Author Archive

Sunday, December 07th, 2008 | Author:

So here’s the next installment of our deep dive into the nitty gritty of shampoo bars:

What do you find are the pros and cons of different oils when making a shampoo bar? What about olive vs. coconut oil? Also, do you think it likely that castor oil would cause build-up?

It depends on what all of the oils are that are going into the soap and what percentages they are in and thus how they will interact to make the soap. (I’m using the term soap interchangably with shampoo here.) Darn near every single soap that I make has both olive and coconut oil in it so I think that they are both good oils. The issue is the percentage that you use. Olive oil is the only oil in a pure castile soap. It’s the best soap for babies and those with sensitive skin. However, while it will clean you it’s not going to cut grease or suds up like a soap that is made from coconut oil. An all coconut oil soap would be great for washing clothes or dishes etc. but you wouldn’t want to use it on your body because it is way to harsh by it’s self. A soap that has both (so long as there wasn’t too much coconut) and maybe some other oils however would make a great general use soap. So you have to know the purpose of the soap and how the oils will interact with each other when putting together a recipe.

I am not aware of castor oil being more likly to cause build-up. Usually castor oil is added to add a little bubble power to a bar of soap above and beyond what the coconut oil will give you. Castor oil is great as an added oil and is in almost all of my soaps. It is great for conditioning and yet creates a nice bubbly lather without drying the skin.

Different oils have different properties for sure. Coconut oil will make a wonderful lather, but too much may be drying. Olive oil in my opinion is natures greatest creation, a plain castile bar will leave a protective layer on your skin, yet allow it to breathe as well. Castor oil alone may cause a build up, but used in a shampoo bar castor oil is a fabulous humectrant and will rinse away. I’ve also read somewhere that castor oil promotes new hair growth and prevents hair loss.

HeatherRai, Beautiful Soaps
Well Olive and Castor are wonderful for attracting that moisture so many of us need.
Olive oil also does not inhibit any of the normal skin processes we need to accomplish , such as shedding dead skin cells or even sweating, so this is why it is the largest percent of my soap blends.
However by itself, the lather is pretty low and also the soap is pretty soft.

Coconut oil can be pretty drying if too much is used, but it sure helps with lather and hardness so I love using it.
Sweet Almond oil is mild and is emollient and a little goes a long way in soap.
Avocado contains vitamins A, D, E, protein, and so much more nutritionally, and it remains pretty intact throughout the soapmaking process. A little goes a long way with this oil as well.
Shea Butter is the same. It makes it through the rugged change of cold process soapmaking, and come through taking good care of our skin and hair. It is such a wonderful moisturizer for all skin types and also mild.
I use an organic fair trade butter that is not refined, so it can smell a bit strong, but worth it. All the nutrients are still there using this shea.
Palm oil is often used to help a bar harden. Since using too much coconut oil in a formula will by too drying for the skin, palm oil compliments by supplying the hardness and cleaning ability to keep the soap mild.
There are many other oils that are wonderful to work with for conditioning, cleaning, or nutrition, however most do not have a long shelf life, such as hemp or flax.

Some oils have an extremely strong smell, such as that fair trade shea I was discussing earlier. Castor can be strong as well.

So, I think each soapmaker finds what they love and works with it.
For me, I love the oils I use for my work because they all have positive benefits for the skin or hair and scalp. I buy 35 pounds of organic extra virgin olive oil every month or so because it is so worth it to have that in my formulas.
It is harder to work with in soapmaking, but I want the first and finest pressing in my soap, instead of the chemically extracted third pressing.

Following your heart and finding what you love to work with I think is what each of us goes through as soapmakers, and choosing the oils is part of that for us all.
A local soapmaker in my region uses Neem oil in her soap. I thought ‘Neem Oil, how cool’. She is the first one I know that uses that.

So many oils are beneficial, and each of us are unique in our product and choose what we are drawn to.
I dont think there is so much a right or wrong oil, but just like art, what we create with what we love.

When making a shampoo bar I look at creating a hard, long-lasting, soap that lathers well but is not drying. I also look at oils that are known to be good for hair. For example hemp oil and castor oil are known to be good for your hair. I’ve stopped using coconut oil because I personally found it drying. I replaced it with Palm Kernel oil. It gives the same benefits of coconut oil (hard bar with lots of lather) but I find it less drying. Also, olive oil is always a great choice in soaps and shampoo bars. However it doesn’t create a high lather soap on its own. So it’s all about balance in creating the best bar possible. I’ve found castor oil to be a wonderful addition. I use a fairly high percentage of castor oil because of it’s lather-boosting properties. I have not found it to cause build up (at least in my shampoo bar).

Friday, December 05th, 2008 | Author:

I have ditched the vinegar and started using lime juice. That might partially account for the rave-y quality of my last few reviews. This lime juice stuff is amazing! My hair is so soft and shiny. Wow! I’m using about the same amount as I did with the vinegar: 1 few teaspoons to a tablespoon in a bottle of water, to be poured on after the shampoo-ing and rinsing.

You have to try it!

I’m also considering checking out citric acid (aka sour salt) and maybe even ascorbic acid (vitamin C powder), both of which I’ve heard work well too.

The other good thing, of course, is that there’s no vinegar smell. Speaking of smells, the rest of my reviews will focus on fragranced shampoo bars and soaps. It turns out the hubster really prefer for my hair to smell like something other than soap. You know, something lightly fruity or flowery like most salon shampoos. So I need to find something that he likes, but also something that won’t bother me. I’ve mostly gravitated towards the citrus-y fruity side: orange, bergamot, yuzu. I’ll let you know how it goes.

And the experiment continues…

Thursday, December 04th, 2008 | Author:

I’m on a roll — another shampoo bar that you can actually go and buy right now. And believe me, you’ll want to! This one is called Wild Mane and is offered by Dreamseeds Organics.

Ingredients: Extra virgin organic olive oil, infused with nettle leaf, usnea and horsetail, castor, sweet almond, avocado, coconut, palm oils, fair trade shea butter and eco friendly silk, saponified with nettle infusion; Essential oils of rosemary, peppermint, cedarwood, sage, lemon, ylang ylang and Italian lavender

Doesn’t this read like a list of all the best good-for-your-hair ingredients there are?

Smell: This shampoo bar has a stronger smell than most of the ones I’ve tested. It’s an earthy, herbal smell that I find very soothing. After washing, the smell doesn’t really linger in my hair.

Texture: This bar glides really easily over my hair and oh my, the bubbles! There are lots and lots of bubbles. It’s wonderful!

Did it clean my hair and scalp? Absolutely — it finds that balance between leaving me feeling perfectly fresh and clean, yet not too squeaky or stripped.

How does my hair look and feel? So wonderful. Ever since I started using shampoo bars, pretty much every day is a good hair day. But this bar takes it a step further and my hair is so, shiny, soft and drapey. I love it!

Price plus shipping: $6.00 plus $3.25 for a 4 ounce bar

Verdict: Double double thumbs up. I love this bar!

Wednesday, December 03rd, 2008 | Author:

I was really curious about a few specific shampoo-bar related questions and fielded them with some of my new favorite soap makers. What’s interesting is how different their answers are, leading me to the conclusion that there really are no cut and dry answers here. I guess this means we’re all going to have to just do our own ‘great shampoo bar experiments’ to find out what works best for our particular hair. So let’s dive into this one first:

What do you see as the main difference between regular soap and shampoo bars?

Well, really you can use any soap to shampoo your hair! However, when I look to design a shampoo bar I look to make something that is high in lather and is going to be moisturizing without weighing the hair down. So I do use a slightly different formulation when designing my shampoo bars.

My short answer would be the ratio of the oils used and the ingredients you either add to the oils or infuse into the oils. I always add more castor oil to my shampoo bars and infuse several herbs that are wonderful for the hair and scalp into my oils.

For me, it is the ingredients used in the recipe proper – not the additives. And, I will tell you as much as I would tell any customer. I increase the amount of castor oil a dramatic percent for my shampoo bars. This is for the creamy lather, as well as the extra glycerin it produces upon becoming soap. And, it is the only oil with ricinoleic acid that is both extremely kind to skin and hair and is a humectant, which acts as a magnet in drawing moisture to itself. The second rule for the shampoo recipe is simple but effective ingredients. I use coconut oil for the big bubbly lather and to make a harder bar of soap. Castor oil softens the bar, so I try to make up for it some with coconut oil. I use silk only in shampoo bars and pet soap. Jojoba is an ingredient in my shampoo bars, too, for the emollient properties and the property of repairing damaged hair shafts. It is a nice liquid wax for the hair. It serves to protect from environmental damage, as well. And, it usually helps the shampoo bar be more lubricating. And, I use only extra virgin olive oil instead of lesser olive oils for the hair and face bars.

Then, additives can enhance a shampoo bar in many directions. (oily, light, dark, thick, etc.)

Ingredients and oils.

I like to use different oils when making bars of soap vs. shampoo bars. I will also change my ratios dramatically. When making soap I like to use a little extra to leave your skin soft and moisturized. Whereas when I’m making a shampoo bar, I’ll try to leave your hair clean and free of excess oils. There is the exeption, I have a customer who loves my regular soap bars for her hair. I myself alot of times will use a regular handmade bar of soap on my hair for an extra nourishing effect. I have frizzy dry hair by nature and I don’t mind a little extra oils to weigh it down it keep it in submission.

The ingredients are also different. For a shampoo bar, I’ll tend to try and stick to all natural ingredients. Most people have a sensitive scalp and there are so many wonderful oils and essences that are great for your hair. Rosemary, carrot seed, nettles… all such wonderful herbal remedies that strengthen your hair, promote hair growth and even prevent hair loss! When making a handmade body soap I also love to use these ingredients, but I find that most people like a nice lingering scent, so this is what I try to concentrate on.

HeatherRai, Beautiful Soaps
The ingredients used seem to be the main difference. Personally, shampoo bars would consist of a higher content of oils that produce a lot of lather. In addition, shampoo bars should also have oils/butters that are good for the hair.

Rochelle, Karess Krafters
Shampoo bars are created with a different balance of oils. Castor bean oil is often used in shampoo bars. Castor is an excellent moisturizer, but not so much a good cleanser. That is why most body or everyday use soaps will not have castor, or just a small amount of castor.

Both olive oil and castor bean oil actually grab moisture out of the air and keeping it near your skin or hair and scalp.
So handmade soap with either of these ingredients will help keep the skin in good condition.
A regular bar of soap can actually be used on the hair, in fact some of my customers order regular soap for their entire body needs including shampooing.
My hair needs a shampoo bar. My children do well with regular soap for their hair. So it just depends on each person and their type of need.

Pretty much any handmade soap can be used as a shampoo bar. I would avoid the soaps with additives meant for exfoliation that might end up leaving bits in your hair. Also, in a shampoo bar I would personally want a soap that produces lots of lather. But a really effective shampoo bar will have extra ingredients (oils and EOs) that are known to be good for hair. I used a few of these in mine but there are more out there.

Tuesday, December 02nd, 2008 | Author:

You’re in for a treat — an awesome shampoo bar that is actually in-stock! Today we have a wonderful shampoo bar from Sweet Creek Herbs.

Ingredients: coconut oil, castor oil, extra virgin olive oil, jojoba, added emu oil, avocado oil, essential oils of tea tree, rosemary, and basil

If you ever get into a convo with Kathleen, you’ll find that she takes her soapmaking extremely seriously and has done a ton of research. So you can be sure that every ingredient on this list is there for a reason.

Smell: This shampoo bar has a very soft, herbal smell. I think it’s mostly tea tree and rosemary that I detect, but it is not overpowering at all. Once my hair is washed, the only thing that lingers is a comforting, soapy smell.

Texture: This is a nice, hard bar that glides really easily over my hair. It lathers up really well, with nice, long-lasting bubbles.

Did it clean my hair and scalp? You betcha — this bar does a great job and rinses away very cleanly.

How does my hair look and feel? Fantastic! I love how soft and silky my hair feels. And I think it looks even shinier than usual when using this bar.

Price plus shipping: $5.00 plus $4.80 for a 4+ ounce bar

Verdict: Absolute thumbs up, this one’s definitely a keeper. I tried the Green Herbal bar, but Kathleen also has Chamomile Ylang Ylang, Marshamallow Root, Rosemary Honey and Lavendar Shea shampoo bars listed. Yummy!

Sunday, November 30th, 2008 | Author:

First off, you should read the ‘About me’ page for this store — what a great story. I love how entire businesses can grow off of chance occurrences. Your child takes piano lessons at a goat farm and next thing you know, bam!, you’re running your own soap-making business :)

So our next shampoo bar is the beer shampoo bar from Country Soaps by Marlene . Let me start off by apologizing for reviewing another sold-out shampoo, but the good news is that Marlene does have a few other shampoo bars listed.

Ingredients : Olive, Castor, Almond, Jojoba, coconut, almond butter, palm, wheat & silk proteins, beer & NaOH

This bar has some of the ingredients I’ve learned to love in shampoo bars, including jojoba oil, wheat and silk proteins, and, of course, beer.

Smell: This soap is basically unscented, but the almost oil/butter gives it that almond-y smell I tend to associate with maraschino cherries. It’s very soft and subtle.

Texture : This is a slightly softer bar than some, rubs on easily and lathers up really well.

Did it clean my hair and scalp? Yes, it did. It seems to have a slight bit of waxiness right up against my scalp, but nothing that affected the look and feel of my hair.

How does my hair look and feel? Very nice — this one leaves my hair slightly on the squeaky side so I think it would work best for fine hair.

Verdict: Thumbs up :)

Thursday, November 20th, 2008 | Author:

A Scentsible World (BJRussell) offers several yummy sounding shampoo bars (the Herbal Silk bar I’m reviewing today is shown on top in the picture, the Peppermint Tea Tree I’ll save for another day, but that’s the one sitting below).

Ingredients: coconut oil, babassu oil, palm oil, castor oil, rice bran oil infused with marshmallow root, chickweed, nettle leaf, Horsetail and Chamomile, shea butter, cocoa butter, hydrolyzed silk proteins

I’ve heard lots of good things about marshmallow root in shampoo bars, horsetail is one of the ingredients in the Giovanni leave-in conditioner I like so much, so I’m happy to see that in here, and the silk proteins I’m finding are great for giving me that silky, glide-y feeling.

Smell: This bar has a surprisingly earthy smell (surprising to me, based on the ingredients — I’m not sure what is imparting the most fragrance). I find it quite pleasant, but it is on the stronger side compared to most of the other bars I am reviewing.

Texture: This is, again, a nice, hard bar of soap which glides very easily over my hair, forming a nice, long-lasting lather.

Did it clean my hair and scalp? Yes, very well indeed.

How does my hair look and feel? Really nice — soft and silky, and not weighed-down at all. I’m really happy with the results of this one.

Price plus shipping: $6.95 + $2.95 for a 4-5 oz bar

Verdict: Big thumbs up! Barbara also offers herbal hair rinses in her store, which might interest those of you looking for something a bit more special than plain old vinegar.

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008 | Author:

I debated on whether to delay my review on this soap, as it seems that Dragon’s Den is temporarily shut down due to a family emergency (hope everything’s okay, Amanda!). But I’ve decided to go ahead and write my review now, while the experience is still fresh in my mind.

Ingredients: Olive, palm kernel, and castor oils, water, lye, cocoa butter and hemp oil, honey, grapefruit seed extract, essential oil blend (Lemon, Lavender, Bitter Almond, and Ginger)

Smell: This soap has a light, slightly earthy smell which is really only detectable if you hold the soap right up to your nose. Afterwards, the only smell I noticed on my hair was the comforting smell of soap.

Texture: This is a nice, hard shampoo bar that glides well over my hair and lathers up really nicely. The bubbles are really slippery and long lasting (as opposed to some soaps which seem to break down faster and don’t give that slippery / lather-y feel).

Did it clean my hair and scalp? Yes, in a wonderful way. Both hair and scalp were left feeling light and clean.

How does my hair look and feel? I loved the way this bar made my hair feel — it was really light, yet silky, so I’m thinking it left something behind to condition my hair, but in a very non-greasy, non-heavy way. I had thought the only way to get this effect was with silk proteins, but maybe it’s the honey or something, working its magic here.

Price plus shipping: $6.00 + $2.50 for a 5 oz bar

Verdict: Two big thumbs up! I’ll be visiting again in January when Amanda opens back up.

Monday, November 10th, 2008 | Author:

Here’s another lovely beer shampoo bar, this one from CCrafters. In addition to this one, there is also a Botanical shampoo bar that sounds yummy as well.

Ingredients: Saponified oils of olive, coconut, palm avocado, hemp-seed, castor and shea butter, beer, purified water infusion of rosemary, burdock, nettle and chamomile, essential oils of pink grapefruit, lemongrass, rosemary

There’s that beer again, and rosemary and nettle, both of which are supposed to be excellent for promoting healthy hair.

Smell: This shampoo bar has a delightful citrusy note to it, but it’s very light, not overpowering in the least. I think it’s probably the grapefruit and the lemongrass I smell. When lathering up, I also detected a little bit of hoppiness.

Texture: This is another slightly grabby soap, but it lathers up very well. The bubbles to break down a little sooner than other soaps I’ve tried, but they are definitely sufficient to get a nice head full of clean hair.

Did it clean my hair and scalp? Yes, definitely!

How does my hair look and feel? Wonderful! This is another bar that leaves a little something behind to condition my hair and help it feel soft and silky. I haven’t tried it, but I would definitely experiment with skipping the vinegar and / or leave-in conditioner with this one.

Price plus shipping: $5.00 + $3.00 for a 4.5 oz bar

Verdict: Definite thumbs up. I can see this one becoming one of my regulars.

Friday, November 07th, 2008 | Author:

Shampoo bar number four is Hot Summer Nights by Baby Bird Bath Works. This was actually the first shampoo bar I ever tried. I’ve been holding off on reviewing it because I’ve been waiting for Merna, the shop owner, to make some unscented soap. Although I really like the fragrance, I’ve found that I’m more sensitive to smells these days and anything that has a fragrance tends to distract me. However, I was in the mood for fragrance this morning, so I decided to use my Hot Summer Nights and see if it’s as good as I remembered, after having sampled all these other shampoo bars… It is!

Ingredients: Beer, saponified oils of (olive, coconut, palm, cocoa butter, castor) fragrance

This is one of the simplest soaps I’ll be reviewing, ingredients-wise. But I think this soap demonstrates that you don’t actually need a lot of additives to make an exceptional product. Must be in the technique of how it’s made. I’m starting to realize that soapmaking is a lot like baking. Two bars can have the same exact ingredients, just like two cookies can, but the end result is just as dependent on the proportions of the ingredients and skills of the soapmaker / baker.

Smell: This will be the only bar I review that has fragrance oils added. As I mentioned, I prefer light or no scents. As fragrances go though, this is a really pleasant one — fresh and fruity. Here’s a quote from Merna’s listing, since I’m not that great at describing fragrances: “Then we fragranced it with a wonderful blend of summery scents including melon, kiwi, citrus fruits and lime. It smells like a sweet breeze on a hot night without being overwhelmingly fruity.” I know Merna’s working on some specially formulated shampoo bars that will be unscented, and I am really looking forward to picking some up.

Texture: This has been the yardstick that I’ve measured my shampoo bar testing against. This bar glides over my hair like butter on hot corn on the cob. Then it lathers up beautifully with rich, long lasting bubbles.

Did it clean my hair and scalp? Yes, absolutely. Both hair and scalp come out squeaky clean.

How does my hair look and feel? This bar somehow manages to find that rare balance between cleaning well and leaving my hair conditioned at the same time. I think I could easily skip the leave-in conditioner. The comb glides effortlessly through my hair, and even when soaking wet, my hair has that glide-y feeling I was talking about earlier. Once it’s dry, it feels super soft and glossy. I should probably mention that this might be a soap that is too heavy for those with really fine hair.

Price plus shipping: $4.50 + $2.80 for a 4 oz bar. She’s sold out now, but I happen to know there’s an unscented batch on the way.

Verdict: Total thumbs up. This is one of my absolute favorites!