Sunday, May 31, 2015

Well Conditioned

Since I've already got the ball started on surfactant-based hair care, why not talk conditioner? This is the stuff I spend a living fortune on for my child. For what it's worth, before I had a kid with masses of hair, I used to buy really expensive conditioner and a small bottle would last 6 months, even though I wash my hair and condition pretty well every day. See, I have really short, really fine, not terribly thin but certainly not thick hair. I can use a dime's-worth of conditioner and it's all good. Seriously though, unless I want to buy crap from the drug store - and I mean the stuff that costs $2.99 a bottle, not the fancy drug store offerings - the quality/affordable pickings are slim. I spend about 11 bucks a bottle for Herbal Glo oily hair conditioner from the health food store. Note: It has all kinds of unpronounceable ingredients in it, to go back to my point in yesterday's post.

Here's the interesting thing about conditioner: There's really no way to make it "natural". Don't misunderstand, you can make natural-ish hair moisturizers that do not count as conditioners (and even they will not be all natural, if you add water to oil, because you'll need to preserve them). What you cannot do is make conditioner as we currently define it (that special product that glides over hair, settles on it lightly between washes, detangles and defrizzes), without using one specific non-natural ingredient. And that ingredient is a cationic quaternary compound.

Let's not fuss about the science - though really, it's VERY interesting. Like, way more interesting than sewing and knitting math. Thing is, positively-charged, cationic quaternary compounds aren't found in nature.

OK, we're not going to dwell on the science but I can't stop myself! I'm compelled to tell you that the reason these compounds do their detangling, softening, anti-staticizing job is because they're positively charged and our hair shafts are negatively charged. If you try to make a product with the sort of conditioning emulsifier one uses in hand cream, for example, it won't work cuz that stuff is non-ionic. It'll just fall off - not to mention that most of the other ingredients are way too heavy for hair. That's why we're not all saving money by putting hand cream on our heads.

I do wonder what all of those 18th century ladies with all that freakin' hair looked like first thing in the morning.

At any rate, yesterday I made my first batch of conditioner and it is WAY too freakin' moisturizing. For my hair, I mean. For the kid, it'll be great! Today I'm back at it. I'm going to reduce the amount of cationic quaternary (BTMS-50, in case you're interested) and cationic polymers. I want something that's basically water with a bit of conditioner thrown in for good measure.

On the plus side, that's SUPER cheap to make.

In case you're interested, ingredients include: a cationic quaternary (emulsifying conditioner), a cationic compound (honeyquat), a fatty alcohol, water (in the form of my fave, neroli hydrosol), panthenol (vit B), oat protein, essential oils and a preservative. Other than the first ingredient, all the rest are plant-derived. You can decide whether that's natural. This is pretty well exactly what you're going to find in any store-bought conditioner - high-end or no. The big brands tend to have access to more niche versions of these ingredients, but they do exactly the same things.

And just for the sake of transparency, no need to worry that I'm about to come out with my own haircare line. Never mind that this sort of market is insanely difficult to penetrate (peeps are freakish when it comes to their preferred shampoos and conditioners), it's way too expensive to ship this sort of product. That's to say nothing of the fact that making conditioner is like making hand lotion - very labour-intensive in the scheme of things. On this topic, I make an awesome hand cream, dare I say it, but I won't sell it because it takes so long to make (and costs so much, relatively speaking), that I'd need to charge 28 bucks for 2 oz. That's steep, IMO. Especially if you go through the stuff like I do. Oh, and to print actual waterproof labels costs, like, a zillion dollars. (I may be exaggerating here but you get the drift.)

Now, all bets are off when it comes to face cleanser. But I have to do much more creating, testing and refining before it may end up in the Etsy shop. You know my philosophy: If it isn't at least as good as the commercial product I spend a lot of money on already, I won't use it - never mind sell it. And this is one I'd like to have tested before marketing. I want utter assurance, for all of us, that any hydrous (water/oil combo) product I might sell would be germ-free.

Anyhow, that's my Sunday. Any thoughts on conditioner you'd like to share?

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