Thursday, January 15, 2015

What's important in a conditioner? Part one...

A conditioner, by definition, contains a positively charged ingredient that will adsorb to your hair strand to increase lubricity, decrease friction, decrease fly-aways, and increase combability. These positively charged ingredients include Incroquat BTMS-50, Incroquat CR, Incroquat BTMS-25 or Rita BTMS-225, cetrimonium bromide, cetrimonium chloride, and so on. This main ingredient is generally an emulsifier, meaning it will bring oil and water together to create an emulsified product. (This is why conditioners are creamy and white!) It will generally contain other ingredients that are good for moisturizing, hydrating, and de-frizzing your hair.

Adsorption means the molecules accumulate on the surface of your hair. It's different from absorption in that it doesn't penetrate, it just sits on top of the hair fibre. This adsorption is called substantivity, which is defined as "an adsorption phenomenon by which materials that have opposing charges or like composition are more readily adsorbed onto or attracted to its surface and, once there, resistant to subsequent rinse-off."

A conditioner is not a conditioner if it doesn't contain a positively charged ingredient because only a positively charged ingredient will adsorb to the hair strand. You can create a moisturizing product with non-ionic emulsifiers like Polawax or slightly anionic or negatively charged emulsifiers like Ritamulse SCG, but those are not, by definition, conditioners. They are moisturizers or lotions. Your hair might love them, you might swear by them, your friends might rave about them, but they aren't - by definition - conditioners.

I wanted to address something quickly, which is this - I don't think it is possible to make a natural hair conditioner. A hair conditioner is positively charged, and there aren't a lot of natural ingredients that are positively charged and emulsifiers, meaning that large companies start with a natural ingredient - like colza oil - and modify it into something like behentrimonium methosulfate. There are things out there that might make your hair feel more conditioned - some people swear by apple cider vinegar - but they are not conditioners as they are not positively charged. So when you see something calling itself an all natural conditioner, it's either not natural or it's not a conditioner. 

So what's important in a hair conditioner recipe? Let's take a look at one, then figure it all out!

4% BTMS-50
0.5% to 1% preservative
1% fragrance or essential oil
94% to 94.5% distilled water

This basic recipe contains three ingredients that are important. One, the positively charged ingredient, which is the BTMS-50. Two, the water, which is the carrier for these lovely ingredients. And three, a preservative, which we always add to products that contain water. Those are the main ingredients you require for a conditioner.

But what about this recipe?

7% BTMS-50
3.5% cetyl alcohol
0.5% to 1% preservative
1% fragrance or essential oil
88% water

This one contains cetyl alcohol, a fatty alcohol that moisturizes and boosts the substantivity of the conditioning agent. (You can use other fatty alcohols, but let's not complicate things!) What does that mean? It means it will offer more emolliency to the product, making it feel more slippery and making your hair feel more moisturized, and it offers a boost to the conditioner's ability to adsorb to your hair strand. When we look at the ingredient list for BTMS-50 or Rita BTMS-225, we see that it already contains a fatty alcohol, so why add it? It adds some slip and glide to the product, which is really lovely. It's a very inexpensive way to boost the efficacy of a conditioner.

But is cetyl alcohol right for your hair? As someone with oily hair, I have found that using extra cetyl alcohol can make my hair feel a bit greasy quicker and weighs it down a little. But that's just my experience. As with every product, you'll have to make it and keep good notes when using it to see if you respond well.

How much Incroquat BTMS-50 should we use in a conditioner? It depends upon the type of conditioner. I generally use 1% to 2% in a leave in conditioner, 3.5% to 4% for an every day conditioner and 7% in a more intense conditioner.

What else can we find in a conditioner? As this post is getting way too long, join me tomorrow as we analyze another conditioner recipe to determine what's important!


Bunny said...

Oh yes, wonderful! I was hoping there'd be a conditioner one after the shampoo one... But a question! How much redundancy... or... If you're going to make a lovely conditioner, is it necessary to put a bunch of conditioning type ingredients in your shampoo? Or can I make a real simple shampoo just for cleaning and make up for that in a really nice conditioner?

Susanna Originals said...

This was really interesting because I've always wondered why I had such a love/hate relationship with conditioners. Are they really misnamed? If they adsorb, do they by definition condition the hair? Or just protect and coat? My hair is exactly the same as that of my Jack Russell - fine, silver, wavy and, at the moment, dry. (And we both shed) If I'm reading this correctly, a conditioner won't make it less dry, just make it FEEL less dry. So for dry hair it would be better to use wash-out oil treatments?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Bunny! I'm using your question in Sunday, January 25th's Weekend Wonderings. The short answer is that we make our shampoo with all those lovely ingredients because not using them might make your hair feel kinda icky.

Hi Susanna. I'm not sure I'm following your question. The nature of conditioning is this adsorption process, which is called substantivity. This is defined as "an adsorption phenomenon by which materials that have opposing charges or like composition are more readily adsorbed onto or attracted to its surface and, once there, resistant to subsequent rinse-off." The substantivity makes a conditioner conditioning.

Penetration of the hair strand isn't a feature of a conditioner. If you make a conditioner that has hydrating features - for instance, if you add a humectant - you can get more hydration of your hair strand. If you add an oil, you get more moisturizing and lubricity, but you don't get conditioning. If you add a protein, you get more film forming or moisturizing from inside the hair strand, depending on the choice of protein. And so on.

I don't know if I've addressed your question?

Susanna Originals said...

Hi Susan,
My question wasn't very clear and you've answered it in part - a humectant will help moisturize. Maybe what I'm looking for doesn't exist. As I said, I have really really fine grey hair and although conditioners make it feel more moisturized, they weigh my hair down and by the end of the day it's limp. I was hoping for a magic formula that would soak into the follicles and make them stand up and wave the flag. The viagra of hair products! I can't even hope to understand the chemistry involved but wondered if, since body creams soak in, we could make a hair product that would do the same.
And thanks again - I look forward to your posts and know how much work it is to keep them flowing.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Susanna. Body lotions and such don't really sink in. There's an illusion that they sink in, and some of the ingredients might penetrate the stratum corneum to offer some qualities that way, but very few ingredients penetrate our skin deep enough to make a massive difference (for instance, AHA).

When it comes to the hair strand, we don't really want much to penetrate because it means the cuticle will be lifted, which is the source of much of the damage! There are three concepts in play here - conditioning, moisturizing, and hydrating. Things like panthenol and coconut oil will penetrate the hair strand to hydrate and moisturize from inside, but there aren't many that do that. If you wanted something that was more hydrating, then concentrate on hydrating ingredients like panthenol or glycerin in the product. Also consider a leave in conditioner!

Susanna Originals said...

I hope you don't mind me bugging you so much but this is really interesting. If lotions don't actually sink in, where do they go? If you put a nice cream on your face, it feels greasy for a few minutes and then it's gone and your face is nice and soft. And if it doesn't sink in, then why do we use specific oils or butters for specific purposes? Take sea buckthorn, for example, full of good things but expensive; are we wasting our time buying things like this? Would we be just as well off to slather straight coconut oil on our skin? I know this is nothing to do with conditioners and apologize. I'm like a little kid - where does it go, Mommy?
By the way, I laughed at myself this morning; had 35 emails, deleted the garbage, read through and deleted the rest, and saved Point of Interest for the last, like I always do, so that I can drink my coffee and enjoy it properly. And learn. Thanks again,

Southern & Fabulous said...

I am going to follow this thread, Great questions

Sarah-Antonia said...

Hi Susuan,

I recently made a conditioner using Cassia Obovata. No I have afro hair, and ive used this recipe 3 times and I've absolutly loved it. My hair felt stronger, it was so easy to finger comb my hair, detangling is not an issue anymore - however, I have noticed that more of my hair has started to fall out when washing. I dont use shampoo on my hair as my hair tends to dry out very quickly and takes a while to recover moisture and feel healthy again. Now my hair isnt falling out in chunks but I am noticing hair loss when I wash my hair (not when Im brushing) and it seems to be coming from the root. At them moment I am transitioning from relaxer to natural hair, but I have been transitioning for a year...basically, if you could take a look at the recipe below and tell me if anything stands out to you as what may cause this? is it protein overload?

Water - 67.1%
Cetrimonium C - 5%
Panthenol - 1%
Silk amino acids - 0.2%
Cassia Obovata - 0.2%
BTMS 50 - 5%
Cetearyl A - 3%
Coconut oil - 3%
Olive oil - 4%
Dimethicone 1000 - 5%
Cyclomethicone - 2%
Liquid Germall + - 0.5%
Honeysquat - 2%
essential oil - 0.4%
Fragrance - 0.6%

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Sarah-Antonia! I'm afraid I'm not an expert on African hair types, but I don't believe that there is such a thing as protein overload for any hair type, especially at the low levels we use in our products. You have 0.2% protein - I'd encourage you to increase that to 2% to get the full advantage of using proteins! Our hair loves protein - it's full of it - so it makes no sense that we can over protein it by adding just a titch in our conditioner.

I just looked up a few pages about over proteining hair, and they don't make any sense to me. They say proteins can't increase moisturization, but that isn't what I have read in my textbooks. Something like oat protein will film form, which will decrease the amount of moisture that can escape the hair, while something like silk can penetrate the hair strand to increase moisturization.

If anything, I'd get rid of the Cassia Obovata as that can damage hair by coating the hair strand and increasing friction. Why is it in this recipe? What does it bring to the party?

I don't see anything here that could cause hair to fall out. Is it possible that you are seeing normal hair falling when you are washing your hair? We lose hair every day, and if you aren't brushing it much, this might be the only time you see this happening.

Just a few thoughts. You have created a very nice conditioner!

Sarah-Antonia said...

Hi Susan,

I've used Cassia Obovata because it similar to henna. You get many of the same conditioning qualities but without the red tint. From what I have red Cassia Obovata acts like a protein and bods itself to the gaps in the hair shaft making it thicker and then it coats the hair shaft , causing less friction. Personally I can testify to this as I only added henna recently in my last 3 batches, and what I have noticed is that my curls have dropped and instead of a tight Z pattern, are now an S pattern.

Previous to me trying the henna I did have the silk protein in at 2% but with that and my water loss (I tend to add 20% for evap) my conditioner would come out extremely thick, whereas as 0.2% its still thick but much more spreadable. and much easier to blitz when combining phases as the lotion doesn't solidify as quickly during the cool down phase. However I only started at 0.2% because i thought I could increase it, in increments if it wasnt enough! so more of a test really!

Thank you for looking at my recipe, I was getting a bit worried if im honest, I think I will increase the silk amino a little bit and see what happens

In case you are interested, I have been reading up on Henna and similar plants, mainly gathering information through blogs, you have to take the information with a pinch of salt, but at the core, they tend to agree. Here are a couple I have been reading:

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan,

Your ebooks have helped me tremendously - Over the years I have formulated several conditioners and shampoos thanks to them!

My FAVORITE emulsifier - Crafter's Choice Hair Concentrate (INCL: Cetearyl Alcohol (and) Stearalkonium Chloride) for hair conditioners has been DISCONTINUED and I am heartbroken since it was the building block of all my recipes.

I liked it because it led to thick results (my preference typically) and easily blended the oil based ingredients and water. I had tried some other things a few years back (not so sure what now) and nothing worked as well. Do you have any suggestions?


Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Lise! Did you check the information on Incroquat CR? It's probably the same ingredient you love. I buy mine from Creations from Eden.

Mirvat said...

Hi,could i use 7% btms in leave in conditioner? Actually my curly hair looked great.
The second question:which surfactant should i use to remove the btms ?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Mirvat! You can try it, but it will be as thick as a rinse off conditioner. In fact, 7% will be a thick product you'll have to squeeze out of a container. But you've already tried that and know that, so keep doing what you're doing if you like it.

You can use any pH balanced shampoo with any number of surfactants as BTMS removes from hair easily. Check out the hair care section of the blog to learn more!