EQUIPMENT – Please see the lotion making tutorial for the equipment that you will need as the same equipment is used for both lotion and conditioner.

SUPPLIERS – In the UK you can buy all the ingredients (except cetrimonium chloride) from  In the US – lotioncrafter, theherbarie,, wholesalesuppliesplus

Please be aware of the shelf life of the ingredients you buy and store all ingredients in the fridge.


For a basic conditioner/moisturiser I would recommend the following (I have also listed which phase the ingredients should be added):-

  • Preservative – essential, not optional. My favourite is liquid germall plus – 0.5% cool down phase. Why is it essential?? – see Vitamin E, benzoin, rosemary extract, grapefruit extract are anti-oxidants NOT preservatives – they will help with oxidation of oils only and do nothing to help prevent gram positive and negative bacteria, yeast and mold which grow in anything containing water.)  If your conditioner is unpreserved it will last up to 5 days if stored in the fridge. (You can’t rely on your vision to check whether your conditioner is OK because bacteria and spores are microscopic and can’t be seen by the human eye.)  If you aren’t going to use all your conditioner within 7 days (refrigerated) then please use a preservative so you don’t get an infection or allergic reaction.  The ideal preservative is broad spectrum meaning it guards against bacteria, mould, yeast and other fungi.  If you prefer to use a “natural” preservative do check the preservative page –
  • BTMS-50 is needed so the oils and water will not separate. I would suggest 7% for a thick conditioner and 3% for conditioner for oily or fine hair. BTMS-50 is also needed as it reduces the combing forces on wet hair, as this is when it’s at its most vulnerable. You can actually lift cuticle cells from the surface of your hair and tear them away if you’re working on a particularly difficult tangle. When hair is dry, you risk chipping, fragmenting, and eroding the cuticle cells by styling and using heat appliances. When we lubricate the hair fibre – generally with a cationic quaternary compound like BTMS – we reduce the combing forces. When the hair fibres align in a more parallel configuration, we see easier-to-comb hair as well as an increase in hair shine and gloss. It offers a hydrophobic (or water-hating) coating on our hair strand that reduces friction and combing forces. It reduces static charge makes our hair softer and easier to comb. This ingredient goes in the oil phase.
  • Glycerin and either honeyquat or polyquaternium-7 at 2%.  Humectants.  Honeyquat and polyquaternium also adsorb to the hair and it will penetrate the hair shaft for more conditioning. It offers better wet combing and conditioning and reduction of static build-up on dry hair.  Do not add for oily, frizzy or African hair types.
  • Cetrimonium chloride (only add for detangling if you need it). A good add too for African hair types. It will seriously decrease combing forces and friction, and makes even the most tangly hair easy to comb. It can be used at up to 5%, but I find that 2% is generally enough for great detangling.  Oil phase. In the UK sell it.
  • Cetyl alcohol (not to be confused with cetearyl alcohol).  Stabilises and thickens your conditioner and makes your conditioner emollient and glidy. (It’s made by heating coconut oil with a strong base). This process is the same process used to make soap (saponification). Use: 2% – oil phase or 4% for very dry hair.  Do not include if you have fine hair.
  • Oils for the hair (do not add if you have oily hair). Use up to 6% (6% for very dry hair or African hair types):-
    • Coconut oil. Penetrates into the cortex of your hair strand because it is similar to our natural hair oils. This is an inexpensive, oily and long lasting oil.
    • Fractionated coconut oil.  A light oil which penetrates the hair and gives glide and slip
    • Jojoba oil. A light oil which mimics the natural sebum we produce and cleanses and moisturisers your scalp but it does not penetrate the hair
    • Sea buckthorn oil. Great for dry and itchy scalps but it does not penetrate the hair.
    • Olive oil. A heavy oil which mimics the natural sebum we produce and penetrates the hair.
    • Avocado oil. Penetrates the hair and some say it helps with an itchy scalp.
    • Camellia seed oil. It’s a dry oil, so doesn’t add slip or penetrate the hair but it is filled with tons of vitamins and minerals great for your scalp.
  • Fragrance oil or Essential oil.  This is added at up to 1% (do check supplier’s recommendations for maximum usage) – cool down phase but take note that some essential and fragrance oils can be allergenic. For oily hair use orange or rosemary essential oil, for dandruff –  tea tree essential oil).

(note – add EITHER fragrance or essential oil – not both).

  • Deionised/distilled/purified water.  Water phase. In the UK it’s hard to find distilled water cheaply so second best is either deionised from a petrol station or purified water from a pharmacist.  Please add an extra 10% water because you will lose some water through evaporation.  (Note: if you use tap water instead of deionised/distilled/purified the trace metals and contaminants in the water will shorten your conditioner’s expiry date.)
  • Dimethicone – adds film forming, occlusive, and emollient properties to your conditioners to decrease friction, increase gloss and shine, improve wet combing, and decrease moisture retention or frizzing. Use 2% (or 1% for fine hair or 4% for very dry hair, curly or frizzy hair).  A great add too for African hair types. Heated oil phase.
  • Cyclomethicone.  Add at 2% (1% for fine hair).  Helps your hair dry faster (good for frizzy hair). Helps with the spreading abilities, wet combing, delivers the active ingredients to your hair, then evaporates.
  • Hydrolyzed oat protein (or other protein such as silk amino acids or wheat) – humectant, emollient and film former, silky.  up to 2% heated water phase
  • d-panthenol or panthenol – builds a thin moisture film on the surface of your hair (film former) and makes it shine without oil or greasiness. In addition, it can penetrate the cuticle of your hair and brings moisture to the cortex! This means you get good manageability and pliability of your hair, and it is better able to cope with brushing, wind etc.  It can also give your hair more body! Studies have shown that 2% left on for 2 minutes can actually swell the hair shaft, making it seem thicker!  A great add too for African hair types.  (So use it up to 5% in your conditioner if you have very dry hair!) Cool down phase if it’s liquid, otherwise if it’s in the powder form it goes in the heated water phase.
  • Citric acid or lactic acid – see paragraph 6 below

Do keep all your ingredients in the fridge so they last longer.  You can also freeze the oils/butters but I would advise against freezing the other ingredients.

How long is the shelf life of your conditioner? Note the expiry date of each of your ingredients – the shelf life for your conditioner will be that of the ingredient which will expire first.

Note: You need to use a preservative in products which contain water and that includes aloe vera gel and hydrosols.


I love this calculator – converts the %s below into grams.  But it’s easy to calculate it yourself – if you’re making a 100g conditioner 1% equals 1g so if you have an ingredient eg, panthenol which you want to add at 2% then 2% is 2 grams.  If you want to make a 500g conditioner then multiply the ingredient’s percentage by 5 eg 2% panthenol will be 10 grams.  For a 700g conditioner multiply by 7 so 2% panthenol will be 14%.  Easy.

Here’s a basic recipe:-

WATER PHASE – water soluble ingredients

??% de-ionised/distilled/purified water (but add 10% extra to make up for evaporation caused by heat). The % of water is whatever amount is needed to make the recipe up to 100% but don’t forget to add 10% extra

2% liquid hydrolysed oat/silk protein or 0.2% silk amino acid powder

2% glycerin – do not include for frizzy, oily or African type hair.

OIL PHASE – oil soluble ingredients

7% (or 3% for fine or oily hair) BTMS-50

up to 6% oil good for dry or African hair (add more oil the drier your hair up to 6%).  Do not add if you have oily hair.

2% cetyl alcohol or 4% for very dry hair.  Do not include if you have fine hair.

2% cetrimonium chloride for detangling if you need it (increase up to 5% for African hair types)

2% dimethicone (for fine hair use 1%) or 4% for very dry hair, curly or frizzy hair or African hair types.

2% cyclomethicone (for fine hair use 1%).

COOL DOWN PHASE – this is where the heat sensitive ingredients go

0.5% liquid germall plus

2% polyquaternium-7 or honeyquat – do not include for frizzy, oily or African type hairs.

1% up to essential oil or fragrance (for oily hair use orange or rosemary essential oil, for dandruff –  tea tree essential oil)

2% panthenol (can go up to 5% for very dry hair, especially for African hair types) – the liquid form of panthenol goes in the cool down phase and the powder version goes in the heated water phase

Citric acid/lactic acid water mix – see paragraph 6. below

We need three things to emulsify our conditioner properly:-

  • Chemical emulsification – choosing a good emulsifier will save you from having lots of failed batches.
  • Heat emulsification – we have to heat our ingredients up to a place where they are happy to emulsify.
  • Mechanical emulsification – we have to blend our ingredients together using a hand or stand mixer or stick blender (a coffee/milk frother or whisk isn’t great as it puts air into the conditioner and can destabilise it).

First sterilise containers, countertops, equipment using 70% alcohol or if you are in the UK you can use Milton (used to sterilise baby bottles and sold in pharmacies).

1. Weigh your water phase into your container (if the container is a pyrex jug put the pyrex jug into a saucepan which has some hot water in it. Sit the jug on an empty tuna can which is placed the bottom of the saucepan so the jug isn’t in direct contact with the saucepan.)

2. Weigh your oil phase into your other container (if the container is a pyrex jug put the pyrex jug into a saucepan which has some hot water in it. Sit the jug on an empty tuna can which is placed the bottom of the saucepan so the jug isn’t in direct contact with the saucepan.)

3. Heat both phases to 75˚C/165f and hold for 20 minutes. Most emulsifiers form micelles. As these micelles decrease in size the theoretical stability increases.  Your oil phase and your water phase will be more fluid/lower viscosity at higher temperatures. This fluidity does two things to help emulsification. First, it makes it easier to break the oil phase into very small droplets. Second, it makes it easier for the emulsifier to migrate to the oil-water interface, which is where it needs to be for a stable emulsion. (This is part of the emulsification process – the heating part of emulsification.)  Note: 70C for 20 minutes can’t be counted on to sterilize a product.  It will likely reduce microbial levels by killing some of the non-endospore-forming bacteria, but it will probably not kill all of them

NOTE:- Cosmetic chemists advise that it is only really necessary to hold the water phase for 20 minutes as this is where 99% of the nasties live (however, only the non-endospore-forming bacteria will be killed).  You will need, however, to heat the oil phase up to the same temperature as the water phase when you combine the phases for a proper emulsion – the emulsifier will be more water soluble at that temperature.  

4. When both phases reach 75˚C/165f, slowly pour the water phase into the oil phase and mix very well with a stick blender.  Try not to let the stick blender (a milk/coffee frother or whisk isn’t suitable) go above the mixture as otherwise it’ll put air into your conditioner.  Mix for 3-5 mins .   Mix periodically as the temperature drops.

5. When you reach 45˚C/110f, add your cool down ingredients and mix very well.  You will notice it will start to thicken up quite quickly and will continue to thicken up over the next hour or so.

6. Hair has an acidic pH.  A lot of ingredients have an alkaline pH, which causes hair shaft swelling. This swelling loosens the protective cuticle predisposing the hair shaft to damage. Hair shaft swelling can be prevented by ‘pH balancing’ to force the scales on the hair to lie flat.  This is done at the end of making the conditioner by the addition of an acidic substance such as a citric or lactic acid dissolved in water, keep using 0.2% (weight of acid) at a time until the pH is brought down to between 5-6. To do this you will need to buy a pH meter which is more accurate than using pH paper.

7. Allow the conditioner to come to room temperature before bottling.