OK - I have given in and have made "Shampoo Bars". It is worth a blog post because it can be very confusing for the consumer - shampoo bars, soap that is used for shampoo, natural vs chemical, no plastic - the variants for consideration, both for the eco conscious and those who are wanting to only use natural ingredients on their skin, are many and varied. This blog post is not going to address those issues, but I will touch on them briefly as I dive into what makes bars different to each other, and how they work on your hair; because they are VERY VERY different products.
The 'In a Nutshell' Answer...
Is it a soap you use to wash your hair? Is it a shampoo bar? What the heck is it? So briefly, if the bar you wash your hair with is made with sodium hydroxide, or a melt and pour soap base, using saponified oils - you are using a bar of soap that may or may not use oils that may benefit your scalp and hair - it is a more 'natural' product, particularly if it uses essential oils for fragrance as opposed to synthetic fragrance oil. The only chemical component is sodium hydroxide, which, if you go back to my previous post on ph levels, you will read it should be neutralised by the time you use your natural soap. You can use this soap for your hair, but it is equally effective to use on the rest of your body. I LOVE natural soap, obviously, and my boys and husband have used my soap to wash their hair for over 15 years with great results. I on the other hand do NOT use soap to wash my own hair. More on that later...
A Shampoo Bar is literally the SAME INGREDIENTS as a bottle of shampoo, without the water and the plastic bottle. It contains some good things - depending on the recipe for sure, some benign things, and some things that are more eyebrow raising if you are committed to a lifestyle of "all natural". Things like "Sodium cocoyl isethionate" SOUND scary - but it is really just a coconut oil based cleaner or surfactant - the reason it is not called soap is one of the KEY differences between a shampoo bar and hair soap - the surfactant has a neutral ph - while the soap has a ph of 7+. This difference in PH causes different things to happen to the scales on each strand of your hair.
Many soap makers will sell "shampoo bars" which is actually soap - make sure you ask when you buy them so you know how to use them correctly, soap is not a bad thing, it's a wonderful thing, but when using them on your hair you need to know how to use each bar the right way to get the results you want.
On the left is natural soap - and you can see the ph is between 8-9. On the right is the shampoo bar, with a ph of between 6-7. A ph of greater than 7 will lift the scales on each strand of hair, without bringing the alkalinity level down to neutral again, the hair will feel "tacky" and has a tendency to mat, or feel like it has become stuck together. This can be remedied by rinsing the hair with an acid based conditioning agent. This will allow the scales to lie flat on the strand of hair, feeling smoother and less likely to tangle. Regular hair conditioner will NOT fix the problem of lifted hair scales. It is often recommended to rinse your hair with apple cider vinegar mixed with water if using a soap to wash your hair. The Shampoo Bar has a neutral ph so does not lift the scales on the strands of hair. For myself personally, I have not been able to use soap to wash my hair, as even with using a vinegar rinse, my hair tends to matt at it's thicket places and feels uncomfortable for me. I can't seem to get the balance between using the vinegar to calm the scales, and then oil to condition my hair. My husband and boys, however, prefer using just soap I make, no conditioner, and they have happily done so for 15 years! They all have short hair. I did experiment when my middle son had dread locks, and I think using a soap bar on the hair with careful attention to the oils used would make a great "shampoo" for dreadlocks. But for me, it just doesn't cut it. I am looking forward to seeing how my hair responds to the shampoo bars. And if I can cut out a plastic bottle or two in the process, that's great!
Using a Shampoo Bar/Conditioner Bar
So now I have sent a few sets out to be trialled by some lovely customers, and friends - and I am using them at home myself. The first thing I noticed using the shampoo bar is that I used WAY more than I should have - I think because you can't see how much you are pouring into your hand, you tend to keep stroking the bar through your hair. I got LOADS of rich lather, and will stop applying the bar to my hair sooner. Same with the conditioner bar - I used too much and felt like I had to rinse and rinse to get it out. BUT - my hair is soft, shiny, manageable, and not frizzy. So far so good. I have fragranced my shampoo bars and conditioner bars with pure essential oil of pink grapefruit and peppermint. Why? Because I like those two scents!
The bars are each approx 60 grams each, and based on todays performance - they will last for a good long time! I will be making sure I keep track of how many hair washes, length of hair washed etc so I can provide a good understanding of how long they will last. I am providing the bars in a metal tin with a non slip drain pad in the bottom, but would suggest removing the tins from the shower and using them for storage or travelling only. I have made the shampoo round and the conditioner square to easily identify which is which. These will be available for purchase both in the Boutique and online as soon as I get some feedback from my testers, and get my labels printed. Refills will be available wrapped in foil.
Scary sounding Ingredients and what they are
ok - so in a bar of soap you can use to wash your hair - you have a very short list of ingredients that are easy to understand and it just feels "better" to use something you can pronounce - so you might have Coconut Oil, Olive Oil, Shea Butter, Cocoa Butter, Sweet Almond Oil... essential oils... and the only thing that sounds a bit scary is Sodium Hydroxide so lets start there:
Sodium hydroxide: is a highly caustic base and alkali that decomposes proteins at ordinary ambient temperatures and may cause severe chemical burns. This definition is taken directly from wikipedia, and you can read the full description in all its technical glory here. So it's a bit of a nasty compound but necessary to create what we know is amazing and beautiful soap! And not at all scary by the time you get to use your bar of soap or hair soap!
The ingredients in a Shampoo bar can be a bit more of a challenge to understand... but it's important to understand what's what...
Leanne and her husband Gregory are both partners in Bath Boutique. Here she will share parts of her journey with Bath Boutique, from some of the Makers' stories, experiences and thoughts about Boutique Retail in New Zealand.