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How To Make the Ultimate Natural Homemade Hair Conditioner

Updated on July 27, 2017

Homemade Natural Hair Conditioner Is Easy and Inexpensive

I have never been the type to go in for expensive shampoos and conditioners. For most of my life, I've been perfectly well satisfied with Suave--and for a good many years of my life as a mother of five daughters, expensive hair products were out of the question. There were just too many heads of hair using up staggering amounts of hair products.

Another reason I never went in for the fancier hair products is that my hair is fairly low-maintenance. That is, I don't have fly-away fine hair, easily tangled curly hair, or hair that is particularly dry or oily. Except for the years when I colored my hair, it always seemed to be reasonably healthy. So my attitude was that Suave (or whatever was on sale) seemed to be working fine.

When I began making my own natural soap shampoos, I was surprised at the improvement in both the health and texture of my hair--and surprised that it was possible to move beyond shampoos that "worked fine."

Since any old conditioner also "works fine" for my hair--meaning that anything would work to rid my freshly washed hair of snarls--I was very satisfied with the simplest homemade hair conditioner. Hey! It worked fine!

A simple homemade hair conditioner is also very cheap. A pound of BTMS-50, which costs under $20 (plus shipping) will make about three gallons of basic conditioner--and it's very easy to make. Such a simple, basic conditioner is, in my experience, equal in quality to inexpensive store-bought conditioners. Fragrance is, of course, an added cost, but very little is needed, and another very major advantage of homemade is that it allows you to choose really nice fragrances. (Maybe you have noticed that most cheap shampoos and conditioners have an unpleasant plastic scent, and that the Sweet Pea is indistinguishable from the Lavender.)

But making your own conditioner also allows you to move on from something that just "works fine." Additives are available that will make your hair silky soft, shiny, and healthy, and will allow you to customize your product to suit your hair. These additives involve extra expense, but they also mean that you need not settle for a product that may be skimping on quality ingredients. And, for me, the cost of making a rather fancy homemade conditioner comes to $5.55 for a 24-ounce batch, which is not bad for what I (immodestly) believe to be a really great product.

How I Got Around To Exploring Additives

I'd like to start out by directing you to an excellent discussion of hair conditioner additives from Swiftcraftymonkey (the go-to source for information on all things related to cosmetology). Here she discusses the additives I've suggested, along with quite a few others that may interest you:

Because I am a member of just about every Facebook soapmaking group in existence, when I make a discovery related to formulating one of my products, I like to share it. So the first time I tried adding DL-Panthenol to my conditioner, I couldn't resist telling the world about the thrilling improvement in my hair's texture.

Turns out, many of the other members of these groups know a great deal more about this stuff than I do. Dozens of these women are veritable Madame Curies of cosmetology. (I suspect them of having advanced degrees in the subject.)

Well, they set me straight! Panthenol is indeed a wonderful additive, but there are others that can work still more wonders for hair. (Comments on my recipe were along the lines of, "Well, that's okay. But you're really going to need a quaternary cationic polymer for that.")

Good additives to a basic BTMS conditioner are:

DL-Panthenol, aka Pro-Vitamin B5, is a stable lit racemic mixture of D-Panthenol and L-Panthenol. The human body readily absorbs DL-Panthenol through the skin and it rapidly converts D-Panthenol to Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5), a natural constituent of healthy hair and a substance present in all living cells. Both D-Panthenol and DL-Panthenol are equally effective for moisturization, improvement of hair structure and adding luster and sheen to the hair. (This is a quote from a supplier's description of the product.)

Swiftcraftymonkey says, "Panthenol is an alcohol that is processed by our body to become pantothenic acid - a water soluble vitamin, Vitamin B - a major constituent of our hair. This is why you see it in most hair care products, and why an entire hair care line is named after it! Panthenol for hair care products is a fantastic addition at 2% to 5%. It builds a thin moisture film on the surface of your hair (film former) and makes it shine without oil or greasiness. In addition, it can penetrate the cuticle of your hair and brings moisture to the cortex! This means you get good manageability and pliability of your hair, and it is better able to cope with brushing, wind, and other non-hair friendly things. Finally, it could give your hair more body! Studies have shown that 2% left on for 2 minutes can actually swell the hair shaft, making it seem thicker! (So use it up to 5% in your conditioner or leave in conditioner!)"

Recommended Usage: 1-5%. Add to cool-down phase, as it is heat-sensitive.

Centrimonium chloride is an excellent conditioner with anti-static, anti-frizz, and detangling properties, especially effective for softening coarse hair. It also washes away silicones when used in shampoos.

Recommended Usage Rate: Use level 0.5-4%, add to water phase.

Honeyquat (Hydroxypropyltrimonium Honey)

Excellent for use as a cationic conditioning agent to create moisturizing hair conditioners, thickeners, detanglers, anti-static and other hair care treatments, due to the extreme humectant (moisture booster and binder) properties provided.

Honeyquat is a cationic (positively charged) quaternary polymer conditioning agent,
which means it is attracted to the negatively charged hair strands (or neutral skin),
and will absorb and cling on to the surface, and resist being easily rinsed off.
This action gives the feel of enduring moisturization and deep conditioning, leaving
hair with a sleek, glossy shine and skin a dewy glow. Lubricity will also be boosted
and static control increased, which will help reduce friction and pull during wet
comb-outs, and frizzy fly-aways from dry brushing.

Recommended Usage Rate: 2% - 5% used in the cooling phase of formulation.

I tried them, and I liked them! People with hair that is a little more difficult and "needy" will especially appreciate these additives.

Homemade Hair Conditioner
Homemade Hair Conditioner

How To Make a Simple, Basic, and Cheap Conditioner with No Additives

You may want to begin with the very basic version of hair conditioner--the "works fine" version.

You'll need a crock pot and a wide-mouth quart jar (or other wide-mouth container), a kitchen scale (preferably digital) and a stick blender. The stick blender fits well into a wide-mouth quart jar.

In the quart jar mix:

20 ounces distilled water

0.6 ounces BTMS-50

Set the jar containing this mixture in your crock pot and add water to the crock pot so that the water level in the crock pot is about even with the level of the mixture in the jar.

Turn the crock pot on high and let the mixture warm for an hour or two.

Stick blend the mixture until it is creamy and free of any lumps.

Allow the mixture to cool a bit, add about a half-ounce of fragrance, stick blend to mix it in, and pour into bottles.

NOTE ON FRAGRANCES: I've found that essential oils are best for hair-care products. Essential oils that are good for hair include lavender, rosemary, cedarwood, thyme (go easy on that one), and geranium. My experience is that many fragrance oils are very bad for hair and scalp.

This very basic conditioner works very well for many people.

You can add up to 5% DL-Panthenol (one ounce for this recipe) to this, without making any other changes. DL-Panthenol alone works a wonderful improvement!

Just remember that the DL-Panthenol must be added after the mixture has cooled, as it is heat sensitive. It helps to mix the DL-Panthenol with a very small amount of water (about a quarter-ounce will do the job), and stir it until smooth before adding to the conditioner. Then stick blend to make sure it's well blended in.

You may also want to add 2 grams of Liquid Germall Plus to this, as I have suggested in the following recipe. I had no problems with spoilage with this recipe, when made it without a preservative, and it is probably not necessary when made for personal use and used up fairly quickly.

This conditioner is a little on the thin side. It can be made thicker by increasing the amount of BTMS-50, but this could result in a conditioner that is too heavy for your hair. Another option is to thicken by adding 0.5 ounces of cetyl alcohol, as in the recipe below.

How to Make a Conditioner with Additives

This conditioner recipe includes DL-Panthenol, centrimonium chloride, and Honeyquat.

The first thing you need to know is that you'll need to use BTMS-25 to make it, NOT BTMS-50!

The reason is that centrimonium chloride prevents the conditioner from thickening when BTMS-50 is used. I know this because I tried making this recipe with BTMS-50. BTMS-25 is available from Soaper's Choice. On the plus side, BTMS-25 is much less expensive than BTMS-50.

I've separated the recipe into two phases: the Heat and Hold Phase and the Cool-Down Phase, as some ingredients are heat-sensitive and must be added after the mixture has cooled to 100 F. or less.

Heat and Hold Phase

20 ounces distilled water
0.6 ounces BTMS-25
1 ounce Centrimonium Chloride (4%)
0.5 ounces Cetyl Alcohol (2%)

Cool Down Phase

2 grams Argan Oil (or other oil of your choice)
2 grams Liquid Germall Plus (0.3%)
1.3 ounces DL-Panthenol, mixed with 0.5 ounces distilled water and mixed smooth (5%)
0.5 ounces Honeyquat (2%)

0.5 ounces Lavender essential oil (or other essential oil of your choice)


Heat and Hold Phase

Put all the ingredients in the Heat and Hold Phase in a wide-mouth quart jar (or other wide-mouth container) and set the jar in a crock pot of water, so that the water in the crock pot is about the same level as the mixture in the jar.

Turn the crock pot on high and heat the mixture for an hour or two.

Stick blend the mixture till it is smooth and creamy. Make sure it is free of lumps.

Cool-Down Phase

After the mixture has cooled to somewhere between lukewarm and room temperature, add the ingredients in the Cool-Down Phase and stick blend till thoroughly blended.

Once everything is well blended, the conditioner is ready to bottle. I like pump bottles for this. Wal-Mart carries some nice, fairly inexpensive pump bottles, like the one shown in the picture at the top.

Some Notes on this Recipe

Cetyl alcohol has been added as a thickener. The amount makes quite a thick product. If you'd like a thinner product, you can use less. Swiftcraftymonkey says of cetyl alcohol, "This offers oil free moisturization, increases the efficiency of the BTMS, and improves wet combing. It's very inexpensive and easy to find, so including this in a recipe is always a good idea." It's a good ingredient in its own right, beyond just being a good thickener. Here's the link to her excellent discussion of additives (again):

I have suggested argan oil to add a bit of shine to hair. The amount I've suggested seems to be about right for most hair. (This probably seems like a tiny amount, but a little of this stuff goes a long ways.) You can adjust the amount to suit your hair. You can also omit the argan oil, or choose a different oil. There are many oils that are favorites for hair care. Perilla seed oil contains rosmarinic acid to strengthen hair. Safflower oil is reuted to make hair shiny. Black cumin seed oil is said to help prevent hair from thinning--though I doubt if this tiny amount would do the job. Meadowfoam oil is said to be absorbed by the hair more than other oils.

Both DL-Panthenol and centrimonium chloride are used at the maximum recommended usage rate. You may want to use less.

Finally, I have suggested 0.5 ounces of essential oil for fragrance for this recipe, which is a rather high amount. This may be too much for you, and you may want to cut this back a little. (I fear that years of soapmaking may have made me nose-blind--and unable to tell when I've overdone the fragrance.)


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