try it out in a few surfactant based products to see how it compares to my other cationic polymers (like polyquat 7, polyquat 10, polyquat 44, and honeyquat). So what is cationic guar gum?

Guar gum is "a galactomannose polysaccharide derived from the endosperm of Cyamopsis tetragonolobos seeds" (aka guar beans). The guar gum is then depolymerized and its molecular weight is modified to increase solubility and thickening properties. Cationic guar derivatives are created by reacting hydroxypropyl with epoxypropyltrimethyl ammonium chloride to create a positive charge. (Polyquat 10 and 24 are derived from cellulose - the numbers on the polyquats indicate what the starting ingredient was, not how many molecules or other thingies are on it.)

So cationic guar gum is guar gum that has been modified to have a positive charge, which means it will be substantive to our hair and skin, so we use it as a conditioning agent in our products.

So how do we use it? Cationic guar gum comes as a light yellow powder, and we use it at 0.2% to 1% in our products. It's soluble in water, dispersible in glycerin and glycols, and insoluble in oils. It works best in a solution with a pH of 7 or lower (its actual pH is around 9) because that's when it'll have a positive charge (it's not substantive without the positive charge, so this is very important) and when it thickens best. It can create gels, although they might be hazy, and they work well with our surfactants, so we can make conditioning shampoos, body washes, and any other cleansing product where you want a little thickening and conditioning.

There's one down side to using cationic guar gum - it's not as easily removed from our hair by our surfactants as some of our other cationic polymers, which means it can lead to build up on our hair.

The suggestions I've seen for using it are as follows - add to room temperature distilled water and mix well, stirring occasionally for about 15 minutes (although it could take as long as 30 minutes). When the cationic guar gum is hydrated, add to the heated water phase of your product and stir well.

Cationic guar gum is film forming, imparts a smooth and silky feel to skin, acts as an anti-irritant and mildness increaser in surfactant systems, and can increase your foam feel and quality. And it's a conditioning agent that is substantive, but I've already mentioned that quite a few times!

Please note: Normal guar gum does work as a thickener, but it is not positively charged, so it won't act as a conditioning agent and isn't substantive. You need to use the cationic guar gum to call something a conditioner. 

Join me tomorrow for a little more on thickeners - guar gum!


HappyCrafter said...

Hi Susan,

I purchased this as well.
Want to know can this act as an emulsifier to make serums with a small amount of oil and actives
or does one need an emulsifier.
This stuff feels very nice on the skin-not sure how to use it though.
Possibly an oil free spray on conditioner for hair?

Anonymous said...

Hello Susan,

I have experimented a lot with Cationic Guar in surfactants and while it feels very nice and does indeed increase the foaming it always settled out of solution after time, ending up a gunk at the bottom of the pot or in thick creamy shampoo a separation. I tried it in different types of surfactant with the same results over time and have reluctantly given up on using it in surfactants now, would love to hear if there is a magic to getting it to stay together, I wonder if this is why it never seems to be in store shampoos??

Nedeia said...

I have just bought some cationic guar gum, I am so looking forward to try it in my hair conditioner!

I remember reading on the Dish about the fact that guar gum can cause flakiness in creams/gels, but I do not remember whether it was a discussion about regular guar gum or cationic guar gum. I guess it was the first one, but I ma not 100% sure.

so, I can use it in my face applications, but how do I avoid the flakiness? Keep it below a certain percent, like 5%?

My goal is to make a nice T-zone gel (ylang ylang hydrosol, some water soluble aditives, guar and Germall Plus - I have read that phenoxyethanol can decrease the viscozity of gels with guar gum, would Germall Plus be a better choice?)

Nedeia said...

I love cationic guar gum, that is a fact. I have made some face gels with floral water and other goodies (like panthenol, a humectant and other water soluble plant extracts), it really feels nice on the face.

But I have a question about using it in our conditioners. You mention that it is not easily removed by the surfactants. any of them working better than others? I usually use a shampoo bar made mainly from SCI and SCS , no stearic. Would they be powerful enough?

Thanks for your feedback!

p.s. why can't we subscribe to comments submitted to a specific post? There are so many posts I would like to keep an eye on, can't blogger to this for us, add an option to "subscribe to comments" ?;-)

Anonymous said...

This type of Guar is not compatible with all surfactants. You didn't indicate what you where using and for it to fall out of solution would indicate you are using a surfactant that is not compatible with this type of guar. This is a good guar but does have its limits on what you can use.

Anonymous said...

Hello, what kind of surfactant is not compatible with cationic guar?
I use A.LaurylS. and CocoamidopropylBetaine and this duo seems not to be compatible, guar will settle down after a while no matter what I do! Please help !!! I think I will try a clear cationic guar or P10 instead.

Jan Sommer said...

Hi Roderick,

As previously mentioned by Anonymous, this is a Cationic Guar and is really suitable for using with Non-ionic and Amphoteric surfactants. ALS is an Anionic and is not compatible with the Cationic Guar but is compatible with the Amphoteric (zwitteronic)Guar, Cocamidopropyl Betaine.

This is probably why it falls out of solution (seperates)due to the differing charges. You could try using one of the Nonionic surfactants like Decyl glucoside, but am not sure what you want to formulate, as there are cleansers, moisturisers, body creams etc. which all use differing surfactants and emulsifiers.

Also when using Guar, you really need to hydrate the Guar for some time, usually an hour or more is best but some people do it under that time frame. This is so the Guar expands like a net in the solvent, causing the viscosity in the water stage, and adds stability for further formulating. Otherwise the Guar will simply fall out of solution and you will not have the viscosity desired. Not sure if you needed to know that last bit, so I hope this all helps with your future use of using the Cationic Guar Gum.

Anonymous said...


Someone asked how to make shampoo with cationic guar so that it wont separate.
Step by step:
1.Mix catinic guar in water while stirring.
2.Bring ph down to 3,5-4, this will make it clear and allow cationig guar to wet properly.
3.Mix 30 min.
4.Add surfactants, (if using amphoteric surfactants put them firstly)
5.Fragrance and preservatives.

If you have failed, and your product separated at the bottom- it means cationic guar was not wetted properly.

Good luck!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Anonymous. You have a week to update your comment with your name or I will have to delete it. That's my policy, and it's pretty plainly stated on the front page of the blog, as well as in many other places. Thanks for playing along!

Ahsum Haleem said...

Can you elaborate the sources of modified Guar. And approximately how much difference in the prices of Straight and modified Guar?

Gregor RenĨelj said...


i would like to ask you if there is any differance bettwen cationic guar and honyquad 50 ? What would be your preferable in the shampoo?

Thank you

Apple Hill Lavender said...

Hi Susan - I hope this reaches you. I want to purchase cationic guar gum but I would like to find a Canadian supplier. It is very frustrating to purchase from US suppliers because of the extra costs involved. Do you ever publish supplier lists? Or should I just suck it up and buy from the US?
... Jan

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Jan! Have you looked in the frequently asked questions section for the suppliers lists for different countries, including Canada? (You know I'm Canadian, right?) I bought mine at Creations from Eden, but it doesn't look like she carries it any more. Unfortunately, none of my regular supppliers carry it, so I don't know off the top of my head, but you could check that supplier list for Canada.

Anonymous said...

Hi, should cationic guar gum have a fishy smell? I think I have some that is gone bad. How do you store it?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Anonymous. I'm deleting your question because you didn't put your name on it, but I will be answering it in Sunday, July 13th's Weekend Wonderings. The short answer is yes, it's fine.