Home Cosmetic Science Talk Formulating Can Arginine function as a fixative in a leave-in conditioner?

  • Can Arginine function as a fixative in a leave-in conditioner?

    Posted by invar on February 7, 2024 at 4:58 pm

    I want to make a leave-in conditioner for personal use. I want it to be a good wet detangler, provide some clumping/hold for wavy/curly hair without weighing it down too much, and I want it to not build up on repeated use without shampooing. Because of the latter, I’ve settled on trying to formulate a conditioner that mostly works by penetrating hair fibres, instead of creating a film.

    I’ve set my eyes on Coco-Caprylate as a lightweight emollient, and I want to try Arginine for its emollient, humectant and supposed fixative properties. For my formulation I took 2% Coco-caprylate as a starting point, calculated that I need 1.5% Cetyl alcohol to get the HLB to 12 (same as BTMC), then calculated that I need about 0.8% BTMC to get to a 1:3 molar surfactant to fatty alcohol ratio for high viscosity LGN. I hope I understand the emulsifier & LGN theory right and this will create a nice consistency, perhaps with a little experimentation.

    • 0.8% BTMC

    • 1.5% Cetyl alcohol

    • 2.0% Coco-caprylate

    • 6.0% L-arginine HCl

    • 1.0% Geogard

    • 0.2% fragrance/essential oils

    • pH to 4.5-5.0

    My questions:

    1. Am I using Arginine correctly in this formulation? I could only find the recommendation by @vitalys on this forum that it has “excellent fixative properties” and “5-8% will already bring nice fixation, especially in hair sprays”. I did find formulations using Arginine but they were all <0.5%.

    2. How can an amino acid like Arginine have fixate properties? Does it polymerise, or maybe remodel disulfide bonds? Is it an interaction with other molecules taking advantage of Arginine’s affinity for hair protein and its cationic charge at pH<9?

    3. Will this formulation work well for what I want, or does “fixative” for instance necessarily mean that it won’t be a good wet detangler?

    Thanks for any help!

    ketchito replied 6 days, 3 hours ago 4 Members · 7 Replies
  • 7 Replies
  • ketchito

    February 8, 2024 at 7:11 am

    I’d start with a level of Behentrimonium around 1% w/w (if you’re using the 80% version, then it’d be 1.25%), and use a 1:4 retio with your fatty acid, which still give you a stable LGN. For the Arginine, never saw it in a conditioner and would be very worried to put it at 6%. Can you check what type of fixation is supposed to give in a cationic system? Your coco-caprylate might not be emollient enough. Are you trying to formulate a silicone-free product? Just asking because they’re kings in these type ofbproducts.

  • invar

    February 8, 2024 at 8:31 am

    Re: stable LGN, thanks, this is very helpful!

    Re: Arginine, I never saw it used at this level at all, besides a recommendation on this forum, which is why I am asking about it. I looked into literature but I can’t find anything about its use as a fixative. I don’t understand how it would work in general nor if it could work in a cationic system.

    Re: Coco-caprylate: I didn’t add any extra emollients because of all the Arginine. I’m not opposed to silicone ingredients, but the places where I can get ingredients don’t seem to carry them. Also, I don’t shampoo the lengths of my hair and I’m worried that some of them might build up - although, reading on this forum over the past few days, I think I don’t have to worry about that as much as I thought.

  • chemicalmatt

    February 13, 2024 at 2:43 pm

    I never heard of l-arginine functioning as a styling/fixative agent, and I would be surprised to learn of it. It is used in post-chemical hair treatments to partially salt-bridge “dangling” sulfhydryls on keratin after bond breaking. The fixative trope may have been born from its use in neutralizing SPDMA when using that quat salt in hair conditioners where it makes a super high viscosity cationic emulsion. Pretty cool but an expensive way to go. Price it and you will find out.

    • invar

      February 16, 2024 at 8:27 am

      Thanks for the input!

      I bought some L-Arginine HCl for testing. For a first test I just cold mixed 4 grams of it into 46 grams of store-bought conditioner (main surfactant is Stearamidopropyl Dimethylamine). So about 8% L-Arginine HCl or 6.6% L-Arginine. The change in viscosity was immediate, it got so thick I could barely stir it. I applied it to my hair as I normally do, about 15 grams spread using a wet detangling brush on wet hair, and leaving it in.

      Compared to the same conditioner without the Arginine, I feel it works a little worse as a wet detangler because of how thick it is. However, it does seem to work otherwise as intended - my curls appear stronger and more defined, without the gloss that some other products give to my hair. Is this just from the viscosity?

      I will keep testing for a bit, maybe I’m just having a good hair day. I did find a supplier where I can get Stearamidopropyl Dimethylamine as a consumer.

  • invar

    February 25, 2024 at 3:56 am

    Here are my findings after testing for a bit.

    Commercial SAPDMA conditioner + 8% L-Arginine HCl

    • Adding the L-Arginine to the conditioner really thickens it up. After a few days, the test batch broke the little pump bottle I put it in, and it was very hard to get it out of the bottle afterwards. It’s more of a curl cream, really.
    • It really does do exactly what I wanted it to do. It clumps hair, keeps it out of my face and kills frizz, while mostly remaining soft to the touch. I love it, honestly I don’t think my hair has ever been this curly and nice.
    • If I apply too much, especially on my scalp, it’s a stronger hold but it does look and feel a little bit more like hair gel - less soft, more wet-look. However it rinses out easily, it doesn’t seem to build up.
    • I was worried it wouldn’t be a good detangler but it’s fine, really. I had some trouble the first time I used it, but I just wasn’t used to the viscosity. If anything my hair seems to get tangled less.

    Just L-Arginine HCl in water

    • Dissolving it in just water at 8% or even 33% gives a clear liquid, it doesn’t seem to affect viscosity.
    • 8% in water makes a hair spray with a nice hold. Sprayed on dry hair 2 days after washing brings back the curls that the wind swept out. However, it feels and looks like I’ve applied hair gel - it’s no longer soft, and again more wet-look.
    • I tried both 8% and 33% on my mustache, which had never had any conditioner in it, to see if it’s fixative function is indeed from interacting with SAPDMA. It didn’t do anything. However, it didn’t seem to do much either if I applied SAPDMA conditioner to my mustache first. I guess it just doesn’t work very well on much thicker hair.

    I’ve found a place where I can order SAPDMA, so I think I will try to formulate a SAPDMA+L-Arginine curl cream 🙂

  • Onur

    February 25, 2024 at 12:36 pm

    Yes, arginine works well in cathionic systems, it indeed is one of few cathionic amino-acids. It might help with conditioning but I wouldn’t use it above 3% in the formula, it’s a protein and your formula is mostly water, it might easily go rancid despite the preservative system. I’d also use a bit of silk/soy/wheat amino acids in such formulas.

    You can use water-soluble silicones like PEG-12 dimethicone or even regular ones. People make so much fuss about silicones but they’re actually fine, they do deposit on the hair but they go away with washing. What’s more difficult to remove is polyquats, they’re resins that stick and stay for a long time, which ends up in dull and matte looking hair.

    Lastly, if I was to make a leave-in conditioner, I’d definitely add a tiny amount of BRB 1288 (Amodimethicone, Trideceth-12 and Cetrimonium Chloride). The way it conditions is second to nothing.

  • ketchito

    February 27, 2024 at 6:01 am

    Arginine is an aminoacid, not a protein. Actually, for conditioning, a protein hydrolyzate could work a bit better for conditioning (although large peptides form brittle films). Even better if that hydrolyzate is quaternized.

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