Formulating Hair Conditioners: Hope and Hype

Hair conditioners are one of the most widely used products in the personal care arena. A recent perusal of two Web sites ( and showed that there are more than 150 different SKUs (stock keeping units) out there to choose from. It certainly must be confusing to consumers – I know it is to me! There is probably no other personal care category that uses more “hype” words and makes more promises to users than the hair care industry. Some of the claims that I found are listed in the sidebar along with some common questions I can’t help but ask. These are what I call some amazing claims – hair is dead. It can’t be fed and doesn’t eat. If it was alive, then every time we got a haircut we would scream in pain and bleed to death!

Table 1 is a simplistic (but fairly accurate) accounting of hair conditioner components. As you can see, this is a fairly simple formulation. While most hair conditioners are oil-in-water lotions designed to be applied to wet hair after shampooing then rinsed out, there are many variants on this theme. We see spray aqueous conditioners designed for squirming children, cream leave-in conditioners targeting heavily damaged permed or relaxed hair, mousses, oils and many, many other products and product forms.

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