Gels are a perfect vehicle for conditioning agents. Sure, you can make a perfectly good gel with the gelling ingredients, fixative, preservative, and a little colour and fragrance, but why not make it do double duty by adding some cationic ingredients to add a little conditioning in the form of cationic polymers or dimethicone? You can use the cationic polymers of your choice, but I don't suggest using cationic quat compounds like BTMS or cetrimonium bromide. (Having said that, cetrimonium chloride is a cationic compound, but it's not a hydrophobic one like BTMS). And Incroquat CR simply doesn't work here.
We would like a humectant in here, but a lot of our normal humectants aren't going to play well here. The glycerin is too sticky, sodium lacate won't be effective, most people shy away from propylene glycol (although you can include it at 1 to 2% and reduce the water amount) - so condition-eze 7 (polyquat 7) or honeyquat would be great choices here.
Please do not use hydrovance as a possible humectant in this recipe. It will throw the pH out of whack completely. And if you don't have a pH meter (if someone wants to buy me one for Christmas, I'd be a happy girl...) then it's too hard to try to get the pH back down.
A little word about fixatives...I use Fixate G-100 Styling Resin because this is what I can get locally at Voyageur. (INCI: AMP-Acrylates/Ally Methacrylate Copolymer). This one is apparently specially designed to work with Carbopol gelling agents, but you can use it with any kind of gelling system, like cellulose. I have not tried this as I like working with Carbopol. It is pre-neutralized with a pH of 6.0, and the suggested use is 1.9 to 11.5% (but I wouldn't go over 3% because this is sticky stuff). A little bit will go a long way...and it's great for using in mascaras and eye liners (which I'm still working on...it's coming, I promise!)
CONDITIONING HAIR GEL WITH DIMETHICONE
1.2% ultrez 20 or ETD 2020
3% Fixative G-100 (or other fixative product)
1.6% 18% lye solution (neutralizer)
2% cationic polymer or cetac
1% fragrance (if desired)
0.5% - 1% preservative
Colour, if desired.
As a note, if you have some Celquat H-100, add it at 0.5%. This is the perfect application for it! It helps gel liquids, so you're getting two gelling agents in this mix. It is going to be thicker, so play around with the water amounts to make it perfect!
Weigh out the water, then sprinkle the polymer on top. Let wet, then agitate.
Add the fixative, mix well. Now add the neutralizer.
Add the extra water, cationic polymer, and dimethicone and mix well.
Add preservative, and fragrance and colour (optional).
Mix well. Package in a jar for ease of use.
Feel free to add your favourite conditioning agents to this gel and see how it works for you! If you feel it is too thick, increase the water. If it's too fixative-y, reduce the amount of fixative. If it's not fixative-y enough, add a little more (increase in 0.5% amounts). You can include hydrolyzed proteins (2%) or panthenol (2%) if you aren't going to use leave in conditioner before using the gel.
Play with this recipe - gels are a very particular thing for most people, so you're going to have to do some experimenting to find what you really like!