Take control of the ingredients that go into your hair products by making them at home. This easy, DIY hair conditioner uses natural ingredients to leave your hair feeling soft and tangle-free. It’s light enough to use as a leave-in conditioner too.
The finished conditioner feels thick and sumptuous as you apply it, but it won’t weigh your hair down or leave it looking greasy. Let’s dive in.
Hair Conditioner for Natural Hair
The main, important, ingredient for making this conditioner is a cationic emulsifier called BTMS (aka. Behentrimonium Methosulfate). It’s really great for making hair products because it is a great detangler and makes hair feel silky smooth. At the same time, it’s light enough to use in leave-in conditioners.
BTMS is an emulsifier that is naturally obtained from rapeseed oil. The recommended dosage of BTMS is 2-10% of the final weight of the product, depending on the desired consistency.
We generally use around 5% in hair conditioners. If you use less than that, you’ll end up with a thinner product. Using too little, though, may result in an unstable emulsion that might separate. Using more than 5%, you’ll end up with a slightly thicker consistency.
BTMS-50, on the other hand, is a combination of Behentrimonium Methosulfate, Cetyl Alcohol and Butylene Glycol. The percentage of Behentrimonium Methosulfate is also higher, around 50%.
What is butylene glycol?
Butylene glycol is a type of alcohol that is sometimes used in cosmetics. While it is generally considered safe, some people avoid all glycols. They may avoid them because they are usually derived from petroleum or because they consider them synthetic ingredients.
Other optional ingredients
Apart from changing out the oils and waters, or adding humectants like glycerin, there are other ways to customize your homemade conditioner.
To add fragrance, you can add essential oils that are great for hair care products. Some essential oils may add other properties. Mint can stimulate circulation in the scalp, which can help prevent hair loss, but some people might find it irritating to the delicate skin there.
To further nourish the hair, you can also add vitamins like d-panthenol and/or other additives like rice or wheat protein.
Clean your work surfaces, utensils, and packaging. (You can use alcohol to better sanitize surfaces.)
Weigh out the distilled water. Heat the water over a double boiler.
Weigh out the oil (or oils) in a double boiler insert.
Heat the oil and BTMS mixture over the double boiler until the BTMS has melted. Fully stir the ingredients together until well combined and remove from the heat.
Add the hot water to the hot oil mixture. Ideally the water and oils should be at around the same temperature (around 70º-75ºC/160º-170ºF). Keep stirring until the mixture comes together and thickens slightly.
Allow the mixture to cool to around 90ºF/30ºC, and then add delicate ingredients like the preservatives, essential oils, or any other additives like silk or wheat protein that you may want to add.
Test the pH of the conditioner. Ideally, you want the pH to be in a good range for both your hair (4.5-5) and for the effectiveness of whatever preservative you are using. Adjust the pH down with a couple of drops of lactic acid (or, less likely, up with a solution of NaOH).
Bottle your conditioner. Wait until fully cooled to cap the bottle to prevent condensation from forming above the conditioner. You can now use it as needed!