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Why Is Quaternium-87 in My "Herbal" Conditioner?

Why Is Quaternium-87 in My "Herbal" Conditioner?

I made the switch to all-natural shampoo and conditioner a few years back. Not only do I like the fact that they're made with "a perfectly balanced blend of botanicals," as the bottle states, but I also like that they're made without animal testing. As I was washing my hair the other day, I went to pour some Nature's Gate Herbal Conditioner in my palm, and I saw Quaternium-87 in the list of ingredients. To me that sounds more like a show on the SciFi channel canceled after one episode than a "botanical" ingredient to me.

To find out what it is,


With a little exploring on the Internet, I discovered that Quaternium is the name for a category of chemicals, and there are many varieties including Quaternium-15, 18, 24, 27, 80, and so on. As the various numbers indicate, all these "Quats" are unique because they are made from different ingredients and have different properties. Some Quats, such as Quaternium-15, have caused skin reactions for some people, but it's one of the ingredients in Johnson's Baby Shampoo, so I would think that it'd be safe (since it's meant for wee ones).

As for Quaternium-87, since it's added to all natural conditioners, I'd assume that it also wouldn't cause any unpleasant reactions. This ingredient is an ammonium compound that can be synthetic or vegetable based. It's a viscous, cloudy yellowish liquid that mixes well with water. It can be used alone as a conditioner, but I guess Nature's Gate mixes it with herbs and flower extracts to give it the fresh, clean scent I love. I didn't find any info stating that Quaternium-87 was harmful for human use, but that doesn't mean it's 100 percent safe. I guess you'll have to use your own judgment when it comes to this ingredient. Although if you have sensitive skin, I'd heighten your awareness when using products that contain Quats.

Join The Conversation
carrieofcanada carrieofcanada 9 years
I just tried some Nature's Gate Shampoo and conditioner this morning and soon after I started sneezing and then that developed into a runny nose and REALLY sore throat. I finally washed my hair again with something else and I seem to be getting better now. I can't be sure it was that but it sure seems like it. Bleh.:( I've never had a problem with shampoos and conditioners before. I only thought I'd tried this brand because it would be 'oh so much better'. Boy was I wrong.
hithatsmybike hithatsmybike 9 years
So you're staying away because YOU have a personal allergic reaction? That's fair -- but don't pretend it's because of the science behind it then. I imagine I have been exposed to this before, and I've experienced no reaction. But then again, maybe I haven't since I'm in Canada where considerably less garbage is unloaded into cosmetics & food, so that might be why.
chocolatine chocolatine 9 years
I second lizs on Aubrey. Theirs are the only shampoos that don't irritate my scalp, and I love that they smell like real herbs, not enhanced like Aveda or others.
facin8me facin8me 9 years
You shouldn't jump to conclusions either hit. Since the MSDS is for the product alone, it couldn't possibly speak to the interaction of the other ingredients in the conditioner with the compound in question. I am the poster you refer to above who has problems with quaterniums. I have degrees in biology and chemistry and I'm almost done with my PhD in a biochemistry lab, so I'm not afraid of "icky" sounding chemicals with long names. I do know that these quaterniums and polyquaterniums started showing up in products about four years ago. My first experience with it was a horrible rash around my face that I developed using a leave-in MOP hair product. A year later I had the same experience with Aveda Phomollient. The only common ingredient (besides water, which I ruled out) was a quaternium. Several months later, I bought an Aveeno body wash and developed the rash all over my body. I've had this problem recently with shampoos and conditioners...even just having the chemicals wash down my back during a shower is enough to give me a rash, not to mention what is does to my face. Not pretty. Many companies with products that I used- Aveda, MOP, Artec, now add this stuff to their shampoos and conditioners when they never did before. (I know that they've changed their formulas to add this stuff because I used to buy my mom fancy shampoos that she never used...she still had the near full bottles at her house, so I checked them all to make sure I wasn't making sh*t up when I started to figure out what the culprit was). The latest insult from polyquaternium came a few weeks ago in a tube of Lancome Hypnose mascara , which I hadn't bought in several years. I didn't even think that I'd have a problem with mascara- that is, until my eyes turned bloodshot red and I had a white mucus leaking out of the corners of my eyes. That's when I thought to check the ingredients. Bingo. Polyquaternium. I asked my allergist about these compounds and she said she had experience with quaternium-15 being a known sensitizer. You said that the presence of this chemical in endless cosmetics products justified it's safety, but it really hasn't been around that long. It's possible people will begin to have problems with repeated exposure...or it's possible people have problems and don't realize that it's their shampoo or whatever because they've "been using Brand X for years." Or it's possible people won't have problems at all. I certainly don't think people should be afraid of chemicals they've never heard of, but I do think they should learn about them (as Fit has done) with an open mind. As a scientist, I have no idea how this range of products could have this rash effect on me. I know that the quaterniums are made up of different compounds polymerized together...some of them don't even have the same I don't know- is it a byproduct of the polymerization process? Is it some catalyst of the process that is used for making these polymers that is still present in low amounts? I wish I knew the science behind it, but in the meantime, I stay away from anything containing this stuff.
hithatsmybike hithatsmybike 9 years
Important: 1. MSDS sheets are for handling the compound on it's own, likely in an amount greater than that seen in the entire bottle of shampoo, let alone the amount used in one hair wash. 2. Even uncommon or rare side effects must be listed, so the likelihood that skin irritation will result is not neccessarily high. Also, the severity must be noted. As an eye irritant, it says it may cause permanent damage, but on the skin it seems mild enough. Like any cosmetic product, "if irritation develops, stop use". Most people will not develop any response to the chemical (hence it's prominence in endless cosmetic products), but some people will -- like a previous poster that says she experiences a reaction to most/all Quaternium compounds. 3. The MSDS also states: This information relates only to the specific material designated and may not be valid for such material used in combination with any other materials or in any other process. In shampoo, the material is in combination with other materials, thus the MSDS isn't entirely valid. For example, I've seen HCl listed in the ingredients of a shampoo before. Go look up the MSDS for hydrochloric acid -- it isn't pretty. Don't jump to conclusions.
facin8me facin8me 9 years
And here's what that MSDS says about skin contact: Skin Contact: Repeated or prolonged contact may cause irritation Hmmm.. repeated using daily in a conditioner.
hithatsmybike hithatsmybike 9 years
Just because a bottle contains a chemical you've never heard of, doesn't automatically mean it's bad. Here is the MSDS for the compound: Don't put it in your eyes.
lizs lizs 9 years
Aubrey makes really great stuff that doesn't contain anything that's too out there, and I recently started using Alba again now that they stopped using parabens. So many worries, so little time. I miss living near Trader Joe's - their shampoo really is awesome like lostbronte said, and so so so cheap!
hottpink hottpink 9 years
I love Kiss My Face shampoo and conditioner. They are all natural and contain no animal by-products! Plus, the smell really great!
gabiushka gabiushka 9 years
Crazy chemicals and my forehead breaking out because of fragrance in shampoos made me switch to the most natural method I've heard of so far: baking soda and vinegar; first wash the roots with baking soda, then rinse with water, then apply some vinegar, rinse. Dont need anything else and is so cheap.
lostbronte lostbronte 9 years
Trader Joe's Revive Spa shampoo & conditioner are truly all natural and they're the best I've ever used, including Aveda. Plus they're only $2.49!
snakewash snakewash 9 years
Yes, agreed that just because a baby product has an ingredient, especially a mass market product like Johnson's, does not make it safe. Many of the baby lotions contain parabens which have been linked to cancer.
facin8me facin8me 9 years
Polyquaternium and quarternium compounds are the devil. I have horrible skin reactions to any products containing polyquaternium. I've had experiences with products containing quaternium-1,4,7,10,11,15,and 18. They all give me a horrible rash. Lookout for these compounds in mascara, shampoo, conditioner, any straightening treatment, and body wash. I do not use Nature's Gate for this very reason. If you want another option Fit, try Giovanni. Their products are much better. Just because something is in baby shampoo doesn't make it safe or ok. This is not a reason to discount an ingredient as a problem.
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