Breaking it down:
The suffix "quat" is short for Quaternary Ammonium Cation and is added to any chemical with a functional group that looks like this: NR4+.
This is relevant to the cosmetic chemist for a few reasons, not least because it acts like a temporary chemical glue to stick the molecule to the hair or skin. So, the main benefit of the quat is that the positive charge on the ion means that it can act as anti-static in hair care (control fly-away hair etc) as well as stick to the hair shaft and act as a long-wear conditioning agent. In addition, under some circumstances the quat can act as an anti-bacterial active and protect the formulation from microbial attack. To help decide what quat will do what we need to check out the tail end of the chemical...
The "80" bit is less about chemistry and more about protocol. Basically when a new "quaternium' is invented and found to be good for use in cosmetics its manufacturers (or sponsors) have to get it an INCI name. INCI names are the global standard in chemical communication and make it easier for people like you and me to read labels and understand what is in the product. Therefore the number is just assigned at the time of registration and if someone else manages to perfect the same chemical in their manufacturing facility at a later date they get to use the same INCI name. Nice!
In this case it is a modified silicone and that is why this particular quat is so good at making your hair shiny and beautiful. What happens is this, when you wash your hair you leave it with a slight negative charge, your conditioner then comes along and can stick to the negative bits due to its positively charged functional group (quat). This attraction usually remains until the next wash meaning that you end up with hair that stays beautiful until the next wash.
The length, tail chemistry, number of tails and degree of branching give the chemical the rest of its functionality and with as many tail combinations as fish in the sea, that's a lot of options on the table. So whether you are after conditioning or styling, preserving or cleaning a quat often exists to do the job.
You may be surprised to hear that some quats are actually naturally derived! The nitrogen based quat head is an ammonium ion and is found naturally in a number of salts such as ammonium carbonate and ammonium nitrate. The tail can be made out of any feedstock meaning that anything is possible from silk to silicone and everything in between!
Quaternium 80 is has a silicone tail which means that it is able to produce clear conditioning power in both shampoos and body washes. It gives excellent wet-comb ability with minimum weight making it perfect for daily main maintenance!
Usage wise you will need to use between 1-3% in your formulation and it is to be added to the water phase as temperatures below 60C. Add to the fact that it has been designed not to impact on foam height or volume and you have a star performer on your hands.
So if you have been inspired to create your own range of quality hair care why not give it a go and while you are at it add in some of our other new hair greats – can we tempt you with our silk amino acids or maybe you are looking for some anti-frizz...
6 Sep 2010