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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  1. Avatar

    Good day, l used cetyl alcohol but it did not give me what I want, the up is tick why the down is waterry.

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    hey perry, I am a cosmetic formulator and i am formulating a charcoal shampoo so wanted to know what is the maximum and minimum concentration of activated charcoal in hair shampoos?

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    Hi I was wondering if you could do a scientific equation for conditioner please?

    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      There is no equation for formulating conditioners.

  4. Avatar

    hello sir, please i do not understand what q.s means in the formulation your posted for hair conditioner

    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      It is Latin for Quotient Sum. It just means that you add enough of this material to get the total to add up to 100%

    2. Avatar

      q.s. means “QUANTITY SUFFICIENT”

  5. Avatar
    Aboo Khan

    Hi ………i’ve developed an excellent hair oil and would like to also develop a leave in conditioner using a little of that oil and incorporating some collagen as well………can you help , please ??

    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      I’d suggest you post your question in our forum.

  6. Avatar

    Hi perry.

    how are you
    Sir i want to know about after shave lotion ingredients and percentage.

  7. Avatar

    i would like to have my own range of products for african hair, mostly dry itchy scalp and dry hair.

  8. Avatar

    Hello,Perry. May God bless you with your good work.. pls I want you to help me with the formulas for hair shampoo and conditioner Thank you….

  9. Pingback:Quick notes on hair care | basics and neutrals

  10. Avatar

    What a protease used in the cosmetics industry?

    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      It’s a marketing ingredient but doesn’t have much effect in cosmetics.

  11. Avatar

    Hi! This website is cool!! I want to formulate a leave-in (no-rinse) conditioner. Can you tell me what do I need and how to make it?
    Thank you very much.

  12. Avatar


    1. Avatar
      Joy O.

      I’d been looking for some recipes for natural hair too. I found a natural hair site called curlytea(dot)com. They have a bunch of recipes for natural curly. They don’t do relaxers and stuff, so I don’t know about that.

  13. Avatar

    Hi Perry!
    Thanks a lot for the formulation!!
    I tend to travel a lot and I was wondering if it is possible to make a conditioner in powder form.
    Any ideas?

    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      I think powdered shampoos would work for you.

  14. Avatar

    I am a natural hair care provider.. trying to formulate an detangling conditioner.. I am using shea, rice bran and coconut oils as the base.. however I have a list of other essential oils and ingredients that are edible or organic oils.. such as hemp and flax. How do I group them without duplicating the oils and how do I know how much of which ingredient to use in each mixture..

    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      I would suggest you post this question in our cosmetic science forum.

      You need to find out the chemical composition of the oils that you want to use and the materials you’re already using. In truth, the only oil you need in your formula is coconut oil.

    2. Avatar
      Ajay Patel

      You may add Olive Oil

  15. Avatar

    Hi Perry, Thanks a lot for so much of information!
    I am formulating a conditioner for dry hair. I want to know how much maximum total percentage of conditioning agents a formula for dry hair should contain to give good conditioning without weighing down the hair? I am using behentrimonium methosulfate and Polyacrylamidopropyltrimonium Chloride as the conditioning agents along with natural ingredients like shea butter and oil.

    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      Usually, a conditioner is 90% water, 5% thickening/opacifying and 5% conditioning ingredients. Of course this is just a rough approximation.

      1. Avatar

        Thanks Perry!!

  16. Avatar
    eileen macatangay

    I am already doing my own hair conditioners. But I have been wanting to formulate hair shampoo. Can you, please, send me the formulation? Please give other possible names of each ingredient so that i can possibly find each one since there may be other here in the Philipines.
    Thank you so much. You have been helping me a lot…

    1. Avatar
      eileen macatangay

      I need the formula for hair shampoo. Could you please email it to me?
      Thank you!

      1. Avatar
        Perry Romanowski

        A formula is listed in this post.

    2. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      See our post on formulating shampoos.

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    Hi Perry, I want to formulate a conditioner without quats. Maybe use 2% lecithine as a cationic ingredient + f.e. brocoli oil + beta-glucan. What would I use as a replacement for the quat? A normal nonionic surfactant like coco glucoside? Or is it possible to make it work without surfactant?
    Only cetyl alcohol+emulsifier?
    Thanks in advance! Best, Liz

    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      Yes you could use any of those. Any oil could replace a quat. It won’t work as well but you could try. Coconut oil is the best option for oils since it penetrates the hair and has a chance of being left behind after washing.

  18. Avatar

    I want to start my own hair care line and have all the ingredients I want in my products, but I’m a little confused about some things…
    1. Is there a rule about what ingredients you add to each phase? For example, what phase do you add conditioning agents, conditioning emulsifier, emollient, thickener, etc.
    2. How do you figure out what percentages needed of each ingredient?
    3. How many grams should each phase consist of?
    This would be a big help when creating my product! Thank you so much!


  19. Avatar

    Good Morning,
    I am not able to see the Hair Conditioner formula you posted. Also, when I clicked on the link you provided, it says the program is no longer available.

    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      I fixed it. You can get it now.

  20. Avatar
    Ezekiel micheal

    pls Perry, what do you have to say about locally made conditioners,
    like d use of eggs, avocados, mayonase etc?

    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      They are not as effective as standard conditioners discussed in this post. Using food ingredients can have some positive effects but don’t provide the benefits of standard conditioners.

  21. Pingback:Daily Conditioners vs Deep Conditioners for Natural Hair

  22. Avatar

    Please what is the main thickening agent in hair conditioner? Can I use nitrosol as thickener in hair conditioner?

    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      Cetyl alcohol or Methylcellulose is typically the thickener in conditioners

  23. Avatar

    Please am a chemical student, am defending my Industrial training under hair conditioner. Can i know the chemical equation in the formulation of conditioner.
    Please you can post on my email. Thanks.

    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      See our post on free cosmetic formulas and you can find a conditioner formula there.

  24. Avatar

    in chemistry salt is sodium chloride,but is it possible if you break down some of this ingredients to understand more what are they like masurf ,centrimonium chloride,maquat cetac etc.please

    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      Yes. you have to look at the INCI Dictionary to learn about the chemical composition of most cosmetic ingredients

      1. Avatar
        Ezekiel micheal

        please how can I get INCI dictionary?

  25. Avatar

    Pls what do you mean by q.s. In your unit?

    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      Quotient Sum. It just means add enough to get the formula total to equal 100%

  26. Avatar
    Mary Udoh

    Hello Perry, Thanks for the invaluable lesson. i want to formulate a rinse out hair conditioner that has pearlizing properties in itself. i cant seem to get the pearlizing property right. Please can you help? i really long to get this right. Thanks

  27. Avatar

    please find me anti dandruff material(ingredient) which is soluble in aquas media


    1. Avatar
      Ikpong Umoh

      Hello Devendra,
      You may use Climbazole (various suppliers e.g Eurolabs) at 0.5-2.0% or Octopirox (Clariant) at 0.05 -1.0% depending on the product application.
      In addition Iricalmin PF,Regu-CEA or Stimutex AS (from DSM) may be incorporated for synergistic effect at 1-5% as anti-inflammatory ,anti-itching and for comfort recovery .

  28. Avatar

    how can i add cucumber to some cosmetics products
    and if i read that turmeric for exampel is a good for skin
    how can i add it in my cream or lotion
    is that by put a herb in a boil water and then add to ingreadients
    is that enogh ? answer me please

    1. Avatar

      I’d suggest you post this question to our forum. See the link at the top.

      1. Avatar

        we are mfg aloevera product.please sugges our product upgrade for hair shampoo.

  29. Avatar

    Thanks for the wonderful info Perry!

    I want to formulate my own recipe for a solid anyhdrous hair conditioner bar for dry/damaged hair (ie bleaching) and want to use no water/liquids because I don’t want to use synthetic preservatives. I have searched, researched, read etc all I can, but don’t seem to be getting anywhere near. I would really appreciate any help you would offer because I don’t want to just give up. Hope you will be able to help.
    Thanks for reading,

    1. Avatar

      This is a very challenging task to create a formula as you describe which also feels good. You could try to use Shea Butter as the basis for the product and mix in some coconut oil. It’s ok to use liquids as long as they are not soluble in water.

  30. Avatar

    Thanks perry.
    I am using a charcoal stove to heat because I cant afford a special heating equipment. My problem now is how to maintain a uniform heat in the two phases. Please help me wit any Idea on how i can achieve a uniform heat or how this heating equipment looks like so that I can know if it can be fabricated. Thanks once again for your good work.

    1. Avatar

      To better regulate the heat you can use a water bath. This will limit the temperature at which the product will warm to. Also, you can quickly reduce the temperature by adding cooler water.

  31. Avatar

    how can we prepare a hair conditioner (after schampoing) as nanoemulsion. The ingredients and procedure. Thank’s.

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