This Sugar Plum Cleansing Conditioner is a wonderful continuation to the fun I’ve been having making cleansing conditioners over the last few months. My aim with this one was to create something lighter that could work better for anyone with hair that can be easily overwhelmed with oils. The end result is heavier on conditioning and lighter on oils for a fantastic, volumizing cleansing experience.
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Step one of making a lighter-on-oils cleansing conditioner is reducing the size of the oil phase. The last two cleansing conditioner recipes both had 12% oil phases, while this one has an 8% oil phase—just two-thirds the size! That goes a long way to lightening up the conditioner. The help compensate for the loss of viscosity that comes with a smaller oil phase I’ve included 3% cetearyl alcohol; this gives our product some wonderful body without weighing it down.
Because the oil phase is smaller, that means we have less BTMS-50, which has been the sole conditioning ingredient in my cleansing conditioners up until now. To keep lots of great conditioning goodness I’ve included two other non-fatty conditioning (cationic) ingredients: Polyquaternium 7 and cetrimonium chloride. I cannot get over how rich Polyquaternium 7 makes my hair feel, and cetrimonium chloride is a fantastic detangler in addition to being conditioning. I have heard from two people that cetrimonium chloride really doesn’t work with their hair, making it more tangly rather than less, so while this seems to be a pretty rare experience, if you’re finding products including cetrimonium chloride make your hair more tangled rather than less, cetrimonium chloride would be the first ingredient I’d look at replacing in the recipe.
Our oil phase is simple; conditioning emulsifier BTMS-50, fragrant plum oil, and thickening cetearyl alcohol. I find the scent of the plum oil comes through even at 3%! I’ve combined that scent with vanilla-like benzoin resinoid and bright, sweet cardamom to create our final scent blend. I am excited to report that the scent of cardamom lingered in my hair for a good day after washing, too!
To make this conditioner a cleansing conditioner I’ve included a small amount (4%) of Cocamidopropyl Betaine, a very mild amphoteric surfactant. It doesn’t lather up like crazy, but at this small amount it offers good, gentle cleansing. If you don’t have it you can try a different amphoteric surfactant, though out of all the types of surfactant I find amphoteric ones the hardest ones to find for home crafters.
Our cool down phase also features a new-to-me hydrolyzed protein that I’m pretty excited about—hydrolyzed rice protein! Windy Point recently started carrying it and we all know I’m a sucker for new ingredients. Like all hydrolyzed proteins this one is a great addition to a hair product, but it’s got some extra special volumizing powers that hydrolyzed silk and oat proteins don’t have. Hydrolyzed rice protein contains both cationic (positively charged) and anionic (negatively charged) proteins—the positively charged ones bind to the hair, and then the negatively charged ones repel the positively charged ones, creating volume. Cool, eh?! According to Lotion Crafter “Hydrolyzed Rice Protein has been shown to significantly increase total hair volume by up to 32%”! You can read more about tests on hydrolyzed rice protein here, but from a personal experience standpoint I am inclined to agree—I do feel like my hair has more volume and movement, which is great as my hair tends to be pretty straight and flat.
The finished cleansing conditioner has the most luxurious consistency and leaves my hair feeling divine, with noticeably more volume. My hair is incredibly easy to comb through after using this, and it styles well, too! I’m definitely a fan, and I hope you will be, too!
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Sugar Plum Cleansing Conditioner
Heated water phase
194.896g | 74.96% distilled water
10.4g | 4% vegetable glycerine (USA / Canada)
2.6g | 1% panthenol powder (vitamin B5) (USA / Canada)
2.6g | 1% Polyquaternium 7 (USA / Canada)
5.2g | 2% cetrimonium chloride (USA / Canada)
Heated oil phase
5.2g | 2% BTMS-50 (USA / Canada)
7.8g | 3% plum oil
7.8g | 3% cetearyl alcohol (USA / Canada) (mine is 30/70)
Cool down phase
7.8g | 3% hydrolyzed rice protein (USA / Canada)
10.4g | 4% Cocamidopropyl Betaine (USA / Canada)
0.104g | 0.04% Vitamin E MT-50 (USA / Canada)
1.3g | 0.5% Liquid Germall Plus™ (USA / Canada)
1.3g | 0.5% cardamom essential oil
2.6g | 1% benzoin resinoid
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 heated water phase into a small heat-resistant glass measuring cup. 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. Place both measuring cups in your prepared water bath to melt everything through.
After about 20–30 minutes the oil part should be completely melted and the water part should be thoroughly dissolved. Remove the water bath from the heat and weigh it. Add enough hot distilled water to bring the weight back up to what it was before heat and hold, 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 conditioner, starting with short bursts so the still-very-liquid conditioner 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 conditioner 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 lotion 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 master batch of lotion. Doing it this way minimizes the amount of cool down ingredients lost to the secondary container.
And you’re done! All that’s left to do is bottle it up—I like a tottle (tube/bottle combo thing) for this sort of project. A 240mL/8oz tottle is a good choice.
To use: in the shower, dispense a solid amount of cleansing conditioner into your palm and work it through wet hair, roots to tips—you’ll need quite a lot if your hair is thick and/or long. Pay special attention to massaging the conditioner into your scalp. Rinse thoroughly. That’s it! No need for individual shampoo or conditioner.
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 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 a simple spreadsheet as I’ve explained in this post. As written in grams this recipe will make 260g.
- If you don’t have the Polyquaternium 7 or cetrimonium chloride you can use all of one (the maximum wash off usage rate for both is 10%). You could also use honeyquat (USA / Canada), though I have found it has a much stronger fishy smell. The maximum usage rate for honeyquat is 5%, so you could use it instead of either or both the Polyquaternium 7 or cetrimonium chloride. If you don’t have any non-fatty conditioning ingredients you can replace the Polyquaternium 7 and cetrimonium chloride with more water, but this will reduce the conditioning level of the end product.
- I do not recommend swapping the BTMS-50 for a non-cationic emulsifying wax. Because we do have some other conditioning ingredients in this recipe you won’t be completely removing the conditioning element from the recipe, but I’d still consider it a pretty substantial loss to the end product. I have more information on this here.
- If you don’t have the plum oil (I haven’t found it in Canada yet—I’m sorry!) I think your best alternatives would be apricot kernel oil (USA / Canada) or cherry kernel oil—oils that are also pressed from the kernels of similar stone fruits. You will lose the marzipan/cherry note; if you aren’t a fan of the scent you might prefer that! Otherwise, you can look for a fragrance oil with a similar scent and incorporate it (I’d start at 0.1–0.2% as it’s a pretty subtle scent). I haven’t found this scent anywhere else in the realm of natural ingredients, sadly.
- You can use cetyl alcohol (USA / Canada) instead of cetearyl alcohol.
- You can try a different hydrolyzed protein, like hydrolyzed oat protein or hydrolyzed silk (USA / Canada) in place of the hydrolyzed rice protein
- You can replace the Cocamidopropyl Betaine with more water, but this will decrease the wash-off of the end product and it will no longer be a cleansing conditioner. You can increase the cleansing strength by increasing it to 6%, removing that extra 2% from the distilled water. You could use a different amphoteric surfactant for the Cocamidopropyl Betaine, but I haven’t had much luck finding any that are available to homecrafters. Les Âmes Fleurs sells babassuamidopropyl betaine, and Essential Wholesale sells sodium cocoamphoacetate. Both should be good alternatives.
- You can use a different essential oil blend or fragrance oil if you prefer.
The plum oil was gifted by Essential Wholesale & Labs.
Hi this recipe sound amazing, but i dont have BTMS 50, can I use Polawax instead?
Polawax is a non-cationic emulsifying wax so it is covered in point three on the substitutions list 🙂 I also added an encyclopedia post on BTMS-50 and linked it there so you can learn more!
Just made this. I used 6% Cocamidopropyl Betaine, subbed out plum oil for apricot, and used fragrance oils at the same percent.
It was lovely and super thick before I added the cool down ingredients and now it’s kinda soupy, it drips off the spatula 🙁 What could have gone wrong? I weighed everything accurately.
Is there any way to thicken it back up now?
Hey Kelly! The Cocamidopropyl Betaine will thin the emulsion, and since you added more I’m not surprised yours is extra thin. Thickening it up now that it’s done will be more trouble than it’s worth and possibly disastrous, so I’d leave this batch as-is and try incorporating 0.3% cationic guar gum in your next batch 🙂 Happy making!
I had the issue you mentioned w/cetrimonium chloride! It was like the outer layer of my hair became flat & glued to the under layer, which was still big, tangled, frizzy, & unmanageable. It made all my hair stick together, & unbrushable. My hair improved when using other products w/polyquats. It works well in my son’s hair though, since all i need to accomplish with his is to get it to lay flat. I don’t really have to worry about tangles.
Yikes! I wonder what is going on with this peculiar phenomenon—the one woman I know in person who has this issue has long, straight hair and I don’t believe she dyes it or heat treats it much. What is your hair like?
What is the difference between cetyl alcohol and cetearyl alcohol and how do they act differently in a product? I see them used almost synonymously in a lot of websites, but in others with a distinct difference, so I find it very confusing.
I shared the results of my experiments with both so you can read ’em and see for yourself 🙂 Cetyl alcohol & cetearyl alcohol!
oooh this sounds amazing Marie! Do you use a shampoo with this or is this ok on its own?
Thanks! No shampoo needed, it’s an all-in-one 🙂
Just finished making this one today. I didn’t have the cetrimonium so substituted honeyquat instead. I added a wee pinch of maroon mica for a tint of color and for fragrance added “Fluffy Pink Candy” by Eden’s Garden (which smells exactly like a Lush fragrance with Fairy in the name). Mine also thinned out like another poster mentioned after adding the cool down ingredients but that was a delightful surprise as I really wanted to be able to put it in a pump top bottle! It feels absolutely slippy wonderful! I imagine my hair will love it!
Thanks Marie! Im having so much fun learning from you.
Awesome! Those sound like great swaps 🙂 I find the thinning is from the Cocamidopropyl Betaine; if you add more you’ll get an even thinner product, and if you use less it’ll be thicker. I look forward to hearing what you think once you start using it 😀
Hi!! I have type 1a hair extra fine extra thin (super lame) so it can never handle conditioner on the roots… but then it gets too dry and staticky its difficult to find a way to cleanse while retaining moisture. Anyway, wondering if you think this could work for me? Side note- i used zum goats milk soap for years but i think i need more moisture now as I live in the desert
Anyway, thank you! You’re amazing and adorable and I love watching your videos
Yay! Another co-conditioner 🙂 I loved the previous two so can’t wait to give this one a try. Absolutely love the smell of cardamom too. Thanks for another great recipe Marie.
Woohoo! I really like this one—I think it’s the best one yet, but I am kind of biased LOL. Thanks for DIYing with me!
ohhhhh I was hoping for something like this!! I loved the last two but they were kind of oily so this should be a perfect treat! Now for time……
Woohoo! I look forward to hearing what you think of this one 🙂
How necessary is it to use distilled water? Will filtered water suffice in this recipe?
Distilled water is preferable as it has the least variables, but filtered water likely won’t break the recipe. Give this a read for more info 🙂
Hi Marie! I have a cetrimonium chloride question… I ordered some from lotion crafter (the same one in your US link) awhile ago to use in conditioner recipes, and it came with a giant warning label saying it could cause chemical burns if it came in contact with skin and that one should avoid inhaling fumes at all costs. I’m not concerned about this in the finished product as it’s within the safe usage rate and I’ve used many commercial products containing it and so far have lived to tell the tale… but do you take any precautions when formulating? I still haven’t used any of it because I don’t exactly have fume hood in my kitchen and I’m not entirely sure how to do it safely
Hey! I haven’t taken any special fume-hood precautions with my cetrimonium chloride. I just reviewed the SDS for it and it isn’t out of line with most of the other things we work with. Do you have access to the SDS for what you’ve purchased? I almost wonder if yours isn’t diluted (it’s typically about 29% strength). Hmmm.
Hello again, Marie! Bearded guy here… again! 🙂
I watched PLENTY of your videos (and I learned A LOT!!!) but (and I assume it’s perfectly normal, as you are a woman, LOL! 😀 ) I didn’t find any specific recipe for beard conditioner-wash product. I know – you have 4 or 5 videos/blog posts about hair/face co-wash, but could you tell me which one of the existing videos/blog posts about hair/face co-wash would be the best choice for beard hair and skin, and maybe your recommendations on what to change in your recipe (substitutes for beard etc.)? 🙂 I know that beard hair are different than head hair (and in fact woman and man head hair are different also…), that’s why I’m asking about substitutes. Maybe you even consider creating another video/blog post about beard co-wash? 🙂 I noticed it’s really “hot topic” in the bearded community right now, and products like that (especially one of them – and I don’t want to mention it’s name here to not advertise it or anything – it’s just been proven it works fantastic for beard as a co-wash!). And you did fantastic videos/recipes with your beard oils and beard balms – I would love to have another one on beard co-wash, with very light cleansing attributes and heavy conditioning. Thanks again for your FAN-TAS-TIC work – as I mentioned at the beginning – as a guy I learned A LOT thanks to you! Take care and I’m looking forward for your reply. 🙂 If youdon’t have time for a detailed answer – just point me a video/blog post with best recipe for co-wash with your already existing videos/blog posts. 🙂 One way or another – I will be extremly grateful!
Hello Adam The Bearded Guy!
Bang on the button! Beard hair and head hair are not the same and do require different oils. But, just like head hair, what works for one, may not work for another. This formula could work well for beards, but that plum oil might be a little on the light side if you’ve a wickedly thick beard. Here’s a link for some inspiration for some swaps and some scents too! If I were making this co-wash for a bearded man, I’d begin by swapping the plum oil for jojoba oil and go from there! Let me know how you get on!
I watced your YouTube video the other day. After testing a lot of cream cleansers (face & body type) I suddenly remembered that I had few cream cleansers last summer based on this recipe. They worked really well. Other ones I’ve tested have been more or less unstable. I’ll be making a new version today. Let’s see how it goes!
I’ve actually been doing exactly the same thing! Also, adding 0.3% xanthan gum = divine, stabilizing magic 😀
Sounds awesom. Thanks for the tip! Ha, great minds think a like? I added some HEC for the same reason. Works great!
I made this as a regular conditioner (omitted the Cocamidopropyl Betain) and this is, hands down, the best conditioner I’ve ever used! I love the consistency, rich yet lightweight. It left my hair so soft, with good volume. The cetrimonium chloride makes such a huge difference! I also had to sub honeyquat for the polyquat (I haven’t been able to find a source yet) and luckily didn’t have issues with odor. Thank you for such a fantastic formula!
Your comment put a massive smile on my face! Thank you so much for sharing & DIYing with me ❤️
I made this as per instructions except using hydrolyzed silk. Unfortunately, I find is to be heavy with my hair not feeling nor looking clean – the same for my kids who do have thicker hair than I do. Is there anything I can add to the existing batch to make it usable? Can I use it as a face or body wash? Thanks
Hello Marie, I am a crazy fan of You. Made this delicious conditioner . Thanks for your creation. Congrats.