Friday, May 21, 2010

Shampoo: Formulating a regular shampoo

So what makes a regular shampoo a regular shampoo? (Click here for more information on shampoos in general.) A regular shampoo is intended to be used every 3 or 4 days, as opposed to the daily use shampoo which is intended to be used, well, every day. We want to formulate a shampoo that will remove sebum and soil from our hair and scalp, remove residue of styling products, leave hair in good condition, and deposit lovely things like panthenol, conditioning agents, and so on.

How do we achieve these goals? We want to include between 15% to 40% surfactants in our mix to remove soil, sebum, and styling product residue. (A daily shampoo contains 8% to 15% surfactants). To leave hair in good condition, we'll choose a surfactant mix that is mild to hair and scalp as well as add a few things that might help leave our hair conditioned. And we an use all kinds of lovely ingredients like conditioning agents, panthenol, extracts, and so on to make our hair feel nice when we've rinsed it off.

The concentration of your surfactants will vary, but I usually go for the higher amount (around 40%) because not only is it easier to thicken higher amounts of surfactants, but it's more concentrated, so I don't have to use a lot to get some serious lather!

A basic shampoo would look something like this...

15% to 40% surfactants (mix of anionic and cocamidopropyl betaine)
0.5% to 1% preservative
1% fragrance or essential oil
up to 3% Crothix (liquid) to thicken or use salt at up to 3%
water to 100%

Why are we including each ingredient?

Water: Well, that's a given right? We need to include water in a shampoo to decrease the concentration of the surfactants and act as a solvent for the other ingredients.

Surfactants: We always want to include cocamidopropyl betaine in our mixtures to increase the mildness and thickening of the mix. We can choose surfactants suitable for our skin types - dry, normal, and oily - and use those for our hair types. Some good choices might be...

Dry hair: Amide ether sulfates, taurates, SCI (with stearic acid), decyl glucoside, acyl glutamate.
Oily hair: Sulfosuccinates, alkane sulfonates.
Normal hair: Whatever you like, lucky girl!

All hair types might like the carboxylates (mild cleansing, conditioned feel), SLeS or ALeS, and SCI (without stearic acid for normal to oily hair, with stearic acid for dry hair).

Thickeners: You can use something like Crothix - which will thicken and increase mildness - or salt. (Click here for three posts on increasing viscosity in surfactant mixtures).

Preservative: I generally use liquid Germall Plus in my shampoos up to 0.5%, but you can choose another suitable preservative.

So yeah, I guess we have achieved our goals. Hmm, why do I feel strangely unfulfilled? Perhaps it's because I've left out all the good things that will really make our hair feel really conditioned and soft! A lower concentration is better for creating products that will be mild, but this won't be the greatest foamer in the world. I know that foam doesn't equal cleaning power, but I need that foamy, bubbly, lathery concoction to make me feel that it is cleaning more than a less foamy shampoo. (Never underestimate the aesthetics of your product!)

A really important note: These ingredients are always the basis for a shampoo (well, except the fragrance, but I consider it essential). If you see other ingredients in a shampoo - hydrosols, extracts, humectants, conditioners, silicones, and so on - they are optional! If you are reading a recipe that you think you might like to make, but you're avoiding something in your hair care products, leave that ingredient out and add water to make up the difference. The only surfactant I wouldn't ever change is the cocamidopropyl betaine as this increases mildness and increases viscosity. Feel free to play around with the surfactant choices as well. 

An aside...We could get away without using thickeners in our surfactant mixes - it's really only there for the aesthetics, but a thicker shampoo means less wasted product and will make us think it's more cleansing. Something like glycol distearate (EZ Pearl) is almost always used in shampoo for dry hair because we perceive a pearlized product as more creamy and, therefore, more moisturizing (which it is, actually). Doesn't this picture look like it should be a shampoo for dry hair? (It is, in fact, a bubble bath, but the point is made...)

We don't need to fragrance or colour our shampoo, but there's something about a yellow shampoo scented with citrus that makes us think of refreshing morning showers or a pink shampoo with Pink Sugar that makes us think we're being girly and fun. (Heck, you could even put in some glitter to make you feel really girly!)

So this shampoo might be a good basic start, but I really think we need to include some of those lovely film forming, moisturizing, and smelly ingredients to make a basic shampoo a little more appealing! Join me tomorrow for more about those hair loving ingredients we can add to our hair care products! 


Anonymous said...

First can I say that I think you are amazing and wonder at least once a day how you find the time to do everything you do. I have a question though. Could you just once in this shampoo/ conditioner series describe the actual process of creating the shampoo or conditioner. When to add the additives, what to mix first, etc etc . For example I've read you should mix your fragrance with your surfactants to avoid thinning? Thanks in advance

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Thanks for the great suggestion. I've just written a post here - extended instructions for making surfactant based products - that I hope answer some of your questions. (Your fragrance will thin or thicken regardless of when you add them...)

I'll have another post about conditioner making when we get there - any suggestions?

Bryan Gabbard said...

Thanks for your great response. I read about adding fragrance to your surfactants to reduce thinning at ( I don't mean to imply that you are wrong, I just thought the link my interest you)

As far as conditioners I am sure that you will cover almost everything I can imagine but I would love to see conditioners based on hair type especially color treated grey hair. It would also be great to see a couple variations on solid conditioners (maybe you could replicate lush's solid conditioner?) I would love it if you could get to the bottom on how sal butter benefits hair. It would also be interesting if you could give your take on the value of vitamins (other than panthenol) in a conditioner . I would really like to see a review on The Herbarie's Botanical Complex HC (let me know how and I will send you a bottle). It would be nice to see a conditioner made for people who blow dry or flat iron. It would also be great if you have suggestions on natural colorants suitable for conditioners. I'd also like to know if antioxidants have any value in a conditioner. I think that's it off the top of my head.

Thanks for your time, I think you are truly amazing. I read everything you write over and over and over again.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Thanks for the link. Interesting stuff. I've never found it has made a difference to add the fragrance in different stages of creating - it all thins or thickens!

Great suggestions - I've noted them and will work on them shortly. As for the conditioner bar, I've made one in the past and plan to expand on in the near future. (Here's the visual tutorial version...) I do think it nicer than the Lush one as it contains much more conditioning agents and fewer butters, if your hair likes that type. But I think I'm biased!

Anonymous said...

I have used the lush, and I have made the bars from your tutorial. I agree yours are far superior. My interest in you replicating the lush bar is that I was hoping you could explain what exactly is implied when they list ingredients such as "fresh kiwi" or "fresh bananas". I've never understood how you could include fresh fruit in preservative free conditioner bar.

hellenssmokeyeyes@yahoo.com8I said...

Hi Susan, I know you are very busy, but I hope you can answer my question.
Can I formulate a shampoo for oily hair with very dry ends with the following surfactants
Cocamidopropyl betaine
Disodium cocoamphodiacetate
Coco glucoside
Sucrose cocoate
Coco glucoside and glyceryl oleate
I don't have anionic surfactants at the moment.
Are anionic surfactants indispensable for a good shampoo? What happens if I wash my hair with a shampoo containing only amphoteric and nonionic surfactants?
Thank you very much,

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Hellen. I wouldn't use only those surfactants for oily hair as they simply aren't the best choice. If you choose those surfactants, you'll have a very mild, very gentle shampoo and that's not what oily hair wants. The dry ends will appreciate it, but your roots will feel oily shortly after washing.

If you use only amphoteric and non-ionic surfactants, you'll end up with something unbelievably gentle, which is good for babies and fine haired people (and some dry haired girls), but terrible for oily haired people.

The other problem is the pH. A lot of the surfactants you have in that list are alkaline (pH 8 and up), whereas we want our final product to be 6.5 or below. If you have a pH meter or strips, you can alter the product - if you don't, I wouldn't recommend combining a few of the higher alkaline ones as you might get something not so nice for your hair!

So yes, I consider anionic surfactants indispensible for a good shampoo.

Having said that, why not try some of these in combination and see how your hair likes it. If it's too gentle as a shampoo, it can always work as a facial cleanser or body wash! Remember, I'm only speaking from my experienced as an oily haired girl with thick frizzy hair - your hair type might love your product! said...

Thank you very much for your answer. You answered all my questions sooner than I expected.
I made a shampoo with these ingredients and i had to use the whole bottle(100 ml) in order to wash my hair, which is very long.
Despite the very mild ingredients, my hair was pretty dry afterwords and i had to wait it to get dry in order to comb it.
I will have to look for some anionic surfactants. The problem is i suspect i have an allergy of some sort against one of them ( possibly SLS) because my scalp gets very itchy and very oily and I can't stand the feeling, I would rather wash my hair with the mild shampoo that I made and use a bottle every time I wash.
Thanks again,

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Hellen. You shouldn't need 100 ml of shampoo to wash your hair (I have below my waist length hair, and I can make a 100 ml bottle last at least 4 showers!), so there's something wrong there. I suspect you got very little lather/bubblage out of it.

If you're using a shampoo that has an alkaline pH (which I think is the main problem here), your hair will feel dry and scratchy and awful. I think this is your main problem with this shampoo - the pH is going to be in the alkaline (over 8) range, which our hair hates.

If you aren't including conditioning agents in the shampoo or using a conditioner afterwards, you're going to have dry feeling hair. Click here for posts on hair care, including information on conditioners, because everyone's hair can benefit from it.

I think your scalp might be itchy and oily because it isn't being cleaned properly (and because of the alkaline pH). The surfactant list you sent me contains very very mild surfactants that won't be doing any deep cleansing. You really want to use some surfactants that are good for oily hair like C14-16 alkyl benzoate or DLS mild to remove the oils from your hair. You don't have SLS in your ingredient list, so unless you went out and bought some, you can't be reacting to something that isn't present.

You can't expect to make the bestest shampoo ever the first time out: It takes time to perfect a recipe, and you'll have a lot of bad hair days before you get there. As I mentioned in my previous comment, if you're only using the surfactants you mention, you aren't going to make a good shampoo for oily hair (or any hair type, if you don't alter the pH). All the things you mention are because of the combination of surfactants you used and the pH - the dryness, the itchy scalp, the horrible feeling hair, the greasy feeling on your scalp - so I'd suggest getting one anionic surfactant and trying that in combination with a non-ionic and an amphoteric, along with some conditioning agents, in a shampoo and you'll feel the difference those inclusions make. said...

I must make time to read all of your posts because you have written a lot of things that answer my questions. It isvery difficult to find such easy-to-understand,yet so complete information if one is not a chemist.
Regarding the shampoo I made, I don t know why it was so inefficient. I have pH strips and I measured the pH of my shampoo. I added enough lactic acid to lower the pH to 5.
When I mentioned SLS I was referring to shampoos I used to buy from the stores or salons. I don t get that itchy feeling when I use SLS free shampoos from the pharmacy. But I am really interested in the chemistry of hair and shampoos, so I am determined to make my own.
Thanks again for all the helpful answers you gave me. said...

I. Just had a thought about what might have went wrong with the shampoo I made. I must write it before I forget.
Maybe the process was wrong: I did't heat any of the ingredients, I just mixed the surfactants with soy lecithin and separately I made a gel using water and Xanthan gum. Then I mixed the two phases together and added the lactic acid and preservative.
What is your opinion about that?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Hellen. There are a few things I'd change about your recipe. Firstly, I wouldn't make the pH 5 - you can keep it around 6ish to ensure it's nice for your hair. Secondly, I'm curious as to why you're using soy lecithin? What are you trying to emulsify in the product? Or are you using it as a moisturizer (and do you really want an oily product like this in a shampoo for oily hair)? Thirdly, Using xanthan gum to thicken your shampoo should work because you're using more non-ionic ingredients(click here or click here for more information on xanthan gum), but you'll want to use it in the heated phase, something you don't have.

If I were to change your recipe - based on the limited information I have - I wouldn't get the pH so low, I'd include a heated phase, I'd eliminate the soy lecithin, and I might even leave out the xanthan gum the first time so I could see how thick the product might end up being without a thickener.

Don't get really complicated the first time you make a product - use your surfactants, water, and preservative if you're in doubt about any of the ingredients. I'd really like to suggest that you find a recipe on this blog or another forum - a recipe you can trust - and try that out using your surfactants in place of the ones suggested. This will give you an idea of what your surfactants can do. Right now, you're trying to work with ingredients and I don't think you're sure about what does what in a product. That's the best way to make products - know your ingredients! - and I don't think you know what each does yet. By making something more basic, you'll learn what each surfactant brings to the party and that'll enable you to make something awesome!

Mya Symons said...

I am trying to make a shampoo with about 1% essential oils and a carrier--possibly 3% olive oil or some other type of synthetic or natural carrier for the essential oils. I would like to use Caprylyl capryl Glucose to emulsify the oils and water along with very mild surfactant as a foaming cleanser (possibly Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate (and) Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate). Further, I am interested in trying Guar Conditioner, Alkyl Esters, Crothix and CocoBetaine(as an enhancer/secondary surfactant).

Here is my problem: I have no idea how to combine these ingredients properly mainly because I cannot find ANY recipe at all online using caprylyl capryl glucose. What do you do with this stuff? Do you heat it up and if so to what temperature? Do you add it to the water phase or the oil phase or neither? Help! Can you please give me a basic idea on how I would put these together? Please and thank you?

PS If I can get away with adding more oils, I would like to because my hair is so dry. I am intolerant to synthetic protein and panthenol and both have dried my hair out extremely.

cyndy said...

Hi Susan
Long time reader, first time poster. Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge. Question, in making a daily use shampoo, I'm using coco betaine, Ammon. Lauryl Sulf., and Sod. laureth Sulf as surfactants at combined 15%. I've added honeyquat, panthenol, dimethicone, glycerin, aloe vera, hyd. protein and LG+. Pinch of salt for added thickness. Crothix as a thickener. Slighty heated water when mixing with the surfactants. Problem is the shampoo separated. Not sure why. My guess is the salt. Any ideas? Many thanks Steve

Ashley said...

Hi Susan,
I recently bought your book on hair care products from Lotioncrafters and I just have a few questions. I mixed up a batch of everyday use shampoo using, distilled water, sulfosuccinate, cocomipropyl betaine, honeyquat, glycerin, liquid silk protein, and aloe vera as my heated phase. For the cool down I used dimethicone, powdered DL-panthenol, optiphen, and a peach fragrance oil. When doing the heated phase is it suppose to be sort of a gel like substance? If it does not need to be gel like when does it become the shampoo consistency? Because mine is water like in consistency is it a complete fail or can I save it? Thank you for your time and I hope you can answer my questions.

Randa Kassisieh said...

Hello Susan,
I have reached out to you before, and value your input and help.
I created my own shampoo with these ingredients. Like Helens Smokey Eyes, I am having a hard time with finding the right surfactant to use.
The shampoo I created makes my hair feel awesome, but my scalp feels griddy and not so zesty fresh or clean.
Coco Glucose (by Making Cosmetics)35.0%
Water 52.0%
Apple Cider 5%
Peg 7 2%
Glycerin 1%
Xanthan Gum 1.5%
Germall Plus Liquid .5%
Cucumber Extract (glycerin base) 1%
Grape Seed Extract ( " " ) 1%
Green Tea Extract (oil base) 1%
****I would like to use Saw Palmetto Berry Extract in glycerin base, but I can't find enough info to see if it is safe to use and how much in a shampoo to include instead of cucumber extract?

I don't know how to correct this mix to have it work out to be better. I have colored normal hair, but I am having issues with store bought shampoos which irritate my scalp and give me pumps.
I would love your input and help to possibly tweak this basic creation to have better results. Thanks a bunch Susan for listening!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Randa. Have you tried using the base alone to see what is bothering you? Have you tested the pH of this shampoo when it's done? The data sheet says the pH is 6.5 to 7.5, but we don't know what the finished result might be. I know you have added apple cider vinegar, but 5% isn't going to do much in this recipe.

If I had to guess, I'd say this recipe is too mild for your hair type. It's a combination of a number of different surfactants, all of them very mild and not really suitable for oily hair or scalps.

Jessica Shedd said...

Hi Susan,
Am I reading your recipe correctly - this only amounts to 45%, what makes up the remaining 55%? Do you use any coconut oil, castor oil, cocoa butter or any others? I make regular hot process soap, with my signature item being beer soap. Since most people have heard of beer shampoo, and people have been asking for it, I was thinking of formulating my own. Do I substitute all the water for beer, or should I make it half? Thanks so much for any advice!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Jessica!

15% to 40% surfactants (mix of anionic and cocamidopropyl betaine)
0.5% to 1% preservative
1% fragrance or essential oil
up to 3% Crothix (liquid) to thicken or use salt at up to 3%
water to 100%

So you just add as much water as you need to make the recipe total 100%.

No, we really can't use oils in shampoo as it dulls the lather and foam and doesn't clean properly. This isn't a soap of any sort. It's a surfactant blend with a pH of 6 or below, as opposed to a saponified product with an alkaline pH. I have never used beer in a shampoo: What is it supposed to bring to your hair?

In all honesty, I wouldn't use this recipe if I were you as it's meant as an example recipe for how to make a basic shampoo. If you click on the hair care section in the right hand column, you'll see so many lovely moisturizing and hydrating shampoo recipes that contain awesome ingredients for your hair. (But none of them are soap based.)

Melanie said...

Hi Susan! So I have dreadlocks. I'm trying to formulate a shampoo but the needs of dreadlocks are quite different. It needs to have no conditioners (making it comb easily/detangling it would be very bad! Dreads are basically felted hair so it needs to stay as tangled as possible with the cuticles standing so they lock together.) But it is dry so moisturizers are needed. And very rough. Is it possible to make it feel smoother/softer without conditioners? I only wash once a month. Maybe twice. (It takes a
VERY long time to dry 20" long dreads the thickness of sharpie pens!) My scalp is always itchy and itchier right after I wash it. It is very dry here in the desert. No dandruff per se but I need exfoliating because I wash so infrequently. It needs to be not too sudsy. It's like washing long sponges. If it's too soapy it takes forever to rinse and squeeze the suds out. I also want it watery for the same reason and because I have a lot to wash and I think a thick shampoo would stick in spots too much-I want it to saturate as much as possible. Build up is something to be totally avoided as shea butter or the like could trap water in the dreads and cause dread rot! (mildew in the dreads). so I'm thinking a daily clarifying without thickener? Any other suggestions?