BTMS is Behentrimonium Methosulfate (and) Cetearyl Alcohol. It is an emulsifying wax with some good detangling properties. Emulsify means it helps water and oil to mix. It emulsifies both oils and silicones very well and is a very commonly used ingredient in conditioners.
Its usage rate in hair products is normally 5 to 10%.
Emulsifying wax is normally composed of a cetearyl alcohol or a cetyl alcohol. These are fatty alcohols derived by combining natural oils with fats. The fats are necessary to stabilize and thicken the desired formulation.
You will come across two types of BTMS:
On their own cetearyl alcohol and a cetyl alcohol do not actually bind oils to water, however, once this combination has been made they prevent the fused molecules from separating. Both these fatty alcohols help to make combing easier. So if your hair is as tangle prone as mine this is an ingredient you definitely want to see on the bottle.
Behentrimonium methosulfate is derived from rapeseed oil (it’s a cationic quaternary compound).
BTMS-25 contains 25% behentrimonium methosulfate, the active ingredient in BTMS. BTMS-50 contains 50% behentrimonium methosulfate. BTMS-25 is a great conditioner, but it doesn't emulsify as well as BTMS-50. In addition, butylene glycol is a humectant so you especially want BTMS-50 in your conditioners if you have dry hair.
If you have very greasy hair you might prefer BTMS-25.
If you have dry hair but can’t find BTMS-50 you can just use the BTMS-25; the likelihood is that the other moisturizing ingredients in the recipe will makeup for it. Alternatively you can add a fatty alcohol, e.g. cetyl alcohol or cetearyl alcohol to make up for the lack of butylene glycol.
If a recipe specifically lists BTMS-50 but you only have BTMS-25 double the amount of BTMS you put in to get the same amount of behentrimonium methosulfate, i.e. BTMS-50 = 2 x BTMS-25
Generally though, if you live in the West BTMS-25 and BTMS-50 are both very easy to find and best of all they are both easy to use.
Add it to the heated oil phase of a conditioner.
If you buy a conditioner it won't usually have BTMS-25 or -50 written on it, the specific ingredients are normally spelt out.
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