Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Duplicating products: Cleansing conditioners

Before we get into trying to duplicate a few cleansing conditioners, we need to establish what it means for a product to be a cleansing conditioner versus a normal conditioner. (For a quick summary of the no-shampoo method or co-washing method, click here.)

How does a cleansing conditioner differ from a normal conditioner? It doesn't. For the most part, the cleansing conditioner contains the same ingredients as a normal conditioner, although I've seen a few with very low levels of foaming surfactants like cocamidopropyl betaine. I have noticed that most of the conditioners with the word "cleansing" in the title tend to stay away from silicones, but that might be because those I've seen also bill themselves as natural or organic. I've also noticed that a lot of them contain mint, perhaps for the tingly feeling it can leave behind?

Please note that I don't adhere to the no-poo method and I don't know much about it. I'm not here to debate the merits of the method and whether it works or not. I'm just sharing information I've learned about the concept. 

If we take a look at something like the Wen Mint Sweet Almond Cleansing Conditioner (I've analyzed this product in more detail in this post), you'll notice very little difference between it and a product that isn't advertised as being cleansing. All conditioners will contain a cationic quaternary compound like behentrimonium methosulfate, behentrimonium chloride, cetrimonium bromide, stearalkonium chloride, or stearamidopropyl dimethylamine as the primary conditioning agent. Most will contain a fatty alcohol - cetyl, cetearyl, stearyl, or behenyl - to boost the conditioning of the cationic quaternary compound. All will contain some water and preservatives, and some might contain oils or modified oils. Everything else is just icing on the proverbial cake (for instance, panthenol, protein, silicones, fragrance, and so on).

If you want to learn more about what makes a conditioner a conditioner, click here or check out the hair care section of this blog! 

Why do they call it a cleansing conditioner? Because they can. This isn't to say that very dry or African hair types won't benefit from a cleansing conditioner, and this isn't to say a cleansing conditioner isn't a good conditioner, but you can get the same benefits co-washing or going no-'poo with just about any conditioner. (Although some will say to avoid conditioners with silicones because there could be some build up, I'd be more worried about the build up coming from things like polyquats and cationic guar. I wonder if not using heat styling or anti-frizz products is part of the no-poo concept, because those are chock full of silicones? Anyone using this method, can you advise?)

As a note, seriously? We're calling this no-poo? We can't come up with a better name for this process? 

You can make a conditioner with behentrimonium methosulfate, cetyl alcohol, water, and preservative and call it a conditioner or a cleansing conditioner. You can make a conditioner with cetrimonium bromide, cetearyl alcohol, water, preservative, mint essential oil, a bunch of botanical extracts, and coconut oil and call it a conditioner or a cleansing conditioner. Or you could make a conditioner with only behentrimonium methosulfate, water, and preservative, and call it a conditioner or a cleansing conditioner. For the most part, the main difference is the description of the product.

So let's take a look at a few cleansing conditioners and how we can duplicate them! Join me tomorrow for a look at Curl Junkie Daily Fix Cleansing Conditioner!

If you wish to make a suggestion for a product we might like to duplicate, please visit this post and provide an accurate ingredient list and link in a comment. 


SallyWhalquer said...

Hi! To answer your question about heat styling and anti-frizz. Most who subscribe to co-washing or cleansing conditioners rarely use anti-frizz or heat styling products, and if it's done---they will eventually wash them out with a SLS shampoo when build-up becomes strong. But silicones are despised in the coily world, unless used correctly and cleansed correctly. A co-washer wouldn't use silicones and continue to co-wash.

Could you tell me more about your worries with polyquats and cationic guars and build-up?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Why would you use a shampoo with SLS shampoo to remove silicones when any shampoo would do (and something with cetrimonium chloride would work even better!)? SLS is a very strong detergent and it isn't great for our hair - you can read a post on it here - and mild shampoos are more than enough to remove silicones! This seems counter productive to me - don't wash with shampoo normally, then use something harsh to remove build up, then don't wash with shampoo. It seems more logical to use a very mild, very gentle shampoo without SLS.

Cationic polymers - polyquat 4, 7, 10, 44 and so on - can build up on hair over time. (Click here for the post on cationic polymers.) If you're using conditioner only to wash your hair, polyquats 7 and 10 will be harder to remove as they like to be removed by foamy surfactants, like those found in shampoo.

Cationic guar gum is also best removed by using foamy surfactants, like those found in shampoo. (Click here for a post on this topic.)

I don't get the lack of love for the silicones, especially when you consider a lot of the people I know who co-wash have really curly hair! They are great emollients that offer a reduction in friction when wet or dry combing (which means less damage to our hair), an increase in shine, a reduction in frizz, and a reduction in friction damage. There is this idea that they build up horribly on our hair, but if you wash your hair (or co-wash using something with cetrimonium chloride), they are removed easily! But to each their own...that's the point of making our own products!

SallyWhalquer said...

Great tip about mild shampoos and co-wash with something with centrimonium choloride! I see a lot of misinformation given on curly hair sites about removing silicones and build-up---build up as a in oils, silicones, gels and such on dry curly hair. Also, with the whole marketing of "organic / natural" it has made it even worse.

Natalie - Bokeh Face Cometics said...

I've been "washing" my hair w/conditioner for quite awhile; I used to use Wen BUT thanks to your very informative articles, I have since switched over to whatever drugstore conditioner suits my fancy (i.e. smells good or is cheap)
I don't have curly hair, but it tends to be very poofy, so in the past I used a lot of silicone-y frizz products. I still use them without a problem with no-pooing, but my hair is much smoother and un-frizzy than it was with shampooing. I can also go longer in between washes, so maybe all that extra oil is helping tame the frizzing? I don't know, but I love me some "cleansing" conditioner :)
Long story short, I still use at least a little bit of something w/silicone in my hair every day, I only sometimes blow dry it (with a blow dry spray), and I personally haven't had a problem with build up. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan

I know this thread is a bit old, but I just found it and wanted to add something others might find of interest.

As an ex-sufferer of very dry, brittle hair, the only way I found immediate relief, was by performing an emergency shampoo-disposal (have only been 'washing' my hair with store bought, light conditioners, suitable for everyday use).

Last night, for the very first time, I made a very basic, simple hair conditioner using just:

Phase A:
90 % Distilled water

Phase B:
0.5%-1% Preservative (I used just a bit less than 1% of Liquid Germall Plus)
1%-3% EO or FO (I chose Tangerine EO)

I followed the simple instructions I found at Aussie Soap Supplies website (Australia) in their recipe formulary, and then used the conditioner this morning.

I'll never use any other conditioner again and, while I can fiddle with the recipe and add other bits and pieces for increased benefits, I love that this is so simple and so free from nasties.

My hair has never sat more calmly, or with more serenity, than it does today, nor has it ever felt so silky soft and bouncy, like a child's hair.

I'm impressed that something so basic and simple, could be so profoundly effective.

I know you didn't want to get into a discussion about 'no poo' theories - and I appreciate that - but just in case there might be other readers of this wonderful blog who, like me, were in dire straights with badly damaged, dehydrated hair, sometimes, the only way to rescue it is via the 'no poo' method, and let the scalp heal.

Quite aside from that, I still get that slight 'squeaky' feeling that lets me know my hair is clean using just conditioner, and I certainly don't need to use as much of it as I once did when I first tossed shampoos away.

Personally, I think we can sometimes be a bit thoughtless about the many ways we add more and more unnatural stresses to our tresses, particularly with the chemical complications of various commercial shampoos and styling products.

Add colouring and bleaching to the mix, and we have recipes for future regret.

Why would any of us want to do that to our hair? Particularly when you have just-below-waist-length hair, like I do :)

TikiBarSoap said...

Hi Susan! I "no poo" with baking soda + water and rinse with apple cider vinegar + water. I have to boil the water that I add the baking soda to because we have super hard water. I alternate with a shampoo bar (cold process soap with castor oil) and finish with the apple cider vinegar rinse. I don't use any styling products so I don't get buildup, but I have heard many people's hair goes through "detox" where it takes a few weeks for the gunk to be removed from the hair shaft. I am interested to try something like a cleansing conditioner though, so I may give this recipe a shot. I only "no poo" twice a week or so. I am super low key when it comes to my hair, less is more. I have super long and thick wavy hair too. If I wash it too much it gets really brittle and dry on the ends and oily at the roots. But if I go only once or twice a week "no-pooing" its not oily at all. Weird, but I think the shampoo actually causes my oil glands to go into overdrive. My husband washes his hair every day and constantly complains that its oily, but he <3 shampoo and would rather die than use baking soda and water :)

Fire Fox said...

@Susan not getting the lack of love for silicones ... many reasons. Firstly us following the Curly Girl method use fatty alcohols and cationic surfactants as basic emollients, these also help with clumping and hydration which together reduce frizz, silicones can repel other strands and leave hair stringy and do not increase moisture around the strand.

I have never found silicones prevented frizz unless I used enough to turn into a greaseball, it seems to me what they do is mitigate against the poof caused by anionic shampoos, which I don't use anyway. Silicones don't impact damage that much, since these days the majority of mine comes from peroxide and hygral fatigue, so coconut oil is a superior alternative. Curly Girls do little wet or dry combing, many finger detangle very gently, the method advises doing this with a head coated in loads of a slippy conditioner and not at any other time. I read that the average person combs fifteen times a day, which is fourteen more than I do! Curlies and long hairs limit nighttime friction damage with satin bonnets or pillowcases.

My shine these days comes from my cuticle layer being in much better shape and is present even when I wash but don't condition. Also from panthenol, ceramides, coconut oil and hydrolysed proteins, some of these will both adsorb and absorb which silicones do not. Coconut oil and protein encourage stronger curl, silicones discourage it.

From my research silicones are king for heat protection, which I don't need. Polyquats are avoided on limited by many Curly Girls due to concerns about build up. Some curlies do use some water soluble silicones and those that do not build up such as amodimethicone.

For me it's not what silicones can do, it's what they cannot do or how they work against my goals. CG turned my whole routine and outlook on it's head, I'm not simply looking at instant gratification, I'm playing the long game.


Anonymous said...


I just wanted to thank you for your very informative piece on co-washing. Thanks to you I have recently embarked on co-washing and believe that I am having a much better initial experience due to knowing more about what incgredients to look for. I have found that your comments about cetrimonium chloride have helped me find a great conditioner to clean with from the start - I've saved a lot of time, money, & yucky hair - THANK YOU!

- Audra

Corinne said...

Hey there Susan! I've been a long time fan of the blog and have replaces basically all my store-bought goodies with stuff I've made with help from you!

I'm commenting on this ancient post because I recently attempted to duplicate a wildly over-priced cleansing conditioner I was buying (Hairstory New Wash). It was mostly a success but I'm finding it weighing my hair down a bit more than the $$ stuff.
Here's my recipe:
3% stearamidopropyl dimethylamine
3% cetearyl alcohol NF
2% jojoba oil
2% evening primrose oil
48% distilled water
5% rose water
5% rosemary hydrosol
3% glycerin
15% aloe
1% hydrolyzed oats
2% VegeKeratin (lotioncrafter)
2% Clean Locks extract blend (Ingredients to Die For)
2% Panthenol
2% Leucidal SF
1% Neodefend

Maybe I was just ambitious w my first conditioner. Should I remove the oils? Decrease something? I have platinum bleached hair that is both dry and brittle and also very fine and easy to weigh down so :(
Thanks so much!

lilscrappers said...

AHHHH, Corinne! I am in the process of doing the same thing! I am waiting for my CLean locks to arrive. I will have to let you know what happens with mine. I would post my formula but I haven't quite figured it out yet. I do have to say that I was thinking it had more water, which would decrease the oils a bit. I will try to remember to post my version when I get my order in.
One thing on my list is the citric acid which helps cleanlocks form a cationic salt....I'm not sure how that affects how this formula would feel in your hair/

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi lilscrappers! Thanks for answering the questions Corrine posed.

Sorry I missed you, Corrine! I'm so glad you're making so many products! Isn't it awesome?

I am working on sharing some recipes I've been making with the stearamidopropyl dimethylamine, but I'm not completely ready yet. It is vital to bring that pH down with citric acid and such. I'd remove some of the aloe vera - maybe down to 5%- as the electrolytes in it can mess with emulsions.

I would get rid of the oils entirely if you have such fine hair, and just try making something with the main ingredients - Incroquat CR, stearamidopropyl dimethylamine, cetearyl alcohol (I'd do cetyl or behenyl as they are less waxy), panthenol, and hydrolyzed protein, and see what you think. Remember to bring that pH down with citric acid at the end.

Lilscrappers - have you tried yours yet? What do you think?