Tuesday, October 16, 2018


If your product contains water then you will normally need a preservative to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and microbes. In the UK and the EU before a product containing water can be sold or given away the formula must undergo preservative efficacy testing to ensure that the preservative is effective under various conditions. 

Products containing a small percentage of water and high percentage of glycerin or sugar may be able to avoid the need for a preservative. I use a preservative in all of my leave in products that contain water. However, if I'm making a small batch of conditioner or shampoo that will be rinsed out there isn't any need for a preservative. Anhydrous products such a oils, butters and pomades do not require a preservative but you may need an antioxidant such as Vitamin E to prevent the oils from going rancid. You will also need an antioxidant if you use essential oils in your formula.

A friend of mine recently told me that she had been making her own products using recipes from YouTube. She told me she was using aloe vera mixed with water and a few essential oils. I questioned her on the use of a preservative and she said that she keeps the product in the fridge. I explained that refrigeration only protects the product while it's in the fridge but if you apply the product to your hair and leave it on for more than 24 hours the bacteria would have adequate opportunity to multiply on your head. She asked about adding water or aloe vera to store bought products that already contain preservatives. I explained that preservatives are normally used at approximately 1% of the formula, if you add other ingredients to the formula you are reducing the percentage of preservative and it may no longer be as effective.

The bottom line is, if you make your own products containing water, rinse them off within a few hours or use a preservative.


Fats and water do not naturally mix with each other so if you want to create a cream, lotion or conditioner containing oil and water you will need an emulsifier. The majority of emulsifiers used in cosmetics are not found in nature so it's difficult to have a 100% natural product that contains oil and water. 

There are numerous emulsifiers available and many of them are derived from natural ingredients. Behentrimonium Methosulfate (BTMS) is an excellent detangler so it's often used in hair conditioners. It's normally combined with Cetearyl Alcohol for emollient and thickening properties. I have had wonderful results with BTMS after a lot of trial and error. In the wrong leave in formula BTMS can be a bit drying so it might take some experimenting until you find a formula that works well for your hair.

I have also experimented with OliveM 1000 with good results. OliveM 1000 doesn't detangle in the same way as BTMS but it's more moisturising. I often combine the two emulsifiers together to get the best of both. For my detangling conditioners I prefer to use BTMS combined with Cetrimonium Chloride as both ingredients have detangling properties. When I'm working on a thicker buttery cream I opt for OliveM 1000 as my main emulsifier.

While wearing braids I like to use liquid moisturisers instead of creamy products so I have been experimenting with emulsifiers that produce thin sprayable emulsions. I have experimented with polysorbate 20 and polysorbate 80 with ok results. More recently I have had good results with Polyglyceryl-4 Laurate. I plan to keep researching and experimenting until I find the perfect blend of emulsifiers for my liquid moisturisers. 

Sunday, October 14, 2018


Of all the ingredients that I have tried, nothing moisturises my hair better than Lanolin. According to The European Commission Cosmetic Ingredient Database, Lanolin is a hair conditioner, a skin conditioner and an emollient (it softens and smooths). 

Lanolin is secreted by sheep to protect their wool keeping it in great condition. When my hair was in braidlocs I applied pure Lanolin to the ends after spritzing them with water. My hair stayed moisturised for days. Lanolin is too thick to be applied directly to all of my hair so I add it to my homemade hair balms and oil blends. As Lanolin is a surfactant with emulsifying properties it's easy to wash it from the hair with a sulfate-free shampoo.

If you decide to experiment with Lanolin be sure to purchase the BP, USP or EP grade to ensure that it is free from impurities. 


In the previous post we discussed using oils and waxes to lock in moisture. Those ingredients work well for wet sets (such as twist outs, braid outs and roller sets) and protective styles (such as braids, cornrows and twists) but they may not be enough to keep combed out afros moisturised for the whole day. Humectants such as glycerin and honey have the ability to hold onto water molecules so when they are used in hair products they help to keep your hair moisturised for longer. Humectants work well when there is a sufficient amount of moisture in the air as they are able to draw moisture from the air and onto the hair. However, if there isn't sufficient moisture in the air humectants can lose their ability to moisturise the hair effectively. In those situations it's important to use a pomade along with the humectant to lock in the moisture.

Humectants should be avoided when wearing your hair in stretched out styles because they may prevent your hair from fully drying which means that it will quickly shrink into it's natural curl pattern. However, if you are wearing your hair in a style that embraces the shrinkage and frizz, humectants are a great option. Curl activators normally include humectants such as glycerin and propylene glycol so they are a great choice for the those who do not want to make their own humectant moisturiser.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Oils and Waxes

Tightly curled, afro textured hair grows from a curved follicle which makes it difficult for the body's natural oil (sebum) to travel down the strands to keep the hair moisturised. In contrast, straight hair grows from a straight follicle making it easy for sebum to travel down the hair lubricating the strands and locking in moisture. However, too much sebum can make hair limp and greasy so people with straight hair normally need to wash their hair more regularly. The opposite is true for people with afro textured hair who need to apply moisturisers to prevent their hair from being dry and brittle. Thankfully nature has provided a number of oils, butters and waxes to keep the hair in great condition. 

With all of the different carrier oils to choose from it can be difficult to know which one is right for you. I experimented with a number of different oils before figuring out that my hair prefers lighter oils that have a high linoleic acid content. I have found that oils that are higher in oleic acid tend to penetrate too quickly into my strands whilst oils that are higher in linoleic acid stay on the surface of my hair for longer. If an oil penetrates too quickly it will be difficult for it to trap in moisture and the water will evaporate out of the hair leaving it feeling dry.

Another thing to think about when choosing an oil is it’s comedogenic rating. If you have acne prone skin it would be best to choose oils that are less likely to make you break out. Studies have shown that oils that are higher in oleic acid are more likely to cause break outs. Sunflower oil is one of the main ingredients in some of my pomades because it has a zero comedogenic rating and it is naturally high in linoleic acid. Be cautious when purchasing Sunflower oil because some manufacturers sell a version that is higher in oleic acid. I made the mistake of buying the higher oleic acid version once and I noticed that it didn't keep my hair moisturised for as long as the high linoleic acid version.
When I'm wearing my hair in braids or twists I spray my hair with a water based moisturiser and then follow up with an oil or blend of oils. Hemp seed oil feels great on my hair and it has a zero comedogenic rating. However, it goes rancid quickly so it needs to be kept in the fridge and used within a few months of opening. You can extend the shelf life of Hemp seed oil by adding vitamin E at 0.5%. Sesame oil is another oil that works well on my hair. Castor oil and Jojoba oil are great for my hair, but I find that they work better when they are blended with other oils. 

When my hair is in a loose style I need something heavier to keep my hair moisturised so I normally use a home-made creamy moisturiser with detangling properties and a home-made pomade to seal in the moisture. Blending Beeswax with various oils produces a hair pomade which helps to keep hair moisturised for longer. Beeswax forms a light film on the hair which is easy to wash off with a sulfate free shampoo. I normally use approximately 10% beeswax in a formula to produce a light semi-solid pomade. During hot temperatures the mixture might turn to liquid so I store it in a cool place. You can use up to 20% beeswax in a formula if you want a more solid product, but too much beeswax can make the hair look dull and the more beeswax you use the harder it will be to wash off.

Carnauba Wax can be used alongside beeswax or as a replacement. It has a higher melting point than beeswax and it produces a harder product which means that you can use less in your formulas. It leaves your hair with a shiny finish and it has a low comedogenic rating. You will need to wash your hair with a sulfate free clarifying shampoo if you use this ingredient in your recipe. If you decide to experiment with Carnauba Wax be sure to purchase the cosmetic grade.