Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Some thoughts on hair butters...

Quite a few people have written to me recently to ask about hair butters, and I did a little research into the topic. I've never heard of a hair butter before - remember, I haven't bought commercial hair care products in years, so I have no reason to go into those sections of stores! - but it appears that it's a conditioner that contains a ton of oils. It appears that it might contain water and it might contain conditioning agents. I have seen a few that were anhydrous - meaning they don't contain water - as well.

You can make an anhydrous hair butter by combining a bunch of oils and butters, then slathering it on your hair, but this seems to be a missed opportunity for awesome conditioning, in my humble opinion. You could make something like a whipped butter and use that, or you could make something like a whipped butter and add some BTMS-50 to the mix to offer some serious conditioning. (Something like 75% butter of some sort, 19% oils of some sort, 10% BTMS-50 or BTMS-25 or Incroquat CR or another cationic quaternary compound, and 1% fragrance, because that's essential!) The conditioning agent isn't going to do a lot without some water, but when you rinse it off, you'll have had some serious conditioning!

If you want to make something containing water, you need an emulsifier. When I want to make something for my hair, I turn to BTMS-50 (or another cationic quaternary compound with emulsifying properties). We don't want to use Polawax, e-wax, or any of the HLB emulsifiers because they won't offer conditioning to our hair as they are neutrally charged. They will offer emulsification, but for anything to work well with our hair, we want to have a positively charged or cationic ingredient. (Yes, your product made with the neutrally charged or non-ionic emulsifiers will create an emulsified product, you but are missing the chance to condition your hair further!)

Someone asked if you could make a hair butter that would work for your hair and skin. Sure. Make a body butter with BTMS-50 as the emulsifier and you've got something that would work for both...but why? Your hair and skin have different needs, and it seems a pity to have an okay product for both hair and skin when you could make two awesome products instead. I like things to do double duty, but not at the expense of their awesomeness! 

The second concept is that we need to keep our water above 50%. We want to make an oil in water product - meaning that we have droplets of oil suspended in water - rather than a water in oil product - meaning we have droplets of water suspended in oil. I'm making a generalization here, but we keep our product as an oil in water product by having more water than oil in the product. Which means that our oil phase must be no more than 49% of the product!

If I were to make a hair butter, I think I'd make a conditioner with loads of oils, something on par with this recipe or this recipe. I'd keep the BTMS-50 at no more than 10%, the cetyl alcohol or other fatty alcohol at 5%, and add maybe up to 30% oils (although that's still really high). I'd also add some coconut oil! Study after study is showing this to the best oil for our hair, which is awesome because it's plentiful and cheap with a great shelf life.

I really encourage you to check out the hair care products section of this blog for all the information I have, then check the emollients (oils, butters & esters) section for some ideas about what emollients you might add!

If you've never made a product, please don't start by making something from scratch. Please find a good, proven recipe for something that sounds interesting and make it. Then at least you have an idea of where you want to start. I don't have time to help you make something from scratch, but I could have time to help you tweak something when you know what you've made and what you want to change! (Please read this post - why are you trying to come up with your own recipe the first time you make something? - for my philosophy on this topic!)


Anonymous said...

Hello Susan,
I have bought many kinds of leave in conditioner and hair butter for a deep massage, but i have never seen ingredients such as Incroquat CR or BTMS. Why is that, is it because they are not popular or efficient, or campanies uses differents ingredients than homemakers.There are a new hair product called WEN, and on its ingredients list there is Behentrimonium methosulfate, interesting.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Rosi. If you look at the ingredients in BTMS-50 or BTMS-25, you'll see that the BTMS stands for behentrimonium methosulfate. Incroquat CR contains stearalkonium chloride. You see both of these in tons of commercial products! (I really encourage you to consult the ingredients lists to the right hand side of the blog so you can learn the INCI names of the products! It will go a long way in helping you make things and save money when making purchases!)

I did a piece on the Wen cleansing conditioner - do a search for it. It's no more cleansing than any other conditioner - it's just the name, but you're paying $29 a bottle! Get a bottle of Suave or another inexpensive conditioner and save $24! (I've written a few posts on things that claim to be cleansing conditioners - there's no difference between them and so-called non-cleansing conditioners!)

Storm Crow said...

Hi Susan

I've been spotted swiping my fingertips over the top of tubs of unrefined shae butter, or virgin coconut oil (such tiny amounts, it doesn't seem as though there's anything on my fingers at all) and plucking it through the ends of soaking wet hair after a shower (before finger combing). Then I leave it to dry naturally.

Find it leaves my hair bouncy, soft, and ohhhhhh so sexual............!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Storm Crow. That reminds me that I wanted to write a little something on using coconut oil in our hair. (I love your picture! Is that a Game of Thrones reference? I'm just newly into it, and I seem to think everything relates to it lately.)

Camirra Williamson said...

I use hair butter all the time, in fact i need them to keep my hair soft. I can really tell the difference when i use one and when i dont. I know that they dont conditon my hair, but i need them to trap moisture in my hair. some how using a liquid oil, even one that doesn't penetrate like almond oil, simply cant keep my hair soft as long. but i have dry african hair, so i think it makes sense. I think hair butter can really make a difference in a hair regimn for dry african hair types.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

HI Camirra. I'm glad they're working for you. I would suggest, though, that you try making an intense conditioner - which you can find through a search on this blog or by looking at the hair care section - and see what you think about the inclusion of the conditioning emulsifier.

kAY said...

I would like to make an hair butter like a leave in hair cream. I have kinky virgin extremely dry hair and want a leave in cream I can use on my hair. What percentage should the btms and cetyl be. Would a 7% btms 50 and 3% cetyl be too much? Thanks