I am so excited to share this recipe with you guys. I’ve been working on it since shortly after new years, and sharing the progress on my Instagram stories as I’ve been testing and tweaking. This is a conditioning shampoo; more lather than a cleansing conditioner, but more conditioning goodness and lovely oils than you’d usually find in a shampoo. It’s a lovely, lazy hybrid for those of us who like as few things on our shower to-do list as possible. As I’ve been using this conditioning shampoo I’ve been amazed by two big things: the amazing volume and incredible detangling powers. Like… wow. I’ll wake up in the morning after shampooing the previous evening and my hair is so light and voluminous, and then when I go to comb through it—it’s so easy! I’m pretty much completely besotted with this stuff, and I’m so excited to share this formula for Silky Volumizing Conditioning Shampoo so you can be besotted with me.
Over the last year or so I’ve been doing more product research in the realm of purchasing and trying products made by, well, not me. Le gasp. Anywho, that research is where the inspiration for this DIY came from. I tried Hair is Fabric’s Hydration Support and fell for it hard and fast. It was creamy and fragrant, worked up into a decadent lather, and left my hair feeling utterly amazeballs. The ingredients list was a bit dense at first (Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, anyone?), so I fired up a spreadsheet to get a better idea of what was going on.
The general gist of it was this: a few surfactants I’d worked with and quite a few I hadn’t, some conditioning/cationic ingredients, hydrosols, emollients, thickeners, humectants, preservatives, and some nice smelling things. A few things stuck out: the oil (Abyssinian Seed Oil) was fairly high up in the ingredients list, most of the thickeners were made from stearic acid, and there were no silicones. I wasn’t interested in working on an exact dupe, but I really liked the product and was interested in riffing on it, using more accessible ingredients.
The surfactant blend for this conditioning shampoo is all about gentleness and low, but rich, lather. A blend of SCI and foaming silk (two anionic surfactants) is made even gentler with the addition of some cocamidopropyl betaine (an amphoteric surfactant). Earlier versions of this conditioning shampoo had a fairly low active matter percentage (I tried as low as 12%), but I found that had me using a lot of product to feel like I was getting my hair clean. I decided I’d rather use more surfactants to create a product I could use less of, so I worked on increasing the active matter and settled at 16.74%. I found this to be a good balance between enough lather to feel like a shampoo, but not so much that you were left wondering where the “conditioning” part went.
For conditioning we’ve got BTMS-50 (also an emulsifier, which is useful in this formula), and some cetrimonium chloride. I chose cetrimonium chloride over a different quat for its excellent detangling abilities, and because it’s less expensive than the other quats I have. To thicken we’re using a blend of guar gum and glycol distearate, which also ensures we have a nice creamy looking (and feeling) end product. Sodium lactate and panthenol help hydrate our hair, and some wonderful broccoli seed oil helps soften, add gloss, and otherwise pamper our locks.
I chose straight labdanum to scent this shampoo as it is one of my favourite scents (I had been planning something else but then took a giant whiff of it while I was gathering my ingredients and all other plans went straight out the window). You are more than welcome to use something else you like—citrus essential oils can be a good choice here since this is a wash-off product. Woo! Anyhow, enough of my general rhapsodizing; let’s make some Silky Volumizing Conditioning Shampoo!
Silky Volumizing Conditioning Shampoo
I opted to make this over direct (low!) heat rather than using a water bath as I’ve had difficulty in the past melting SCI and BTMS-50 in water baths. You are certainly welcome to use a water bath if you like, and if you join me in doing this over direct heat, PLEASE keep that heat low, and keep an extremely close eye on your concoction as you work! Direct heat is nowhere near as forgiving as a water bath and you can burn things if you aren’t paying attention.
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 surfactant phase ingredients into a small saucepan. Weigh the water phase ingredients into a small heat-resistant glass measuring cup or beaker, and weigh the oil phase into a second small heat-resistant glass measuring cup or beaker. Place the water phase and oil phase in your prepared water bath to warm them up and keep them ready for action.
Place the saucepan with the surfactants over low heat and stir as they soften, melt, and become uniform. Once you have a smooth, white paste with no visible bits of SCI, add the oil phase. Stir to combine. When your mixture is uniform, add the water phase. At this point I used the MiniPro Mixer from Lotion Crafter to blend it all together (more on that here). By using very short bursts and keeping the blending disc below the surface I was able to prevent too much lather from working up/the incorporation of too much air, and the mixer sped up the dissolving process immensely! If you don’t have a small blender or mixer you can just leave the mixture over low heat until the surfactant paste softens up and dissolves (I recommend covering the mixture to reduce evaporation).
When the heated mixture is uniform, remove it from the heat and stir it as it cools—somewhat constantly initially, but as it gets cooler you can reduce the frequency. Once it has reached room temperature, stir in the essential oil and preservative, and decant into a 250mL/8oz tottle or squeeze bottle. I find this is far too thick for use in a pump-top bottle.
To use, work generous amounts into soaking wet hair, working up a good lather, and ensuring you get all your hair clean. Leave for three minutes or so (that’s a good time to shave your legs or work on your Lion Sleeps Tonight solo) before thoroughly rinsing out. Enjoy!
This conditioning shampoo should be suitable for most types of hair; the surfactant blend is quite gentle, and contains no sulfates, so if should be fine for coloured and grey hair. My hair is thick, fine, and straight, and it loves it! The amount of conditioning ingredients (9%) may be a bit much for some curly hair, but as somebody who does not have curly hair I really don’t have much insight there.
Because this conditioning 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 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.
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 this batch calculator from Making Skincare. As written in grams this recipe will make 200g.
- You can use a different liquid anionic surfactant instead of the foaming silk; foaming oats would be a good option! Look for something that is approximately 30% active matter for a similar final total surfactant concentration.
- Glycerin will work well in place of sodium lactate
- You can use a different liquid cationic ingredient instead of centrimonium chloride, like Polyquaternium 7 or Honeyquat.
- You can use a hydrolyzed protein, like silk or oat, instead of the vitamin B5, or simply use more water.
- You can use a different liquid oil that your hair loves in place of the broccoli seed oil
- You can use a different essential oil (or blend of)
- If you do not have guar gum and glycol distearate you can replace them with more water and then thicken the final product with liquid Crothix or salt. However, please be aware that removing the glycol distearate will mean the mixture will foam significantly more when blended, which introduces other issues—mostly product loss and the general irritation of ending up with a giant whippy cloud of product.