Today’s formulation is for an all-natural liquid shampoo featuring peppermint essential oil for a fresh, minty kick and pea extract—an active said to have hair thickening and growth-boosting benefits!
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I did the bulk of the development work on this formulation back in the spring of 2019 as part of my Diploma in Organic Haircare Formulation coursework. I loved it, but ended up shelving the formulation because one of the key ingredients (Lamesoft® PO 65, INCI: coco-glucoside (and) glyceryl oleate) wasn’t available in Canada at the time (I brought mine home from Germany/Skin Chakra via a 2018 trip to the UK), but hooray, Voyageur Soap and Candle Co. sells it now and I’ve found it in lots of other places, too (linked in the encyclopedia entry)—happy dance! This ingredient is a sort of magic trick that helps shampoos clean without making your hair feel horrendously over-clean, skiddy, and icky. Highly recommended.
Our surfactant blend is an old favourite of mine that I used a lot in my Formula Botanica coursework; Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside and Cocamidopropyl Betaine. The 2019 version of this formulation used Sodium Cocoamphoacetate instead of Cocamidopropyl Betaine, but I decided to re-work it for publishing as Cocamidopropyl Betaine is so much more readily available than Sodium Cocoamphoacetate.
I’ve gravitated towards Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside a lot in the last five or so years for two reasons: it’s a great solubilizer, and unlike the other glucosides, it’s naturally acidic with a pH of 5.5–6. Though… is it? Always? I’ve heard from some readers recently that their Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside (from other suppliers) is basic, with a pH closer to that of the other glucosides. So, if you’re working with Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside, please check your supplier data to see what the pH of your product is. If it’s basic, you’ll definitely need to test and adjust the pH of the final formulation to ensure it sits where we want it to.
Anywho—Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside + Cocamidopropyl Betaine = lovely, rich, luscious, plentiful lather and fabulous cleansing. Excellent! Paired with coco-glucoside (and) glyceryl oleate we get great cleansing that doesn’t leave your hair feeling stripped. *Chef’s kiss*
As I was considering and researching different ways to give this shampoo a bit of something special, I noticed Pisum Sativum (Pea) Extract in several commercially available shampoos and hair products that boast hair thickening and growth-boosting benefits. That’s the same INCI as the Natra Pep Pea I have from Voyageur Soap and Candle Co., so of course I had to try it out. I can’t say if it has boosted my hair growth at this point, but in comparing the shampoo with and without this ingredient, I think my hair feels a bit more moisturized. If you don’t have it I would use a hydrolyzed protein that you love instead. If you’re interested in hair thickening/growth boosting you may want to see if you can find Pisum Sativum (Pea) Sprout Extract vs. Pisum Sativum (Pea) Extract; it sounds like the sprout extract is richer in phytonutrients/possibly more concentrated than the non-sprout variety. The two extracts are made from the same plant, the sprout is just younger.
2019’s version used Siligel for thickening, but I’m out of that now, and I also had a packet of Solagum AX begging to be used. Solagum AX is a blend of sturdy + thickening (yet somewhat snotty) xanthan gum and nicer-feeling, stabilizing acacia gum. It’s much nicer than straight xanthan gum, and according to the manufacturer it can also be used to stabilize oils to create gel creams—1% can stabilize up to 15% oil, which is really neat! I haven’t played with this capability yet myself, but I’m keeping it in mind as a possible natural alternative to Polyacrylate crosspolymer-6 (Sepimax ZEN).
I experimented with two ways to get some minty goodness into this formulation—peppermint hydrosol and peppermint essential oil. The essential oil approach was a lot minty-er. I find the scent of the surfactants in this shampoo need more, err, smothering, than I was able to get from a hydrosol, even replacing all the water with hydrosol. I used the 70–75% menthol content Japanese peppermint essential oil from New Directions Aromatics and it’s very fresh. If you prefer something less minty you can use less essential oil or use peppermint hydrosol instead. In addition to the scent being milder, I found the hydrosol version was a bit thicker and more prone to suspended bubbles.
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Relevant links & further reading
- Vegetable Glycerin in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Lamesoft® PO 65 in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Geogard Ultra in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Panthenol (Vitamin B5) in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Cocamidopropyl Betaine in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Distilled water in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- pH meter in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Can I use a different preservative than the one you’ve used?
- Can I use a different essential oil (or essential oil blend) than what is called for in a recipe?
- Can I use soap instead of foaming surfactants?
- How can I substitute one surfactant for another?
- The Tale of the Curdling Body Wash
- Surfactants table
- How long will ______ last? What is its shelf life?
- How to adjust the pH of your cosmetic products from Skin Chakra
- More shampoo formulations:
All-Natural Perky Peppermint Shampoo
2.3g | 2.3% Solagum AX (USA / Canada / EU / Aus)
5g | 5% vegetable glycerine (USA / Canada)
5g | 5% Coco Glucoside (and) Glyceryl Oleate (Lamesoft® PO 65) (Canada / USA / NZ / EU / UK)
5g | 5% Natra Pep Pea (pea extract) (Canada / USA / UK)
1g | 1% peppermint essential oil
1.5g | 1.5% Geogard Ultra™ (USA / Canada / UK / NZ / Aus / South Africa)
1g | 1% panthenol powder (vitamin B5) (USA / Canada)
40.2g | 40.2% distilled water
Weigh the Solagum AX, glycerin, Lamesoft PO 65, pea extract, peppermint essential oil, Geogard Ultra, and panthenol (Vitamin B5) into a beaker and whisk/stir thoroughly to combine. Be sure the Solagum AX is very thoroughly distributed.
Add the Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside and Cocamidopropyl Betaine. Stir slowly to combine.
Gently add the water, pouring it over your stirring implement to break its fall. Gently stir the shampoo every 3–5 minutes for about 15 minutes. This helps the Solagum AX hydrate evenly rather than settling to the bottom and fusing into a solid lump that has to be aggressively stirred later on to incorporate.
Cover the shampoo, leaving the Solagum AX to fully hydrate + the Geogard Ultra to dissolve for a couple hours.
Once everything has hydrated and dissolved, give the shampoo and stir and test the pH.
To test and adjust the pH: create a 10% dilution by weighing 2g product and 18g distilled water into a small bowl or beaker and whisk to combine (wondering why?). Check the pH with your pH meter (I have this one [USA / Canada]). Depending on the shape of your bowl/beaker you may need to tilt it in order to fully submerge the sensor on your pH meter. The pH should fall around 4.5 if your ingredients are similar to mine. Aim for a range of 4–6 for hair health and preservative efficacy. Please read this article to learn more about pH adjusting.
When you’ve confirmed the pH is suitable, bottle it up! I used a soft squeeze tube; the small one in the photos is a Premium Frosted Soft Tube from YellowBee (gifted) and the large one in the video is a Malibu tottle from Voyageur Soap and Candle Co. (purchased).
Use as you’d use any liquid shampoo. Enjoy!
Shelf Life & Storage
Because this shampoo contains water, you must include a broad-spectrum preservative to ward off microbial growth. This is non-optional. Even with a preservative, this project may eventually spoil as our kitchens are not sterile laboratories, so in the event you notice any change in colour, scent, or texture, chuck it out and make a fresh batch.
As always, be aware that making substitutions will change the final product. While these swaps won’t break the recipe, you will get a different final product than I did.
- As I’ve provided this formulation in percentages as well as grams you can easily calculate it to any size using a simple spreadsheet as I’ve explained in this post. As written in grams this recipe will make 100g.
- To learn more about the ingredients used in this formulation, including why they’re included and what you can substitute them with, please visit the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia. It doesn’t have everything in it yet, but there’s lots of good information there! If I have not given a specific substitution suggestion in this list please look up the ingredient in the encyclopedia before asking.
- You could try a different gum if you don’t have Solagum AX, though I’d recommend a gum blend for the stability. I think Siligel could work well. If you go with straight xanthan you won’t need nearly as much; you’ll have to experiment and see what works for you.
- If you’d like to learn more about the surfactants used and compare them to ones you might already have so you can make substitutions, check out this page and read this FAQ.
- I’d stick to a different liquid glucoside; Coco Glucoside or Decyl Glucoside would be good options, but you will definitely need to test and adjust the pH if you make this swap as they are more basic than Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside.
- Sodium Cocoamphoacetate will work instead of Cocamidopropyl Betaine, but you will definitely need to test and adjust the pH if you make this swap as it is more basic than Cocamidopropyl Betaine.
- If you’re like to use a different preservative, please review this FAQ and this chart. Liquid Germall™ Plus would be a really easy swap, though you’ll need less. You will also need to check and likely adjust the pH as Liquid Germall™ Plus doesn’t impact pH the same way Geogard Ultra does.
- If you’d like to incorporate a different essential oil, please read this.
- Different essential oils can interact differently with blends of gums and surfactants (thinning and splitting can happen), so if you decide to use a different essential oil I recommend testing in small batches before committing to a big one.
- You can replace the pea extract with a different extract you think your hair will love.
- You can use a hydrosol instead of the distilled water and essential oil for a milder scent and a slightly thicker end product.
The translucent soft squeeze tube, glycerin, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, and panthenol (Vitamin B5) were gifted by YellowBee.
The Solagum AX was gifted by Skin Chakra.
The Lamesoft PO 65 was gifted by Voyageur Soap & Candle.
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