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)
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.