Time: 30 mins
Yields: 1 bar
Conditioner bars are the solid versions of hair conditioners, using similar ingredients but without being diluted in water, which makes them so much more economical to use. One solid conditioner bar is equivalent to 2 or more bottles of liquid conditioners. As opposed to hair serum bars (more on that in a later blog post), conditioner bars are meant to be used on the ends of the hair, not on the scalp, and unlike shampoo bars, which clean your scalp and hair, conditioner bars condition, nourish, protect, boost shine, and restore vibrancy to your hair. Conditioner bars are made using non-ionic surfactants, oils, butters, and special ingredients, such as hydrolised proteins and panthenol, that are highly beneficial to the hair. This makes conditioner bars slightly more expensive to make than shampoo bars, but the benefits of all the goodness in your conditioner bar greatly outweigh the costs.
One solid conditioner bar is equivalent to 2 or more bottles of liquid conditioner!
The following recipe is for one 100 g solid conditioner bar, which will fit in a clamshell mould available from Pure Nature. If you would like to make more than one bar, just multiply the amounts appropriately. For example if you want to make 6 bars, multiply all the ingredients by 6.
Please note that the recipe uses hydrolysed silk protein, which is not vegan. Alternatively, you can use wheat or soy protein instead. All the ingredients used in this recipe are available from Pure Nature.
ONE: Weigh out 60 grams of BTMS-25 into a heat proof bowl or jug. I will be using a microwave to melt the ingredients, but alternatively, you can use a small pot and your stove.
BTMS-25 is the name for one type of conditioner pellets, and is an abbreviation for the active ingredient, behentrimonium methosulfate. For those following the curly girl method, behentrimonium methosulfate is not a sulfate like sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), sodium coco sulfate (SCS) and other similar harsh surfactants. Instead, it is a very mild, non-stripping and non-irritating conditioning agent (a quaternary ammonium salt to be precise), derived from natural rapeseed oil.
The 25 in the name stands for the percentage of active ingredient in the product. So therefore, BTMS-25 contains approximately 25% of behentrimonium methosulfate and the remaining 75% is cetearyl alcohol. There is also a BTMS-50, however, this product also contains butylene glycol, a humectant moisturiser, but which is derived from petroleum, which is why I don’t use it in my tutorials. Instead, I will add glycerin later, which is also a humectant.
Cetearyl alcohol, or cetostearyl alcohol, is a combination of cetyl alcohol and stearyl alcohol. These are fatty alcohols and are nothing like their liquor namesake. Drinking alcohol, rubbing alcohol, or ethanol are all short-chain alcohols, which act as solvents and should never be used in your hair. Fatty alcohols, on the other hand, are long chain alcohols with a waxy appearance and are used as non-ionic co-surfactants in conditioners to stabilise the emulsion. They also give conditioners their typical creamy appearance (both in liquid and in bar form).
Unfortunately, most fatty alcohols are made from palm oil, and coconut oil derived fatty alcohols are just not yet widely available, at least not here in New Zealand.
TWO: Next, add 10 grams of cetyl alcohol.
I’m adding extra cetyl alcohol, which will add additional silkiness to the conditioner, and rather than penetrating the hair shaft, it is deposited on the surface, making it feel softer and smoother to the touch.
Cetyl alcohol comes in waxy pellets, and is usually derived from coconut or palm oils by heating the oil with a strong base. The cetyl alcohol I use comes from Pure Nature, which is derived from RSPO certified palm oil. I would have preferred using coconut derived cetyl alcohol, but I have yet to find it here in New Zealand.
THREE: And finally, add 10 grams of castor oil, which is an amazing hair care oil. It deeply moisturises and conditions, helps reduce split ends, and add shine and lustre to your hair.
FOUR: Melt on high in the microwave for 30 seconds initially and then in 10 second bursts until completely melted. How long it takes to melt will depend on your microwave. My microwave will take 1 minute, but when I told my students in class to set it that long, it came out boiling!
If you don’t have microwave, or don’t want to use one, melt the ingredients on the stove using a small pot and on the lowest setting. It will take a lot longer, but just be patient, it will eventually melt!
FIVE: Once all the ingredients have melted, add the glycerin. This is the humectant I was talking about earlier. It will help keep your hair hydrated.
SIX: Let the mixture cool down a little, before adding the coco-caprylate, hydrolised silk protein, provitamin B5, and the essential oils. Then stir until everything has blended together to a smooth, opaque emulsion.
I’ve added coco-caprylate to the conditioner bar, because it is a natural alternative to silicon. Silicons coat, lubricate and seal in moisture, making hair smooth, tangle free and shiny. However, they are non-soluble, build up over time and make your hair heavy and dull with prolonged use. Coco-caprylate, or caprate, is derived form coconut, and has similar properties, with the added bonus that it doesn’t build up, is easily washed off and is biodegradable.
In this recipe, I’m using hydrolysed silk protein, which improves elasticity in hair and protects brittle hair from breakage. However, I’m aware that this is not a vegan product, and you really don’t want to know the process of harvesting silk. I have to admit, I’ve been using it before I realised what I was actually using here. So if you don’t want to use silk protein, the alternatives are vegetable proteins, such as soy or wheat. Hydrolysed just means that it has been broken down into smaller units, allowing the proteins to penetrate the hair shaft.
Provitamin B5, also known as panthenol, works by retaining moisture in hair. It is easily absorbed and turns to pantothenic acid, which binds water and thus enhances hydration.
The essential oils I’m using in the conditioner bar are rosemary, which is full of antioxidants to restore the hair’s vibrancy, and lavender to nourish and condition and add extra shine. The blend has also a soothing and calming effect on the mind, which can help with stress and anxiety, which can be triggers for hair loss.
SEVEN: Lastly, make sure the mixture is not too hot (the jug should be cool enough that you can touch the sides), to prevent the plastic mould from warping. Then pour the mixture into the mould and spritz the surface with isopropyl alcohol. to get rid of any bubbles.
Leave the bar to solidify and cool down completely before unmoulding or closing the lid.
Unlike cold process soaps, you can use the solid conditioner bar immediately. After washing your hair, slide the conditioner bar down the length of the hair a few times and massage it into the hair, but only the ends of the hair and not into the scalp. Leave for a couple of minutes and then rinse thoroughly.
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Solid conditioner bars
- 60 grams BTMS-25
- 10 grams cetyl-alcohol
- 10 grams castor oil
- 10 grams glycerin
- 1/2 teaspoon coco-caprylate
- 1/2 teaspoon hydrolysed silk protein
- 1/2 teaspoon provitamin B5
- 15 drops rosemary essential oil
- 5 drops peppermint essential oil
- isopropyl alcohol
- Weigh out the BTMS-25, cetyl alcohol and castor oil into a heat proof bowl or jug.
- Heat in the microwave on high for 30 seconds or until completely melted. Alternatively, you can use a small pot and place it on the stove on the lowest setting until melted.
- Add the glycerin and let the mixture cool down a little.
- Then add the remaining ingredients, except for the isopropyl alcohol, and stir everything thoroughly until all the ingredients have blended together into a smooth emulsion.
- Pour into the mould, and spritz some isopropyl alcohol on the surface to get rid of the bubbles.
- Let the bar solidify and cool down completely before removing from the mould or closing the lid, if using a clamshell mould as I did.
- The conditioner bar can be used immediately.