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Solid shampoo bars

Difficulty: Intermediate
Time: 45 mins

Yields: 4 bars

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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.

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!

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Solid shampoo bars

  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Print

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.

Posted on 33 Comments

Solid conditioner bars

Difficulty: Beginners
Time: 30 mins

Yields: 1 bar

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Conditioner bars are the solid versions of hair conditioners, using similar ingredients but without being diluted in water, which makes them so much more economical to use. One solid conditioner bar is equivalent to 2 or more bottles of liquid conditioners. As opposed to hair serum bars (more on that in a later blog post), conditioner bars are meant to be used on the ends of the hair, not on the scalp, and unlike shampoo bars, which clean your scalp and hair, conditioner bars condition, nourish, protect, boost shine, and restore vibrancy to your hair. Conditioner bars are made using non-ionic surfactants, oils, butters, and special ingredients, such as hydrolised proteins and panthenol, that are highly beneficial to the hair. This makes conditioner bars slightly more expensive to make than shampoo bars, but the benefits of all the goodness in your conditioner bar greatly outweigh the costs.

One solid conditioner bar is equivalent to 2 or more bottles of liquid conditioner!

The following recipe is for one 100 g solid conditioner bar, which will fit in a clamshell mould available from Pure Nature. If you would like to make more than one bar, just multiply the amounts appropriately. For example if you want to make 6 bars, multiply all the ingredients by 6.

Please note that the recipe uses hydrolysed silk protein, which is not vegan. Alternatively, you can use wheat or soy protein instead. All the ingredients used in this recipe are available from Pure Nature.

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ONE: Weigh out 60 grams of BTMS-25 into a heat proof bowl or jug. I will be using a microwave to melt the ingredients, but alternatively, you can use a small pot and your stove.

BTMS-25 is the name for one type of conditioner pellets, and is an abbreviation for the active ingredient, behentrimonium methosulfate. For those following the curly girl method, behentrimonium methosulfate is not a sulfate like sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), sodium coco sulfate (SCS) and other similar harsh surfactants. Instead, it is a very mild, non-stripping and non-irritating conditioning agent (a quaternary ammonium salt to be precise), derived from natural rapeseed oil.

The 25 in the name stands for the percentage of active ingredient in the product. So therefore, BTMS-25 contains approximately 25% of behentrimonium methosulfate and the remaining 75% is cetearyl alcohol. There is also a BTMS-50, however, this product also contains butylene glycol, a humectant moisturiser, but which is derived from petroleum, which is why I don’t use it in my tutorials. Instead, I will add glycerin later, which is also a humectant.

Cetearyl alcohol, or cetostearyl alcohol, is a combination of cetyl alcohol and stearyl alcohol. These are fatty alcohols and are nothing like their liquor namesake. Drinking alcohol, rubbing alcohol, or ethanol are all short-chain alcohols, which act as solvents and should never be used in your hair. Fatty alcohols, on the other hand, are long chain alcohols with a waxy appearance and are used as non-ionic co-surfactants in conditioners to stabilise the emulsion. They also give conditioners their typical creamy appearance (both in liquid and in bar form).

Unfortunately, most fatty alcohols are made from palm oil, and coconut oil derived fatty alcohols are just not yet widely available, at least not here in New Zealand.

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TWO: Next, add 10 grams of cetyl alcohol.

I’m adding extra cetyl alcohol, which will add additional silkiness to the conditioner, and rather than penetrating the hair shaft, it is deposited on the surface, making it feel softer and smoother to the touch.

Cetyl alcohol comes in waxy pellets, and is usually derived from coconut or palm oils by heating the oil with a strong base. The cetyl alcohol I use comes from Pure Nature, which is derived from RSPO certified palm oil. I would have preferred using coconut derived cetyl alcohol, but I have yet to find it here in New Zealand.

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THREE: And finally, add 10 grams of castor oil, which is an amazing hair care oil. It deeply moisturises and conditions, helps reduce split ends, and add shine and lustre to your hair.

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FOUR: Melt on high in the microwave for 30 seconds initially and then in 10 second bursts until completely melted. How long it takes to melt will depend on your microwave. My microwave will take 1 minute, but when I told my students in class to set it that long, it came out boiling!

If you don’t have microwave, or don’t want to use one, melt the ingredients on the stove using a small pot and on the lowest setting. It will take a lot longer, but just be patient, it will eventually melt!

 

FIVE: Once all the ingredients have melted, add the glycerin. This is the humectant I was talking about earlier. It will help keep your hair hydrated.

 

SIX: Let the mixture cool down a little, before adding the coco-caprylate, hydrolised silk protein, provitamin B5, and the essential oils. Then stir until everything has blended together to a smooth, opaque emulsion.

I’ve added coco-caprylate to the conditioner bar, because it is a natural alternative to silicon. Silicons coat, lubricate and seal in moisture, making hair smooth, tangle free and shiny. However, they are non-soluble, build up over time and make your hair heavy and dull with prolonged use. Coco-caprylate, or caprate, is derived form coconut, and has similar properties, with the added bonus that it doesn’t build up, is easily washed off and is biodegradable.

In this recipe, I’m using hydrolysed silk protein, which improves elasticity in hair and protects brittle hair from breakage. However, I’m aware that this is not a vegan product, and you really don’t want to know the process of harvesting silk. I have to admit, I’ve been using it before I realised what I was actually using here. So if you don’t want to use silk protein, the alternatives are vegetable proteins, such as soy or wheat. Hydrolysed just means that it has been broken down into smaller units, allowing the proteins to penetrate the hair shaft.

Provitamin B5, also known as panthenol, works by retaining moisture in hair. It is easily absorbed and turns to pantothenic acid, which binds water and thus enhances hydration.

The essential oils I’m using in the conditioner bar are rosemary, which is full of antioxidants to restore the hair’s vibrancy, and lavender to nourish and condition and add extra shine. The blend has also a soothing and calming effect on the mind, which can help with stress and anxiety, which can be triggers for hair loss.

 

SEVEN: Lastly, make sure the mixture is not too hot (the jug should be cool enough that you can touch the sides), to prevent the plastic mould from warping. Then pour the mixture into the mould and spritz the surface with isopropyl alcohol. to get rid of any bubbles.

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Leave the bar to solidify and cool down completely before unmoulding or closing the lid.

Unlike cold process soaps, you can use the solid conditioner bar immediately. After washing your hair, slide the conditioner bar down the length of the hair a few times and massage it into the hair, but only the ends of the hair and not into the scalp. Leave for a couple of minutes and then rinse thoroughly.

Solid conditioner bars

  • Difficulty: Beginners
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 60 grams BTMS-25
  • 10 grams cetyl-alcohol
  • 10 grams castor oil
  • 10 grams glycerin
  • 1/2 teaspoon coco-caprylate
  • 1/2 teaspoon hydrolysed silk protein
  • 1/2 teaspoon provitamin B5
  • 15 drops rosemary essential oil
  • 5 drops peppermint essential oil
  • isopropyl alcohol

Directions

  1. Weigh out the BTMS-25, cetyl alcohol and castor oil into a heat proof bowl or jug.
  2. Heat in the microwave on high for 30 seconds or until completely melted. Alternatively, you can use a small pot and place it on the stove on the lowest setting until melted.
  3. Add the glycerin and let the mixture cool down a little.
  4. Then add the remaining ingredients, except for the isopropyl alcohol, and stir everything thoroughly until all the ingredients have blended together into a smooth emulsion.
  5. Pour into the mould, and spritz some isopropyl alcohol on the surface to get rid of the bubbles.
  6. Let the bar solidify and cool down completely before removing from the mould or closing the lid, if using a clamshell mould as I did.
  7. The conditioner bar can be used immediately.