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.
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
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?
Solid beauty products are gaining more and more popularity. I wrote a blog post about solid cosmetic products some time ago. Solid skin care beauty trend is part of the zero-waste thinking, which is a very common phenomenon around the globe. In Asia, where awakening to environmental problems is already happening, organic cosmetic products are becoming more popular. The number of environmental-friendly manufacturers is growing in Asia, too. There are also manufacturers of organic cosmetic products In Thailand, a country famous of its aromatherapy bath products.
Solid cosmetic products are perfect for tropics
In tropical conditions, the composition of the cosmetic product is very different from the products mentioned to cooler climate. Traditional cosmetic product does require plenty of preservatives in the tropics. In addition, emulsifiers may suffer from constant heat. Organic cosmetic products contain safe preservatives but are they good enough in hot and humid atmosphere?
Water-free cosmetic products are really good alternative to traditional products in the tropics. Soap-based products do not need any preservatives. Solid beauty products are the only realistic choice to make organic cosmetic products for tropics.
Washing with soap soothes your skin
Nordic skin is very dry, both the sebum and moisture are usually missing. Tropical skin has different problems. Tropical skin is moist and usually only slightly oily, a perfect home for many microbes. Microbes on the skin are naturally a good thing, but sometimes a fungus and harmful bacteria can be found as well. This is quite common in the tropics. Soap-based washing products often remove oily skin and neutralize skin’s pH. Soap is actually the only recommended skin cleanser for tropical holidays.
Organic, solid beauty products
Soap Villa is a Thai beauty brand that produces organic cosmetic soap- and shampoo bars and other solid cosmetic products. The products of Soap Villa are high quality products, also the packages have style. At this point I want to emphasize the fact that I’ve purchased all the products by myself and I do not make any kind of commercial co-operation with Soap Villa.
In a typical Thai way, the Soap Villa has launched a huge amount of different scented soaps. Each soap contains its own tropical herbs. Each Thai herb has an old, traditional herbal remedy. In Thailand, herbal medicine is still very popular. People believe in the power of herbs just like in China.
Thai soap villa has created soap for every skin problem
All the soaps contain Thai traditional herbs. The herbs are carefully selected for each purpose. These soaps are designed mainly for the facial cleaning, but are also suitable for the whole body.
- Lemongrass soap reduces skin pores, firms and moisturizes the skin
- Turmeric soap improves skin’s functions
- Aloe Vera Soap soothes and moisturizes
- Tamarind soap protects the skin from harmful environmental influence and maintains skin health
- Gotu Kola soap is very nurturant
- Moringa soap is full of antioxidants. Moringa makes the skin feel very soft.
Soap Villa also makes shampoo bars
Shampoo bars have made a real breakthrough around the world, and now in Asia as well. Shampoo bars are particularly suitable for hot and humid tropics. All Soap Villa’s shampoo bars contain caring herbs for hair and scalp.
- Butterfly Pea is Asian “weed” that grows on ditches. It is an incredibly beautiful, bright blue flower with powerful antioxidant effects. Butterfly Pea contains same pigment as blueberries; anthocyanin. Butterfly Pea is a mild herb that is suitable for almost everyone.
- Acacia shampoo bar helps to detangle the tangled hair. The acacia makes hair smooth.
- Kaffir Lime in the famous Thai herb. It is a good antibacterial, fresh and cleansing herb. Despite its antibacterial properties and cleansing ability, kaffir lime shampoo often cares for dry and itchy scalp.
Soap Villa black and white series
I bought black and white soap from Soap Villa myself. White soap contains milk and is a very gentle exfoliating soap. I use it on my whole body when needed.
Black soap contains effective, deep-cleansing activated carbon from coconut. Activated carbon soap is a must in major Asian cities. Air in Asian growth centres is much more polluted than in many European cities. Activated carbon soap effectively removes make-up and impurities from the skin.
Although I don’t use soap as my primary skin cleanser, I use it logically whenever needed. Stayin or just visiting in big cities puts a heavy strain on the skin. Then I choose lesser evil thing and use activated carbon soap for deep cleansing of my skin.
Soap is both an alkali and effective surfactant, a detergent, a sebum removing ingredient. After a soap wash, it is always good to neutralize your skin with something mild-acidic liquid. For example, a mixture of apple vinegar and water is suitable. I often use fermented herbal extracts or Molkosan mixed with water. Then the skin will also gain back the beneficial bacteria it has lost.
Soap Villa products are only available in Thailand
Currently, Soap Villa sells its products in a few stores in the Bangkok area, up north in Chiang Mai and on the beach city of Pattaya. Stores selling Soap Villa products are listed on the company’s website.
I’m really glad that Asia also is following the trend to resist synthetic cosmetic products. Many visitors buy cosmetic products as souvenirs and gifts from Thailand. These organic beauty products of Thai Villa are truly great buys. By purchasing these great products instead of synthetic cosmetics in Thailand, you are also encouraging Thai people to develop more organic beauty products.
What are your favourite homecoming gifts or items you want to buy from abroad?
What are shampoo bars? Shampoo bars have arrived to stay. With the Zero waste ideology, more and more people want to get along with simple products. Bar-shaped products are the simplest cosmetic products you can find. What is the Shampoo, Conditioner and Lotion bars are made of? Are they as environmentally friendly as they are claimed to be? Read my story about shampoo bars and other beauty bar innovations!
Background of cosmetic cosmetics
Beauty bars were originally created by the zero-waste movement. People wanted cosmetics products without any waste and without anything that was not necessary. By creating beauty bars, this has been achieved almost or even 100% completely. Beauty bars do not require protective packaging. Beauty bars are usually packed in cardboard boxes or just in paper.
Of course, one could also sell beauty bars without any wrapping at all. For the product itself, wrapping is not necessary. In many countries, for legislation reasons there must be some wrapping. Product information including INCI lists must be clearly visible on the product. The packaging also protects the product from contamination. After all, beauty product is related to personal hygiene.
It all started with a soap bar
The zero-waste people first started to wash their hair with Marseille soap. In the beginning of the zero-waste movement, Marseille soap was the only acceptable detergent used in zero-waste household. It was used for washing hair, face, body, and the entire home, including laundry and dishes. The idea of replacing dozens of household chemicals by a single, simple, environmentally friendly product was perfect for both minimalistic and zero waste ideologies.
Pressure cause innovations, beauty bars were invented
Problems with Marseille soap were discovered pretty quickly. The product was not suitable for all purposes. There was also a desire for more, alternative beauty products and naturally beauty shops wanted more products for sale. This caused the sinking of Marseille soap to basic household cleaning use only. This is a pity, because Marseille soap is the best soap for skin. It is not suitable for cleaning or laundry because of its high fat content. It is suitable for wool, silk and leather cleaning.
The super-popular zero waste soap bar idea was intensely developed. This is how beauty bars products were created. Today, there is a beauty bar version of almost every cosmetic product. Especially shampoo bars are very popular. Manufacturers are developing more and more of them all the time. For sure there are several choices for every hair quality.
Beauty bars are ecological cosmetics
Ecological cosmetics take the utmost account of the environment. All foreign substances are a burden on the environment. There are no completely safe substances. However, beauty bars have considerable advantages over conventional cosmetics.
- Beauty bars are easy to carry when traveling.
- Beauty bars need less space on store shelves
- Beauty bars weigh less; why would you carry water with you
- There is no packaging that burdens the waste treatment system
- Ingredients of ecological beauty bars are completely biodegradable
Beauty bars are anhydrous cosmetics
Beauty bars are water-free. All ingredients are either fats, oils or completely dry ingredients. However, the lack of water in the product does not limit the number of other ingredients. You will soon notice how useless the water really is in cosmetics. After all, anyone can add water to the product him/herself. You don’t have to buy it with the product from the store and carry it home.
Water also causes significant problems. All water-containing products always need a preservative. To exclude preservative from an aqueous product would be a clear health risk and would make cosmetics unsafe to health. There is no water in a beauty bar product, so a preservative is unnecessary.
Anhydrous beauty bars are preserved without any preservative, without emulsifier or any other chemicals that affects the structure or shelf life of the product. This is a really big plus. The chemical load is significantly reduced by choosing beauty bars. But some manufacturers are adding toxic chemicals, synthetic colours and/or fragrances to some products. Therefore, better to check the ingredient facts carefully before buying the product.
What ingredients are used in making beauty bars?
Beauty bars are solid, anhydrous products. What are the ingredients then? Next, we’ll take a look of some beauty bars INCI -lists.
Beauty bars include all solid cosmetics sold as a bar. It includes soaps, ointments, cleansers, shampoo and conditioner.
Check whether the cosmetic product has been formed without any synthetic chemicals.
Beauty bars can get their solid shape in four different ways.
- Traditional beauty bars are as soap-based products. Most shampoo bars are based on soap bars. Also, salt soaps for face and body cleansing are based on soap.
- A shampoo bar can also be made using SLS or sodium lauryl sulphate. Sodium lauryl sulphate is the basic ingredient for most shampoos available in stores. It dries both hair and scalp. Although SLS is formulated as an anhydrous bar, it does not change the fact that the product itself is no good for hair or human body. I do not recommend SLS based products to anyone.
- There are products containing only natural, solid vegetable fats such as shea butter, cocoa butter or mango butter. These ingredients make naturally solid product without any synthetic emulsifiers.
- The fourth way to form a solid, bar-like beauty product is to use fat emulsifying chemicals. If emulsifiers have been used in the product, carefully examine the safety of the emulsifiers. Some emulsifiers and structure-improving ingredients may be very harmful to health and the environment. There are no harmful emulsifiers in real, natural cosmetics.
The traditional beauty bar product is, of course, the good, old familiar soap. The range of soaps has grown considerably. Several new soaps, suitable especially for the facial wash have appeared on the market. The alkalinity of these new soaps is minimized with either salt or a simply by adding plenty of fat to the soap. When adding fat, in most cases, manufacturers have added good quality healing oils. Also, vegetable extracts and essential oils have been added to the soaps.
What are shampoo bars?
What are shampoo bars? Shampoo bars can be either soap based or SLS based (sodium lauryl sulphate). By far the most common shampoo bar is a soap-based one. It is also by far the most natural and ecological. You can read more information about SLS emulsifier here. Soap-based shampoo bars contain more healing oils than regular soap. A shampoo bar may also contain other ingredients that are good for the hair and scalp. Nettle, clay, coconut, olive and hemp are often added to a shampoo bar. There has been criticism over the shampoo bar claiming they are too alkaline. This is true. They are not suitable for everyone’s hair. Some people can use soap-based shampoo only occasionally. For some, shampoo bar is a must they will never give up.
What are Conditioner bars?
Conditioner bars are high in fluid oils. They are solidified with emulsifiers which work in oils. Such emulsifiers include stearyl alcohol and behentrimonium methosufate. Stearyl alcohol is a fatty alcohol made from stearic acid. It is not harmful to humans or to the environment.
Behentrimonium methosufate is mild and effective ingredient. Its de-tangling and hair thickening chemical. Behentrimonium methosufate is made from rapeseed oil. It is an antistatic agent that removes static electricity from the hair and acts as an emulsifier. Behentrimonium methosufate also softens hair. Almost always stearyl alcohol and behentrimonium methosufate are added together. They work perfectly in a bar product as a pair.
What are Lotion bars?
Lotion bars are usually made from solid vegetable fats. They often contain plant extracts and essential oils. Lotion bars for sale are generally safe and made of natural ingredients only.
Human skin cannot completely absorb hard grease used in lotion bars. If your skin that gets easily pimples you should avoid lotion bars. Lotion bars are at their best when outdoors in the wintertime. When the wind blows hard and dries the surface of the skin, the ointment protects the skin. Remember, there is no water in lotion bars. Never spread a lotion containing water on your face in wintertime. You can check out my recipe for last-minute protective creams.
Cleansing bars or oil cleansing cakes
Oil cleansing cakes are made in the same way as lotion bars using solid vegetable fats. However, the cleansing cakes are made from different oils. This gives a better cleansing effect. Domestic oil cleansing cakes do contain only safe, natural ingredients.
Beauty bars are the future
Noe you know what are shampoo bars. Beauty bars are definitely worth trying out. It’s an easy way to get and own cosmetics. Beauty bars are almost always an environmentally friendly choice. Most beauty bar products are for multi-purpose use. The shampoo works well both as a soap and as a shampoo when travelling. You can also remove makeup using a bar. Lotion bars can also be used as a face mask.
It is also nice to make beauty bars by ourselves. All you need is the suitable silicone moulds. And the best of all, you do not need any glass or aluminium storage jars for beauty bars. You can wrap them eco-friendly in baking paper and use them as gifts.
Have you already made beauty bars for yourself or as a gift?
These home-made lotion bars are very popular. They do not need any cans or bottles to protect them. A nice silk-paper wrap is enough. Ingredients are very simple and there is no need to use any preservatives or emulsifying substance. The lotion bars suit best for cold climate to protect skin and lips. You can protect small children as well using this bar, but you cannot use essential oils.
Basic ingredient is shea butter. There are two types of shea butter. Most common is hard shea butter which has plenty of hard fatty acids. These hard-fatty acids offer very effective protection for skin. There is also another type of shea butter, shea niotica, which is softer and contains oil acids. You can use it as it is for leg treatment but for making these blocks it is not suitable. I have used solid, raw shea butter for this recipe. In case you do not like the odor of raw butter you can use purified as well.
- 80 mg raw shea butter
- 15 – 20 ml cold pressed sunflower oil
- 10 gr beeswax
- Approx. 20 drops of essential oil (optional)
- Mica-colors in case you want toned lotion bars
- Silicone or other molds. You can use paper mold as well, but you must support them well.
How to do:
- Measure all ingredients except essential oils to a double pot or double boiler
- Mix until everything is melted
- Let the mixture cool down a short while and add essential oils and/or mica colors in case you want to use them
- Poor the warm, soft mass to molds and let them cool down and solidify
Use the lotion bars outdoors for skin protection. They are easy to carry with. In room temperature the lotion bars will last usable at least 6 months after cooking; most cases you can use them still after a year.