How to Make Your Own Co-Wash: 3 Ways

Today we’re going to make three different easy co-washes (or cleansing conditioners), and I’ll also be sharing some ideas and pointers to help you customize these formulations to create something that’s perfect for your hair. Let’s dive in!

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Luxury Hair Oil

This formulation is a bit of a sideways Bee Better project. When I published my RODIN-inspired Luxury Facial Serum back in 2016, it didn’t take long for requests for the accompanying hair serum to pop up—and for good reason! Rodin’s Hair Oil is a rather astonishing $70 for 1 fl. oz., and the ingredient list is really quite simple (and inexpensive), making it pretty much the perfect DIY project. That can be said of most of the Rodin line, honestly—they are (or were) clearly fans of using lovely whole oils, herbal infusions, and essential oils. I had intentions of creating and sharing a RODIN-inspired hair oil back in 2016 (this bones of this post have been sitting in my “drafts” folder for nearly 6 years!), but I’m just finally getting around to it now. Let’s dive in!

How to Make Luxury Hair Oil

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The original ingredient list

Here’s the ingredient list for the original:

Prunus Armeniaca (Apricot) Kernel Oil, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Juniperus Communis (Juniper) Fruit Oil, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Oil, Calendula Officinalis Flower Oil, Tocopheryl Acetate, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Flower Oil, Limonene, Linalool

It’s mostly a blend of five carrier oils, rounded out with a blend of three essential oils, calendula oil, and an antioxidant (tocopherol acetate). Limonene and Linalool are noted independently as they are potential allergens present in the essential oils.

The limits of haircare

Since 2016 I’ve completed the Formula Botanica Diploma in Organic Haircare Formulation (and another 6 years of formulating!), so I know a lot more about formulation than I did when I first considered making this project. Something I think is very important to touch on is the limits of haircare. Hair is dead, so haircare can only do so much. The aim of haircare is generally to keep the hair as healthy as possible so it looks good on our heads for as long as possible. Haircare products can smooth, add shine, improve slip, condition, soften, moisturize, cleanse, perfume, and more—but they cannot heal the hair.

The 1% line

In this product the 1% line is likely between the almond oil and the juniper essential oil, meaning the carrier oil blend is easily upwards of 95% of the formulation. Once we pass the 1% line the ingredients don’t have to appear in order. It’s possible there was more calendula oil than juniper oil. There could be 0.99% of each essential oil. We really don’t know for sure, but given how expensive neroli essential oil is (100mL is currently over $1k at New Directions; roughly 23x the price of juniper essential oil and 50x the price of rosemary essential oil!), I’m going to assume the final ingredients are in roughly the right order.

The scent blend

I read a lot of reviews for this product and people were divided on the scent; some people loved it, and some said it smelled really pine-y (one person said it reminded them of pine-sol!). That pine-y scent would come mostly from the juniper. Rosemary would bring a more herbaceous camphoraceous note, while neroli is sweet and powdery. I’m honestly not a big fan of any of these essential oils; I enjoy a bit of rosemary in the background with mint or lavender at centre stage, but juniper always makes me think of gin and neroli just… doesn’t do much for me. So… I’m changing up the scent blend. I’m allotting 0.3% of this formulation for a fragrance oil of choice (as always, be sure what you choose is ok for leave-on use at that level!). You’re certainly welcome to use essential oils instead, and you can use more if desired (though I’d keep it around 1% total). If I were going to use the original essential oils I’d probably start with 0.4% juniper essential oil, 0.2% rosemary essential oil, and 0.05–0.1% neroli essential oil (reducing one of the carrier oils to keep the formulation balanced).

Calendula & Vitamin E

The calendula in the original is listed as Calendula Officinalis Flower Oil. There’s not a single listing in UL Prospector that matches that. Products sold as Calendula Officinalis Flower Oil are revealed (when you read the product description) to either be an infusion of calendula in a different carrier oil, or a calendula CO2 extract in a carrier oil (the extract alone is Calendula Officinalis (Marigold) Flower Extract). I suspect RODIN used a calendula infusion with one of the carrier oils in the formulation as the solvent—possibly the sweet almond oil as it’s present at the lowest amount.

I will be using Bramble Berry’s oil-soluble calendula extract for this formulation, which is a blend of Caprylic Capric Triglycerides and Calendula Extract. The usage rate is up to 6%, so I’m splitting the different and using 3%. If you don’t have this product, a homemade calendula infusion would also work beautifully—you could use any of the carrier oils in the formulation as your infusion medium. Infuse, strain, and proceed!

I’ll be using tocopherol acetate at 0.5%; you’re welcome to use tocopherol MT-50 instead if that’s what you have.

The oil blend

Having started with the potent, lower-use ingredients, we’ve got 3.8% of the formulation worked out—leaving 96.2% of the formulation for the five carrier oils. From the ingredient list we know there’s more apricot oil than jojoba oil, more jojoba than olive oil, and so on—but we don’t know by how much. This hair oil could be 90% apricot kernel oil, followed by tiny amounts of the following four oils. It could also be 20% apricot kernel oil, followed by slightly diminishing amounts of the remaining four oils. Either way, the ingredient list would look the same.

Let’s hop over to the Science-y Hair Blog and check the levels of hair penetration we can expect from these oils:

  • Apricot kernel oil: some
  • Jojoba oil: little to none
  • Olive oil: some
  • Sunflower seed oil: lots
  • Sweet almond oil: some

Oils that penetrate the hair help soften it and add pliability, while oils that coat the hair add shine and lubrication (please read the post on the Science-y Hair Blog to learn more!). This list is heavily weighted towards oils that penetrate the hair (4:1). The positive reviews I read for the original product praised it for both softening and boosting shine, so I chose the percentages of these oils to even things out a bit. You are certainly free to adjust the percentages of the oils to suit your hair!

Relevant links & further reading

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Luxury Hair Oil

12g | 40% apricot kernel oil (USA / Canada)
10.5g | 35% jojoba oil (USA / Canada)
3g | 10% olive oil (pomace) (USA / Canada)
2.7g | 9% sunflower seed oil (USA / Canada / UK / NZ)
0.66g | 2.2% sweet almond oil (USA / Canada)

0.09g | 0.3% Wildflower Honey fragrance oil
0.9g | 3% oil-soluble calendula extract
0.15g | 0.5% tocopherol acetate

To make this hair oil, simply weigh everything into a beaker and stir to combine.

I recommend packaging this formulation in a bottle with a dropper top so you can dispense it one drop at a time. The instructions for the original recommended spreading two drops across your palms and then working that into your hair as thoroughly as possible. You can find those instructions (and more for adding to conditioner, etc.) here.

If you’d like to lighten the hair oil, simply dilute it with a lightweight, volatile, oil-soluble emollient like cyclomethicone (or other cyclo-siloxanes) or isododecane. 10–30% hair oil and 70–90% volatile diluent will work well! If you prefer all-natural ingredients you can try esters like Coco-Caprylate or products marketed as natural cyclomethicone alternatives (they must be oil soluble), though I have never found them to work terribly well in applications like this as they are nowhere near as light or volatile.

Shelf Life & Storage

Because this hair oil does not contain any water, it does not require a broad-spectrum preservative (broad spectrum preservatives ward off microbial growth, and microbes require water to live—no water, no microbes!). Kept reasonably cool and dry, it should last at least a year or two before any of the oils go rancid. If you notice it starts to smell like old nuts or crayons, that’s a sign that the oils have begun to oxidize; chuck it out and make a fresh batch if that happens.

Substitutions

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 30g (roughly 1 fl oz).
  • 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.
  • If you’d like to really simplify the carrier oil blend, I’d use 50% apricot kernel, sunflower, or sweet almond oil, and 46.2% jojoba oil.
  • You can combine the apricot kernel oil and sweet almond oil amounts and use all of one or the other.
  • You can use a different fragrance oil.
  • If you’d like to incorporate an essential oil, please read this.
  • You can use a homemade calendula-infused oil instead of the extract; I’d infuse the calendula into olive oil and use 13% calendula infused olive oil.
  • Tocopherol MT-50 will work instead of tocopherol acetate.

Gifting Disclosure

The apricot kernel oil, sweet almond oil, and 30mL (1fl oz) bottles the lighter version is packaged in were gifted by YellowBee.
The sunflower oil, fragrance, vitamin E, and calendula extract were gifted by Bramble Berry.
Links to Amazon are affiliate links.

 

2 Creamy Conditioners with BTMS-25: Light & Rich

This post (and pair of formulations) is a continuation of last month’s Super Simple Creamy Hair Conditioner with BTMS-25: 3 Ways. Today we are making two more creamy hair conditioners with BTMS-25; one is a lightweight conditioner that makes a good leave-in conditioner, and the other is much richer, better suited to rinse-out and mask applications, depending on the needs of the user. Each formulation is easy to customize and designed to help you learn even more about conditioner formulation. Let’s get conditioning!

2 Creamy Conditioners with BTMS-25: Light & Rich

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Champagne Shampoo Bars

This champagne-scented ultra-sudsy solid shampoo bar was inspired by the 110th anniversary of the maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic. I’ve shared a few Titanic-inspired formulations (and costumes!) in the past, and I thought we were overdue for a formula inspired by one of my longest-standing loves ❤️

How to Make Champagne Shampoo Bars

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When I think about the RMS Titanic, I think about luxury and decadence. I knew I wanted to make a shampoo bar, and in my mind, luxurious shampoo requires tons of rich, dense, indulgent lather. To that end I chose a blend of Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) and Sodium Coco Sulfate (SCS) as the primary surfactants. Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) gives dense, rich, gentle “lace glove” lather while Sodium Coco Sulfate (SCS) amps up the lather to truly decadent levels.

Creamy white kaolin clay ensures the lather is extra rich and slippy, and it also makes the bars a bit more doughy and easier to shape—with or without a press or mould. You could use a different clay if you want, but I’d stick to smooth, creamy clays for this bar. French green clay and zeolite would be lovely; bentonite and rhassoul are more coarse/sandy than I want for these bars (though click here for a great shampoo bar made with rhassoul!).

Because Sodium Coco Sulfate (SCS) is quite basic, this formulation includes 0.6% of a 90% lactic acid solution to lower the pH into a good-for-hair range. If you use a different surfactant—or a different acid—this will change. Leave the acid out initially, make a small (20–30g) batch of the dough, and test the pH of that dough by making and testing a diluted solution. If the pH is lower than 4 or higher than 6 you’ll definitely need to adjust it (though it’s very unlikely it’d be below 4 without any added acid!). When I’m formulating shampoo bars I generally make a new small batch for each pH adjustment; this formulation needed four wee batches before I got the pH to where I wanted it.

Abyssinian oil re-fats the bar, polyquaternium-7 adds no-fuss conditioning goodness, and Cocamidopropyl Betaine boosts flash foam and makes the finished bar milder. For scent—I considered using the lemon/rose blend of Vinolia (which is lovely!), but a bottle of Champagne toast fragrance oil caught my eye. I tried it, and loved it. After all, what could be more Titanic-level decadent than shampooing with champagne? You could definitely use something else that you prefer, but in the spirit of the Titanic I encourage you to keep things fancy 🥂

The wet/dry balance of the formulation is very important to getting a workable dough consistency. If you use a different clay, or if your surfactants are a different format that mine, that can throw the balance off and give you a dough that’s too wet or too dry. Thankfully, this is a fairly easy thing to fix! Very basically, if the dough is too dry, add more wet stuff. If it’s too wet, add more dry stuff. I’d choose some water in a mister bottle for the “wet stuff” and more clay for the “dry stuff”. Make sure you weigh any additions so you can work them into future versions of the formulation. The mister is also useful if the dough starts to dry out a bit too much while you’re shaping it. This wasn’t an issue for me when I was making single-bar batches, but for the 300g batch I make in the video, I did need to mist the scraps to turn them into the final tiny nugget bar.

These bars dry out pretty quickly; 24 hours is more than enough, though you can always leave them to dry longer if you have the time. They’ll be plenty hard in no time, and they last ages in the shower. I store mine on a wire rack/shelf in the shower and they do beautifully. Enjoy!

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Relevant links & further reading

Champagne Shampoo Bars

Dry phase
129.9g | 43.3% Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) (USA / Canada)
60g | 20% Sodium Coco Sulfate (SCS) (USA / Canada)
45g | 15% white kaolin clay (USA / Canada)

Wet phase
33g | 11% Abyssinian Seed Oil
4.5g | 1.5% Polyquaternium 7 (USA / Canada)
22.2g | 7.4% Cocamidopropyl Betaine (USA / Canada)
1.5g | 0.5% Liquid Germall Plus™ (USA / Canada)
2.1g | 0.7% Champagne toast fragrance oil (USA / Canada)
1.8g | 0.6% 90% lactic acid solution (USA / Canada)

Put on your dust mask and weigh the dry surfactants into a bowl. Stir until uniform.

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add all the wet ingredients.

Put on a pair of nitrile gloves and blend thoroughly with your hands. Once the mixture is uniform, you’ll be left with a stiff, easily-mouldable dough.

If your dough is too sticky, you’ll need to add some more clay. This is likely to happen if you used a larger grain Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) than I did, as it has less surface area to absorb moisture.

If your dough is too dry, you’ll need to add a few drops of liquid; I find a mister is very helpful here! Water is an easy choice of liquid; I used 70% isopropyl alcohol because I already had some in a mister bottle and that worked really well. This is likely to happen if you used a finer grain Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) than I did, as it has more surface area and will absorb more moisture. I used a very finely powdered Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI), so it is unlikely this will happen—I have never found a more finely powdered Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) than this.

Shape the dough as desired. I opted to press the bars using my Bath Bomb Press. I used the shampoo bar mould, pressing 100g of dough at a time. I highly recommend lining the top and bottom of the mould with sheets of mid-weight plastic (I cut up a freezer bag), securing each sheet with an elastic band (watch the video to see what I mean—and thanks to The Bath Bomb Press for this tip!). I set the regulated pressure on my compressor to 55psi. Please watch the video to see this in action.

If you don’t have a press you can use your hands to roll and smoosh it into a shape of your choosing.

I’d recommend at least 24 hours before using them. If you live somewhere quite humid I’d err on the side of more drying time rather than less as I live somewhere really dry, so that’s what my drying times are based on.

To use, massage the bar into wet hair to work up a lather, and proceed as you would with any other shampoo. This also makes a great body wash if you work it up into a lovely lather with a loofah. Enjoy!

When made as written, the pH of these shampoo bars comes out to around 5–6, which is great.

Shelf Life & Storage

Because this shampoo bar will regularly come into contact with water, I recommend including a broad-spectrum preservative to ward off microbial growth. In the event you notice any change in colour, scent, or texture, chuck it out and make a fresh batch.

Substitutions

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 300g. This is at least a few month’s worth of shampoo. You could make one massive 300g bar (I don’t recommend it, but you could!) or a bunch of smaller bars—it’s up to you.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Stick to solid surfactants if replacing solid surfactants, and liquid for liquid.
    • You could use Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate (SLSa) or Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate (Bio-Terge® AS-90) instead of the Sodium Coco Sulfate (SCS). This will change the pH of the bars and will require adjustments.
    • Remember that the maximum usage level for Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) is 50% for rinse-off products, so you cannot use just Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) in this formulation.
  • You could use a different soft, smooth clay instead of kaolin. French green clay or Zeolite would work well. I do not recommend rhassoul or bentonite. Changing the clay will probably mean you need to adjust the wet/dry balance; please read the blog for details.
  • You can substitute another hair-loving oil like Jojoba Oil or Camellia Seed Oil instead of Abyssinian Seed Oil.
  • You could try polyquaternium 10 instead of 7, but you’ll need less. I’d use 0.5% (in the dry phase) and add 1% distilled water.
  • You could try a different liquid amphoteric surfactant instead of Cocamidopropyl Betaine. I was recently gifted a bottle of Shea Butteramidopropyl Betaine from Simply Ingredients and it looks like a lovely alternative!
  • If you’re like to use a different preservative, please review this FAQ and this chart. This bar is pretty easy to preserve, so I’d feel pretty comfortable using a different preservative assuming it doesn’t have any direct conflicts with the formulation.
  • If you’d like to incorporate an essential oil, please read this.
  • You can use a different fragrance oil if you want to, just be sure its usage rate for IFRA category 9A formulations is 0.4% (the amount used in this formulation) or higher.
  • You could use a different acid to adjust the pH of the formulation, but you will need to do some re-development work to determine how much is required. Read the full post for more information.

Gifting Disclosure

The Cocamidopropyl Betaine was gifted by YellowBee.
The Abyssinian Seed Oil was gifted by Plant’s Power.
The bath bomb press and shampoo bar mould were gifted by The Bath Bomb Press.
Links to Amazon are affiliate links.

 

Super Simple Creamy Hair Conditioner: 3 Ways

In this post I’ll be teaching you how to make three different emulsified, rinse-out Super Simple Creamy Hair Conditioner formulations using BTMS-25. All three formulations are really easy to make, and they build on one another. The first one is the simplest with just three ingredients; the second one adds two ingredients; and the third one adds two more. If you’ve never made hair conditioner before, or you’re looking to learn how to start customizing your own conditioner formulations, this is a great place to start!

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