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How does VO5 Hot Oil work?

The hair style of the models in this commercial is laughable…but the science of how this product works is serious.

As you can probably tell I really enjoy these vintage cosmetic commercials. This one is particularly meaningful to me since I had the privilege of working on VO5 Hot Oil. Even though it has been around since the 1970s the technology still fascinates me and it’s unlike anything else I’ve ever seen.

How does VO5 Hot Oil work?

Unlike other products, Hot Oil actually reacts with your shampoo to create a conditioning complex. (Years ago I created a demonstration showing this effect: if you pour hot oil into a solution of shampoo it instantly turns cloudy showing that the reaction takes place.) The key ingredient is PEI 1750 which has a very high charge density so it can stick to hair better.

In fact Perry and I even wrote a paper on this topic. It’s titled “Solid‐state Polyelectrolyte Complexes of Branched Poly(ethylenimine) and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate” and it was published in the Journal of Macromolecular Science. I believe Perry still sells autographed copies on his other website. (Yeah, the one that he cheats on me with.)


Water, Cocotrimonium Chloride, Acetamide MEA, Aloe Vera (Aloe Barbadensis) Leaf Juice, Hydroxyethylcellulose, PEI 1750, Oleth 20, Propylene Glycol, Hydrochloric Acid, Fragrance, Methylparaben, Disodium EDTA, Polyquaternium 10, Hydrolzyed Wheat Protein, Linalool, Benzyl Salicylate, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Vegetable Amino Acids, Lysine Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Amy Cinnamal, Yellow 6 (CI 15985), Eugenol, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Limonene, Phytantriol, Keratin Amino Acids, Polysorbate 20, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein PG Propyl Silanetriol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Panthenol, Ascorbic Acid, Sodium Hydroxide, Niacinamide, Biotin

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jessica May 2, 2014, 9:13 am

    Hi, what is PEI 1750? It’s not an EU registered inci. I can’t find it either on CosIng or Innovadex.com

    • admin May 2, 2014, 1:14 pm

      It’s a high molecular weight polyethyleneimine.

  • Ling May 2, 2014, 4:54 pm

    Hm… the link doesn’t work

    • Randy Schueller May 3, 2014, 9:22 am

      It works for me – maybe it’s a browser issue?

  • Para May 10, 2014, 1:39 pm

    Would this work with sodium laureth sulfate? I use shampoos with that one only because it’s supposedly gentler on hair than sodium lauryl sulfate

    • admin May 10, 2014, 8:15 pm

      Yes the reaction may not be as strong but it will still work.

  • Carolain June 11, 2014, 12:33 am

    oh…. I can remember these oil tubs on my house

  • Mya July 13, 2017, 9:54 am

    Can you make Vo5 hot oil at home?

    • Randy Schueller July 13, 2017, 10:40 am

      I suppose if you had a copy of the formula and if you had access to all the chemicals and if you had a way to weigh out small amounts of chemicals and if you had the proper mixing equipment and if you had a way to check the specifications of the final product, then, yes, you could make VO5 Hot Oil at home. But it would probably cost you more to do it yourself than to just buy it in the store.