Shampoo Bars

I thoroughly enjoy developing and crafting shampoo bars, and my hair benefits from my work. I wish shampoo bars were more popular, as they are multipurpose, being useful for body and hair (although, I still prefer a separate bar with specific features for shaving). When I first started, the shampoo bar recipes I found left my hair feeling sticky and tacky, or it would just get oily again so quickly. After learning about fatty acid profiles and their roles in soap, I developed a shampoo bar that gets my hair good and clean, with no film left behind. 

If you’ve never tried a shampoo bar before, here are a few things you might want to know:

1) It could-and probably will-take two to three weeks to adjust to using a shampoo bar. In fact, for the first while, your hair definitely could feel “gunky” at first as build up and residue gets broken down. If you use products with silicone in particular -dimethicone, for example-these will need to peel out of your hair and you’ll have to shed the build up from however long you’ve been using them. To compensate, use natural products with bamboo or broccoli seed oil which contains natural silicone and will keep your hair soft and shiny. Bamboo tea rinses can help tremendously as does bamboo extract in your rinse or bamboo bioferment. Horsetail and marshmallow root also have natural silicone and can be used. 

2) To wash your hair, I advise getting it thoroughly soaking wet, then wetting down the bar and rubbing it all over your hair. I find it helps to work in sections, starting at the roots and then out to the ends. Do a good job of this or you can end up with greasy spots. This is not detergent store shampoo that just has to pass by your hair; you have to patiently wash your hair properly. Rinse and definitely repeat if your hair was very oily, if you’re a “no ‘poo” person and you’re on day 7, if you use a lot of hair products or dry shampoo, etc. I get away with one wash most of the time-two if I used dry shampoo that week- but I keep my hair fairly short (although I’m growing it back out), I only use a lightweight styling pomade on special occasions, and  I wash every two to three days. I use a shampoo bar I formulated specifically for my hair type that works wonderfully, packed full of bentonite clay to absorb oil and with sodium lactate to add a humectant. I rinse with citric acid in a bamboo, horsetail, and marshmallow root tea. My hair is shiny without the need for any conditioner and stays clean for 2-3 days, depending on how hot and sweaty I get in the meantime. 

3) Using an acidic rinse helps a lot. Some people say that acidic rinses definitely eased their transition from commercial shampoo to shampoo bars.

  • Hair is made of tiny keratin scales that raise up when exposed to something with a high pH, like a shampoo bar, baking soda, and certain clays. It makes your hair feel rough and can make it tangle easier. My husband doesn’t mind the texture of it, but I prefer my hair to be smooth and silky so I use an acidic rinse to smooth the scales back down. 
  • Most people use a rinse that’s approximately 25% apple cider vinegar in clean water . 
  • You can also use a tea that’s good for hair, like chamomile for blonde, rooibos for red, plain tea for brown hair, or bamboo tea for any hair. 
  • I make a tea out of bamboo, horsetail,and marshmallow root for shine and detangling  properties, with citric acid in it to bring the pH down. I add a little preservative (I use Liquid Germall Plus) since I make a large amount each time to ward off mold and bacteria.
  •  You can also use aloe vera, a hydrosol,distilled water, or tea of your choice with 5% citric acid (about 1 tsp for each 8 oz of fluid). I prefer this for traveling since then all I have to take is powdered citric acid. I can mix it in a cup wherever I end up! 
  • Finally, I’ve been told but never tried a fruit juice or kombucha rinse. A fruit juice (like lemon or grapefruit) should be done at approx 25%, and the same with kombucha.
  •  If any of the rinses dry out your hair, dilute them more next time. 
  • Add essential oils as desired to your rinses; I always add rosemary because it’s said to be so beneficial to your hair.
  •  If you make more than you can use in one sitting, use a preservative or store in your refrigerator to prevent mold or bacterial growth. Vitamin E, Rosemary Extract, and Grapefruit Seed oil are NOT preservatives! They are antioxidants and excellent ones, but they won’t stop mold and bacteria from invading your water based creations!
  • Leave the rinse on your hair about 3- 5 minutes. Rinse out with cool water. Your hair should feel soft and smooth in the water after you’re done. 
  • I store mine in a 16 oz. pop top water bottle that I have repurposed just for this occasion. The pop top gives me control over where the rinse goes and the design of the water bottle means it’s easy to grip and fits in the fridge easily. 

4) Some people find they can use considerably less conditioner when using a shampoo bar, in fact, some people feel they don’t need it at all. I have found that with the bamboo, horsetail, and marshmallow root tea, my hair is silky smooth and doesn’t require conditioner. However, my hair is short and never been prone to tangles. 

5) There is much debate online (even here at home!) about the impact of shampoo bars on hair that has been hennaed or dyed. Do shampoo bars help retain color or cause it to wash out faster? I’ve read and heard seasoned shampoo bar users insist that their color lasts longer, while others thought they saw their color washing out quickly. In our family, we had mixed results, with one person seeing no difference and one person seeing their color wash out pretty quickly right after a fresh color service. My guess is that it depends on how porous your hair is, how well it took the color, if you have extra color deposited on your scalp and so on that could mistakenly look like all your color going down the drain, and a number of other factors. I’m not a licensed cosmetologist; I really couldn’t say for sure. Regardless, if you have color treated hair and you want to try a shampoo bar, be advised that this is a potential concern. Unlikely, but possible. And while we will cheerfully refund you the purchase price of the shampoo bar If it turns out your lovely lavender locks won’t work with our bars, we are not accountable for any other damages or monies owed if your hair color fades.