Soap-based and shampoo-based shampoo bars; how do I find the right shampoo bar for me?

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Soap-based and shampoo-based shampoo bars; how do I find the right shampoo bar for me?

4.1.2023


During the dark evenings of autumn, I have orientated myself a little more closely with the making of homemade cosmetics. I wanted to compare different raw materials and make same type of products from them.  Now I’ll tell you about my shampoo bar experiment. Shampoo bars are familiar to many. They are currently offered by many manufacturers. It’s frustrating to buy new and new shampoo bars only to find out that they didn’t suit my hair. You need a really good knowledge of the shampoo bars and the raw materials used, before you can think about why one Shampoo bar does not suit your hair and another one does. You should read this article to the end because I have gathered a lot of information about shampoo bars and the ingredients used in them.

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What exactly are shampoo bars?

Shampoo bars are mainly concentrated, water-free surfactants. Their popularity has grown significantly in recent years. Solid shampoo bars are an ecological alternative to water-based liquid hair detergents. They don’t necessarily need packaging at all. A thin paper or cardboard wrapper is perfect for packaging a piece of shampoo. Shampoo bars are easy to take with you on a trip. They save the space in your bag.

There are two different types of shampoo bars; soap-based and so-called shampoo-based version. They differ from each other significantly.

Soap-based shampoo bar

The soap-based version of the shampoo bar is made like any other soap. A lot of excess fat and other hair care ingredients are added to the soap-based shampoo bar. Soap-based bar is always alkaline and its surfactant, meaning the washing ingredient is soap. To make a bar of soap-based shampoo, you need to know how to make soap from vegetable oils and lye.

A shampoo-based shampoo bar

Shampoo bars can also be prepared without soap. Then other surfactants are used as washing ingredients. Certified natural cosmetics makers mainly use surfactants refined from coconut. The surfactants of natural cosmetics are also manufactured in the factory. They are not directly extracted from nature. Only the gentlest and safest surfactants qualify for natural cosmetics.

A shampoo-based bar is made by pressing powdered surfactants. The powder is bound into a solid cake using water, liquid surfactant, vegetable oils and vegetable butters. The shampoo bar is allowed to dry in its mould until the water evaporates. The shampoo paste can also be combined with plant powders, vitamins and minerals that care for the hair and scalp.

The pH of a shampoo-based shampoo bar can also be acidic, below 7. The acidity varies depending on the product’s ingredients.

Which shampoo bar would I choose?

It’s worth taking a little time to choose the right shampoo bar. For many people, the choice of a shampoo bar causes difficulties. Usually, after trying one product, you can’t be sure whether the bar you selected is suitable for your own hair or not. I recommend trying different shampoo bars and getting to know their list of ingredients, or INCI. Before you start experimenting, you should pay attention to a few important things

Test different surfactants

The main raw material of the shampoo bar is a surfactant, a washing ingredient. If the product does not suit you, perhaps the surfactant used is wrong. That’s why you should try shampoo bars made of different surfactants. Start, for example, with a bar of soap-based shampoo. All soap-based shampoo bars contain only soap as a surfactant.  Soap is essentially a very different surfactant than other washing ingredients used in shampoo bars. Further on there are useful tips in my article for using a soap-based shampoo bar.

This article, below, lists the most common surfactants in shampoo bars and their properties. Think through the list and think about which surfactants might be suitable for your own hair.

The oils and vegetable butters contained in the shampoo bars

Almost all shampoo bars contain oils and vegetable butters to bring conditioning element to the product. Both soap-based and shampoo-based bars usually contain oils and vegetable butters. However, the quantity and quality of oils varies in different products. That’s why you shouldn’t make too hasty conclusions about what’s wrong in the bar you selected. It’s not necessarily about the surfactant, but about the oils used. The fatty acids of the oils and vegetable creams used in shampoo bars definitely affect the washing result.

The number of oils and vegetable butters also has an effect. If the product is very greasy, it will not wash as effectively, but it will be gentler at the same time. There are also shampoo bars in which no oils and vegetable butters have been used at all. In this way, the washing result is very good, but the product may dry out the hair and scalp.

Other ingredients contained in the product

If the shampoo bar causes, for example, itching and burning on the skin, it may be an allergic reaction or sensitization to one of the product’s ingredients. Then you should check the product’s INCI list. Often the sensitization may be due to the preservative a or from perfume.

A preservative is used in many shampoo bars. Even though the shampoo bars are water-free products, they repeatedly come into contact with water and may be spoiled without a preservative. Preservatives are a very common cause of allergies.

Some surfactants also cause itching and burning on the skin. A typical surfactant that causes itching in the scalp is CAPB.

If you get a shampoo bar that is not a natural cosmetic quality, the product may contain numerous chemicals that improve texture and foaming. They may cause sensitization such as scalp burning, flaking and irritation.

Rinse the product from the hair thoroughly

The shampoo bar contains a large number of surfactants, the purpose of which is to remove fat-soluble dirt from the hair. When you foam a shampoo bar in your hair, the grease and other dirt in the hair mixes with the surfactant and becomes water-soluble. With the help of rinses, the mixture of surfactant and fat-soluble dirt is removed from the hair. If all the dirt is not properly emulsified in the surfactant, it will remain in the hair. You’ll notice this if your hair feels somehow sticky after the wash.

Get rid of the sticky feeling

The sticky feeling after the wash has been found to be a problem especially in connection with soap-based shampoo bars. As a surfactant, soap is different from other surfactants in shampoo bars. Soap needs time to remove fat-soluble dirt. The stickiness of the hair is due to the fact that the fat-soluble dirt and the surfactant have not properly combined and therefore have not become water-soluble.

I recommend foaming the hair properly with a soap-based shampoo bar and massaging the foam thoroughly into the hair and scalp. When you massage the hair and scalp with your fingertips, you will notice that the foam disappears. Now the shampoo has done its job, emulsified into fat-soluble dirt.

Rinse your hair lightly and a short period of time first with lukewarm water. Massage the hair and scalp carefully while rinsing. When you use water sparingly during the first rinse, the combination of grease and surfactant is best removed from the hair.

Increase the amount of water for the next rinse and finally rinse the hair with cool water with a splash of apple cider vinegar to soften the water. Nettle infusion is also a wonderful rinse, especially for dark hair.

 

Ingredients of shampoo bars

Soap-based and shampoo-based bars contain different ingredients. They are two completely different products, and both have the loyal users.

The soap-based Shampoo bar contains ingredients that care for the hair

The soap-based Shampoo bar contains soapy vegetable oils. In INCI, the soapy oils of the shampoo bar are always indicated first, because there are clearly the most of them in the product. INCI names for saponified oils are, for example, Sodium Cocoate, Sodium Olivate or Sodium Sunflowerate. The word sodium in connection with vegetable oil tells you that it is a soap-based product.

Hair and scalp care oils are also added to soap-based shampoo bars by over fatting the soap mass. In addition, soap-based shampoo bars contain plant-based ingredients such as essential oils and plant extracts or dried and ground plant parts.

The shampoo-based bars contain combinations of different surfactants

Shampoo-based bars are very simple to make at home. You don’t necessarily need many ingredients for them. You also don’t need any extra equipment. Suitable moulds are, for example, silicone baking moulds.

Shampoo-based bars consist of one or more different surfactants. A shampoo-based bar usually has one, sometimes several different surfactants. In addition to surfactants, shampoo-based bars contain often various vegetable butters, oils, vitamins and plant powders. With different vegetable butters and oils, the shampoo bar is given more care and a pleasant texture.

Here are some very typical surfactants in shampoo bars

Sodium coco glucoside SCG

SCG is a very mild surfactant that is also suitable for children. It is a liquid ingredient that is used in shampoo bars only as an auxiliary surfactant, for example to moisturize the mixture.

Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate SCI

SCI is one of the safest and gentlest surfactants. It is gentler on the skin than soap. The skin feels moisturized. SCI is also suitable for products intended for children

Sodium lauryl sulphate SLS

SLS is not allowed in all natural cosmetics certificates. It has been found to irritate the skin, as it very effectively removes fat from the skin. SLS contains sulphates and is therefore not suitable for, for example, the CC method. SLS is not suitable as a surfactant for washing dry hair.

Sodium coco sulphate SCS

A very typical ingredient in shampoo bars. It contains sulphates and is not suitable for the CC method. SCS is a very similar type of ingredient to SLS. SCS may be too washing and therefore may cause itching. In this chemical, you should not stare at the word coco (coconut), but pay attention to the word sulphate (sulphate). Sulphate determines the quality of this chemical.

Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulphate SLES

SLES is a very similar ingredient to SLS and SCS. It contains sulphates and removes fat very effectively. SLES dries the skin and hair. SLES not compatible to the CC method. SLES is not allowed in all natural cosmetics certifications. If you have dry skin and/or dry hair, avoid SLES

Sodium lauryl sulpoacetate SLSA

SLSA is a significantly gentler surfactant than SLS and SCS. It also removes grease from the skin and hair, but not as thoroughly as SLS or SCS. SLSA does not contain sulphates. It is sulfoacetate, not sulphate. SLSA is therefore a highly recommended alternative to overly effective sulphate-containing surfactants.

Cocoamidopropyl Betaine CAPB

CAPB is an ingredient that is both gentle and caring, but unfortunately also irritating to the skin. CAPB is used in washing products as an auxiliary surfactant. Most natural cosmetics certifications accept CAPB. Despite this, CAPB was chosen as allergen of the year a few years ago due to its skin sensitizing properties. If your scalp itches after using a shampoo-based product, check to see if the product contains CAPB. Note that a large number of people can use CAPB without any problems. CAPB clearly divides opinion. Decide by yourself if CAPB is suitable for you.

Sodium coco-glucoside tartrate

Sodium coco-glucoside tartarate is a rare surfactant that is sometimes found in shampoo bars. This chemical is somewhat irritating to the skin.

The shampoo bars contain a lot of herbs and plant-based active ingredients

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Many plants have compounds that benefit the hair and scalp. Dried plant parts are used in shampoo bars, either finely ground or in groats. Flower petals are also used a lot, but they are only important as decoration.

Popular plants in shampoo bars are, for example, nettle, calendula, horsetail, burdock and marshmallow. Along with plant powders, essential oils and other fragrances are commonly used in shampoo bars. Tea tree oil is a very popular ingredient in shampoo bars.

As you can see, the ingredients in shampoo bars can vary a lot depending on the manufacturer and the type of shampoo bar. Find out which ingredients are best for your hair and find the shampoo bar you like. If you can’t find a ready-made shampoo bar suitable for your hair, you can easily prepare one yourself. You can get started say, by signing up for a cosmetology course.

Which is your favourite, shampoo-based or soap-based shampoo bar?

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