Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Monday Wonderings: Why won't my hair feel nice and the shampoo thicken when I use glucosides?

In this post, It's not easy to being green, Sandra asks: I made a shampoo recently that became an epic fail. It is extremely thin, makes my hair feel like straw when I wash it (it's really nice afterwards when it dries but I need loads of conditioner to get the straw feeling away) and it has separated in the bottle.

This is what I used:

Water 53,3% 
Coco glucoside 17,5% 
Lauryl Glucoside 17,5%
Guar gum 5 %
D-panthenol 2%
Hydrolized oat protein 2% 
Optiphen 1.2% 
Polyquat-7 1% 
Salt 0,3 %
Citric acid 0,2%

It seems as if the guar gum is all settled on the bottle of the jar and I have to shake it alot before I use it. I don't wanna use silicones or any quaterniums over 7, nothing really that would leave a film on my hair - but I'm desperate to make the shampoo feel soft and glidy when I use it. Do you know any other alternatives? And should I use an emulsifyer? I see alot of people using salt as thickening agents in their shampoos too, but it didn't have any effect what so ever on the density, even after I upped the salt and guar gum percentage to 2% and 10%..

As I mentioned in the original post, glucosides generally have a higher pH - 8 or higher - in the alkaline range. We know that using alkaline ingredients on our hair can lead to damage and cuticle lifting and that horrible feeling of your hair being stripped and tangled, so we need to bring down the pH quite substantially to use it. In my experience, in 100 grams of shampoo using 0.2 grams of citric acid brings the pH down by about 1 pH. But that's only my experience with that one product. If you aren't testing the pH of the product with a meter, how do you know where you started and where you will finish. Let's say that 0.2 grams brings the pH down by 1 pH every time, if you start with a pH of 10, you're only down to 9 with that 0.2 grams. If you start with a pH of 8, you'll get it down to 7, which is still not acidic enough. You really want to invest in a pH meter if you're going to be using loads of glucosides or other ingredients not in the acidic range.

Secondly, as I note in the surfactant comparison chart, glucosides don't thicken using salt. (This concept is called the salt curve, and you don't want to use salt at over 3% as makes the product thinner after that.) Guar gum is used in the pH range of 5 to 7, so if you don't have that pH down enough, it won't work.

So, to sum it up...for the product to feel good and for the guar gum to thicken it, the measured pH should be acidic from 5 to 6. To do this, you need a pH meter to measure where the product starts and how it changes with the addition of 0.2% citric acid.

May I ask a follow up question? Why not using any quats over 7? Honeyquat is polyquat 50 and it is derived from honey, so you know it has to be good. The number at the end of the polyquaternium nmae only indicates what it is derived from, and they are in no particular order. And why no film forming? Loads of things form films - panthenol, aloe vera, allantoin, any oils or butters, and so on - and it's good to trap moisture into your hair so you don't get too dry!


Maria Lopez said...

All the msds and technical data sheets I've seen on the glucosides have stated a ph of 11.5-12.5. I wonder why they have a very high ph compared to other surfactants

Sandra said...

Thank you so much for answering my questions! I ordered some ph strips and when I tested the shampoo it marked a ph of 7 after adding citric acid, but maybe those strips aren't so accurate. I tested them out by measuring tap water (7 ph) aswell as saliva (6-7 ph) so I assumed that they worked, but maybe I have to invest in the more expensive version.

I don't use silicones in my hair and still have the feeling that this shampoo isn't cleansing enough, as my hair becomes oily again after 1-2 days, so to be honest I'm quite scared of using heavy film formers, it feels like my hair wouldn't get clean at all :( I'm considering getting some coco betaine and adding it in as a primary surfactant. Maybe the salt thickening could work then?

And I'm vegan so I prefer using polyquat rather then honeyquat, so it's not about the "natural" factor. Is the difference between the two of them really big when it comes to softening the hair?

Kim said...

Hey Sandra -
As someone who uses pH readings a lot, you should consider investing in a digital meter as they are much more accurate, and really not that expensive. A test strip is very hard, if not impossible to read accurately enough for what we're doing in cosmetic chemistry.

Michelle said...


Do you mind sharing where you purchased your pH meter?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Maria. I haven't found a satisfactory answer for your question...sorry...

Hi Sandra. If you have oily hair, you will get greasy hair in one to two days regardless of using film formers. Cocamidopropyl betaine is a secondary surfactant, but a good choice for your product. You still won't be able to thicken with salt unless you have quite a bit of it. The difference isn't great between Honeyquat and polyquat 7, except the former is a humectant as well.

Hi Kim. I agree about the meter vs. the strips. I love my meter. (I can't tell you where mine originated as it was a birthday present!)

Sandra said...

Thank you! And thanks alot for teaching me more about quaterniums, I was absolutely convinced that the higher the number after - the more conditioning and film forming it would be. I read it on one of those 'no-poo' blogs, guess you can't trust everything you see on the internet :)

I ordered some cocamidopropyl betaine online and I'm still in search for a good pH meter, in Europe everything is super expensive. I found one at soapkitchenonline for £45. If someone knows any cheaper alternatives (that still work well) please let me know!

Also another little wondering. I've read that you can't combine BTMS 25 with surfactant based products.

If I understand this correctly BTMS is a cationic surfactant and coco betaine is amphoteric. I'm not sure about glucosides but I'm guessing they are non-ionic. I'm still having a hard time figuring out what would actually happen if you mixed the 3 of them in a formulation to make a silicone-free conditioning shampoo?

Sorry about the question bombing, I'm really fascinated about surfactants but there is so many things to learn and you seem to know all about them.

Ronnie said...


This is where I bought mine - its only slightly cheaper (when you add postage).

As for the post I have been having the same problem with making a SLS free shampoo. i have followed a number of formulas from this blog and they don't seem to be working for me.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Ronnie. What isn't working for you? What do you mean when you say that? They aren't cleaning your hair? They aren't making it feel lovely after washing? (You are using conditioner afterwards, right?) Can you offer more information?

Ronnie said...

Hi Susan,

They are not turning out as thick as I like and apart from the formula with the SCI I tried they don't really foam very well.

However, going back on my notes it could be the PH was a bit on the high side that could be why one of them made my hair feel like straw.

However, I must say that that I washed my hair this morning using a range of products i made based on your formulas and I must say my hair hasn't felt this good with a non-salon wash for a VERY VERY long time.

I made another shampoo this morning as well (i like to multi task). Its very thin.

water - up to 100%
aloe vera juice - 10%
Olive Oil water soluble - 4%
Disodium Cocoamphodiacetate - 10%
Lauryl Glucoside - 20%
Plantapon LGC - 10%
Lamesoft - 5%
Guar conditioning gum - 0.5%
Glycerin - 1%
panthenol - 2%
optiphen - 1.5%
EO - 1%