Solid shampoo bars

Difficulty: Intermediate
Time: 45 mins

Yields: 4 bars

Learn how to make this gentle cleansing shampoo bar, which leaves your hair soft, silky and tangle-free. Suits all hair types, and this tutorial is a great introduction for those wanting to venture into making solid shampoo and conditioner bars. Also check out this hydrating solid conditioner bar!

All the ingredients are available from Pure Nature or your local soap making supplies shop.

Please note SCI (sodium cocoyl isethionate) powder is very irritating if breathed in or gets in your eyes. I know it sounds like a total contradiction, since it is a very mild, non-irritating cleansing surfactant. But we work with it as a very fine, light powder, which is easily airborne, and our lungs really, really don’t like it. So make sure you wear goggles and a breathing mask (dust mask) and have your windows open!

ONE: Start by preparing all your additives. First add 1 teaspoon of citric acid to 10 ml of hot water and then stir until the citric acid has dissolved. Then add the coco-caprylate, provitamin B5, the orange essential oil and the mica, if you decide to add colour. Stir everything together.

The citric acid helps to soften the water, especially in areas of hard water (see blog post about hard water here). It works by reacting with the mineral ions in the water, and basically rendering them inactive.

Coco-caprylate is one of my favourite little secret additives. It is a natural alternative to silicons derived from coconut. It is a lightweight emollient, which coats and seals in moisture, making your hair smooth, tangle free and shiny. But unlike silicons, it doesn’t build up in your hair, is easily washed out and is biodegradable.

Provitamin B5, also known as panthenol, keeps your hair hydrated. The provitamin B5 turns into pantothenic acid when absorbed into the hair shaft, where it binds water and thus retains moisture inside the hair.

And the essential oil I’m using in this shampoo bar is orange essential oil, which is not only a delicious fruity fragrance, but is also full of anti-oxidants and vitamin C, is known to increase the ability of absorbing vitamin C as well, and is an excellent moisturiser with calming, soothing qualities on both skin and mind. And also who doesn’t love orange?

TWO: This part can be skipped if your sodium cocoyl isethionate (SCI) comes in powder form. In any case for this part and the next part, you will need to wear goggles and dust mask to avoid breathing in the powder and to prevent it getting into you eyes.

If your SCI comes in pellet form, use a bullet or food processor to grind it into a fine powder. The finer the powder, the easier it will be to work with. SCI is very difficult to melt due to its high melting point, and by using powder instead of pellets, you can significantly reduce the melting time from hours (pellets) to minutes (powder)!

The benefits of sodium cocoyl isethionate (SCI) is that it is a very mild and gentle (anionic) surfactant which is naturally derived from coconut and also biodegradable unlike most anionic surfactants (except soap).

Be careful to let the powder settle before opening the bullet or food processor and to tip the powder in at once from a very low height. I usually go outside to do this and let the dust settle again before going back inside. Like I said, the powder makes you sneeze!

THREE: Once you have your SCI in powder form, weigh the correct amount and then add the coco-glucoside. The coco-glucoside is also natural and derived from coconut oil and fruit sugars. It is added as a non-ionic co-surfactant, which acts as an emulsifier, foaming agent and conditioner. Basically, it helps make a nice smooth fluid paste, makes sure you have a great lather when you use it, and it conditions your hair while you clean it.

Once you’ve combined the SCI and the coco-glucoside, it’s time to melt it. You can either use the microwave or directly on your stove. If you are using the stove, use the lowest setting and keep stirring gently. You can also use a double boiler, but that will take longer. I found if I use the lowest setting on my stove, it works just as well as a double boiler!

However, I’m using the microwave here. When you use the microwave, use it in burst of 30 seconds initially and then reduce the burst to 10 seconds. Stir briskly between the bursts and always keep an eye on it in the microwave because it can boil over! When it starts rising, stop, stir, and then put it back in for 10 seconds, until you have a paste similar to the photo below.

FOUR: In another pot, add your BTMS-25, cocoa butter and Dehyquart F75. These are all conditioning agents. Melt it until liquid in the microwave or stove top, and then add it to the SCI/coco-glucoside paste.

The BTMS-25 is naturally derived from rapeseed, coconut and/or palm oil. It is a conditioner pellet made from 25% behentrimonium methosulfate and 75% cetearyl alcohol. For those following the curly girl method, behentrimonium methosulfate is a very mild, non-stripping and non-irritating conditioning agent, and not a sulfate like sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), sodium coco sulfate (SCS) and other similar harsh surfactants.

Dehyquart 75 is another conditioning ingredient, which soften and moisturise hair. It is made of distearoylethyl hydroxyethylmonium methosulfate and cetearyl alcohol, and comes in off-white waxy flakes or pellets. The active ingredient is the distearoylethyl hydroxyethylmonium methosulfate, which is a quaternary ammonium salt like the BTMS, and like BMTS-25 is not he prohibited ingredients in the Curly Girl Method. The cetearyl alcohol is a combination of cetyl and stearyl alcohols, which help stabilise the emulsion, but also give the shampoo its silky and creamy appearance and helps soften and hydrate your hair.

If you don’t have Dehyquart 75, you can add another 10 g of BTMS-25 instead. 

Cocoa butter also has excellent conditioning properties, is incredibly nourishing for your hair and leaves it soft and shiny. There’s just the right amount of cocoa butter in this shampoo, so that it will condition your hair without leaving it feel greasy and heavy.

FIVE: Mix everything to a fluid paste like in the photo. It will take a little while to stir until everything has been thoroughly incorporated into the paste.

SIX: Then add the additives that you have pre-mixed in the beaker and stir everything until it is an even colour.

SEVEN: Pour the shampoo mixture into your moulds and let them cool down and set overnight before using. I prefer to let them dry out for about a week before I shut the lid or use them, just because I find that it helps make them long-lasting that way.

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This has become my personal favourite shampoo bar at the moment, because I don’t need any conditioner with it. I’ve also mixed up the essential oil blend a few times, just because I don’t like using the same thing over and over again. Lavender and mint is a nice alternative, or just plain lemongrass, which is the one I’m currently using. Feel free to experiment a little!


Solid shampoo bars

  • Difficulty: Intermediate
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Ingredients

  • 240 g SCI (sodium cocoyl isethionate)
  • 80 g coco-glucoside
  • 40 g BTMS-25
  • 20 g cocoa butter
  • 10 g dehyquart F75 or extra 10 g BTMS-25
  • 10 ml hot water
  • 1 teaspoon citric acid
  • 1 teaspoon coco-caprylate
  • 1/2 teaspoon provitamin B5
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange mica
  • 5 ml sweet orange essential oil
  • 4 clamshell moulds

Directions

  1. In a small beaker, add the citric acid to the hot water and stir until dissolved.
  2. Add the coco-caprylate, provitamin B5, essential oil and mica, and stir until it is a slurry. Set aside.
  3. If the SCI is in pellet form, grind it up into powder using a bullet or food processor. Make sure you are wearing goggles and a dust mask, and have your windows open. DO NOT BREATHE IN THE DUST!
  4. Carefully, still wearing goggles and mask, combine the SCI and coco-glucoside and either melt in the microwave or stove top, until melted to a fluid paste. Be careful in the microwave, as it can suddenly start boiling (foaming) over.
  5. In another small jug or pot, add the BTMS-25, cocoa butter and dehyquart, and melt it until liquid.
  6. Pour it to the SCI/coco-glucoside mixture and give it a very good stir.
  7. Add the contents from the beaker (see point 1 and 2) you’ve set aside and stir everything until it has blended to a smooth paste.
  8. Lastly, pour the shampoo mixture into the moulds. You’ll need to work fast, as the mixture starts to set and thicken quickly.
  9. Leave the bars to cool down completely before unmoulding. They can be used immediately, though it’s better to let them dry for about a week before use.


14 Comments

  1. Hello Dear,
    I tried out your recipe, but the calculation tell me you use 60%of SCI in this recipe! The max safe is 49,% considered by CIR. Are you able to help and give a hint, how to make a hard solid bar with only 50% and the rest only liquid and oil additives? I cannot use any kaoln as it makes my heair very harsh not easy to brush and sticky.

    • Hi Joanna! You can actually use SCI safely in solid bars for the full amount, however, if you need to comply with regulations, formulators will mix different surfactants. In this case, you’d use 49% SCI and then for the remainder you could use SCS or another surfactant. Do know that SCI is the mildest of all the surfactants (I know, it’s rather stupid having to add a more irritating surfactant, just to comply with CIR regulations 🙄)

  2. Hello Jackie!

    I have a question,does the bar turn out to be hard enough? 🙂 I have trouble working with cetyl alcohol and stearic acid,I have to be really quick but when a I saw this recipe there is none of those ingredients,if I don’t use either is ok? Thank you!

    • Hi Sofia! Usually when a shampoo bar is not solid enough, it’s because there are too many liquid components in there. One way to increase hardness, like you say, is to add stearic acid. However, I’m not too much of a fan of stearic acid, because it can make a bar draggy, especially in conditioner bars, so I try and keep it at a minimum. In addition, stearic acid and fatty alcohols (like cetyl alcohol) are often just used as cheap fillers. You do need some fatty alcohols in your recipe, because it also acts as an emulsifier, but mostly it is used as a filler. It’s a solid substance, so won’t soften the bar and it’s cheap. I try and keep the recipe filled with solid ingredients that are functional. So if a shampoo bar is too cleansing for a particular hair type, instead of ‘diluting’ it with a fatty alcohol, I add more conditioning, and vice versa. Because I try and work as much with solid ingredients as I can, I don’t really have the problem of soft bars. And they remain nice and solid in the shower as well. We have ours in the soap tray with the soap, and it’s just as solid as the soap. Hope this helps!

    • HI Sofia! Yes, the bar turns out really nice and hard. There is cetyl alcohol in this recipe – it is hidden in the BTMS25. BTMS25 is the conditioning ingredient I use in this formulation. It consists of 25% behentrimonium methosulfate (conditioner) and 75% cetearyl alcohol, which helps to stabilise and make for a solid bar. Cetearyl alcohol is combination of cetyl and stearyl alcohols, both act as co-emulsifiers in these kind of formulations. They are fatty alcohols (not like the drinking alcohols) and have some conditioning benefit too. They are a necessary ingredient in solid shampoo and conditioner bars. Stearic acid is often used to harden a product, like shampoo and conditioner bars, but it can make a product feel draggy when you use too much. This shampoo bar is nice and hard on its own and doesn’t need stearic acid.

  3. Hi, could I ask where you get your Coco-caprylate from?
    I’m looking on Amazon, but not sure what to look for?
    Do you have an Amazon link? or a specific brand you use?

  4. Hi there, can these bars be classed as 100% natural, no detergents or synthetic ingredients. Thank you

    • Unfortunately the sodium cocoyl isethionate (SCI) is considered naturally derived, but not natural. This applies to all surfactants, including sodium coco sulfate (SCS). The problem with surfactants is that although the main component is natural fatty acids from oils (usually coconut or palm oil), the process uses other chemicals, such as sulfuric acid in the making of SCS, which is not considered natural. SCI is the most natural of all the surfactants, which is why I like to use it.

  5. Sorry for my earlier comment. I replaced the BTMS25 by BTMS50 en diminished the amount to 20 grams. Can I reduce BTMS25 amount if I use BTMS50?

    Kind regards, Katja

    • Yes, you can and replace the remaining amount with cetyl or cetearyl alcohol. The number given in BTMS25 and BTMS50 refers to the active ingredient, which is behentrimonium methosulfate, the conditioning agent. So BTMS25 consists of 25% behentrimonium methosulfate and 75% cetearyl alcohol. BTMS50 contains 50% behentrimonium methosulfate and the remaining 50% is cetyl alcohol and butylene glycol (a humectant, but petroleum derived – not natural!). The cetyl and cetearyl alcohols are fatty alcohols and are used in these kind of formulations to stabilise and harden the bars. I hope this helps!

  6. I,ve read that SCI should not exceed 60% of the total ingredients. Also I found statements way lower at 49%. In your recipe the SCI percentage is 61%, does this give any issues? Kind regards, Katja (the Netherlands)

    • Hi Katja! In solid shampoo bars, things like maximum and recommended usage rates are a bit different. Unlike a liquid shampoo or a lotion or cream, where you apply the product in its full concentration directly on your skin (or hair in this case), when you use a solid shampoo and conditioner bar, you actually have to dissolve it in water before it is applied, so you end up with a dilution of the product. I hope I’m making sense here. Shampoo and conditioner bars are like liquid shampoo and conditioner bars, minus the water – they are a very concentrated form of the product, but we dilute it when we mix it with water.

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