You don’t have to read much about Monoi de Tahiti to decide that you must have a bottle—stat—as it is clearly going to transform you into a tropical goddess with the waist-long luscious hair of Disney princesses and the skin of a sun-kissed Victoria’s Secret model. It can be traced back 2000 years to indigenous Polynesians—the Maohi—who used it for skin care, hair care, and religious ceremonies. Monoi is coconut oil that’s been macerated with the petals of the Tahitian gardenia, giving us a beautifully fragrant oil that’ll leave you looking for a mai tai and a Tiki-print sarong. So, it’s everything you already love about coconut oil, plus an intoxicating tropical scent. I love the idea of using it in my hair (Disney caliber locks, here I come!), but straight oil is much too much for my hair, so I decided to incorporate it into this lovely Monoi de Tahiti Hair Conditioner.
In order to be a true conditioner, we must include some conditioning ingredients; that is, ingredients that are cationic. Cationic (or positively charged) ingredients adsorb (creates a very thin film on) our negatively charged hair. In this conditioner, that cationic ingredient is BTMS-50, which also doubles as our emulsifying wax.
The BTMS-50 leaves our hair feeling silky and soft, helping reduce breaking and increase hydration. There is a really noticeable difference between a hair lotion (what you’d get if you made this conditioner using a non-cationic emulsifying wax) and a hair conditioner—my hair feels extra silky and soft—it’s downright indulgent!
Once you’ve got your cationic emulsifier (that’s the BTMS-50), the creamy Monoi de Tahiti Hair Conditioner is basically a lotion. You’ve got your water part, your oil part, your heat and hold, and the blendy-blendy bit at the end. However, because it’s for hair instead of skin, we can choose to include all kinds of lovely-for-hair ingredients. These things are usually pretty good for skin, too, so you can definitely use it as an indulgent body lotion as well 😊
Monoi de Tahiti is the star ingredient of our conditioner. If you’re not keen on the smell of the gardenias or don’t have Monoi, regular virgin coconut oil will also work. I chose coconut oil for a really neat reason—coconut oil is one of very few oils that can penetrate our hair shaft. The research shows that, when it comes to preventing water retention, a pre-wash coconut oil application is best, so if you struggle with frizzy hair you might consider applying the conditioner before you wash your hair, rather than after for the best results.
After the Monoi we’ve got some other great-for-hair goodies: hydrolyzed silk, phytokeratin, glycerin, and panthenol all help hydrate the hair and add shine and bounce. If you don’t have them, I’ve provided a big list of substitution suggestions and information at the end of the recipe. Some other ideas for amping up this conditioner includes swapping out 10–20g of the water for aloe juice, and including a botanical extract like shavegrass root at ~1g for increased shine and detangling. Isn’t making our own stuff awesome?!
Monoi de Tahiti Hair Conditioner
80g | 2.82oz distilled water
2g | 0.07oz hydrolyzed silk (USA / Canada) (wondering about substitutions?)
2g | 0.07oz vegetable glycerine (USA / Canada)
2g | 0.07oz plant-derived keratin (look for products with names like phytokeratin or vegekeratin)
9g | 0.32oz Monoi de Tahiti
5g | 0.17oz BTMS-50 (USA / Canada)
2g | 0.07oz cetyl alcohol (USA / Canada)
0.5g | 10 drops Vitamin E MT-50 (USA / Canada)
2g | 0.07oz panthenol powder (vitamin B5) (USA / Canada)
0.5g | 0.017oz Liquid Germall Plus™ (USA / Canada) (or other broad spectrum preservative of choice at recommended usage rate [why?])
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, silk, glycerin, and keratin into a small heat-resistant glass measuring cup. Weigh the Monoi, BTMS-50, and cetyl alcohol 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 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 conditioner is thick and creamy.
During one of the cooling phases, weigh the vitamin E, panthenol, and preservative into a small container and set aside.
Once the conditioner is thick, creamy, and cool, scoop a bit of it into your small container with the vitamin E, stir all that together, and then scoop all that back into the rest of the conditioner, and stir all of that together until it’s nice and smooth and lovely. If you want to add some sort of scent/essential oil/fragrance, now would be the time to do it (~15–20 drops is a good place to start), but the Monoi is quite fragrant on its own, so see what you think. I like citrussy scents with Monoi as I find the scent of straight-up Monoi to be very sweet, and the citrus helps counter the very floral/saccharine notes of the Monoi.
That’s it! Transfer your conditioner to a squeeze or pump-top bottle and you’re ready to use it 🙂 Use it after shampooing and your acidic rinse (if you need one); I like to apply my Monoi de Tahiti Hair Conditioner from about the ears down and leave it in while I shave my legs (which I can also do with conditioner—booyah!), and then rinse it out. Voila! Enjoy your oh-so-lovely, conditioned hair.
Shelf Life & Storage
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.
- If you don’t have phytokeratin you can replace it with an equal amount of cromoist (hydrolyzed oat protein), sea kelp bioferment, bamboo bioferment, or water
- If you don’t have Monoi de Tahiti you can use coconut oil instead and then scent the conditioner with something else you like
- While you can use a different emulsifying wax than BTMS-50, most other e-waxes are not cationic, which is a vital and core characteristic of a hair conditioner (rather than a hair lotion, which is still nice, but not truly conditioning). BTMS-25 would be the best alternative, but if you can’t get that, either, than you can use something like Polawax, e-wax NF, or emulsimulse/ritamulse. If you’re using a non cationic e-wax I’d recommend swapping out 2g (0.07oz) of the water for a liquid cationic polymer like honeyquat or polyquat to get that cationic conditioning from somewhere else.
- If you don’t have cetyl alcohol, replace it with an equal weight of monoi or stearic acid.
- I’ve provided the vitamin E in both weight and drops as the exact amount isn’t imperative. You might notice the required weight of the preservative and of the vitamin E is the same, and you might be tempted to use the vitamin E drops to measure out the preservative, but do not do this! Using the amount of the preservative is much more important, and the two ingredients have very different densities, meaning the drops-to-gram amount is not the same.
- If you don’t have panthenol, replace it with an equal amount of sodium lactate or water
I’m noticing a lot of hair recipes lately (thank you!). I’m wondering if there’s a Make It Up Too: the Hair Edition in the works? :: Fingers crossed::
Oooh, I like that idea! We’ll see 😛
Yay for this recipe! I already ordered the keratin this morning and I have everything else, so yes, I can’t wait to enter the world of handcrafted hair care products! And the Monoi! Love! Now I need shampoo to go with this conditioner. Thank you Marie!
Woot! I have a few shampoos in development, but dear heavens they take ages to test as bars ’cause each bar lasts forever!
What about adding cyclopentasiloxane? It’s an amazing cosmetics lubricant. Is there a strong possibility of it “gumming up” our hair and sticking around?
You totally could! I’d probably do 1–2% and remove that from the oil phase 🙂
Will MONOI de TAHITI TAHITIAN BUTTER (instead of oil) work?
Thanks you for providing more substitutions in your recipes. I don’t sell my products so have to be careful about everything expiring – gets expensive.
As far as I can tell there is no such thing as an ingredient, that’s just what some people call already complete products that include true monoi. So, no, sorry!
Marie, I just came across my bottle of Monoi de Tahiti yesterday when I was rooting around looking for something in my cabinet. “I must find something else to make with this,” thought I. And here it is. 🙂 Thank you!
Mind reader. I’m telling you, Marie can read minds.
How does this smell once made? I have always found the coconut scent doesn’t stick around in my stuff once made. Does the florwery scent kick around?
Barb, I think the only thing I’ve made with it was the Orange Abyssinian Overnight Balm and I recall the orange wax being the overpowering scent. I’ll be curious to try this recipe and see.
Mine was very lightly scented. My Monoi was purchased from Luxuriant Sparkle Beauty, and smells lovely.
How perfect! I hope you love it 😀
Actually, after a couple of days, my conditioner became more fragrant! I love it and so does my hair.
SO COOL! Science/magic, man. It’s neat.
Can’t wait to try it… I haven’t ventured into the world of shampoos/conditioners yet so I’m excited to make this and YAY, I have all the ingredients but Monoi de Tahiti oil. I will probably use Babassu oil as I’m in love with Babassu these days! Thank you
Oooh, lovely! Great swap 🙂 Enjoy it!
Well Marie…since Monoi de Tahiti is one of my favourite things I had to make this conditioner asap. It feels and smells divine! Thanks again for sharing another lovely creation 🙂
Wowza, that was fast! I hope your hair loves it as much as your nose does 😀
Ooooh! Nice one Marie! Can’t wait to make this. Monoi is in the mail!
Ooh, divine! Enjoy 🙂
Made this and used it yesterday. I love it! It was great on my fine hair – didn’t weight it down at all. I gave some to a friend to try and she told me this morning I need to make her a big bottle of it.
Thanks for another winner Marie!
That Monoi de Tahiti… seriously the best stuff ever! I’m always on the lookout for a new conditioner because I seem to go through that quicker than shampoo. I have thin, fine hair and was worried this would be too heavy but it’s perfect. At first I kept the conditioner in for about 30 seconds and wasn’t sure I liked it so I extended the time bit by bit. Now I keep it in for about 2-3 minutes and I love it.
Yeah, I can stop ordering my $36 conditioner online and make this instead 🙂
Yay! I’m so glad 😀 Whee!!!
How do I make this a leave in conditioner rather than a rinse out and still get lots of oils in? (I have afro hair )
I’d probably start with this recipe as is and try it as a leave-in, and see how that goes. If you want to increase the amount of oils, check out this recipe 🙂 Several of my readers with afro style hair love it!
I made this again and got sleepy and left it on overnight with no issues!
Thanks for sharing, Rhonda! 🙂
Can you leave out glycerin from these recipes? My hair doesn’t like it.
Yup! Replace with more water.
Question, just made the 2 in 1 recipe and I was curious if your other recipes could be a 2 in 1 with just using the same Vinegar/Water ration in the liquid phase.
Also do you notice a difference when broccoli oil is used in the conditions VS not?
I’m trying to dream up a two in one curly girl conditioner. Ive got Photo keratin, Bamboo Biofement, Hydrolized Quinoa Protein, Hydrolized Silk, Broccoli Seed Oil, plus all the standard stuff you use on the regular. Im trying to figure out what should be used! 🙂
Keep an eye on the protein–too much makes my hair stiff and brittle
Hey! So, yes, but I would err on the side of caution and keep the emulsifier the same as well. When it comes to conditioners I definitely notice the conditioning ingredients more than the individual oils, but I know some curly haired readers swear up and down by broccoli seed oil… so, as with all things hair and skin care, your mileage may vary 🙂 Your conditioner sounds lovely so far, have fun with it!
Hi Marie! I’m just wondering if the panthenol absolutely has to be added in the cool-down phase? The stuff I have is a very viscous, sticky liquid and it’s really hard to get it off the spoon. It would be a hundred times easier to dissolve it in the warm water, but would this make it worthless? I appreciate if this isn’t something you’ve come across, but thought it was worth asking 🙂 Thanks!
The liquid stuff definitely does as it is heat sensitive, though you can add powdered panthenol in the heated phase 🙂
Do I have to use cetyl alcohol with btms 50? Can’t I just use btms 50.
You don’t—see this to learn what cetyl alcohol does in recipes.
Ah, Marie, everytime you have an excellent idea and you upset me! Don’t laugh but i want to know how do i use it. Usually, we shampoo our hair, we wash them and then we put the conditioner for 10 minutes and we wash it. Can we follow the same habit or can we leave it without removing? How much time do you recommed to leave it?
Marie, thank you so much for your help.
P.S. I’ll make a compination aloe vera and flaxeed gel. In the water i’ll add bay, rosemary and sage. I’ll inform you about the results.
This is definitely a rinse out conditioner, though if you used a very small amount it would work as a leave-in as well 🙂
How did the gel go? I’m especially curious about the shelf life as everything you’ve mentioned is very spoilage-prone and hard to preserve 🙂
I love this conditioner. I was wondering if I can add more water to make it more pourable and if so how much? The batch I made was very thick and it was too hard to get it in a bottle and hard to get it to come out of a pump. I put it in a wide mouth jar to make it easier to get out. Its winter and my bathroom is cold. Could that make it too thick?
Ah lotions. The joys of trying to make them all work exactly the same all around the world! I hear you on this one! The first thing I would suggest doing is dropping the cetyl alcohol to 1% in your next batch and see if that solves the problem. Then .5% and then finally 0%. When you reduce the cetyl alcohol, you just replace it with water. Just remember, that swapping one ingredient for another can alter the final product! You could also try increasing the size of the water phase, as covered in this post. If this is a perfect formula for you as is, I’d suggest changing your container to a squeeze tube rather than a pump bottle!
I really love this conditioner. I bought pure monoi de tahiti and as you said, it’s got a very sweet scent. I added some coconut & lime fragrance and it’s perfect. thanks so much for sharing!
I’m so thrilled! The fragrance you’ve chosen sounds perfect, too 😀 Thanks for DIYing with me! Happy making 🙂
I recently joined your beginner group and wanted to try making the manoi conditioner. I wanted to add shave grass for the extra detangling properties. My question to you… which would be the best way to add it, as powder or as a tea to the water?
I’d see if you can find a cosmetic grade extract for the easiest use and preservation 🙂
Hello, Could I substitute Cupuacu butter or another butter for the Cetyl alcohol? Also, how could i implement carrier oils in this recipe without completely changing it?
In this project, definitely! It will impact the viscosity, but not massively. Regarding swapping out carrier oils, give this a read 🙂 Happy making!
Oh, this formula has nostalgy but with style! It is propably first “proper conditioner” or non ayurvedic cationic conditioner I’ve ever made. I remember it felt like jack pot in lottery back then and had big impact on how I feel about haircare. 2017? Wow. Anyway, I still enjoy this recipe and your description is the best. 🙂
Thank you so much, Johanna! I love trips down formulation memory lane 😀
Hi! I have been looking for a conditioner recipe to add to my shop (www.etsy.com/shop/sneedsborosoap) and have been researching your recipes today! Wow! I am so impressed! My best seller is my shampoo bar and people ask me every day to add a conditioner. I am not very knowledgeable on conditioners so am proceeding slowly. Most of my customers have fine, thin hair. Most seem to have quite straight hair. What conditioner would you recommend me starting to experiment with? I am a bit overwhelmed to be honest! So many good options it looks like!
Just posting this as a reply because I mistakenly put that I did not want a notification when a answer was published to my first message and I definitely do lol
This would be a good place to start, but you will, of course, need to do your own experimentation to see 🙂 Happy making!
Thank you for posting this. Now I finally have a tested recipe to use my Manoi de Tahiti in ! My question is, if i substitute the BTMS-25 that I already have for the BTMS-50 in the recipe, should I use twice the amount of BTMS-25 to replace the BTMS-50 ? Thanks !
Hi! I’ve been following the Curly Girl Method for quite some time now but I live in the Philippines and our products here are quite limited that’s why I wanted to start making my own conditioners. I stumbled upon your website and I have been reading up for the past 2 days on the different terms and such.
I just have a question, can I substitute the hydrolysed silk and the plant-derived keratin with other oils instead? My low porosity hair does not really like protein and I wanted to incorporate some more oils, not just Monoi de Tahiti. If it’s not advised, would replacing them with water be alright as well?
I’d replace the hydrolyzed proteins with more water rather than more oil as they are water soluble. Happy making!
Hi Marie! I love your site and have been trying to make at least a couple of your recipes each week 🙂 Anyway, I made this conditioner a few days ago and the only sub I had to make was coconut oil for the Monoi and I couldn’t get the conditioner smooth…it had an almost curdled look and feel to it. I had to use a mixer as I do not have an immersion blender, so, do you think this is why it turned out the way it did? Thanks for your help and all your wonderful recipes! I used the conditioner anyway but would love to get it right so that I can make it for holiday gifts!
Hello, first of all thanks for the information here. I’ve made this with Shea butter and it worked really well. I now want to make it again in a bigger batch, ordered my supplies, however I made a mistake and have only half the amount of panthenol for the batch I wanted to make. Shall I make a smaller batch, or can I substitute (more vitamin e?) or omit half the amount of panthenol? The shipping costs a lot and I don’t want to buy just one item. I am outside the US and availability is an issue. I’ve only found panthenol in liquid form rather than powder by the way, I don’t know if that changes anything.