The first consideration in creating a shampoo is how effective a cleanser you want your shampoo to be. This will depend on the type, combination and concentration of surfactants. Surfactants can make up to 50% of a shampoo.
I think 50% is way too much even for straight hair, I have made shampoos with 25% mild surfactants (i.e. with no sulfates) and found them too cleansing.
If you’re designing a daily use shampoo then you need fewer surfactants (8% to 15%) than if you are creating one for weekly or twice-weekly use (15% to 50%). For kinky or curly hair care you’ll probably want to design a shampoo that will be used once or twice a week at the most.
This is going to surprise you: More foam doesn’t mean higher cleaning power so you can increase the foaming ability of a shampoo – which people like, without making it any stronger.
What are the most crucial ingredients in a shampoo?
EVERYTHING ELSE is optional so if you don’t like or don’t want certain ingredients you can swap them out or remove them but if you do remove them make sure you add more water to maintain the surfactant usage rate.
Importantly don’t just swap out 1% of one preservative with 1% of another as they may have different usage rates – check the usage rate and make necessary changes elsewhere in the recipe.
Other ingredients in your shampoo will target all the other characteristics you want your shampoo to have:
Achieving your ideal viscosity (Advanced Shampoo Recipes)
Different blends of surfactant produce varying degrees of runniness or viscosity. To thicken my shampoos I started of by using a gel formed using xanthan gum. However, I decided it was too much work so I imported liquid crothix from the US as I had heard good things about it. It is indeed much less stress.
If you do use gel you would need to mix 1 to 3% of the gelling agent with water. If 1% isn’t enough bring it up to 2% then 3%. Too little is better than too much.
Note that in addition to thickening a shampoo with gel you can thicken by:
Increasing the concentration of surfactants – but this could make your shampoo more irritating and probably more drying to hair.
Adding salts – but this may make your formulation cloudy; in addition, too much salt makes the mixture runny again so you really need to know what you’re doing. I would rather not use salt for fear it may hurt my eyes.
Adding fatty material, e.g. liquid Crothix, PEG-150 distearate or thickening esters – but again, some fatty materials could make your formulation cloudy and they may interact with your fragrance to change the viscosity so you need to manage that balance.
Adding color to a shampoo (Advanced Shampoo Recipes)
If you want to change the color of one of the advanced recipes try mica pigment powder. It is skin safe and it also doesn’t stain skin.
Mica is used in mineral makeup, soaps, lotions, lip balms and even nail polish to mention a few uses. In shampoo, mica sometimes becomes unstable and it may fade over time.
How do you use mica to color a shampoo?
If you want your shampoo to be a specific color do it at the end of your formulation. When you are finished add 1 or 2 drops of mica for every 150 ml of product. Color your product before you bottle it.
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By Heather Katsonga-Woodward
I was a natural hair blogger and mixtress living between London & Chicago from 2012 to 2017. I always thought I was 4C but some say 4B; images below - you decide! Heather xx