Today’s Candlelight Rich Hair Mask is a decadent, rich emulsion designed to moisturize and condition the hair. I thought it was a brilliant fit for our indulgent Candlelight theme. I incorporated feedback I’ve received on previous hair mask formulations from Bees with drier hair types and worked with a curly-haired friend to develop and test this formulation. It features a large, rich oil phase and some wonderful moisturizing ingredients. How you’ll want to use this formulation will depend a lot on your particular hair type, but more on that later!

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My first go at this formulation had a slightly larger oil phase (though with significantly more BTMS-25); while this was definitely rich, it was pretty dang impossible to make smoothly. The formulation thickened up to an unblendable mass while still very hot, making incorporating the cool down phase without getting lots of lumps and/or beating a bunch of air into the product really, really frustrating.

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So, I went back to my formulation spreadsheet. I reduced the percentage of BTMS-25 as its high cetearyl alcohol content was definitely contributing to the “unblendable mass” situation. I also increased the percentage of liquid oil in the oil phase so we could keep some of the richness of a large oil phase without too much of a viscosity boost. To make up for the BTMS-25 reduction I also added some conditioning Polyquaternium 7 to the cool down phase; I adore how polyquaternium 7 makes my hair feel!

The water phase of this formulation contains some moisturizing glycerin and some lovely panthenol (Vitamin B5) for added shine and bounce. I’ve also included some amphoteric Cocamidopropyl Betaine for improved rinse-out. If you don’t have it and you’ll be shampooing this out anyways, you can replace the Cocamidopropyl Betaine with more water.

Our cool down phase features a solid dose of Hydrolyzed Quinoa Protein. This very neat vegan hydrolyzed protein helps increase substantivity, protect our hair, and reduce hair dye wash-out. I used Brambleberry’s Kentucky Bourbon Fragrance Oil to scent this formulation. I do recommend using something that smells lovely as you can get some notes of BTMS-y fishiness coming through if you don’t. If you want to use a different fragrance oil you definitely can, just be sure it’s approved for use at 0.35% for wash-off formulations (IFRA class 9A). The quinoa protein gives the finished product a warmish colour so I didn’t bother adding mica for warm glowy colour as I have with formulations like my Candlelight Creamy Hand Wash.

I recruited my friend Alyssa, who has curly hair, to help me test this formulation, so thanks to her I’m able to share how this formulation performed with her type 3b/3c hair. Her initial feedback after one use was “They [my curls] have great bounce, are super soft, and are holding their moisture really well. I didn’t put any other products in either. I quite enjoyed the slip and thickness of the product. ” After a few days she followed up with: “It works best as an in-shower product. My curls held moisture the longest (3ish days) by leaving the product on for 5mins in shower rinsing, then adding a curl cream or oil on post-shower. My hair felt crunchy using it as a leave-in.” A week or two later she shared that adding a bit of extra oil to the conditioner in her palm before application eliminated the crunch if used as a leave-in conditioner; I suspect dropping the Cocamidopropyl Betaine would also reduce the crunch! She also found the formulation worked best for her if only used about twice a week—more than that didn’t impart the same lustre to her curls. Thanks, Alyssa!

For my type 1B hair, this is an occasional shampoo-out hair product—rinsing alone leaves my hair feeling unclean and looking quite lanky. I like to work it through my hair from the ears down about 30–60 minutes before showering, and then shampoo it out as part of my shower. You could definitely leave it in longer (there’s nothing magic about 30–60 minutes), I just find that I notice a lovely conditioned difference with 30–60 minutes and I don’t love the feeling of having hair-mask soaked hair, so that’s long enough for me!

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Relevant links & further reading

Candlelight Rich Hair Mask

Heated water phase
50.85g | 50.85% distilled water
4g | 4% vegetable glycerine (USA / Canada)
1g | 1% panthenol powder (vitamin B5) (USA / Canada)
2g | 2% Cocamidopropyl Betaine (USA / Canada)

Heated oil phase
6g | 6% BTMS-25 (USA / Canada / UK)
10g | 10% unrefined shea butter (USA / Canada)
12g | 12% jojoba oil (USA / Canada)
5g | 5% castor oil (USA / Canada)

Cool down phase
3g | 3% Polyquaternium 7 (USA / Canada)
5g | 5% hydrolyzed quinoa protein (USA / Canada)
0.5g | 0.5% Liquid Germall Plus™ (USA / Canada)
0.3g | 0.3% Vitamin E MT-50 (USA / Canada)
0.35g | 0.35% warm fragrance oil

Prepare a water bath by bringing about 3cm/1″ of water to a bare simmer over low to medium-low heat in a wide, flat-bottomed sauté pan.

Weigh the heated water phase into a small heat-resistant glass measuring cup or glass beaker. Weigh the entire lot (measuring cup + ingredients) and note that weight for use later. Weigh the heated oil phase into a second heat-resistant glass measuring cup. Place both measuring cups in your prepared water bath to melt everything through.

After about 20–30 minutes the oil part should be completely melted and the water part should be thoroughly dissolved (I find BTMS-25 can be hard to melt in a water bath; feel free to microwave your heated oil phase for 20–30 seconds if needed). Remove the water bath from the heat and weigh the water phase. Add enough hot distilled water to the heated water phase to bring the weight back up to what it was before heating, and then pour the water part into the oil part. Stir with a flexible silicone spatula to incorporate.

Grab your immersion blender and begin blending the hair mask, starting with short bursts so the still-very-liquid product doesn’t whirl up and spray everywhere. Blend for about a minute before switching to hand stirring. You’ll need to be fairly diligent with the stirring at first, but once the mixture has thickened up a bit and is uniform you can switch to stirring occasionally. Once the outside of the glass measuring cup is just warm to the touch (40°C or cooler, if you have a thermometer) we’re ready to proceed.

Now it’s time to incorporate our cool down ingredients. Because cool down ingredients are typically present at very low amounts you’ll need to use an accurate scale—preferably one accurate to 0.01g. As these more accurate scales tend to have fairly low (100–200g) maximum weights you won’t be able to put the entire batch of product on that scale without blowing it out. So—grab a smaller dish. Add a scoop or two of your emulsion, and then weigh the cool down ingredients into that, using the more accurate scale. Stir to thoroughly incorporate, and then stir all of that back into the master batch of product. Doing it this way minimizes the amount of cool down ingredients lost to the secondary container.

Once the cool down phase has been incorporated, all that’s left to do is package it up! I recommend using a wide-mouthed jar as this formulation is quite thick when it sets up.

How you’ll want to use this Candlelight Rich Hair Mask will depend a lot on your hair type; please read the full post for more information. I have type 1B hair and I need to shampoo this hair mask out.

Shelf Life & Storage

Because this hair mask 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 (panthenol, Polyquaternium 7) please look up the ingredient in the encyclopedia before asking.
  • You could try a different humectant instead of glycerin, like Propanediol 1,3.
  • 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. You’ll want to stick with something amphoteric for this formulation. You can also eliminate the Cocamidopropyl Betaine; this will decrease the rinse-out of the formulation, but if you plan on shampooing it out you probably won’t notice!
  • You could use BTMS-50 instead of the BTMS-25.
    • A 1:1 swap will make for a slightly thinner but more conditioning formulation.
    • You could also try 4% BTMS-50 and 2% cetearyl alcohol for a similar final viscosity.
  • You could try a different soft butter like Cupuacu Butter or Mango Butter as an alternative to shea butter.
  • You can use refined or unrefined shea butter.
  • You could use another midweight oil you hair loves instead of jojoba oil—read the encyclopedia entry for some ideas.
  • I don’t recommend swapping the castor oil as it’s very unique. If you have to, just use more jojoba oil.
  • If you’re like to use a different preservative, please review this FAQ and this chart.
  • You can replace hydrolyzed quinoa with a different hydrolyzed protein (oat, rice, baobab, etc.).
  • If you’d like to incorporate an essential oil instead of the fragrance oil I used, please read this.

Gifting Disclosure

The glycerin, panthenol (Vitamin B5), Cocamidopropyl Betaine, and screw-top jars were gifted by YellowBee.
The shea butter was gifted by Baraka Shea Butter. Links to Baraka Shea Butter are affiliate links.
The hydrolyzed quinoa protein was gifted by Voyageur Soap & Candle.
Links to Amazon are affiliate links.