Soap Bars vs Shampoo Bars

Someone asked me recently why I don’t make shampoo bars anymore. The short answer to that is that I do make shampoo bars. Every one of my soaps has the ability to be utilized as a quality shampoo bar (provided you follow it up with an acidic rinse, like ACV, citric acid, or lemon juice, with water).


You see, I try to formulate each bar with enough high quality oils and fats to get your body clean but also provide luxurious lather in quantities necessary to work as a shampoo bar. In addition, I add clay to every bar in case you use it for shaving to add slip and decrease the chances of razor burn. My shaving bars are packed full of the stuff; that’s a different post.

If you’re interested in the ratios I use to formulate my bars on average, they generally look like this:

Olive, canola, sunflower, or peanut oil: 20%
Avocado, grapeseed, apricot kernel oil, or shea butter: 15%
Castor oil: 10%
Coconut or babassu oil: 25%
Lard or grass fed tallow: 30%

If I’m making a vegetarian bar, the lard portion will be replaced with a higher percentage of coconut oil, and then usually a combination of sunflower and avocado oils. This makes a softer bar which gets an 8-10 week cure time instead of four. I prefer not to do this because of additional time incurred, expense, and so on. I also believe it makes an inferior bar of soap. There are plenty of people who make vegetarian soaps but typically they use palm oil, which I refuse to do, and that helps harden their soap like lard does. Alternatively, some soap makers use products like sodium lactate or stearic acid to achieve a harder bar of soap when using a lot of oils. I don’t. I use a long cure time and patience. Well, impatience. Whatever.

As you can see, there’s room for variance in the ingredients I choose, but they rotate around stuff that’s relatively inexpensive and readily available for the most part. I can buy most of that stuff at my grocery store in a pinch, and off Amazon if desperate (although I prefer to use a great company called Bulk Apothecary for all of it-except the lard and tallow, which I can get at a local meat packaging plant that services a grass fed ranch; it’s about an hour’s drive, but you get 40lbs boxes of fat scraps to render so it’s worth the occasional trip…and there’s a nice winery on the way ;).

And that’s that. Rub a dub dub, suds head to toes in the tub.

The end result is a pretty versatile all in one bar, although I just call it soap. So if you ever want to wash your hair with my soap, go for it. To make the bars last, I suggest cutting them in half before you start using them so only half is exposed to water at a time and you get more life out of the soap, but it’s up to you. That works for the square bars, but not for the smaller round ones.

In addition? I recently made and sold spa salt bars. They are the exception to this. They won’t wash your hair. They are body only bars. Unique and fun soaps for the body, but body only spa bars. They just don’t make enough lather and the lather is too salty for your hair.

PS: The soap pictured is some coffee and cream bars I made up. The fragrance oil of the coffee and the vanilla caused the soap to trace into glue like batter in seconds, so my plan for swirled layers went out the window. It smells great, but I’m disappointed. Next time I’m buying vanilla from Brambleberry and splurging on coffee essential oil instead of fragrance oil. Meanwhile? This is how we learn. I know fragrance oils are bad news and to stick with pure essential oils. Why don’t I listen to myself?



Author: scseery

Soap, bath and beauty, jams and jellies, and unique upcycled gifts. That's what I make and talk about here. A lot.

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