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
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