This Silky Camellia Hair Serum is a wonderful combination of a leave-in hair conditioner and an oil serum. It helps reduce frizz, add shine, prevent breakage, and even provides a touch of heat protection along with making your hair smell pretty. A drop or two is more than enough to smooth down fly-aways and perk up dry-looking ends. I’ve designed it to be customizable on a use-by-use basis, so if you happen to need a more potent or more dilute product at any given time, you’ve got it! Its also easy to make and I’ve provided a big list of substitutions and alternatives at the end of the recipe so you can tweak it to use what you’ve got on hand 🙂
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Camellia seed oil is one of the first more luxurious oils I purchased. I was intrigued by the description, which said it was very lightweight and absorbed into the skin quickly, leaving it silky smooth—I feel like I’m always on the hunt for lighter, faster-absorbing oils, especially for my hair, which doesn’t tolerate much oil before looking pretty awful. I was also intrigued by the history. I remembered seeing a comb on display at the Royal Ontario Museum in an exhibit about Japan, and the nearby placard mentioned how Japanese women and geishas had used camellia seed oil in their hair for centuries.
There are three well known members of the Camellia family; C. sinensis, C. oleifera, and C. japonica. These three variations have proven a bit frustrating to research. C. sinensis is the plant that gives us tea, and for that it will always have my undying love. C. oleifera is the oil I have, “is mainly used for the production of edible oils, such as camellia oil, tea seed oil, or oil-tea camellia seed oil in China” (source). C. japonica “has a long history of traditional cosmetic usage in Japan as a protectant to maintain the health of skin and hair” (source) as well as being a lovely ornamental flower. Depending on the source, C. oleifera may or may not be a traditional cosmetic oil; it’s definitely a traditional cooking oil, but from what I can find, it seems C. japonica is the traditional beauty oil. That said, C. oleifera is still a lovely carrier oil, and there’s no reason not to use it! If you happen to know where I can find some, I would love to get my hands on some C. japonica to compare them.
Since I’m working with C. oleifera, let’s talk about it! It’s rich in oleic acid (also common in olive oil), with linoleic acid, palmitic acid, and stearic acid rounding out most of the rest of the fatty acid profile. I got mine from New Directions Aromatics, and you can review the precise fatty acid profile in the CoA here. It’s pale yellow, doesn’t smell like much of anything (just sort of vaguely oil-like), and it’s rich in antioxidants (though just how rich does vary with the extraction method). It has a lovely, silky slip on the skin and sinks in quickly, leaving your skin feeling velvety soft and not at all greasy.
Despite how lovely and light camellia seed oil is, it still isn’t all that light in the hair department—at least not for my hair. I remember excitedly massaging perhaps 1/4 tsp of oil through my hair when I got my first bottle back in 2011, and instead of being rewarded with luscious, flowing locks, I got stringy, sad-looking hair that needed to be promptly washed. Sigh. So, I’ve taken a few steps to lighten it up.
Step one: dilute it with something even lighter! Two common choices for that “something lighter” are water and cyclomethicone, both of which are very light, evaporate quickly, and won’t leave your hair looking greasy. They’ll dilute the oil so you can better distribute it through your hair and then vanish, leaving a minuscule amount of oil in your hair, doing its thing, but not forcing you to take a shower. For this serum, I’ve selected something a bit different—Neossance® Hemisqualane (USA / Canada) (full disclosure: I was sent a bottle of this, but I’m using it because I love it). This stuff is pretty amazing. It’s incredibly silky and lightweight. Sometimes called “Squalane Light”, it’s made from plant sugars and is unbelievably lovely to work with. Lotion Crafter has an amazing list of great things it does for hair, including reducing frizz, protecting it from heat (though I wouldn’t count on this too much if you heat treat your hair extensively), preventing breakage, and making it easier to comb through. I also love it in cosmetics—especially foundation!
Step two is giving the oil the ability to self-dilute in water. I’ve made hair things that are a small amount of oil dispersed in a large amount of water before, but here I wanted to avoid fussing with an emulsion and preservatives, and I wanted to create something that was more customizable on a per-use basis. To do this I included some BTMS-50, which does two neat things. First off, it adds some conditioning goodness to our serum, so I really don’t recommend using a different emulsifying wax instead. Second, it makes the serum self-emulsifying in water, so if you want to blend it with a few drops of water in your palm before application or massage it into wet or damp hair, it’ll work brilliantly. The BTMS and cetyl alcohol also work together to give the serum a bit of body so it’s not too drooly, making it easier to control dispensing and application.
Since this is a simple oil-based concoction it comes together really easily with a bit of time in a water bath and some stirring. I think you’ll love it!
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Silky Camellia Hair Serum
3g | 12% BTMS-50 (USA / Canada)
0.5g | 2% cetyl alcohol (USA / Canada)
11.25g | 45% camellia seed oil
10g | 40% Neossance® Hemisqualane (USA / Canada)
0.125g | 0.5% Vitamin E MT-50 (USA / Canada)
0.125g | 0.5% essential oil(s) of choice
Prepare a water bath by bringing about 3cm/1″ of water to a bare simmer over low to medium-low heat in a small saucepan.
Weigh the BTMS, cetyl alcohol, camellia seed oil, and Neossance™ Hemisqualane into a small heat-resistant glass measuring cup. Place the measuring cup in your prepared water bath to melt everything through.
Once everything has melted, remove the measuring cup from the heat and dry the outside of it off with a dish towel. Set the measuring cup on a towel or hot pad to insulate it from the counter and stir the mixture with a flexible silicone spatula to combine everything. Remove the towel and leave the serum to cool for about 20 minutes—it’ll appear milky and thicken up a bit.
Once cool, stir in the vitamin E and essential or fragrance oil. Decant into a 30mL/1fl oz bottle; I used this one from Voyageur Soap & Candle. I would recommend using a container that allows you to dispense small amounts of the product as you don’t tend to need much at any given time. If you don’t have something like a treatment pump, which pumps out really small amount of product, I would recommend a bottle with an eye dropper top as a good alternative.
To use, take a drop or two of the product in your palms, and disperse it across your hands before running it through your hair from about the ears down. Go slowly—you can always add more, but if you overdo it you’ll need a shower sooner rather than later. Enjoy!
Shelf Life & Storage
Because this serum is 100% oil based, it does not require a broad-spectrum preservative (broad spectrum preservatives ward off microbial growth, and microbes require water to live—no water, no microbes!). Kept reasonably cool and dry, it should last at least a year before any of the oils go rancid. If you notice it starts to smell like old nuts or crayons, that’s a sign that the oils have begun to oxidize; chuck it out and make a fresh batch if that happens.
I made a 25g batch—that’s what the gram amounts will create, and I found that to be a great amount of product. I’ve included the percentages if you’d prefer to scale otherwise, though, as I know not everybody has a scale accurate enough for those fiddly little measurements!
- You can use BTMS-25 or BTMS-50. Using a different emulsifying wax removes the conditioning element of this serum and is not recommended.
- You can use more BTMS or more camellia seed oil instead of the cetyl alcohol. More camellia seed oil will make for a thinner product.
- If you don’t have camellia seed oil you can replace it with another lightweight carrier oil, like squalane, macadamia nut oil, rosehip oil, or hazelnut oil
- You’ve got a couple options if you don’t have Neossance™ Hemisqualane:
- You can use more camellia seed oil, keeping in mind this will make for a heavier final product
- You can replace it with half camellia seed oil, and half cyclomethicone, adding the cyclomethicone with the cool down phase
- You can replace it with another lightweight carrier oil, like squalane, macadamia nut oil, rosehip oil, or hazelnut oil, keeping in mind this will still make for a heavier final product than the version made with Hemisqualane
- You can scent/fragrance it however you like, or leave it unscented; I used 1 “blob” labdanum, and 2 drops oak moss absolute
Glad you didn’t use the silicone. We curly girls avoid those like the plague. They’re nice at first, but for most cause real problems later. This looks super lovely! Thank you.
How interesting! Even cyclomethicone? It’s so volatile that I wonder if it would actually stick around to cause issues, though I’m no curly girl so I really have no experience 🙂
I like silicones. This recent anti silicone movement is a little frustrating. Everything can cause build up and silicones can be quite nice offering shine and protection from the frizz. Signed, extremely curly girl
The non water-soluble silicones build up unless you wash daily with a clarifying shampoo, which increases dryness which increases frizz, which you try to tame with more silicones… never ending cycle!
The water-soluble -cones don’t seem to be used much in commercial products – at least in my price range – so it’s generally easier to avoid them all. Curly Hair care is the reason I started making my own products. It’s either expensive salon conditioner (I don’t blink at the price of BTMS-50), or make my own.
I’m curious to make this with fractionated coconut oil, since it’s one of the few oils that actually penetrates the hair shaft. I think it would be fabulous. What do you think? Or a Camellia and FCO blend?
It’s worth a go for sure! I look forward to hearing what you think 🙂
Also, maybe you mentioned it when you discussed the bottles; where do you get those awesome serum pump bottles? I haven’t seen them anywhere? (Fingers crossed you don’t say NDA, I hate shopping at NDA)
They are direct linked right in the recipe 🙂
I haven’t made this yet, but I have made the orange blast solid conditioner bar and had replaced the dimethecone with the hemisqualane and between the conditioner bar and putting some straight camellia seed oil on the last four-five inches of hair while it was wet, my hair is almost totally frizz free for the first time in my adult life! Even in the humidity! Now you’ve combined the two things I’m attributing it too and one product and I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am about it…which is why I’m “reviewing” it before I even made it. Its gonna be the bee’s knees, I’m sure of it!
Ooooh, I can’t wait to hear what you think when you do make it if your pre-review is so lovely 😉
Okay, I made it and it is just wonderful! It not only met my expectations it exceeded them. You have to understand that I have hair from hell. I have a lot of it too, but it’s extremely fine. The right side is curly (ringlets even) and the left side is wavy. The underneath all the way around is straight. And all of it frizzes at the drop of a hat. I used this wonderful potion last night and this morning my hair has no frizz. Not one bit. It looks shiny and happy. It also feels like it’s kinda damp (although it’s not), but I did use way more of the serum than most people would. I’ll be adjusting the amount as I go along but at this point I plan on never running out of it. Thank you so much!
YAY!!! This is such a wonderful testimonial/review, it makes my heart sing 😀 WOO! I’ve really been enjoying blending some with water in my palm before use—if you’re using a lot that might help 🙂
Hi Marie,you can find camellia japonica oil on eBay.It’s used for cooking knives as well.Search for tsubaki oil. Make sure you order the pure oil, some are mixed with other oils.
Thanks, I’ll take a look!
What makes a product a serum? I thought BTMS-50 was 2% for leave in products? I need a nice oil or lotion for my hair, it’s so dry 🙁
In the world of hair care and beauty there are a lot of different definitions. From what I’ve noticed, the common thread seems to be that the product is potent and designed to be used in small amounts. It can be water or oil based, or an emulsion, but it is almost always packed with lots of good-for-skin/hair ingredients. Some are supposed to be protective, some smooth, some moisturize, some add shine—it all seems to depend on the brand.
We routinely use BTMS-50 at much higher than 2% for leave-in when we use it in lotions (usually 5–7%), and I can’t find any supplier that stipulates a leave-in rate that low; the range I’ve seen is from as low as 0.1% and as high as 15%.
Hopefully your hair loves this—it should help, though if your hair has been extensively heat and/or colour treated a haircut may be the biggest impact change you can make.
Thanks for the reply 🙂 so this is something I can add to dry hair and leave in? I have afro hair so most days I leave it out and by the end of the day I have a very dry hay stack on my head. I tried to make a leave in conditioner but it was always too ‘wet’ so my hair would shrink as it does in humid weather. I wash my hair weekly and I use this hair lotion but although it makes the hair a bit oilier and softer, it is heavy on the hair and dries out after a day.
You definitely can apply it to dry hair as well as damp hair—it’s all up to you and what works for your hair 🙂
If you don’t have the Neossance™ Hemisqualane can you use more cetyl alcohol? Seeing as how you can use the oil in lieu of the alcohol, and you can use more oil in lieu of the Hemisqualane, can you use the cetyl alcohol in lieu of the Hemisqualane?
No; you can’t replace a massive amount of liquid with a powerful thickening agent. Replacing 2% cetyl alcohol with a bit of liquid oil will make for a slightly thinner product, but replacing 40% Neossance™ Hemisqualane with cetyl alcohol will give you a solid brick.
You can find Camellia Japonica oil
at Ingredients to Die For.
Thanks! I’ll have to keep them in mind next time I’m in the USA; finding things in Canada is usually a challenge and cross-border shipping and duty is appallingly expensive :/
Can I use olive squalane in place of the hemisqualane, or is the hemisqualane necessary?
This is covered in the substitutions list at the end 😉
Okay. Thanks. Skipped right over it and saw Macadamia nut.
I just found you and your faboulous recipies a short while ago, but I’m already hooked, filling shopping-carts in 2 diffrent shops with goodies to play with 😉
But since I’m in germany and I honestly hate shopping from the U.S. (taxes and shipping etc are a pain in my butt every single time) I really have a hard time getting soe of your faves.
Could you just spare a quick glance at this https://www.google.de/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjGxIei4JrWAhWKbhQKHUsgBcwQFggrMAE&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.behawe.com%2Findex.php%3Fproduct%3D1546%26lang%3D2&usg=AFQjCNGeHE74aqkJnRKD1hFldqSppy7kbA
if this looks like BTMS to you ?
It looks like BTMS-25; always check your INCIs! Here’s a great resource to learn more 🙂
It’s so good that u hv added the percentage as well. Can we hv that in every recipe pls? It’s much more convenient to figure out the amount if the total weight is different form yours.
I typically get complaints when I do this, so probably not, but you will notice that the vast majority of my recipes are in percents if you change the “G” to a “%” 🙂
Hi Marie, can I use Centrimonium Chloride 30% in place of the cyclomethicone substitution?
Im trying to figure out if its the same type of product but havent found anything solid yet…
Thanks in advance
No; Centrimonium Chloride is water soluble (it’s mostly water), and it would moreso take the place of the BTMS-50 than the cyclomethicone as it’s a conditioner, but it isn’t an emulsifier. There’s really no place for it in this recipe, though one could work it into a hair conditioner 🙂
Just made this awesome hair serum and I absolutely loved it! It helped my dry hair to retain moisture and boosts shine as well. Thank you so much for coming up with this wonderful recipe!
One question, though. I think you mentioned you like using Neossance Hemisqualane for your foundation if I am correct. I love the liquid foundation recipe on your book ‘Make It Up’ and enjoy using it but is there a way to incorporate Hemisqualane to this recipe?
YAY!!! I’m so glad 🙂 For the foundation, try replacing 25–50% of the argan oil with Neossance Hemisqualane and see what you think 😉
Thank you for your reply! That sounds awesome! I will definitely try that. Thank you!!! 🙂
Happy foundation-ing 😀
Here is a link for you. https://www.fushi.co.uk/camellia-japanese-oil-organic-100ml.html
Thanks! I am not likely to order it from the UK but hopefully this will help other UK readers 🙂
You can find the japonica version in amazon.
I’m not American 😉
Hi Marie! I love all your recipes and this one in particular :). I made it once this summer and it made my hair shiny, easy to detangle and frizz-free -win! After a few weeks though, it separated into a thick opaque paste and a transparent liquid phase. I just made it again yesterday and this time, it separated in one day. It’s be really cold here in the UK -do you think that it’s something to do with the temperature? Should I re-heat it to reincorporate the two phases? Any advice so it doesn’t separate in the first place? I love this serum but mine in unusable at the minute :(. Thanks a lot! 🙂
Yes, that’s definitely a temperature thing; placing the bottle in a warm water bath and shaking should help. In the future I’d drop the cetyl alcohol and reduce the BTMS-50 by a few percentange points and replace those with more liquid oils to create a less solid product that should fare better in cooler weather 🙂 Happy making!
What do you think if i add silk protein? And how much i can add? I just got one but it’s in liquid form
Ah just found out the silk protein is water soluble, so i guess i can’t replace the Hemisqualane with silk
Given that this recipe does include an emulsifier (the BTMS-50) you could, but you will also need to incorporate a broad spectrum preservative. I’d probably use 1–2%.
Is there a way I could use powder silk peptides and the cyclomethicone in this recipe instead of the hemisqulane?
You could use cyclomethicone instead of hemisqualane, but the silk still won’t dissolve, so I wouldn’t recommend including it—it’ll just be gritty and plug up your pump top. Happy making!
Would substituting Dimethicone or Polyquaterium for the Neossance Hemisqualane work? I have both from the Orange Blast bar already.
No to the polyquat (that’s closer to the BTMS-50, though also water soluble, so you’d need to add a preservative, and it’s not an emulsifier), and a “not recommend” for the dimethicone. Cyclometicone would be a better alternative as it is much, much lighter—that much dimethicone would be very heavy on the hair 🙂
Hi Marie I am looking forward to making this but don’t Mt. Have Hemisqualane and also don’t want it too heavy. Looking at previous comments for answer to – can I use a bit of Honeywuat in with more camellia oil to replace the Hemisqualane but lighter? From above maybe no? Even with BTMS50? I’d add preservative too of course. Thanks- been enjoying your great posts!
Hey! I really would not recommend adding water soluble products to this—you’d be dramatically impacting the entire recipe. I’d probably just stick with using all camellia seed oil as the replacement and being mindful of using less product on application; you could also try blending the serum with a bit of water in the palm of your hand at the instant of use to further dilute it 🙂
Love your site..thank you! I have dug around but have not found a liquid face serum, have you made one! I see the cream but I am looking for a light face serum. The commercial one that I use has vitamin c but I am trying to replace all products with diy…
Oh sorry Marie….I need to improve my search skills and learn your site better!…I found many face serum recipes! Now to decide which one to try….Thank you
No worries, happy making!
I’ve made tons—have you done a search for “serum” on the blog? The best ones are oil based 🙂
I have an idea you might like. And its an incredibly simple formula! Use rosehip oil as your carrier oil to dilute an essential oil blend of your choice (whatever benefits you are looking for in a serum). I love carrot seed EO and helichrysum EO. I just put a few drops of each in the rosehip oil and shake to incorporate. You can even use just rosehip oil and still get great benefits. When applying it to my face, I first spritz it with rosewater (until its almost dripping), or you can splash your face with plain tap water. I then wet my hands and put 1-2 drops of the oil on my fingertips and dab it all over my wet face. Then I massage it all in, and continue to massage it in until its absorbed and just slightly damp. You can spritz your face again if you feel you need more absorbtion. The addition of the water helps tremendously with getting your skin to pull all of the moisture in. The length of my comment probably makes it sound like the process takes forever, but it really only takes a couple of minutes. Hope this helps!
Hello Marie – I made this for my daughter as a flyaway tamer. She likes to use one in a mascara type tube with wand. This is rather thick for that purpose though. I was thinking I would add some distilled water and Liquid Germall Plus – am I on the right track? Thank you
Hey! So, no. Don’t add water when there wasn’t any before—thin it by reducing the thickening ingredients (the solid ones) and increasing the thinning ingredients (the liquid ones) to compensate 🙂
Hey! You are the one who opened a big chapter in my DIY world! I thought I knew a lot before I fell upon your youtube chanel and fell in love! I quickly bought ingredients to make lotions and conditioners. However, I am scanning posts for a water based, super light oil emulsion to spray onto damp hair after a shower. I would love to see a blog (or vlog!) Of this. Thank you for all the wonderful information! I truly feel beautiful using my own formulations now!
Yay! I’m so glad to hear I’m playing a part in your DIY journey 🙂 If you search “hair mist” you should find several options 🙂
wonderful recipe as always!
A question regarding the substitution for Neossance™ Hemisqualane, you suggested
“You can replace it with half camellia seed oil, and half cyclomethicone, adding the cyclomethicone with the cool down phase”. can I replace Cyclomethicone with Dimethicone 350? I saw your comment on another reader that you would not recommended but do you think using 50% still going to be too heavy (the other half being camellia seed oil)or should I further reduce Dimethicone to 25%. Thanks!
(I know I am crazy…. I am asking substitutions of a substitution)
I really don’t recommend it because using dimethicone instead of cyclomethicone is like using oil instead of water, and in our hair, that makes a big different. Cyclomethicone is highly volatile and will evaporate off within moments, dimethicone is thick and slick and will never evaporate off. It will make for a much heavier end product because you are replacing an ingredient designed to lighten the product with one that will make it heavier. Hope that helps!
Can you tell me where to buy any type of Squalane in Canada? to get it shipped from the US costs more than the product. 🙁
Voyageur has it!
Thanks Marie! Thought you should know I found some at Soap and More in Calgary 🙂
Good to know, thanks 🙂
I made this and LOVE it! Now I’m trying to decide if I should invest in regular squalane for some of your other recipes, but I just can’t find any description of how they are different. Are the two products interchangeable? What is the basic difference between them?
Hey! I don’t find them to be interchangeable—hemisqualane is SO much lighter than olive squalane. If you’ve got fractionated coconut oil I find that much closer to squalane than hemisqualane 🙂
Hi Marie can this recipe work on African hair texture. Because African hair is so thick and coarse in nature. Will this recipe make it really soft and easy to comb?
I’m afraid I’m not sure; I have 1b hair and that’s what I am able to readily test on. In theory, I think it should work well. From what I do know of 4-type hair I would recommend scaling up the batch as I believe 4-types are much more oil loving than my hair, which is very easily weighed down by oils and butters 🙂
Can I replace the hemisqualine with caprylic capric glycerides?
Yes, though the end product will likely be a wee bit heavier/slower absorbing 🙂
Hiiii from Amsterdam,
What a wonderful diy! Thanks for this diy project. Could you please tell me where i can find hemisqualine?
Thanks a lot!
I’m afraid I have no idea where you could find it in Amsterdam (I love your city!). Have you checked the suppliers listed on this page?
It doesn’tmention this in the blog but can I use dimethicone in place of the hemisqualene in this?
I think dimethicone 1.5 could work well, but 350/500/1000 will be a lot heavier than the Neossance® Hemisqualane. If you have hair that loves oils + silicones that might work well for you. Otherwise, I’d try cyclomethicone first 🙂 Happy making!
I’ve tried making this recipe twice but I swapped out some ingredients: I used cetearyl alcohol, instead of the Camellia oil I put Grapeseed oil, and instead of the Neossance I put some alkyl benzoate. For some reason, the recipe is not stable. It separates and the BTMS + Cetyl Alcohol creates a sort of dense bulb and it doesn’t mix back together. Any ideas as to why? Thank you and happy 2021 !
I just made this, it got to room temperature a few minutes ago, and it’s solid! The only change was olive squalane instead of hemisqualane, and I don’t think that should have changed the texture so drastically. It’s like a soft body butter. I’ll have to melt it back down in a waterbath to get it out of the treatment pump container. Why???