One of the first recipes I ever shared on Humblebee & Me was for a “Super Nourishing Hair Balm“, all the way back in October of 2011. I’d actually made the balm months earlier, before I’d launched the blog, and had been testing it all summer and fall before I suddenly had a platform to share it on. Over the years many people have made it, and many more have asked about substitutions for items in the rather lengthy ingredient list. I thought it was high time I revisited this idea to improve on it—after all, I’ve learned a lot since 2011!
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Thing #1 I fixed was the batch size. I never finished that original tin of hair balm. It was a shockingly overwhelming amount of product. I don’t know if I could’ve finished it if it was body butter, and that’s something you can actually use in perceptible amounts. When I use hair balm I pick up enough product that I can feel it, but not see it, and apply that. When you’re applying a thin finger sheen, 100g is an absurd amount of product. So, this recipe makes just 25g—which is still quite a lot, but much smaller than that and you’d need a pretty precise (and expensive) scale.
Thing #2: fewer ingredients. When I devised the 2011 version I had a massive pantry of carrier oils and was eager to incorporate all of them into everything. I’ve since calmed down on that front. I trimmed it down from seven to four. Shea butter as I love how it makes my hair feel, and coconut oil as it’s one of very few oils that can actually penetrate the cuticle of the hair. Cool, eh? In the world of liquid oils I chose camellia seed oil—it’s a wonderful, fast-absorbing oil with a long history of use for hair in Japan. Jojoba oil is technically a liquid wax; it has a long shelf life and I love how it feels on the skin and hair. You could also use broccoli seed oil instead; it’s got a wonderful silicone-y feel that I (and many readers) love! It’s also a bit harder to find and more expensive, so I’ve left it as an alternative—but those who know broccoli seed oil will likely choose it 😉
Thing #3: A silkier, less waxy final product. The original was only thickened with beeswax, giving it a tacky, creamy consistency that was quite lovely, but a bit heavier than I like for hair. I dialed back the beeswax and compensated with added cetyl alcohol and stearic acid. Cetyl alcohol is wonderfully silky and glidey, while stearic acid is richer and buttery. Both are excellent hardening ingredients, and when combined with the beeswax we end up with a finished balm that’s firm enough that it’s hard to over-use, it’s silky, and it’s less heavy and tacky than the original.
Thing #4: I wanted to add some conditioning! That was easy enough—10% BTMS-50 et voila. The inclusion of the BTMS-50 also means the balm can self-emulsify with water, so it applies nicely to damp hair. Wash-out is also improved. Double awesomeness!
I decided to switch up the essential oil blend as well, though there was nothing wrong with the original—I have just fallen in love with the wondrous labdanum and benzoin since 2011, and when it comes to leave on scents… swoon. You can use the original blend, or something new—it’s up to you! What do you like your hair to smell like? Choose that 😊
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Conditioning Super Nourishing Hair Balm
2.5g | 10% BTMS-50 (USA / Canada)
2.5g | 10% refined shea butter (USA / Canada)
2.5g | 10% virgin coconut oil
1.25g | 5% cetyl alcohol (USA / Canada)
3g | 12% stearic acid (USA / Canada / UK)
1.25g | 5% beeswax (USA / Canada)
7.5g | 30% camellia seed oil
4.125g | 16.50% jojoba oil (USA / Canada) or broccoli seed oil
Cool down phase
0.125g | 0.5% Vitamin E MT-50 (USA / Canada)
0.125g | 0.5% labdanum essential oil
0.125g | 0.5% benzoin resinoid
Prepare a water bath by bringing about 3cm/1″ of water to a bare simmer over low to medium-low heat in a small saucepan.
Weigh the heated phase ingredients into a small heat-resistant glass measuring cup. Place the measuring cup in your prepared water bath to melt everything through. You may find you need to finish the melting off in the microwave—BTMS-50 doesn’t like melting fully in water baths for me. A few seven second bursts in the microwave took the mixture from cloudy to transparent.
Once everything is melted, remove the measuring cup from the heat and dry it off. Stir as it cools—it’ll thicken up reasonably quickly thanks to the beeswax content. When you start to notice some building viscosity, weigh in the cool down phase ingredients and keep stirring. When the mixture is rich and creamy, transfer it to a 30mL/1 ounce tin to set up. I used this lovely screw-top one from YellowBee.
To use, glide a few finger tips over the surface of the balm, and work your fingers through the ends of your hair.
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 recipe 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 25g.
- 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 (BTMS-50) please look up the ingredient in the encyclopedia before asking.
- Mango butter will work in place of shea. You can also use unrefined shea, though I prefer refined for the lack of scent.
- Babassu oil will work well as an alternative to coconut oil.
- You could try cetearyl alcohol in place of the cetyl alcohol and stearic acid.
- A different lightweight oil will work in place of camellia seed oil
- You can use a different essential oil or fragrance blend in place of the one I’ve used
Hi Marie! This looks lovely, I cannot wait to try to make it! Just a question about the substitutions (I’m sure you were waiting for this! hahaha): Can I replace BTMS-50 with something else? Right now I have Behentrimonium and ICE- Hair Restore from makingcosmetics, but I understand those need to be washed off (maybe I’m not understanding correctly though). I also have liquid Propylene Glycol but I have not used it too much. Can you let me know what you think? Thanks!
Marie, I love you. I like the adjustment you have made to your recipes by adding the percentages, and titles (heating/cooling phase). I will be making this. I have naturally curly hair (2-3 curl depending on humidity). Hopefully a little will help with frizz. I am also trying to work with mustard oil for hair growth. Any ideas? You are absolutely a blessing. Thank you.
Let me know how it works to tame frizz! My curls get quite fuzzy with high humidity. I know glycerine can make it worst, so I like that there’s none in this recipe. For hair growth, castor oil scalp massage works fine if you’re healthy.
Thanks so much, Barb! I’m afraid I have never worked with mustard oil; I’ve heard good things about castor oil for hair growth, though 🙂 Happy making!
I just read the composition of BTMS-50… nevermind me! Behentrimonium is not exactly the same, but I could give it a try. Thanks!
I just got the same goodies from Making Cosmetics, I can’t wait to play with them!
I’d go with the Behentrimonium chloride, but with some adjustments. The active ingredient in BTMS-50 is Behentrimonium Methosulfate, but at just 50%. The Behentrimonium chloride you have is much more concentrated with the maximum usage rate listed as 3%. This recipe uses 10% BTMS-50, so we’re going to need to get that other 7% from somewhere else. I’d definitely include some more cetyl alcohol as we’re losing the cetyl alcohol that’s in BTMS-50, and then I’d probably make up the rest of the difference with shea butter since it’s the most middling ingredient in terms of thickness in the recipe. So perhaps 3% Behentrimonium chloride, 4% cetyl alcohol, and 3% shea butter? Let me know how it turns out!
Hi Marie. This looks lovely. My question: is this balm something that would be used only on dried/styled hair? Or can it be used as a before shampoo conditioning treatment to be washed out?
This is a leave-in product.
It’s great that you are revamping old recipes. I have natural curly hair which gets dry and frizzy. Thanks to some of my early DYI experiments I discovered how much my hair loves coconut oil and how to bring the curls back to life but those early experiments were also based on bad advice that resulted in major over kill that tools several washings to get out. I don’t have the Camilla seed oil, although it is on my very extensive wish list. So I substituted Aragon oil which is a popular oil for hair.
Oh my goodness, you’re giving me major flashbacks to my early DIY days when I read about amazing oils were for hair and transformed myself into the greasiest swamp monster 😐 I think those adventures were what lead me to the first version of this recipe! My hair cannot take much oil at all before going full URK, sadly. Argan is a great swap! I’m looking forward to re-visiting more recipes in the future 🙂
Question about the beeswax, with 5% I would think (although I haven’t tried this recipe) that it may feel draggy in the hair and leave a residue on the hair. Just curious. I’m wanting to make a leave in balm and leave in conditioning spray for my niece and she has very thick very curly hair. In the humidity it looks like a big poofy static ball lol.
Could I possibly replace it with candellia wax or more emulsifiers?
You can certainly try! I’d probably try a blend of the two as candelilla wax is much harder than beeswax.
I honestly don’t find the beeswax adds anything other than a hint of creaminess, and the added emulsifiers help with wash-out. I’d really recommend making it as-is before you start messing with it to solve a problem you haven’t confirmed exists 🙂
I want to make this but I don’t have BTMS50; could I use emulsifing wax nf in it’s place?
I don’t recommend it—the BTMS 50 is the sole source of the conditioning properties for the recipe. Using E-wax NF won’t break the recipe, but it would be a big blow to function and feel.
Hi Marie, love this recipe. I wanna ask, can I add water to this recipe to make it a leave-in-conditioner? I understand I will also need to add a broad spectrum preservative.
I would recommend making one of my already emulsified conditioners rather than trying to back-engineer this one to contain water—that is kind of like trying to turn a sandwich into a soup when you could just use a soup recipe 🙂
my stearic acid did not melt for me so i added water eventually (same amount as the oils combined), and it was kinda ok but there is a weird effect there due to the water presence. the hair feels kinda off until the water dries off. its hard to describe but its like it wont sink in until the water evaporates. it might be fine if u use it as an overnight hair mask thought. i use it as a regular conditioner for the time being.
Hi there I’d love to make this or similar that harnesses the benefits of the broccoli seed oil as I’m looking for a natural way to avoid hair product with silicone – but I really want to avoid ingredients sourced from palm oil which my supplier has said is in the BTMS. Can you help me with a palm free recipe that will still provide conditioning and smoothing? Thanks so much from NZ 🙂
I’m afraid I can’t; palm oil is pretty much impossible to avoid, unfortunately. If you wish to avoid everything that is possibly sourced from it you are going to be extremely limited in the sorts of things you can make—it is kind of like trying to cook without anything that contains any water 🙁
Could I use more of the broccoli seed oil instead of Camillia seed oil
Thank you so much for your DIY recipes!
In this recipe, can I replace the stearic acid for something else? And the beeswax for rice wax?
Have you read the substitutions list? Stearic acid is covered there 🙂
You could try rice wax instead of the beeswax, but it will make for a softer end product. This is pretty firm, so you might be ok with that!
Sorry, I didn’t see the substitution!
I only have cetyl alcohol, can I use it in substitution of stearic acid? What dosage?
I don’t really recommend it—have you read all my experiments on the those three different ingredients? Cetyl alcohol is much lighter and less creamy than stearic and cetearyl. Search the blog for “a quick guide” and they’ll come up 🙂 I’ll leave you to see what you think and make your own decisions 😉 You aren’t likely to break anything, don’t worry 😛
This looks as if it would be a good beard balm?
It could, though it’s very stiff. It’s designed moreso for conditioning rather than styling. I also have a whole section of actual beard balm recipes as well 🙂
I’ve been trying to stop using mousse for 20 years. Nothing ever worked. I can finally shape my curls with this amazing balm and my hair looks shiny, healthy and without freeze. Thank you so much, Marie!
Daniela, would you mind elaborating on how you style your curls with this product?? I, too, am a curly girl, but typically I rely on gel to get frizz-free curls. I’d love to know how this worked for you!
YAY!!! I am so, SO thrilled you are loving this balm 😀 Thank you so much for sharing and for DIYing with me!
This looks like it would be great for the skin too!
Absolutely! It’s quite similar to some of the conditioning body butters I’ve shared over the last year, but a bit firmer to make it easier to apply the product more sparsely 🙂 I love the feel of BTMS in anhydrous balms on the skin—swoon!
I’ve used your old Hair Balm recipe for years and love it. I like the new version because of the conditioning factors but find it doesn’t work well under my swim cap, it’s too hard and doesn’t spread well into wet hair. Please help in my quest for a more creamy product that spreads into wet hair better. I haven’t been successful in figuring it out myself. Thanks.
You’d want less hardening ingredients, and more liquid/soft things to make this softer. I’ve got an FAQ on this 🙂 Happy making!
Hi, I am reading through your notes but may have missed this~ when do you apply this conditioning balm? Damp hair or dry hair or both? Thank you! I am excited to try this
You can use it whenever you want 🙂 I usually apply it to dry hair + use a cream or bar conditioner in the shower. Happy making!
I made this and absolutely love it – especially that I just need a touch of it. Mine ended up really hard. Is it supposed to be so firm?
Hooray! And yes, it should be very firm—you should only really be able to glide a finger over the surface rather than scooping anything up 🙂 Thanks for DIYing with me, and happy making 🙂
I have done cystine on my hair is this formula sulphate free and parabin free
Hey! You’ll find the answer to your question in my FAQ Happy making!
Oh wowie, this stuff makes the most amazing cuticle balm. It softens up the hard edges better than any nail oil or cuticle balm I’ve used before. It must be the BTMS-50! I also use it pretty generously on the color-treated sections of my hair, which need frequent conditioning. I tried using the tiniest bit on the rest of my very fine hair and it was too heavy and frankly unnecessary, but the color-treated hair just soaks it right up.
I also tried using this as a styling product on curly hair! (2C/3A, coarse, medium-low porosity). It actually does make my hair totally frizz-free while still in 3A curls for a couple days (I think mostly from all the conditioning ingredients and oils acting as buildup/moisture rather than a gel effect) . Found it really unpleasant when I got it near my roots (mids-ends only) and needed less than a half- teaspoon per application.
My second batch I tried reformulated to have 9% beeswax and less oil to try to change the texture a bit which I quite liked, next time I may swap in some castor oil as I’m acne-prone and I hope it might help if this gets on my skin. I have swapped out the camellia oil for other fast-absorbing oil I had already and had no issues. I have no idea if this would work as well on fine hair, high-porosity hair, or any texture where product buildup is more of an issue as I’m a total beginner.
Thanks so much for making such a great blog and wiki that lets so many people have the benefit of your education (when just providing these amazing easy formulations is already above and beyond)! Looking forward to trying them if you publish more curly styling experiments on here.