Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Conditioners: Instructions for making conditioners

Making a conditioner is a lot like making a lotion as we're making an emulsion that brings together oil soluble and water soluble ingredients with a cationic quaternary compound that is behaving as an emulsifier. Our water phase contains the water soluble ingredients, the oil phase contains our oil soluble ingredients, and the cool down phase contains those ingredients that are heat sensitive!

So if you can make a conditioner, you can make a lotion! See, it's not so scary, eh?

Here are the general instructions for making a conditioner...
  1. Weigh the heated oil phase in a container and put it into a double boiler. 
  2. Weigh the heated water phase in a container and put it into a double boiler. 
  3. Let each phase come to 70˚C and heat for 20 minutes. You can put this on very low, as long as the ingredients remain at 70˚C. 
  4. Remove from the heat, then pour the heated water phase into the heated oil phase and mix well. 
  5. Allow it to stand and come to 45˚C, then add the cool down phase and mix very well. 
  6. Allow to come to room temperature, then package in an appropriate container. 
Alternate version of making a conditioner, which is useful if you don't have a ton of oils in it...
  1. Weigh the heated oil phase in a container. 
  2. Boil some distilled water. Add it to the oil phase of the container, then add the heated water phase ingredients into the same container. 
  3. Heat and hold this container for 20 minutes at 70˚C. 
  4. Remove it from the heat and mix well. 
  5. Allow it to stand and come to 45˚C, then add the cool down phase and mix very well. 
  6. Allow it to come to room temperature, then package in an appropriate container. 
Why do we do all of this? Let's take a look at each step...

Weigh the heated oil phase in a container and put it into a double boiler.

This is the heated oil phase of the solid conditioner bar. You can see the different layers of ingredients - Incroquat BTMS-50 at the bottom, Incroquat CR on the next layer, cetyl alcohol, then orange butter at the top. 

We heat the oil phase in a double boiler because you never want to melt our ingredients directly on an element in a pot. We let the water do the work for us! It's like melting chocolate - you have a number of different ingredients with different melting points, and we don't want to scorch one while the other remains unmelted.

We weigh our ingredients to ensure uniformity. Using volume measurements can result in using too much or too little of an ingredient - think of trying to measure your BTMS-50 pellets in a tablespoon - so we use our scales so we can ensure we're getting just the right amount. With some ingredients, a little more isn't a bad thing (like aloe vera), but too little or too much of something else can result in an epic conditioner fail.

Pyrex is a good choice as it can take heating and cooling in succession, and they aren't expensive. I like to have Pyrex jugs in various sizes from 1 cup to 2 litre for any possible cosmetic chemistry experiment!

Weigh the heated water phase in a container and put it into a double boiler. 

We use distilled water because it is unlikely to contain metal ions (which we know can contribute to oxidation and build-up on our hair) and other contaminants. And at something like $2.00 for 4 litres, it's a bargain!

Let each phase come to 70˚C and heat for 20 minutes. 

We heat and hold to ensure the various ingredients are all at the same temperature, and to reduce the possibility of contamination in our ingredients. And to help with the emulsification (an explanation of emulsification here, and a more complicated explanation about critical micelle concentration here.) 

Remove from the heat, then pour the heated water phase into the heated oil phase and mix well. 

Mixing well is important because making a conditioner is like making a lotion - we rely upon emulsification to make it work. We need mechanical emulsification (the mixing) to help the chemical (cationic compounds) and heat emulsification work. By having all three, we ensure our emulsification won't fall apart, which is its natural inclination. 

Normally we add the heated water phase to the oil phase to help with phase inversion for emulsifiers like Polawax or emulsifying wax (non-ionic emulsifiers). Since there's no phase inversion with cationic emulsifiers (like BTMS-50 or cetrimonium bromide), we can add the oil phase to the water phase if we like (and since the water phase is larger, the container will be larger, which makes it easier for the water phase container to be your main container) or add the water phase to the oil phase. It's up to you. 

Allow it to stand and come to 45˚C, then add the cool down phase and mix very well. 

We add the ingredients in the cool down phase in the cool down phase because they are heat sensitive. Panthenol, silicones, preservatives, fragrance oils, and extracts will react to high levels of heat, so by cooling it all down to 45˚C, we ensure we are not damaging these ingredients. 

It is important to consider the order of your ingredients, to some extent. If you add cetrimonium chloride to a conditioner in the cool down phase, you will see thinning. If you add cetrimonium chloride to a conditioner in the heated phase, you'll get thinning but you'll also get a few lumps from the BTMS coagulating. That's why I like cetrimonium chloride in the cool down phase. 

Allow to come to room temperature, then package in an appropriate container. 

I find a funnel works well for packaging my regular conditioners, and a spatula with a jar for the intense conditioners. You can use a plastic piping bag for intense conditioners, if you're putting them into a pump bottle. 

Packaging is an important consideration. Don't re-use containers as they might contain things that will go rancid quickly - yes, even if you've cleaned them well! - and don't use glass in the tub for safety reasons. You can't put anything containing water in a metallic container. A recent study showed that products in disc cap containers stay uncontaminated the longest, so consider using a disc cap or pump for most of your products. For the intense conditioners - use a pump bottle or jar for those and avoid putting your wet hands into it! For anti-frizz sprays or leave in conditioners, a spray bottle tends to work best. (I've found the harder plastic bottles are best for leave in conditioners - it makes them easier to spray if you're using a lot of it, like I do.) 

And always remember to label your product with the information on the recipe you used and ingredients, the date you made it and the best before date, and cover it in packing tape or a waterproof spray so it won't come off easily in the shower! 


Tara said...

Have you ever noticed that lotions and conditioners are so similar? I use water, BTMS, Honeyquat, panthenol and other good stuff in both my lotions and my conditioners. This is why I often use my conditioners as a lotion and to shave my legs - double (or triple duty) helps save me time in having to make separate products and easier to pack when travelling!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Tara! If you look at my shaving bar or shaving lotion, you'll notice it's pretty much conditioner with a few changes - and if you don't mind silk or oils in your hair, they're pretty much the same. I wish my husband and I could tolerate silk in our hair - we could pack a lot less. (I don't have to shave my legs...yeah, I know, envy me...but he has to shave his face when we're travelling!)

I like to introduce my craft group kids to lotions by teaching them conditioners because - for some strange reason - conditioners are less scary than lotions for some people.

p said...

Hi Susan, Why is it necessary to heat & hold the oil phase of a lotion or conditioner? Are there really significant numbers of bacteria present in our oils? I'm reluctant to expose some of my more delicate oils to high temps if it's not really necessary.

Thanks as always!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi p. There are a few reasons to heat and hold. One is to eliminate the possibility of contamination. The second is all about the emulsification. We want to ensure our two phases are at the same temperature so when we combine them, they'll stay emulsified. The third is about the critical micelle concentration - I've written a post about it here. (The phase inversion stuff isn't applicable for BTMS, but the concept remains the same).

I'm wondering what you mean by delicate oils. All oils can undergo oxidation when they are heated too much or too often (just look at frying oils!), and some oils - like those with double bonds - can undergo oxidation more quickly than others, but I'm not sure what you mean by delicate oils. I'm interested to know!

p said...

Yup, by "delicate oils" I mean polyunsaturated oils, with lots of double bonds - oils I wouldn't dream of cooking with - and oils with heat-sensitive antioxidants or other beneficial chemicals (like are carotenoids heat-sensitive? polyphenols?).

Heat speeds up the oxidation process, so I'm wondering why we heat polyunsaturated oils for longer than is necessary to ensure that the oil phase is at 70 C? (I usually check the temperature, stir, wait a half minute, and repeat 2 or 3 times before deciding that my oil phase really is at 70 C and starting my "heat & hold" clock anyway. I'm thinking that by the time I decide it's at 70 C, it really is at 70 C!)

Thinking about oxidation while heating... is it really not an issue because you're heating a lot of oil, and the surface area exposed to oxygen is pretty small compared to the volume of oil?

And now I'm wondering about why vitamin e is added to the cool-down phase.... I guess it's that tocopherol is somewhat heat-sensitive? So why not the vitamin e naturally present in carrier oils?

I guess for me it comes down to my ignorance - I really don't know exactly how heat-sensitive which beneficial chemicals contained in our oils actually are. Maybe 70 C for 20 minutes is fine for our polyunsaturated oils, antioxidants, tannins, polyphenols, etc! Enlighten me, Susan! :)

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi p. You raise some really interesting questions. (I'm thinking this needs to be a post, rather than a comment...) I've thought about this quite a bit because heating our oils can speed up the oxidation process, but we don't heat them high enough to destroy the phytosterols, polyphenols, fatty acids, and other lovely chemicals found in our oils. We heat them up enough to ensure all our ingredients have reached their melting point and to ensure they are all the same temperature, which is a huge issue when we have all those different fatty acids in the mix.

We add the Vitamin E at the end because it is heat sensitive. The Vitamin E in the carrier oils is sensitive to heat, but usually at higher temperatures than what we're using.

It's interesting how Vitamin E works because it can be used up, then replenished, then used up again, then replenished. So if we add a little more, we increase the amount that can be used up and replenished.

A big part of the heating and holding is the emulsifier. Something like Polawax needs to be at 70˚C to 80˚C to be an emulsifier - it's insoluble in oil at 25˚C, so we heat it and hold it to ensure it is well melted and ready to emulsify.

Yep, this needs to be expanded upon to become a post...look for it in the next few days (I'm incredibly busy this morning prepping for a sushi making class. I still have to make Rice Krispy treats for the candy sushi before work this morning!)

Great questions, p!

Tiffany said...

Hello Susan! Thank you so much for taking out the time to be so thorough and detailed in your posts and responses. My apologies for commenting on an old post. My question is, when making large batches of conditioner how do you account for evaporation in the heated water phase? Do you add extra water to compensate for the water lost while heating or should you heat more water than needed and then remeasure the quantity before adding it to the heated oil phase?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Tiffany. Check out the answer to your question in the frequently asked questions section of the blog.

Jennifer said...

Hi Susan,

Can I check with you, what is the difference when I pour oil phase to water phase vs when I pour water phase to the oil phase? When does the emulsification takes place, in the hot phase or cold?
thanks a lot.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Jennifer. You can pour one phase into the other. It doesn't really matter. (If you want to learn more, check out this post on phase inversion.) And the emulsification happens when the two come together in the heated phase. We require three things when we create an emulsion - we need heat, mixing, and chemistry. There are some emulsifiers that can work at room temperatures, but the ones we use for conditioners are always heated to 70˚C.

Joyce Bonner said...

Hi Susan
First I would like to say how informative/helpful your site is. Thanks for sharing your knowledge. I am new to product making and your site is just what the doctor ordered. My question is how can I incorporate butters and rhassoul clay into the condition recipe and end up with a whipped conditioner secondly how could I make a whipped shampoo.