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.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

3 Responses

  1. 1

    You are doing a great job with this, my shampoo bar friend. I would like to post this site to my blogspot. Would you mind?


  2. 2

    Hi Kathleen — of course not! Please feel free to post the link wherever you like :)

  1. [...] Vote Deep dive 1: Difference between soap and shampoo bars [...]