Shampoo Making Part 2: Shampoo Bars!
Our Shampoo Making 101 blog was so popular we just had to write a part two! This second installment focuses on the latest trend, which we hope is here to stay, shampoo bars. Made with specific oils, shampoo bars are essentially soap bars for your hair. Those of you who have made soap before will be familiar with the process, but we’ll explain it all step by step. Shampoo bars and making your own shampoo are must haves for the zero-waster and those trying to live a more sustainable, plastic-free lifestyle. Next month is 'Plastic Free July' so now is a good time to start prepping by getting your homemade shampoos going.
What makes shampoo bars so special is that they save the planet a little bit of unnecessary plastic waste (bye bye plastic shampoo bottles), and they can be made from natural ingredients, free of nasty chemicals. They are small and light, perfect for traveling and they can even be used as normal soap if you want. I know some people like to use one product for hair, body and shaving, and they are ideal for that too. Basically, shampoo bars are a more eco-friendly and simplified way of washing.
Since shampoo bars are similar to soap bars, here’s a short introduction to soap making:
Either you’ll have a ‘melt & pour’ ready made soap base, or you’ll need to make soap from scratch by mixing oils with water and lye. If you’re doing the latter, you can either do it via cold process (let the mixture cool down, then cure for a month) or hot process (cook the soap mixture with no need for curing time). Soap making is similar to lotion making in that you are blending oils with liquids, but instead of an emulsifier and preservatives, you use lye to create a chemical reaction which hardens the mixture into soap.
I had slight reservations about including recipes with lye (a key soap making ingredient) as it is a harsh alkali compound. Lye, also known as sodium hydroxide or caustic soda, is used to produce a chemical reaction between salt (sodium) and fats in the oils or butters. The reaction is exothermic, meaning it produces heat and even bubbles, and can produce fumy steam, which is why you need to wear gloves and safety goggles when working with it. The result of the chemical reaction is an opaque or cloudy, hard soap. Although this sounds really bad, all the lye is used up in the reaction so when you use soap on your skin you aren’t getting any of it. Please be sure you use only 100% pure sodium hydroxide and take the necessary safety precautions. Some people use potassium hydroxide (potassium is also a salt like sodium) in soap making; it yields liquid soap, but I believe can be used to make a hard soap bar by adding extra salt such as Himalayan salt. I prefer not to have salty hair, so I won’t share that recipe here. So we see there isn’t really another way to make soap besides using lye. Melt and pour soap bases are also made from it, and glycerine soap base has other additives.
Shampoo bars are so named because they are made from a variety of oils that are great for your hair and scalp. Here is a list to get you started:
Carrier oils for hair - sweet almond, avocado, macadamia, argan, wheatgerm, grapeseed, olive, coconut or rice bran.
Essential oils for hair - rosemary, citrus oils, lavender, chamomile, lemongrass, clary sage, peppermint, tea tree.
You can use any oils and essential oils, this isn’t a comprehensive list, so feel free to experiment with your favourites.
Now that we know more or less what is what, here are some recipes!
Basic Shampoo Bar (cold process)
⅔ cup olive oil
⅔ cup coconut oil
⅔ cup carrier oil of your choosing
¾ cup cool distilled water
¼ cup lye- (100% sodium hydroxide)
2 tablespoons essential oils of your choosing
Cover your workspace with newspaper and use gloves and goggles. Melt the oils together; if the coconut oil is solid, warm it up until it melts. Measure out the water in a separate bowl. Make sure the bowl is heat proof as the chemical reaction coming up will produce heat. Have the lye ready and slowly pour it into the water (never the other way around) while stirring continuously. Stand back to avoid the steam, then let the water-lye reaction cool to about 50 degrees. The oils should be at about 24 or 25 degrees (room temperature). Pour the lye mixture into the oils and stir for 5 minutes, then use a stick/immersion blender to blend until the consistency of vanilla pudding is reached, called ‘trace’. At this point you may add in an extra tablespoon of carrier oil, and add in the essential oils. Stir well then pour into your soap moulds and cover so dust doesn’t get in. After setting for 24 hours, turn out the moulds and store in a cool, dry place. Turn the soap bars once a week for 3-4 weeks (no turning necessary if you’re keeping them on an oven wrack). This is the curing time, after which they’ll be ready to use.
Coconut Milk Shampoo Bar
½ c distilled water (128 g)
½ c sodium hydroxide/lye (109 g)
½ c coconut milk (113 g)
1 c virgin coconut oil (213 g)
1 ½ c olive oil (340 g)
½ c almond oil or sunflower oil(99 g)
½ c castor oil (113 g)
⅛ c jojoba oil (28 g)
Wearing gloves and goggles, carefully stir the lye into the distilled water, then set aside and let the exothermic reaction cool for about 30 to 40 minutes or until the temperature drops to around 38 to 43°C. Melt the coconut oil, then add to the other oils. Add the coconut milk to the warm oils and use an immersion blender for a few seconds until thoroughly combined. Carefully add the lye solution to the oil and coconut milk mixture. Using a combination of hand stirring and an immersion blender, stir the soap until it reaches trace, a consistency like vanilla pudding. Pour into a mould, cover and rest for 24 hours. Slice it into bars when it's firm enough not to stick to the knife and cure for 4 weeks.
Calendula Shampoo Soap
Liquid and Lye Portion
½ c lye
1 ¼ c calendula tea
1 ⅘ c olive oil (425 g) (50%)
1 c coconut oil (227 g) (27%)
⅓ c castor oil (71 g) (8%)
½ c sunflower oil (128 g) (15%)
Make calendula tea by steeping dried calendula flowers in boiling water, then strain. Cool the tea to room temperature. Measure out the lye, making sure you are wearing gloves, long sleeves, and goggles if needed. Slowly pour the lye into the calendula tea, stirring continuously. It will become very hot very fast, so stand back. Once the lye is completely dissolved in the liquid, let it cool to about 45 degrees. Combine all the oils together separately and warm to room temperature. Slowly drizzle the lye mixture into the oils. Use the immersion blender to mix the soap batter, alternating 30 seconds on and 30 seconds off. After a couple of minutes you will notice that the mixture will start to thicken. Pour the soap into soap moulds, cover and wrap it up. Let the soap sit in the mould for 24-48 hours before cutting into bars. Then cure the soap for 3-4 weeks before using. This soap is also really good as a normal soap as calendula has many skin-loving properties, so lather away!
Rosemary Mint Shampoo Bars (hot or cold process)
1 ¼ c olive oil (283 g)
1 c coconut oil (227 g)
½ c sunflower oil (113 g)
½ c castor oil (113 g)
¼ c jojoba oil (57 g)
Liquids and Lye
½ c lye (108 g)
1 ¼ c distilled water (283 g)
1 tbsp peppermint essential oil
1 tsp rosemary essential oil
Wearing gloves, goggles and long sleeves, measure the distilled water into a heat proof bowl. Measure out the lye and carefully add into the water, stirring continuously. Set the solution aside. If making hot process soap, the lye solution only needs to cool for around 15 to 20 minutes. If making cold process soap, let it cool for 30 to 40 minutes first, so the temperature drops to around 38 to 43°C. Melt the coconut oil, then combine it with the other oils. The temperature should be somewhere around 32 to 38° C. Carefully pour the lye solution into the oils mixture. Using a combination of hand stirring and a stick (immersion) blender, mix until the consistency of vanilla pudding is reached. At this point, if you are making cold process soap, stir in the essential oils then pour into moulds, cover and insulate with a towel or blanket. Let the soap sit in the mould for 1 to 2 days, then remove and slice into bars. Cure in the open air for 4 to 6 weeks before use. If making hot process soap, you’ll need to further cook the soap in a slow cooker: place the raw soap batter in a slow cooker turned to low. Cook for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. After the cooking time is done, stir in the essential oils, then spoon into moulds. Let rest for 24 hours before cutting. Hot process soap can be used right away, but can still benefit from a few weeks of cure time.
Using a melt and pour soap base is a very popular and much easier way of making DIY soaps, and I'll include two simpler shampoo bar recipes that use M&P in case you feel like taking a short cut or you're new to soap making. Much like glycerine soap, we like to be transparent about all our product ingredients, so please note that the soap base is not 100% natural. For a long time we refused to list it on our site, but due to popular demand we now stock it. That being said, your homemade soap will still be better for you than the average store bought soap!
Simple M&P Shampoo Bar
2 c melt and pour soap base
1 tsp mango butter
2 tsp castor oil, jojoba oil or olive oil
20 - 25 drops lavender essential oil
Cut up the soap base and melt on a low heat (you don’t want it to burn or boil). Once melted add in the mango butter and allow that to melt. Remove from the heat and mix in the castor oil. Add in the lavender oil. Pour the mixture into the moulds. Let the soap cool for several hours, then gently remove from the mould and cut into bars.
M&P Shampoo Bar with Beeswax
2 c melt and pour soap base
1 tsp almond oil
4 tsp shea butter
1 ½ tsp castor oil
6 tsp beeswax
9 tsp cocoa butter
Melt the soap base. Separately, melt the oils, cocoa butter and beeswax together. Add the soap and the melted oils together, stirring continuously until cooled. Pour into moulds and let set.
If you would like to add in special ingredients such as honey, rhassoul clay or aloe vera gel, add them in last with the essential oils. For extra fragrance and skin-health properties, rose water may be used in place of the distilled water. Or make a tea, such as calendula in the recipe above or rooibos tea and use in place of the water. For best results, follow up with an apple cidar vinegar conditioning rinse.
Happy hair washing!