Today’s Silk & Camellia Seed Leave-In Hair Conditioner stars lightweight camellia seed oil and luxurious hydrolyzed silk peptides. They work together to moisturize and smooth the hair, while a trio of conditioning ingredients smooth the hair cuticle, leaving hair more manageable. The finished conditioner feels thick and sumptuous as you apply it, but it won’t weigh your hair down or leave it looking greasy. Let’s dive in 🙂
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The oil phase in this leave-in hair conditioner is small—just 6.5%. it’s mostly camellia seed oil; an ultra-light liquid carrier oil made from the seeds of the same plant we get tea from! It has been prized for hair and skincare in Japan and China for centuries, and was one of my very first carrier oil loves.
I remember eagerly purchasing a bottle of camellia seed oil after reading about how fast-absorbing and wonderful-for-hair it was. Upon its arrival, I eagerly worked maybe a teaspoon through my hair. It couldn’t have been a ton of oil through my hair (it’s not like I poured the bottle over my head or anything), but whatever that amount was, it was far too much. That first application was followed by multiple back-to-back shampooings of my super oily hair. Lesson firmly learned: my hair + any meaningful amount of oil is not a great combination.
This formulation dilutes the beautiful camellia seed oil in a large amount of water, allowing me to use a teaspoon or so of the finished conditioner (rather than a few drops). It’s much easier to evenly distribute a dilute through the hair vs. a concentrated one, and it’s much harder to use too much!
I’ve found formulations with tiny oil phases can be prone to splitting, so I’ve also included 1% cetearyl alcohol and 0.3% cationic guar gum (INCI: Guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride). This modified guar gum does the usual emulsion-stabilizing, thickening work of regular guar gum (INCI: Cyamopsis Tetragonoloba [Guar] Gum), but it’s also cationic, so it adds to the conditioning awesomeness of the end product. I tried more gum in some earlier experiments (1%… what was I thinking?! ha). That created bouncy hair snot so… yeah. Not recommended 😂
Now, I love hydrolyzed silk in my hair care. I find it leaves my hair shiny and smooth and dangit… it sounds so lovely and seductive! That said, 1) it isn’t vegan and 2) it can stink. If your hydrolyzed silk stinks (or if you’re vegan), please don’t use it here. At 1%, that stink will come through in the end product, and you will not be impressed. Feel free to use a different hydrolyzed protein instead—I’ve provided some substitutions in the list at the end of the formulation.
The making part is a bit more involved than a regular lotion, and that’s purely because the conditioning behentrimonium chloride (BTMC) doesn’t like to melt. Maybe yours is more agreeable than mine, but mine is slow to melt and fast to solidify, so I have to heat generously and work quickly to combine the heated phases before the behentrimonium chloride (BTMC) turns my heated oil phase into a solid lump again. Watch the video to see how I did it!
The finished Silk & Camellia Seed Leave-In Hair Conditioner is wonderfully slippy and gorgeously lightweight. It’s just the thing for smoothing down flyaways, taking away that “dry” look my hair can adopt when it’s been a while between trims, reduces tangles, and just generally leaves it feeling fabulous. I hope you love it!
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Silk & Camellia Seed Leave-In Hair Conditioner
Weigh the heated water phase into a small heat-resistant glass measuring cup or beaker. Weigh the entire lot (measuring cup + ingredients) and note that weight for use later. Weigh the heated oil phase into a second heat-resistant glass measuring cup (I like to stir the gum and camellia seed oil together first and then add the BTMC and cetearyl alcohol).
To heat: I find behentrimonium chloride (BTMC) really doesn’t want to melt for me. According to my supplier, it melts at 85°C (185°F), but that has not been my experience. I would recommend trying the water bath method first (place both measuring cups in a hot water bath) to see if that works for you. If not, you can place both beakers on a baking tray and heat the phases for 15–20 minutes in a 93°C/200°F oven, or you can try microwaving the heated oil phase for ~30 seconds to get it to melt fully.
After about the oil part has completely melted and the water part is hot, you’ll need to move fast—the oil phase will solidify quickly! Weigh the heated water phase and add enough hot distilled water to the heated water phase to bring the weight back up to what it was before heating, 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 lotion, starting with short bursts so the still-very-liquid lotion 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.
When the conditioner is cool it’s time to incorporate our cool down ingredients. Because cool down ingredients are typically present at very low amounts you’ll need to use an accurate scale—preferably one accurate to 0.01g. As these more accurate scales tend to have fairly low (100–200g) maximum weights you won’t be able to put the entire batch of conditioner on that scale without blowing it out. So—grab a smaller dish. Add a scoop or two of conditioner, and then weigh the cool down ingredients into that, using the more accurate scale. Stir to thoroughly incorporate, and then stir all of that back into the parent batch of conditioner. Doing it this way minimizes the amount of cool down ingredients lost to the secondary container.
That’s it! Transfer the conditioner to a container and you’re done. I used a 100mL (3.3fl oz) Boston bottle with a pump-top from YellowBee.
To use, work a small amount of conditioner (I’d start with a nickel-sized amount) through the hair as needed.
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 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 100g (3.5oz).
- To learn more about the ingredients used in this recipe, 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 please look up the ingredient in the encyclopedia before asking.
- I don’t recommend swapping out the behentrimonium chloride (BTMC); if you do, you’ll need to re-test the formulation to ensure it’s stable. I would probably try 2% BTMS-50 and 1–2% cetearyl alcohol as a starting point.
- You could try a blend of cetyl alcohol and stearic acid as an alternative for the cetearyl alcohol, but you will need to re-evaluate the product for stability if you do that.
- You could choose a different liquid oil your hair loves instead of camellia seed oil.
- You could use xanthan gum or regular guar gum instead of cationic guar gum, though this will reduce how conditioning the finished product is. I do not recommend dropping the gum element entirely as it plays a big role in keeping the end product stable.
- Please refer to the encyclopedia for alternatives for panthenol and polyquaternium 7.
- You could use a different hydrolyzed protein (quinoa, rice, baobab, etc.) in place of hydrolyzed silk. You may need to move the protein to the cool down phase if you choose something else.
- If you’d like to really simplify this conditioner you could drop the panthenol, polyquaternium 7, and hydrolyzed protein (replacing them with more distilled water). You could also drop the fragrance/essential oil in the same manner.
- You could use a hydrosol instead of the water rather than including a frangrance/essential oil (or in addition to).
- If you’re like to use a different preservative, please review this page and read this FAQ.
The 100mL (3.3fl oz) Boston bottle with a pump-top was gifted by YellowBee.