Gleams & Notions

In a Lather Over Hair Care Formulas

By Harvey M. Fishman, Consultant | January 22, 2013

The primary purpose of a shampoo is to clean hair. However, a good shampoo should also have the following attributes:
  • Enough viscosity that it does not drip excessively;
  • Good foaming ability–especially on the first lather;
  • Easy rinsability;
  • Good wet combing ability especially on tinted or bleached hair;
  • Good manageability, dry feel, and fly-away properties when dry;
  • Luster and
  • Minimal eye irritation.

A proper shampoo should also clean hair without removing too much natural oil from the scalp.

In order to achieve these attributes, numerous additives must be mixed in the proper proportions in order to obtain the desired results. Among these ingredients are: detergents, most of which are coconut oil derivatives; foam stabilizers and boosters, also made from coconut oil to help increase the viscosity of the system; opacifiers, prevalent in “cream” type shampoos; clarifiers, added to keep shampoos clear; thickeners such as salt or gums, to increase viscosity; conditioners either solubilized oils or cationics to give wet comb, manageability, and other conditioning properties; preservatives to prevent microbial growth; and perfume to both mask odor and impart a pleasant aroma.

Shampoo Types
The most common type of shampoos are clear or opaque formulas. Medicated shampoos that fight dandruff can be either clear or opaque, depending upon the active ingredient. Acid shampoos help maintain the acid pH status of the hair to provide better conditioning.

Cationics in shampoos help to condition the hair. However, the manageability properties of the hair are of less importance in a shampoo if a cream rinse or conditioner is applied immediately after the shampoo is rinsed off. Shampoo concentrates are sometimes used in salons. It is possible, with a bit of difficulty, to formulate a concentrate that will become more viscous as water is added.

Among the more uncommon shampoos is the dry shampoo that contains no water. It consists of absorbent powders that are usually sprayed on the hair and then brushed out after a few minutes. One advantage of a dry shampoo is it will not remove the hair’s natural oils. It will also enable hair color to last longer as it does not remove color as a liquid shampoo does. Among the powders used for this purpose are corn or rice starch, ground oatmeal, seminola or talcum powders.

A homemade recipe might be:

  • Two tablespoons corn meal;
  • One tablespoon ground almonds; and
  • One-and-a-half tablespoons orris root.
Mix and massage into the scalp, then brush. Repeat if necessary.
Another uncommon shampoo is the oil shampoo, which does not lather well, but cleans, and is useful for people with dry hair.

The following formula will apply luster to the hair. It is applied to dry hair with a sponge or cloth and then wiped off with a coarse towel. It is more of a conditioner than a shampoo.

No-Rinse Conditioner
Ingredients: %Wt.
Phase A  
Water 95.55
Quaternium 15 0.10
Part B  
Sulfonated castor oil (75%) 0.75
Alkoxylated cetyl alcohol 1.50
PEG-12 dimethicone 1.00
Ethylhexyl palmitate 0.50
Fragrance (water soluble) 0.20
Polystyrene opacifier 0.40

Procedure: In separate containers, heat A and B to 35-40°C. Add B to A. When mixed, add the opacifier. Product is a thin solution with a pH of 7.0.


Harvey Fishman has a consulting firm in Wanaque, NJ, specializing in cosmetic formulations and new product ideas, offering tested finished products. He has more than 30 years of experience and has been director of research at Bonat, Nestlé LeMur and Turner Hall. He welcomes descriptive literature from suppliers and bench chemists and others in the field.