Today I’m sharing a formulation I’ve had a ton of requests for; an all-natural, sulfate-free liquid shampoo! This Rose & Silk Clarifying Shampoo was one of my Formula Botanica Diploma in Organic Haircare Formulation final projects (if you’d like to read my full review of the course, click here). I formulated this shampoo to have rich & decadent lather, a soft scent, and to improve shine and bounce. Because of the all-naturalness, it does use a few ingredients that are new to Humblebee & Me or rarely used; please refer to the substitution suggestions at the end of the formulation if you don’t have everything. Let’s dive in!
As part of the project, we were instructed to devise a target customer that our formulation was for. My target customer was women, aged 30–40, with fine hair that is easily weighed down. She currently uses conventional haircare products, but is interested in using more natural haircare products, as long as they perform like her conventional products. She is not willing to compromise on performance and will choose performance over natural if she can’t have both.
With that in mind, my product/formulation philosophy was to create high-performing natural haircare products that meet the standards of the customer who is interested in natural, but not willing to compromise on performance; knowing they’ve gone back to their tried-and-true conventional products in the past, and they’ll do it again if their expectations are not met.
So, this formulation! Since it’s a shampoo, let’s start by talking about the surfactants. I used two different ingredients, but one is a blended ingredient (Plantapon® TF), so this shampoo contains four different surfactants. Non-ionic decyl glucoside is our primary surfactant; it creates dense, thick, rich lather and offers gentle yet effective cleansing. Cocamidopropyl betaine is an amphoteric surfactant it helps make the blend milder and boost flash foam. Polyglyceryl-10 Caprylate/Caprate is an ultra-mild natural non-ionic surfactant that works to boost lather, and coco glucoside (also non-ionic) further boosts lather. The surfactants come together to create dense, luxurious, plentiful lather and a mild finished product. The glyceryl oleate (part of the Plantapon® TF) adds conditioning and re-fatting, ensuring the hair feels clean after shampooing, but not coarse or dry. I find the level of clean is a bit extra—worthy of the “clarifying” name without being too strong.
The two primary surfactants (the glucosides) have high pH values, so I included 0.3% citric acid in the formulation to make the end product acidic. Once everything has been blended up, the shampoo has a final pH in the 4.5–5 range, which works for our hair and for our natural preservative, Geogard® ECT (INCI: Benzyl Alcohol, Salicylic Acid, Glycerin, Sorbic Acid).
I wanted to include rose as the sole scent note. Due to the low allowed usage rate of rose otto, I chose to use a rose hydrosol instead. Mine is very fragrant, so I’ve kept it to 25% to keep the end product from being overwhelmingly perfume-y.- Earlier versions of this formulation used less hydrosol, but I increased it as the smell of the surfactants is quite “detergenty” and was noticeable (and not all that nice) in the end product. Panthenol and hydrolyzed silk help add shine and bounce to the hair; silk is great for label appeal as well 😉 Propanediol 1,3 and sodium lactate are both great humectants, and help prevent the shampoo from drying the hair.
The shampoo is thickened with Siligel™ (INCI: Xanthan Gum, Lecithin, Sclerotium Gum, Pullulan); a blend of natural gelling and thickening ingredients that creates a rich and almost silicone-y feel to the end product, unlike some natural gums that can feel snotty. As interesting as Siligel™ is, I honestly wasn’t super impressed with it and won’t be re-purchasing it. If you are committed to natural formulation I think you’d find it helpful, but in the future, I will probably use Crothix™ for thickening this sort of formulation.
The finished shampoo is pale yellow in colour, with a consistency comparable to runny honey—viscous enough that it isn’t hard to apply to the hair, but thin enough that it can easily be worked into the roots and through denser hair. It smells softly of roses and has a rich, yet slippy feel on the skin. When massaged into wet hair it works up into a rich, dense lather with delicate “lace glove” bubbles. When rinsed, the hair is left clean and refreshed, without any lingering scent from the shampoo. I hope you love it!
Want to watch this project instead of reading it?
Rose & Silk Clarifying Shampoo
1.4g | 2% Siligel™ (USA / UK)
3.5g | 5% Propanediol 1,3 (USA / Canada)
0.7g | 1% sodium lactate (USA / Canada)
0.21g | 0.3% citric acid (USA / Canada)
0.35g | 0.5% panthenol powder (vitamin B5) (USA / Canada)
0.35g | 0.5% hydrolyzed silk (USA / Canada)
14g | 20% Plantapon® TF (USA / Canada)
7g | 10% Cocamidopropyl Betaine (USA / Canada)
24.22g | 34.6% distilled water
17.5g | 25% rose hydrosol
0.7g | 1% Geogard® ECT (USA / Canada / UK)
0.07g | 0.1% Tetrasodium Glutamate Diacetate
Using a digital scale, weigh the Siligel™ and propanediol (Phase A) into a beaker. Stir thoroughly to combine, ensuring there are no clumps of Siligel™.
Add the sodium lactate, citric acid, panthenol, and hydrolyzed silk. Stir gently to combine before adding the Plantapon® TF and Cocamidopropyl Betaine (Phase B), and stirring gently.
Add the distilled water and rose hydrosol (Phase C). Stir gently to avoid working up a lather.
Weigh the Geogard® ECT and Tetrasodium Glutamate Diacetate (Phase D) into a small bowl or beaker. Add a small amount of the shampoo, stir to combine, and then transfer that mixture back into the parent batch of shampoo. Stir gently to combine.
The next step is testing the pH of the shampoo (watch the video tutorial to see this in action!). To test the shampoo, create a 10% dilution using distilled water in a small dish or beaker. Check the pH using a pH meter. If the formulation has been made as written, the pH should fall between 4.5–5, which is great. If the pH falls outside that by +/- 0.1, adjust it using either a 50% citric acid solution (to make it more acidic), or a 20% sodium hydroxide solution (to make it more basic). For a 70g batch, incorporate a single drop of the pH adjusting solution into the shampoo, and then test the shampoo again by preparing a new 10% dilution and testing that with your pH meter (be sure to rinse it in distilled water between uses).
Cover tightly with a piece of cling film. Leave to rest for two hours, giving everything time to dissolve and incorporate.
To package; use a funnel squeeze “tottle”; I used a 60g one from YellowBee for my 70g batch. The mixture will be uniform when filling, but will continue to thicken for approximately three days (I’d say it gets to the 80–90% point within 6 hours and then slowly gets ever-so-slightly thicker).
Use as you would use any liquid shampoo. Enjoy!
Shelf Life & Storage
Because this shampoo contains water, you must include a broad-spectrum preservative to ward off microbial growth. This is non-optional. Even with a preservative, this project may 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 70g.
- 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 (panthenol) please look up the ingredient in the encyclopedia before asking.
- I have not tested alternatives for Siligel™ in this formulation. I’d look at trying hydroxyethylcellulose, but any sort of gum/thickener could work. You’ll have to try it and see! Different gums & thickeners can have dramatically different skin feels, so make sure you are researching your ingredients to learn more. Blends of gums can work better than single gums. Have fun experimenting!
- You could also use Crothix™ Liquid.
- You could try glycerine instead of propanediol 1,3 and/or sodium lactate.
- You could use a different acid (lactic acid would work well) instead of citric acid, but you’ll need to do all your own testing and adjusting to get the right amount.
- You can replace hydrolyzed silk with a different hydrolyzed protein (oat, rice, baobab, quinoa)—this is an especially good option if you hate the smell of your hydrolyzed silk.
- You could try a different chelator instead of Tetrasodium Glutamate Diacetate. Make sure the usage rate is appropriate. If you use Liquid Germall™ Plus instead of Geogard® ECT you shouldn’t need a chelator and can replace it with more distilled water.
- 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.
- The re-fatting agent (Glyceryl Oleate) in the Plantapon® TF surfactant blend is integral to the performance of this shampoo. If you switch up the surfactant blend to use something that does not contain some Glyceryl Oleate you will want to get that effect from somewhere else and will be in re-development territory.
- In the USA and the EU, you can purchase a blend of Coco Glucoside and Glyceryl Oleate—that product, plus some decyl glucoside, would be a good place to start substituting out the Plantapon® TF.
- You could use a different hydrosol for a different scent. I do recommend including some sort of hydrosol as this shampoo doesn’t smell very nice on its own.
- If you’re like to use a different preservative, please review this FAQ and this chart. You could easily use Liquid Germall™ Plus at 0.5% instead of Geogard® ECT, replacing the missing 0.5% with more distilled water.
- If you’d like to incorporate an essential oil, please read this. Also, please be aware that adding an essential oil or fragrance oil can cause gum-thickened surfactant products to curdle, depending on the interactions between the chemical compounds in the essential oil and the rest of the formulation. Tread carefully here to avoid ruining the entire batch.
The soft squeeze tottle was gifted by YellowBee. The rose hydrosol and Tetrasodium Glutamate Diacetate were gifted by Essential Wholesale. Formula Botanica links are affiliate links.
Yay, I’m ready to branch out into making shampoos. If anyone has trouble finding the Plantapon TF, Lotioncrafter carries a product called Surfpro Bioblend. It’s the same Inci and product description. I think its time to place another order since the out of stock items I want are back 🙂
Thank you so much! I’ve updated the post to include a link to it 🙂
Hi Marie, thank you for this recipe.
I now realize it is not easy to make a formula for liquid shampoo.
You emphasize the importance of using Plantapon TF. Unfortunately it is not available here. I only find Plantapon SF.
It contains the following ingredients: Sodium Cocoamphoacetate (and) Glycerin (and) Lauryl Glucosid (and) Sodium Cocoyl Glutamate (and) Sodium Lauryl Glucose Carboxylat.
What do you think
Is it a good alternative?
Since you’re in the EU I’d recommend the approach I discussed in the substitutions list: “In the USA and the EU, you can purchase a blend of Coco Glucoside and Glyceryl Oleate—that product, plus some decyl glucoside, would be a good place to start substituting out the Plantapon® TF.” Skin Chakra has the Coco Glucoside and Glyceryl Oleate blend 🙂
Okay. Thank you, Marie. I can get started now. ❤
Delivers soft hair. A hit.
Hooray! What did you end up doing for the surfactant blend?
I applied your suggestion and have used Coco Glucoside + Glyceryl Oleate + Decyl glucoside (I added 1% PCA Glyceryl Oleate).
It turned out lovely!
Awesome! Thank you so much for reporting back & sharing ❤️
Hi, Marie! I’m going to be making this as soon as my Lotioncrafter order is here. About substituting Crothix for the Siligel–I find that Crothix thickens alot at such a small percentage. Will I still use 2% Crothix in this formulation?
Maybe? I haven’t tried it with this formulation, but I suspect you may need more than 2%. Try it! 🙂
I also did a version with:
30% Plantapon® SF
2% Haarsoft 65 (Lamesoft PO65)
It seems okay too, but I still have to test it out personally (within a day or two).
I look forward to hearing how it goes!
I have tested the shampoo with the Plantapon SF and it works really well. I made a variant in the sense that I took Hydroxyethylcellulose Hydroxyethyl cellulose as a thickener, and lactic acid instead of citric acid (because I just had this bottle on hand). Instead of silk proteins, I added wheat proteins (because I had no silk), and 1% hair soft. The shampoo lathered like crazy, cleaned perfectly. It was a little bit harder to comb than usual, but a very small dollop of your Passionfruit Coconut Conditioning Body Lotion + Hair Conditioner fixed this ‘problem’ very quickly.
Very happy with your formula. Thank you!
Awesome! Thank you so much for sharing your results ❤️ It sounds like it worked out beautifully!
Hello Marie, I like in india I couldn’t find plantapon tf or plantapon sf and glyceryl oleate too.may I know what can I use as surfactant which is alternative for plantapon tf
If you can’t get any of the surfactant ingredients I recommend you will be very firmly in re-development territory. Good luck + happy making!
(Too keep myself from ordering anything else – I’d like to make sure of what I have on-hand for a moisturizing shampoo/conditioner combination liquid product for textured hair.
In addition to 2-3 nut oils/EO’s/preservative/distilled water and two surfactants (Coco Bet, foaming silk), my goal is something that is creamy, pearly, and silky feeling. Would I accomplish that with a combination of cetyl alc/SCI,stearic acid?
I like a very lathery, thick shampoo, but I need it to have conditioning properties as well when there isn’t time to do a deep conditioning. I am considering subbing out the stearic acid for BTMS-50. Appreciate your thoughts on this..thanks!
Hi Marie, I love your website. Great recipes and lots of information.
I just noticed I have the wrong plantapon so that is a bit of a bummer
But I am a bit confused about the way you measure the pH. Won’t the diluting throw off the pH? Distilled water is around pH 5.5.
Love from the Netherlands ♡
Please read this 🙂 Thanks for DIYing with me, and happy making 🙂
The recipe link and the video both show the ” hydrolyzed silk” in powder form. It is also written as hydrolyzed in the recipe. The link to quinoa hydrolyzed protein is a liquid. As far as I know “hydrolyzed” means that liquid is a component of the product. Can you clarify which one to use ? Thanks and as always great recipe !!
“Hydrolyzed” just means it’s been modified to be water soluble. The linked products are fine 🙂
I was wondering what you don’t like about siligel? From the ICNI, it’s the same product that I’ve bought in the UK as “ecogel”, and I love it. A pinch in many creams and lotions (usually 0.5%) gives a lovely skin feel, and helps make an emulsion stable.
I was mostly just disappointed with it. It was like expensive xanthan gum… nothing special to me.
Hi Marie, I’m excited to try yet another of your recipes! (It took me a while to get to this one but I’m finally ready) Thank you so much for sharing. I’ve made many of your recipes and am always impressed. You’re amazing!!
I’m wondering how to substitute liquid silk for the powdered silk. Do I use the same weight and add it the same phase? Or? Thanks again for everything!!!
I’m thinking about trying this out with a fragrance oil because my hydrosols aren’t strong enough to cover all of the scents. Do you think the siligel is enough to emulsify the oil into the formulation? And do you think there is a chance that the inclusion of a FO may break down this formulation, since you warned to be careful adding FO and EO to certain gums? I’m the type of person that prefers for my shampoo and conditioner to leave the scent in my hair.
I’m not worried about emulsifying with this—the surfactant content should be more than enough to solubilize a small % of essential oil or fragrance oil. There is absolutely a chance that the inclusion of any FO or essential oil could cause the formulation to curdle, though, and I cannot predict what might be problematic. If I were you I’d make a 100g (3.5oz) batch and divide off wee 10g samples and add an appropriate % of the essential oil or fragrance oil you want to include and see what happens. If it curdles at least you’ve only lost 10g of product 🙂
I had struggled for over a decade with scalp issues – seen all kinds of drs, and none were helpful, all were disbelieving that it could be caused by food intolerance – I finally figured out that I was gluten intolerant. Yay! Boo.
Since I’m only intolerant and not allergic (celiac) I still cheat and when I do, the effects are long-lasting, and they manifest on my scalp. The best way to describe it is a waxy greasy coating (coming from the scalp of course, and even on my face) that is extremely difficult to wash out.
I use clarifying shampoos, some work, many don’t, but it’s quite drying on my hair. I found articles online of others with the same issue….some suggested using facial cleansing oil as shampoo or pre-poo. This seems to work but can get expensive.
My assumption is that this waxy coating is similar to the pus your skin secretes when you have a wound.
I know you said don’t ask for medical advice, I’m asking you, as someone with your knowledge of skin and surfactants, if it’d be possible to create a formulation for this, or suggest some ingredients or tricks I may try at home.
Thank you so much in advance!
Hi Marie. I made a riff on this. Coco glucoside & glyceryl oleate was sold out when I placed my oder so I used something else instead. It turnt out lovely. It was fun to try new making liquid shampoo – haven’t tried one for ages. So amazing that you’ve developed this formulation – can’t wait to share my results. Hopefully my scalp and hair will like it!
I am so excited to try this! I do however understand you’re not a fan of siligel, so shall i substitute with xanthum gum? i was wondering how we can incorporate oils such as castor oil and vitamins to the mix as well as that mange shampoo bar into liquid shampoo!! will this shampoo formula make hair feel dry?
Hi! For all of these changes you will have to try and see—these are all pretty big/soft questions that don’t have solid answers 🙂 Please peruse the FAQ (https://www.humblebeeandme.com/faq/), experiment, and have fun!
I’m trying to undo years of hard water damage to my fine hair and was wondering if I could make this into a chelating shampoo. They are really expensive and I’m sure I have most of the ingredients already. What % Chelator would I use? Or better yet any chance you could develop one?
Thanks Marie for your awesome recipes! Your website has been a treasure. I’ve been struggling to find a residue free clarifying shampoo for my hair, so I figured I could try to make one. I’m very new to formulation and I’d just like to know if this will be residue free or if any of these ingredients will leave a residue.