I’ve had loads of requests for a cleansing conditioner, and I’m really excited to finally have one to share! This one is decadently creamy and works through the hair with no lather. It rinses out beautifully, leaving the hair clean and wonderfully manageable (I couldn’t believe how easily I could finger comb through my hair after the first use!). If you’ve ever made lotion you’ll find this wonderfully easy to make, and if you’re a fan of CO washing, I think this Cream of Earl Grey Cleansing Conditioner is right up your alley 😊
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I wasn’t originally planning on making this a cleansing conditioner, but as I was writing up the formula and choosing my ingredients, I remembered some posts I’d seen in the surfactant and conditioner focussed Making Skincare Facebook group I’m a member of. There was some general discussion of a commercially manufactured cleansing conditioner that was basically a fairly standard conditioner with a small amount of cocamidopropyl betaine included. So, on a whim, I included 2% cocamidopropyl betaine in my water phase and carried on. The rest of the water phase features some plant-derived keratin for some shine, and glycerine and panthenol for hydration.
Our oil phase is pretty small, which I find tends to work best for conditioners. My hair doesn’t need a ton of oil, and keeping the oil phase on the smaller side helps ensure the conditioner doesn’t leave my hair looking dirtier than it was when I started! We’re using BTMS-50 as our emulsifier as it’s also conditioning, which contributes hugely to how wonderful my hair feels after using this conditioner. You can likely use BTMS-25 instead, but the end result won’t be as conditioning.
For oils, we’re using coconut oil and argan oil. Coconut oil is special in hair care as its ability to actually penetrate the hair shaft has been well documented, with 95% “lipids that can ‘seep’ under cuticles“. Argan oil contains 98% such lipids, though its penetrative ability is not documented. I’ve also included some cetearyl alcohol for some fluffy, rich thickening. Given the small size of the oil phase this conditioner would be pretty drooly without a thickener!
Our cool down phase features a new-to-the-blog ingredient: silicone ester copolymer from Windy Point (thanks, Michele!). I’ve included it at just 1% for added shine and slip. Our essential oil blend is vanilla-like benzoin, bright bergamot, and palmarosa, which is reminiscent of sweet black tea. The three combine to channel the scent of a sweet Earl Grey latte. Yum!
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Cream of Earl Grey Cleansing Conditioner
74.69g | 74.69% distilled water
2g | 2% plant-derived keratin (USA / Canada) (look for products with names like phytokeratin or vegekeratin)
3g | 3% vegetable glycerine
3g | 3% panthenol
2g | 2% Cocamidopropyl Betaine (Amphosol CG) (USA / Canada)
Cool Down Phase
1g | 1% silicone ester copolymer
0.06g | 0.06% vitamin E oil
0.5g | 0.50% liquid germall plus (USA / Canada)
0.5g | 0.50% benzoin resinoid
0.75g | 0.75% palmarosa essential oil
0.5g | 0.50% bergamot essential 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 water phase into a small heat-resistant glass measuring cup. Weigh the entire lot (measuring cup + ingredients) and note that weight for use later. Weigh the 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. Remove the water bath from the heat and weigh it. Add enough hot distilled water to bring the weight back up to what it was before heat and hold, 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 conditioner, starting with short bursts so the still-very-liquid conditioner doesn’t whirl up and spray everywhere. Blend for about a minute, leave to cool for ten, blend for another minute or two, and repeat this blend-cool-blend cycle until the outside of the glass measuring cup is barely warm to the touch and the lotion is thick and creamy.
Once the lotion has cooled, stir in the cool down ingredients. Given the small weights, you’ll likely want to use a more accurate scale, but more accurate scales typically have maximum weights well below the weight of the measuring cup you’ve been blending in. So, I weigh the cool down ingredients into a small dish on a more precise scale, stir a bit of conditioner in, and then stir all of that back into the parent batch.
When everything is all combined you’re ready to bottle it! This batch makes 100g (3.5oz) and will do well in a 120mL/4 fl oz container. I’d recommend a tottle or squeeze bottle—I used this one from Windy Point.
Because this conditioner contains water, you must include a broad-spectrum preservative to ward off microbial growth. This is non-optional. Even with a preservative this project is likely to 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 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 100g.
- You can try a different hydrolyzed protein, like hydrolyzed oat protein or hydrolyzed silk in place of the plant-sourced keratin
- You can replace the Cocamidopropyl Betaine with more water, but this will decrease the wash-off of the end product and it will no longer be a cleansing conditioner. You can increase the cleansing strength by increasing it to 4%, removing that extra 2% from the distilled water. You could use a different amphoteric surfactant for the Cocamidopropyl Betaine, but I haven’t had much luck finding any that are available to homecrafters. Les Âmes Fleurs sells babassuamidopropyl betaine, which should be a good alternative.
- Do not swap the BTMS-50 for a non-cationic emulsifying wax; if you do you’re no longer making hair conditioner
- You can try babassu oil in place of the coconut oil. You can also use refined coconut oil instead of virgin.
- You can u se another liquid oil your hair loves in place of argan oil; meadowfoam seed oil, jojoba oil, and broccoli seed oil would all be good options.
- You can use cetyl alcohol instead of cetearyl alcohol.
- Dimethicone 350 will work well instead of the silicone ester copolymer. You can also replace it with more water (lighter) or liquid oil (heavier).
- You can use a different essential oil blend or fragrance oil if you prefer.