Learn how to make your own xanthan gum hair gel with tips from the Curl Chemist.

What Xanthan Gum Adds to Curly Hair Products

Xanthan gum is useful in shampoos, hair conditioners and styling products. It is a fantastic viscosity modifier, producing thick and creamy products that are very thermally stable. Its shear thinning properties also make it easy for the consumer to use. It is stable over a broad range of temperatures, is water-soluble and is a great binder of water.

It is also an excellent emulsion stabilization agent, which facilitates incorporation and prevents phase-separation of oil-based additives. It is compatible with anionic, cationic, and nonionic polymers.

The application in which xanthan gum's properties really shine is in the styling gel. Xanthan gum dissolves completely, and so the gel formed is sparkling clear, which is a property highly desired by consumers. It is highly compatible with typical styling polymers, such as the cationic polyquaternium family, as well as the acrylates. It has been found to enhance the performance when used in products with these polymers, decreasing the amount of expensive synthetic polymer needed for a good result.

One producer of the polymer, National Starch, found that the polymer has extraordinarily good properties all by itself in water, as a hair fixative material. A simple formula containing water, xanthan gum (1 to 3%, by weight), and appropriate preservatives was found to provide a product with excellent rigidity of style, high gloss, insignificant flaking, good feel, and to have curl retention in high humidity that exceeded many traditional commercial products. What this means is that a styling gel containing xanthan gum will provide a curly style with excellent hold with no white, flakey mess, and that the style will stand up to heat, humidity, and time.

What an awesome material for the curly girl who desires to make her own products!

Make Your Own Xantham Gum Gel!

What You'll Need

  • Xanthan Gum: 1.5% w/w
  • Water: Q.S.
  • Preservative: Q.S.

Q.S. means "quantity sufficient," and just means to use the amount you need to get the right percentages for your product.

  1. First add the preservative to water and mix thoroughly.
  2. Add in the xanthan gum slowly, with lots of stirring or agitation, into cold or heated deionized water until the solution is clear and begins to thicken.
  3. Pour into containers and set aside to allow gel network to form.
  4. Experimentation with the addition of essential oils, other polymers, small quantities of salt (if you want a thicker gel), or plant oils can help personalize this product to your own tastes.

Want More?

Interested in making your own products, but worried about mishandling them once your insert the chemicals? The Curl Chemist explains how to handle diluted and homemade products!

Final Thoughts

Overall, xanthan gum seems to be a win-win material. It is water soluble, which allows curlies all around to sigh in relief. It gives products that luxuriously thick texture and feel, stabilizes formulations so that all the ingredients can work as intended, and it adds excellent hold to styling products such as gels and mousses. In addition, the ease with which it can be used to create a product at home makes it a very attractive ingredient indeed.

The single caveat for potential consumers to be aware of is that it can sometimes be an allergenic material, as it is typically derived from wheat, corn, or soy. Fortunately, it is possible to obtain xanthan gum from the source of your preference. For instance, Bob’s Red Mill makes a certified organic food grade xanthan gum derived from non-GMO corn and soy products.