Emulsifying agents (also known as surfactants”> are materials, which have amphiphilic character, meaning they are both water-loving (hydrophilic”> and oil-loving (lipophilic”>. This special property enables them to be used to create and stabilize oil-in-water and water-in-oil mixtures known as emulsions. The WEN formulas rely upon nonionic surfactants for this job, and they are effective at dispersing the non-water soluble materials in his products.

  • Ceteareth-20: This is a mixture of ethoxylated fatty acids (cetyl- and stearyl-“> that is a nonionic surfactant typically used as an emulsion stabilizer.
  • Polysorbate 60 is an ethoxylated sorbitan derivative that is a nonionic surfactant used as an emulsifier.


Humectants are materials that contain water-attracting elements, typically oxygen in hydroxyl and carbonyl groups. Some of these liquids can also act as solvents for some materials that are less soluble in water.

  • Glycerin is a moisturizing humectant that also imparts a thick, velvety texture to a product.
  • Panthenol is a pro-vitamin that is a highly effective humectant.
  • Butylene glycol is a humectant and also a co-solvent.

The remainder of the ingredients is a mixture of botanical extracts that adds little to the function of the product, fragrance, mild acids or bases for pH adjustment and preservatives.

Mainstream Haircare

The mainstream cosmetics and hair care industry is still mystified by the aversion many are developing to the use of synthetic surfactant-heavy shampoos. However, the success of products such as these might send a message to the larger companies that there is a large sector of the market that desires something different for their hair.

The main criticism of these products from a formulator’s perspective is that the ingredients list does not seem to adhere to INCI labeling standards for hair and skin care products. This makes it difficult at first glance to determine the approximate proportion of each ingredient listed. It is important if one desires credibility in this industry to strive to maintain labels that are clear and follow standard protocol.

Final Thoughts

Overall, Chaz Dean’s conditioning cleansers look to be capable of providing the same level of cleansing as many other conditioners and no-poo products designed for the same purpose. The inclusion of amodimethicone, guar hydroxypropylytrimonium chloride, fatty alcohols and small molecule cationic surfactants indicates that the product should impart a significant amount of conditioning properties to the hair as well, so it should be able to replace the need for multiple products.

The quality of the ingredients seems to be superior to most very inexpensive drug-store conditioners often relied upon for conditioner washing. However, whether WEN cleansing conditioners provide as much benefit as one would hope when considering the price remains to be seen by this curly chemist.

What has your own experience been?

Tonya McKay


Tonya McKay Becker is a curly-haired polymer scientist and cosmetic chemist whose academic and industrial research experience have provided her with expertise in the fundamentals and applications of polymer science and colloid chemistry. She has long had a fascination with the structure-property relationships of the complex solutions used in hair and skin care products, and how they interact with and impact these remarkable biological substrates. Ever curious, Tonya has dedicated herself for more than a decade to honing her expertise on the science of curly hair, how it differs from straight hair, and how product ingredients used on curly hair affect its health and beauty. Her passion for sharing this knowledge with others has led to her current career of educating people from all backgrounds who share an interest in this exciting field.

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