I’m pretty darn excited to finally share a formulation for a liquid shampoo! I’ve had a lot of requests for a non-soap liquid shampoo over the last few years, and here we are. This one stars a surfactant blend that kicks off oodles of dense, thick lather, leaving your hair feeling all kinds of clean and silky. There are some conditioning goodies for manageability and panthenol + silk for added shine and bounce. It’s also cold-processed, so making it is as easy as measure, stir, and wait!
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I’ve found liquid shampoo to be a rather finicky thing to formulate. It seems like it should be simple enough, especially since solid shampoos are fairly straightforward… but no. My first liquid shampoo experiments (those ones don’t bear much resemblance to this formulation) left my hair feeling reaaaaally clean, but also like snaggy, gritty chalk; hurk. Not good, obviously!
As part of my coursework for my Diploma in Organic Haircare Formulation course at Formula Botanica I made my first successful liquid shampoos. Their guide formulations incorporated some re-fatting additions to liquid shampoos, which got rid of the chalky feeling. Hooray!
For this formulation, I started with a collection of ingredients that are very commonly found in commercially available liquid shampoos: water, Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLeS), Cocamidopropyl Betaine, cationic guar gum, some sort of polyquaternium ingredient, fragrance, and preservative. The first one was ok, but I quickly noticed my hair wasn’t staying clean for anywhere close to as long as it usually would—early formulations had my hair feeling clean for hours rather than days. Also not great, but a better place to be than hair chalk.
From there I started tweaking and fiddling, trying to increase the cleansing power of the shampoo without straying back into chalk-hair territory. I tried a few variations with increasing concentrations of Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLeS), which quickly ended up creating something akin to sudsing hair jello—also not ideal! That led to the incorporation of some Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside, which is both less viscous and more concentrated than SLeS. Swapping some SLeS for Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside allowed me to keep the active surfactant matter (ASM) of the shampoo high enough to cleanse the hair, but also thin enough to dispense and use.
Once increasing the active surfactant matter (ASM) of the formulation seemed to dead-end I started dialling back the re-fatting and conditioning ingredients; the Olivem 300, cationic guar gum, and polyquaternium. Earlier versions used polyquaternium 7, but I eventually switched to polyquaternium 10 as I was running out of 7 and had lots of 10 that I wanted to play with. I was surprised by just how much I had to reduce the Olivem 300; I started at 4% and ended up at 0.5%. I noticed a difference in hair cleanliness between 0.7% and 0.5%!
For some fancying-up ingredients, I’ve included small amounts of panthenol (Vitamin B5) and hydrolyzed silk, both of which are lovely for the hair, offering more shine and bounce. If you’re looking for a vegan option for the hydrolyzed silk you can swap it out for a different hydrolyzed protein, like hydrolyzed rice protein or hydrolyzed quinoa protein.
The thickening for this shampoo comes primarily from two places; the cationic guar gum and the very-viscous Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLeS). You shouldn’t have to do any sort of adjustments or additional thickening, which is always convenient! The shampoo will seem a bit thin when first made, but it’ll thicken up over about an hour to a lovely shampoo-y consistency.
The finished shampoo lathers up like crazy, feeling utterly decadent on the hair and skin (I made about 2 years worth of shampoo while developing this formulation so I’m definitely using it as body wash as well!). You can also easily tweak how cleansing the shampoo is but dialling back the active surfactant matter (ASM) and increasing the Olivem 300 if your hair does better with gentler shampoos—just be sure to start with small adjustments on the Olivem 300 front, as small increases and decreases can make a big difference. Enjoy!
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Silk & Shine Shampoo
6g | 5% vegetable glycerine (USA / Canada)
0.6g | 0.5% cationic guar gum (USA / Canada)
1.2g | 1% hydrolyzed silk (USA / Canada)
0.6g | 0.5% panthenol powder (vitamin B5) (USA / Canada)
0.6g | 0.5% Olivem300 (USA / Canada)
0.36g | 0.3% Polyquaternium 10
0.36g | 0.3% Liquid Germall Plus™ (USA / Canada)
0.6g | 0.5% fragrance or essential oil of choice
39.6g | 33% Sodium Laureth Sulfate (USA / Canada) [26% ASM]
18g | 15% Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside (USA / Canada)
18g | 15% Cocamidopropyl Betaine (USA / Canada)
34.08g | 28.4% distilled water
Weigh the glycerin and cationic guar gum into a beaker and stir until thoroughly combined.
Add the secondary phase ingredients and stir to combine.
Add the surfactant phase, stir to combine.
Gently add the water, stirring slowly to combine. Once the mixture appears uniform, leave the shampoo to sit for about an hour to thicken before bottling. I used a 120mL (4 fl oz) tottle. Use as you would use any liquid shampoo!
When made as written, the pH of this shampoo comes out to ~5, which is great. If you make any changes please make sure you’re testing & adjusting if needed.
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 120g.
- I spent a lot of time carefully adjusting and testing this formulation to create something that works well; please be aware that if you start changing much of anything you are likely to be in re-development and re-testing territory.
- 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 (panthenol, silk, Olivem 300) please look up the ingredient in the encyclopedia before asking.
- I do not recommend swapping out the cationic guar gum. You could try non-cationic guar gum.
- You could try propanediol instead of vegetable glycerin.
- You can use polyquaternium 7 instead of polyquaternium 10.
- If you’re like to use a different preservative, please review this page.
- 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.
- You can easily incorporate a bit of colour by dipping the tip of a spoon or stirring rod into some water-soluble dye and stirring the distilled water with it—that amount of dye won’t register on a scale, but it is potent enough to colour the shampoo!
- Be sure to watch maximum usage rates for essential oils.
This sounds great. Congratulations, Marie. I kind of gave up on developing liquid shampoo, too, but it took me slightly different place (ayervedic kind of hair routine). For someone like me, it can be so tricky find well functioning shampoo. 🙂
Thanks, Johanna! There were definitely a lot of stops & starts on the way to this formulation, in addition to all kinds of iterations 🙂 I hope my experimentations can be helpful if you ever want to start experimenting again 😀
I hope so too. I’ll allways try to check your blog inside and out when I start experimenting, thanks!
Hi! I’ve made this a couple of times, and absolutely LOVE it!! Thank you! My question is about the ASM, which I figured to be 22.08. Is that correct? I’ve always thought I needed to keep the ASM of my shampoo between 10% &15%.
Hi Jenni! I actually just did a post on this over on my Instagram—I highly recommend checking it out 🙂 Happy making!
Is c12-15 alkyd benzoate a good sub for olivem300?
No—it won’t self-disperse in water like Olivem 300 does 🙂
When I can get the ingredients, I will definitely be trying it.
Can you do a concentrated version with less water? Just wondering. 🙂
I love all of your recipes.
Hey Linda! Some of my experiments were more concentrated, and I don’t recommend it. It ended up being a lot like trying to work jello through my hair, ha! If you want more concentrated I’d just go all the way to a shampoo bar 🙂 Happy making!
Well done! Just wondering if the water seperates out in the container if left, or does the mixture remain blended no matter how long the container is left standing on the shelf.
Hi Marie, I bought Susan Barclay Nichols’ e book “Shampoo bars you will love”, and in it she explains how to test the pH of a bar by making a 10% solution with distilled water, then testing it with a meter or strips. Do you know if that same method applies to liquid shampoo? What confuses me is that shampoo bars seem more concentrated due to the lack of water, but then I figure that that shouldn’t matter because the overall pH of solid or liquid shampoo should be around the same.
Oh drat! I just found an article you linked to that answers my question. Just ignore my previous comment.
Dilution is generally best practice for any kind of pH measuring—check out this awesome article on why 🙂 In addition to better results, one of the other reasons I like to dilute samples is because it wastes less product in the testing process. Happy making!
I need some help urgently in deciding what ingredients/surfactant blend to use for my shampoo. Please respond.
I have dry kinky curly hair and I desire to make a mild cleansing shampoo. I do intend to always follow up with conditioners after every hair wash as I also have dry hair.
I’m having trouble knowing what surfactant blend to use for my shampoos, I want them to be mild and cleansing and yet not too conditioning that it will make my conditioner feel heavy on my hair.
I have access to these surfactants: SCI, Coco glucoside, cocamidoproply betaine and capryl glucoside.
Due to price, I can only pick two out of these to use. Do you you think it will be much better to use 3? Recommend them for me please. Also help me state what percentage you recommend.
The only thickener that is accessible to me is xanthan gum and i read that it can give the product a tacky feeling. Will 1% be enough?
I also have access to glyceryl stearate can that be used to thicken the product?
I have access to these ingredients too: panthenol, centrimonium chloride, poly quat, glycerin, aleo juice, oils and aleo vera extract.
Which of these can I add to make the shampoo moisturising for my dry curly hair?
Hello! Am very new with surfactants. have gone through the lists you have given. I wouls still likw to avoid the sulphates. My question is if i were to replace the Sodium Laureth Sulfate with Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside then the total percent goes up to 48%. WIl that affect the end result? Thank you!
Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside is more concentrated than the Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLeS) I used, so you should be using less of it to replace the sulfate (check out this post to learn more). And yes, it definitely will impact the end product. As discussed in the blog post, this formulation was a long time in the making, with a ton of tests & trials to get something I was happy with—making a change that large will likely throw you into re-development territory 🙂 Happy making!
Hi Marie, Thanks for this great recipe.
Can I use just coco Betaine aa my surfactant? I don’t have access to any of the others
Hey! So… you can’t replace 48% of the formulation with a different ingredient and expect the same performance. As discussed in the post, I worked on this formulation for ages, and a huge part of that was really nailing the surfactant blend. If you replace the blend with one low-foam, low-cleanse surfactant, you really are not making the same formulation. Whatever you make might work for you, but you’re on your own there 🙂
Hi Marie! I was wondering if I could use a polysorbate instead of the olivem 300 and Cetrimonium chloride instead of the polyquaternium as I can’t find any of those two where I live. Thanks!
Hey Denise! These are tricky switches. Cetrimonium chloride instead of will decrease the viscosity of the product, which is probably ok, but I wouldn’t use a polysorbate instead of Olivem 300. Polysorbates are solubilizers, while Olivem 300 is more of a water-soluble re-fatting agent. Something like water soluble shea butter would be a better alternative, or you could try using some polysorbate to solubilize a small amount of a liquid carrier oil. Good luck & happy making!
If I were to use a Polysorbate and a carrier oil, which ones would you recommend and (more or less) at what %? Thanks
Eh… hmm. Polysorbate 80, at 4–6x the amount of oil to start. Probably 0.5% oil, and then 4–6x the Polysorbate 80? Good luck!
Hello, I’m having the same problem with Olivem 300. Unfortunately I can’t find it and I was wondering if Shea Ester(inci: Shea butter ethyl esters) can work instead.
Hi! I was wondering how you know which phase to put stuff in and like what needs melting, or what doesn’t. When to add stuff and just the actual production process.
This is information your supplier should provide, and I also note it in the Humblebee & Me DIY Encyclopedia (https://www.humblebeeandme.com/diy-encyclopedia/) 🙂
Hello Marie, I am going to make this beautiful shampoo but don´t have the guar gum, so I would like how can I substituite with. I have agar agar, aristoflex and Tego pearl. I have never used any of them and I feel a little lost. What would you recommend?
Thank you so much!!
Hi Clara! I’d probably try salt 🙂 Aristoflex won’t do much of anything due to the electrolyte content + I don’t have experience with the other 2. Happy making!
I was so excited to make this but I’m missing one ingredient. The Sodium Laureth Sulfate I have Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate though. Can I use this instead? At the same %? Thank you so much for showing us how to make our own beauty items.
Hi Bobbie! The second point in the substitutions list says: “I spent a lot of time carefully adjusting and testing this formulation to create something that works well; please be aware that if you start changing much of anything you are likely to be in re-development and re-testing territory.” That’s where your substitution would put you 🙂 Happy making!
instead of sodium lauryl sulfate harm why would you use it?
I didn’t use SLS; if you read the formulation carefully you’ll see that 🙂 Please look that ingredient up in the Humblebee & Me DIY Encyclopedia (https://www.humblebeeandme.com/diy-encyclopedia/) to learn more!
Love the selection of DIY products and am making my way through a selection! With the polyquaternium 7 substitution for the 10 is that a 1:1 ratio of substitution? I have made it up as such, using all other ingredients as listed, but the shampoo is quite thick. To salvage by adding more water, do I need to add more preservative? Thanks
I noticed on the video comments that SLeS comes in different concentrations. What is listed on this site is at 26% while mine, purchased at Botanic Planet, is 70%. I will run the numbers (on a hard copy spread sheet!) and see if I can salvage the shampoo with adding more of the other ingredients. Glad I have 4 people using shampoo!
Ah ok, yup, that’d do it! I have updated the formulation to explicitly state the ASM of the one I am using 🙂 Happy math’ing and sorry for the lack of clarity on that point 🙂
Is Sepimax Zen a good sub for Siligel here? I don’t want to use hydroxyethylcellulose because I want to use a fragrance oil.
Danggit it won’t let me delete my comment! I don’t know what happened here but this comment was ment for the most recent rose and silk shampoo!!! I commented on the video on YouTube and somehow ended up here on the wrong blog post. Idk what I did
But I DO know I can’t use sepimax Zen here because it can’t be used with Cationic ingredients.
I can’t make this one though because I don’t have SLeS or a suitable sub for it without reformulating.
For thickening shampoos I would really recommend Crothix™ Liquid instead of a gum or gelling agent—I find it is far easier to work with 🙂 And for shampoos in general, shampoo bars are SO much easier to make and are far more forgiving, so I would really recommend starting there ❤️ Happy making!
I’m looking forward to making this shampoo. I’m still fairly green when it comes to DIY cosmetic formulations, but I’m learning fast, I’ve purchased your book,sx and I’m drinking in as much information from deep reading. For this one formulation I thought, why is she using SLS? Then I read about the difference on the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia and also the website DifferenceBetween, which went into much more detail on both. Plus, since your blog here says since you made so much you’ll even be using it as a body wash, well.. I guess that pretty much says ‘it must be okay.” 🙂 Thank you for your wisdom and teachings. Oh, and since I have plenty of Hydrolyzed Rice Protein I’ll use that instead of the Hydrolyzed Silk (even though I have that too). 🙂 Thanks again Marie!
My husband is finally allowing me to try a shampoo for him (4 years waiting, lol). I made this recipe with 1 substitution, foaming silk, since I don’t have SLeS. It’s a bit thinner but otherwise fine.
His request is that he has more static electricity now & his hair seems ‘flat’. Any ideas?
I’ve used your Silky Volumizing shampoo for years so that’s is going to be my fallback for him, but he likes a higher lather.
Thank you so much for sharing your formulations!!!
Can you advice different natural surfactant instead of Sodium Laureth Sulfate in this formulation ?
No; you’d have to entirely re-develop the formulation (please read the post for more details on how much work went into this). I have shared natural liquid shampoo formulations—I’d start with one of those instead 🙂 Happy making!