I’ve been working on shampoo and conditioner bars on and off for the last two years!
Yes - I know. It's been a long time. But I wanted to make a product that I’m completely satisfied with and I’m happy to say I’ve been testing my bars exclusively for the last eighteen months or so, in all their various improvements, tweaking them and listening to tester feedback. I’ve taken them on holidays and it’s a great feeling when I can put both my shampoo and conditioning needs for the whole holiday in a small light bag rather than putting heavy full bottles in the suitcase hoping they won’t leak. They can also be taken in hand luggage which is ideal! Even if it is just down the road for the time-being.
So why not just use cold-process soap as a shampoo? Believe me, I tried to make a soap bar that I was happy with as a shampoo. I bought lots of shampoo soaps and tried them all along with my own trial bars. I kept reading about a “transition phase” where my hair had to get used to not being washed with shampoo and being washed with soap, but it was so difficult. My hair never came out of the so-called transition phase. It felt heavy, looked oil-heavy, lifeless and the whole experience was depressing. I read about vinegar rinses as a natural conditioner but I wanted a product that instantly worked. We don’t have the time and perseverance to put up with our hair looking and feeling unloved and yucky…so I started reading up about surfactant-based shampoo bars and the science of hair and skin. There’s an amazing lady called Susan Barclay-Nichols who has done oodles and oodles of research into cosmetic chemistry and explains in fairly normal terms that I can understand why using traditionally made soap on hair gave me that yucky heavy matted result.
In very simple terms, our hair is naturally acidic with natural untreated hair having a pH of 3.7. Traditional soap is alkaline which our annoys our hair, lifts the hair shaft and results in that matted look which I'm not too fond of! . The scales of the cuticle of each hair strand fail to lay flat which means they can catch on other hair strands which causes friction, matting and tangling. So using a pH balanced shampoo bar that’s right for your hair won’t annoy your hair and won’t damage your hair shaft. We can see that people using the vinegar rinse (vinegar is naturally acidic) will hope the hair returns to its natural acidic state. However this won’t stop the damage caused to the fatty acids on the hair shaft which will allow more water into the hair and make your hair harder to condition.
The above explains why my hair felt and looked terrible when I was using soap. So with that in mind I turned my attention to the world of surfactants in a bid to find a mild, plant-based recipe that actually worked. Here’s a breakdown of the ingredients in my shampoo bar:
Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate: SCI for short - (babyfoam) - a mild, gentle, cleanser, made from coconut oil – as its name suggests – it’s used a lot in baby cleansing products.
Sodium coco-sulfate – made from coconuts – producing mild, creamy foam.
Behentrimonium Methosulphate – plant based emulsifying wax and conditioner – made from rapeseed oil.
Cocamidopropyl Betaine – plant-based conditioner – made from coconuts
Cetyl Alcohol – derived from coconut oil - a fatty alcohol which is moisturising.
Tucuma Seed Butter - rich in antioxidant polyphenols, fatty acids that protect and moisturize the hair by forming a protective screen on the hair without clogging pores, drying out, or weighing down the hair. It helps maintain hydration, suppleness and elasticity.
Panthenol - the provitamin of vitamin B5. It is used as a humectant, moisturizer and emollient; readily binds to hair shaft, sealing in moisture and adding shine.
Hydrolyzed Oats – adds shine, protection and volume.
Aloe Vera Powder - strengthens, moisturises and adds volume
The bars are small and powerful as they’re not diluted, unlike regular liquid shampoo. A small amount is all that’s required and I’ve found mine will last a couple of months and I wash my hair almost every day. Leave the bar out of any water puddles and in the open to air dry between uses. I just stand mine up on the bathroom shelf. If you do leave it in water for a while and it gets a little squishy, just rescue it and squish it back to shape and leave to dry out. It’ll be fine! I'd love to know what you think of them.