Cosmetic Formulation Basics – Hair Conditioners


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Article by: Perry Romanowski

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Rinse-out Hair Conditioners

While shampoos represent the most common type of hair product, conditioners are a close second. They are designed to improve the look and feel of hair.

What conditioners do

Rinse-out conditioners are applied to the hair after shampooing. They are allowed to stay in the hair a short time (say 30 seconds to a couple of minutes) then rinsed. After being rinsed thoroughly, they make the hair easier to comb, frizz-free, soft feeling, reduce static charges, improve shine, and protect hair from future damage.

How conditioners work

Conditioners contain a variety of conditioning and moisturizing ingredients that are left behind on the hair after rinsing and affect the hair characteristics. This is a key concept in conditioning. For a hair conditioner to work, it has to be left behind on the surface. The primary conditioning agents include quaternized surfactants (quats), cationic polymers, silicones, emollients, and humectants.

Quats (also known as cationic surfactants) and cationic polymers remain on the hair via electrostatic interactions. These ingredients are positively charged when placed in a solution of water. They are attracted to the negatively charged, damaged protein sites on the hair. This positive/negative interaction prevents them from being removed. On hair they coat the fibers and counteract the problem characteristics.

Silicones and emollients rely on their hydrophobic nature to plate out on the hair. Conditioners are emulsions composed of water and these hydrophobic materials. They also contain emulsifiers which keep the oily materials suspended in solution. However, as the product becomes more dilute when put on hair and rinsed, the oily materials separate out and remain on the hair where they can counteract hair problems.

Examples of ingredients that make conditioners work include Cetrimonium Chloride, Dimethicone, Polyquaternium-10, Meadowfoam Seed Oil

Below is an example of a typical hair conditioner formula.*conditioner_formula


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