What's in Shampoo - The Plant-Based Alternative To Silicones

If you've been following this 'Whats' in Shampoo' series, you may remember me mentioning at the end of the last installment that there is a plant-based alternative to (one of the popularly used) silicones.

Today, we're going to take a look at this plant.

Meet Guar Gum

Guar Gum (INCI: Guar Hydroxypropyl Trimonium Chloride) is sourced from the seeds of the guar plant (Cyamopsis Tetragonoloba). The gum is made by grinding the the tissue produced inside the seeds of beans.

Guar gum is approximately 75% dietary fiber. Added to shampoo or conditioner, it helps thicken the product (which is nice) and condition the hair (which is even nicer). It is film forming (read: creates a protective layer), helps against static electricity and aids combing out both wet and dry hair. 

And, it's good for all hair types. Sound a little like dimethicone? You are absolutely right.

Guess what else guar can do. It also has the amazing ability to bond to the hair, and can – just like dimethicone – create build-up on hair.

Oh No!!

Oh yes. If you use guar gum products on your hair non-stop, (guar shampoo followed by guar conditioner), you will get build-up. However, there is absolutely no need to panic. If you use a clarifying shampoo (a silcone and guar-free shampoo) on a regular basis (about once a week), you should be fine.

A clarifying shampoo does not have to be harsh to work. It just has to be free of silicones and, well, guar gum. 

By the way: feel free to replace the words guar gum with silicone in the above paragraph at your leisure. The information will be equally correct.

A True Life Story: The Mystery of the Disappearing Hair Color

For years, my hairdresser and I couldn't understand why the supposedly permanent hair color he used would sometimes fade and disappear almost completely before my next visit. He switched brands. It happened again. And again. But not every time.

It took a bit of detective work on both of our parts, but we finally discovered the cause: it was guar gum build-up. 

If I had by chance consistently washed my hair with a guar shampoo and used guar conditioner for a period of time before having my hair dyed, the color wouldn't be able to penetrate the guar layer.

My hairdresser had switched suppliers a couple of times, convinced there was something wrong with the product, when the whole time it was my all natural, plant-based shampoo and conditioner exhibiting the exact build-up symptoms that a silicone product can create.

What He Said - What I Think

From my hairdressers point of view, a layer of guar is no different than a layer of silicone. I'm inclined to agree, although personally, I prefer the idea of a plant-based, environmentally friendly ingredient creating build-up on my hair to a synthetic one. 

But that's just me.

As for build-up... yeah, I've had it, but I washed it right out of my hair – and it didn't even hurt.

More Shampoo Stuff

Next, I will go over some of the additional ingredients that can be found in some of my Hair & Body washes – and that will conclude this mini series about shampoo and lathery products.

Other installments of the 'What's in Shampoo' mini-series on this blog:

What's in Shampoo - Should We Care?

What's in Shampoo - About Surfactants

What's in Shampoo - Surfactant Guide

What's in Shampoo - About Silicones


Anonymous said…
Hi I'm trying to make my own herbal shampoo, so to get the feeling of "real" shampoo I was thinking of this gum, not anymore since the build up it creates will prevent my hair from the benefits of the herb,so, any other thicken agent suggestion
LisaLise said…
Hey there Anon - It's a little hard to answer your question without knowing what else is in your mix. There are several possible gums you could consider if you want to go that route, but some will not work well with some surfactants.
Hi Lose, thank you for your super fast response, in mybshampoo I have nothing but herbs and water, I don't need a huge lathe, but I do need it to be tick, but keep it as natural as possible, do you think that can be achieved? Gelatin, is animal based, xantham involves sugar I'm afraid it will reduce the already short lifespan in my shampoo, Guam gum creates a build up in the hair so it won't let the hair to get the benefits from the herbs, what do you think? Or should I just stop being afraid of gums?
LisaLise said…
Ok - so you just want to thicken your herbal water mix? I think you should try either carrageen, xanthan or guar if you want to get to know the gums ( nothing to be afraid of!) but you could also consider aloe gel . Aloe would be a good addition for that is all herb. Are you making single portion batches? Then add a bit of rhassoulclay for ultimate gentle cleansing (no lather but it cleans beautifully). Let me know how it goes :)