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Shampoo Bars Madness

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Getting Eco-Friendly with Shampoo Bars!

Shampoo BarsA few weeks ago, George Take posted a video on Facebook about shampoo bars.** Within hours, the video was shared across soap-making groups, cosmetics fabricants, and non-industry folks. Why? Because shampoo bars are an awesome, zero waste solution that is longer-lasting than bottled shampoo. Plus, it is more gentle on your hair and travels better, to boot!

Being already in the handcrafted bath and beauty circles, I went on a mission to find a shampoo bar recipe that worked. When it comes to soap making, recipes and YouTube videos abound. Great services such as Soap Queen/Brambleberry freely offer up tested recipe options for soaps and related products such as lotions, balms, and so on. But shampoo bars were different. First, it was a struggle to find recipes that had ingredients available in the U.S.! Second, a lot of the key ingredients were out of stock given the shampoo bar craze happening across the country (world?).

Eventually, I purchased a recipe (!!!) that sourced specialty ingredients I could get through online retailers. The recipe is proprietary and can’t be shared here, but it incorporates similar ingredients I had found elsewhere: a combination of oils, a conditioning emulsifier, sodium coco sulfate (the “noodles”), a distillate of some sort, and a silk or wheat protein. Other additives, such as fragrance or colorants, are a matter of personal preference.

Recipe in hand, I started testing the bars and asking others to provide feedback. With some variation, it’s been mostly positive. As with all things human, there is no one product that is going to work for every single person. But to get the best results out of your shampoo bars, it’s important to note a few things:

  1. Commercial shampoos tend to strip hair of their natural oils, thereby convincing the body it needs to (over)produce more oils. This is also why we “need” conditioners; essentially, the shampoo strips the oils so that we can replace them with a conditioning product. Such a strange system! Lots of folks from the “No Poo” movement can attest to the need to regulate oil production so that the body stops overproducing oils. The same phenomenon occurs when switching to natural (or no) deodorant from commercial anti-perspirants. While shampoo bars are NOT the same as going shampoo-free, they do require a bit of time for adjustment so the body can regulate. From the feedback received so far, it seems those who are not frequent shampoo-ers in the first place get the best initial results. For those who frequently use commercial shampoo, it may take 1-2 weeks for your head to adjust. Also, because most of the body’s natural oils remain on the head after using the shampoo bar, it’s best to try your first few rounds without follow-up conditioner. Otherwise, it will certainly feel too oily, overall.
  2. The first round of production seems to have been a little more crumbly than follow-up batches, but either way, the initial wash with any shampoo bar is going to see a few noodles bite the dust. Several tester bars in, and it seems that this problem goes away after 1-2 uses. We may start making these bars in tablet shapes, or discs (like Lush and other retailers do) to avoid the problem, but even then, there will still be a few loose noodles!  That said, after the second wash, I have never had this be a problem.
  3. To use: gently rub the shampoo bar in your hands, first. You should get a creamy bubbly lather that you can than build on in your hair. It more than triples for me using this method. I initially thought I would need conditioner to be able to brush my hair afterward, but was able to comb through without trouble the first time and have been doing so ever since. However, very thick hair or very long hair may struggle more with this.
  4. Use this on your kids! It’s much more gentle than commercial shampoo, it’s fun to see it foam up, and it only requires one rinse.
  5. Most bars of the size we are currently working with last for over 30 shampoos.
  6. We’re hoping to host a workshop where we can help people learn to make their own! To do so, we’d need to find a non-proprietary recipe, or incorporate a way for attendees to purchase the recipe at a discounted rate. This would make shampoo bar classes come out to about $30/person. If that’s something that interests you, please reach out to hello@friggsmercantile or comment below!

There are a few ways to modify this recipe so that it can address specific issues. For example, the core oil in this recipe is coconut oil, but it can be combined with shea butter or argan oil for a more conditioning effect. Those with sensitive scalps may benefit from the addition of activated charcoal or colloidal oatmeal to the bars.

So next up: we’re going to work on some more experimenting! To do so, we’d also love to sell some of the bars we already have. We’re starting out with an initial price of $6/bar, knowing we are still refining (our initial price for product testers was $3/bar – at cost to us. Bars are ~1.5oz and a 1.9oz bar at Lush is $12). From there, we’d love to continue to expand the options to include specific scents or modifications. We’re also happy to custom-make a specific scent/color for a minimum of four bars purchased, discounted to $22.

**This post discusses the shampoo bars as seen in the video, “noodle”-based bars. There are alternative bars that are closer to bar soap, which is a discussion for another day!

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