Natural though they may be, don't just jump into using a gel before you understand how that particular gum/gel works and what ingredients it might not work well with.
I have been using xanthan gel from the start. In fact, my very first DIY recipe was a shampoo using xanthan gel.
These are the most important things you should know about xanthan gel:
- It is not compatible with cationic ingredients, e.g. BTMS, honeyquat, the polyquats so don’t use it in any formulations that contain these. Basically, don’t use it in conditioners as the point of conditioner is to have cationic ingredients that will stick to your hair.
- If you are making one of my DIY shampoos, if I use honeyquat or polyquat remove those ingredients if you will be thickening with xanthan gum and add more water instead
- It’s not compatible with the preservative tinosan.
- It’s compatible with high concentrations of non-ionic surfactants but only with low concentrations of anionic and amphoteric surfactants
- Xanthan gum doesn’t work well in very alkaline solutions, however, neither does hair so this shouldn’t be a problem for you. That said, if you are using an alkaline surfactant e.g. the mild decyl glucoside, it may well be a good idea to add the citric acid first to get the shampoo pH to 5.5. to 6.0 and then add the xanthan gel.
Interestingly, apparently xanthan gum is the only gum that can be used in products that are registered as "organic" by the USDA. I don't know if that is also the case in the UK and Europe.
Xanthan gum forms lumps very easily, in fact, I used to hate using it for that reason until I found a recipe for diluting xanthan gum that helps reduce/prevent the lumps. This is the recipe, I have adapted it a little to make it better and less lump prone:
- 5g glycerin (5%)
- 2g xanthan gum (2%) (use 1g for a thinner gel and 3g for a thicker gel - adjust the water amount if you do)
- 10g distilled water at room temperature (10%)
- 83g very warm distilled water heated up in the microwave (83%) - I don't use the kettle because mine has limescale and also because I only make small batches at a time. This tiny volume of water wouldn't fill the kettle up enough to be used)
Note: the xanthan gum in this recipe can be substituted with other gums, e.g. cellulose gum, if you don’t want to use the xanthan gum. I don't currently use any other gums; I have tara gum but I am yet to use it.
- Mix the xanthan gum with the glycerin to form a thick paste.
- When the gum and glycerin are smooth add the water that is at room temperature and stir further. Leave the blend to sit for 5 to 15 minutes whilst the gum dissolves further.
- Stir the very warm water in. Stir intermittently until smooth. You can now use. If the gel isn’t smooth just give the gum more time to dissolve, 30 minutes should be enough.
- If you will be making a large batch to be stored and used at a later date add 1% optiphen preservative and stir some more.
Use this gel to thicken your shampoo. Instead of adding water to a shampoo mixture in the heated phase add this gel mixture instead. That is, you can use this as your base for formulating a shampoo.
You can also use this as a styling gel. This will hold your hair in place without being overly stick or looking white when it dries up.
Storage: 9 months
If you don’t use the gel after this point make a fresh batch next time you are making a shampoo. I prefer to use fresh ingredients so I would tend to make a fresh batch every time I am making a shampoo.
Tweaking The Recipe:
- Aloe Vera gel: Use aloe vera juice instead of water in the above recipe for an aloe vera gel.
- If you have oily hair you can reduce the amount of glycerin to 3% and increase the water to 85%
You might also like:
Using Natural Gums to Thicken Natural Cosmetic Products