June 29, 2022


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Guar Gum Goodness ….and Pitfalls

4 min read
guar gum - curlytea.com

If you’re looking to add “slip” to your conditioners, shampoos and detangler mixes, one option you have is Guar gum.

Regular Guar gum is an ingredient which aids in thickening your product as well as adding that magical “slip” we all want so much.  “Slip” is  great for combing and finger detangling.

Guar gum is a non-ionic, white powder not to be confused to “cationic guar gum”(guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride).

When I first started to use Guar gum, I noticed how soft and slippery it felt after adding it to water.

The goodness of Guar gum comes from its ability to thicken just about anything you stick it into…as long as you incorporated it well.  It is recommended to use Guar gum as the end step of the process after you’ve added all your liquid ingredients together.

You can make a super slippery detangling mix by adding Guar to water, tea, Rose water, or a hydrosol.  Guar added at less than 1% (maybe only 0.5%) will thicken up the liquid to create a slippery mix which can easily be put on the hair to allow for better wet-combing or finger detangling.

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Unlike ingredients which just thicken a liquid, Guar gum has a softness to its slip.  It feels super soft as you rub a Guar gum based mix between your fingers.  Adding Guar to a homemade shampoo, for instance, may help to prevent that awful “straw like” feeling because of the softness Guar brings. But BE CAREFUL!  Too much Guar gum can cause flakes in you hair!

Guar gum was actually introduced to me via youtube by ReviveUK when she used it to make a honey/glycerin hair gel.  Although I could never get mine to do right (lol),  I was impressed by the magical ingredient.

Guar gum can act like a mild emulsifier too by preventing the oil from separating from the water.  But you shouldn’t use it instead of a real, stand alone emuslfier. Companies even use Guar Gum to make because it can severely limit ice crystal formation after its frozen.

TIP: Some big wholesaler companies suggest you add Guar gum AFTER you’ve added all your other liquid ingredients to your concoction. It is said to help it to come together better.

Conversely, I’ve also noticed a few pitfalls which should be overcome if you’re to use Guar Gum to its fullest capability.

Regular Guar gum dumped directly into water will immediately start to gel and clump.

If I dump the Guar gum into water all at once, I’ll have little balls of Guar gum in the center, with gel surrounding it. This is what’s called the “fish eyes” problem.

It should be poured or tapped in a little at a time into your concoction while mixing.  Or you should use a high sheer mixer (stick blender) to make sure it’s incorporated.

You can also use the solvent process to incorporate Guar gum into water by adding it to glycerin first.  THEN add that slurry mix into water.

TIP: Some wholesalers recommend you not use Guar Gum in any mix containing Borax

Another problem with Guar gum is that the slippery gel you make with it can flake-up in your hair for a number of reasons:

1. Using too much Guar.  It only takes a VERY SMALL amount to do what it needs to do.  If you use it and your mix isn’t where you want it to be, please let it sit for a few hours to make sure the Guar has fully dissolved. It will get thicker as time goes on.

2. Not mixing well enough.  The Guar has to be hydrated (dissolved into your water/liquid fully.  You have to ensure there aren’t any small “fish eyes” in the mix.

3. Using it without oil/glycerin.  For some reason, oil and the addition of glycerin seems to cut back or stop flake formation tremendously based on my unscientific experimentation. Maybe there is some type of lubrication which is created by the addition of such products which causes the Guar not to flake so badly on hair.

Yes, other less finicky thickeners can be used instead of Guar gum, but the super softness and slip provided by the Guar makes it a good choice for detanglers, shampoos and some conditioners.

Shout out:

7 thoughts on “Guar Gum Goodness ….and Pitfalls

  1. Hi Curly Tea, first of all thanks for all the amazing information you have on your blog and website. l am starting my own Natural hair and skin care line by formulating from home. The first product I want to create is a curl defining gel that will help define curls with slip and hold. Something close to ecostyler gel consistency and performance.What are your thought on using flax seed, Slippery Elm back, mashmellow root xantum gum and Guar gum. Please let me know if these product can all be incorporated into the recipe or better still if some will not work well with others. Your thoughts .


    1. Hi there! Thank you for the complements. 😀

      Flaxseed gel: From what I know, it’s a real challenge to keep flaxseed gel prepared in the traditional way from going bad — even using a preservative. I assume that’s why it’s not used in it’s pure form in more over-the-counter products.

      Marshmallow Root/Slippery Elm: I have a recipe using these two ingredients in a gel. (You have to be a Subscriber to access the full recipe though.) If you’re going to use these two as a base for a gel make sure you use a broad-spectrum preservative to keep them from going bad:

      Guar gum: Since writing the post above, and with more testing of guar gum, I’ve become a little put off by it. In it’s regular form, it’s very finicky to work with. If you use a tad bit too much, it can cause massive flaking in the hair. If you use it by itself as part of a non-oily gel, it can cause massive flaking in the hair. Using it with enough oils to combat that outcome seems to work, but I’m still super-cautious. If you need traditional “slip” in a gel product, I’d suggest using xanthan gum if you have to pick between the two.

      There’s another ingredient I’m still testing which I used in the Marshmallow Root Curling gel. However, it’s definitely not a natural ingredient so I don’t want to fully recommend it for what you may be trying to create.

      Just a sidenote: If you want some superior detangling, try adding a conditioning ingredient called Varisoft EQ 65. However, you product won’t be an ecostyler gel-type consistency anymore. But VarisoftEQ 65 is an ECOCert and COSMOS approved “green” ingredient which is supposed to be better at detangling than CETAC and BTMS. I’ve only tried it in one of my rinse-off conditioner recipes but I’m impressed:

      Good luck with your new line! It’s going to be exciting and challenging, but you can do it! 😀

      1. hi dear,
        thanks for your detailed feed back. very appreciated. Also I am a subscriber and thanks for your encouragement. means a lot. which preservative and emulsifier is considered natural ?

        1. No problem. 😀

          “Green” preservatives: Some green preservatives may not be broad-spectrum preservatives. I would seriously suggest using a broad-spectrum preservative that doesn’t contain parabens even though it’ may not be ECOCert approved.

          1. Gluconolactone & Sodium Benzoate (GSB) (aka Neodefend);
          2. Leucidal Liquid;
          3. Leucidal Liquid SF;
          4. NataPres

          “Green” ECOCert approved emulsifiers and co-emulsifiers:

          1. EcoMulse (aka Natramulse);
          2. SugarMulse;
          3. Varisoft EQ 65;
          4. EmulSoft;
          5. Glyceryl Stearate (GMS)

          1. Thanks for the suggestions . great help. I ordered phynoxy erthernol and I guess I will not be using that.also where can I purchase natures silk. thanks.

  2. Wow! This is just what I needed and have been looking for for quite a while now! Thank you for sharing your knowledge Curlytea. I do appreciate when folks give of themselves and I say a big THANK YOU!
    I’m trying to start up my hair care line and really do need pointers. I’ll join your community but wanted to post here as my question is about the guar gum
    I’m looking at making a coconut milk leave in conditioning hair spray and already purchased guar gum as a thickener(so my formulation isn’t completely runny)
    Using a very little quantity of the guar gum with about 120g coconut milk, 400mls water, 10g honey, 10g vegetable glycerin, some carrier oils, essential oils and liquid germall… do you think it would work?
    What I mean is, I would love to know that the above mixtures can be well-binded by the guar gum(that is keeping the oil and water together without it separating after a long period- say 3 months)
    Please do reply

    1. Hi. Thanks for the compliments. 😀 Let me say upfront that Guar Gum isn’t really a true emulsifier.

      Guar gum: If I were you, I wouldn’t depend on Guar gum. It’s more of a thickening agent. Since this article is old, I haven’t updated it. Testing more and more recipes with regular Guar Gum over the years, I’ve found the regular Guar gum always leave flakes in the hair. So, I suggest that if you can, please choose another binding agent. However, I haven’t used the modified version of Guar Gum (called “Hydroxypropyl guar”), so I can’t tell you if you’ll have better luck with that one. Read about it here: https://www.makingcosmetics.com/Hydroxypropyl-Guar_p_1131.html

      Alternatives: Maybe try Xanthan Gum instead. Or, better yet, research about “liquid emulsifiers” if you don’t want to worry about melting ingredients. Liquid emulsifiers would do the job of being easy to use and will keep the oils and waters from separating. Here’s a list of Liquid emulsifiers at makingcosmtics.com: https://www.makingcosmetics.com/Liquid-Emulsifiers_c_132.html

      If you want to go all natural, you may have to search somewhere else. Neither Xanthan nor Guar gum are actual emulsifiers. They’re thickeners and you risk the chance of the oils and waters separating over time.

      Coconut milk: Also, if you’re using real coconut milk, it can be hard to preserve over a longer period of time. Try using Coconut Milk Powder instead of canned coconut milk.

      Testing: Whatever you decide to do, make sure to test the product. If you’re selling and you can afford it, it would probably be best to let a lab test the product for you to see how long you can expect it to last.

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