Gels are very natural and were therefore a very attractive option for thickening my shampoos when I started out.
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:
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:
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Ingredients (for 100g formulation)
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.
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:
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Using Natural Gums to Thicken Natural Cosmetic Products
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By Heather Katsonga-Woodward