Hello everyone! 🙂
Today I talk about how to formulate a Solid Shampoo.
This is NOT a natural soap, it is a Syndet (synthetic detergent) made with powder surfactants and other ingredients. A normal soap won’t work well as a shampoo, no matter how many expensive oils you add to it or how much love you put into soap-making.
If you want to make a decent solid shampoo, it must be a syndet. 😉
The advantages of a shampoo bar are that it is compact, it doesn’t weight much, it is easy to use, easy to carry around (on a plane for example)… Yet, it is not at all common to find one in the stores.
The reasons for this are many but here are the main ones:
A Solid Shampoo is made with an extremely high percentage of surfactant matter (55%-85%) and this makes the production costs fly very high as well.
But this is not all: a shampoo bar looks extremely similar to a simple and cheap soap and therefore people don’t give to it even the same value they give to, let’s say, a fancy bottle of liquid shampoo (even if the liquid shampoo costs way less, to produce, than the solid one).
These two things, combined, already don’t make for a winning product…
But this is not all: as you know from the various posts about formulating detergents (you can find them HERE) such concentration of surfactant matter is extremely high and this doesn’t just make the production costs go wild, but it is also an issue for the formulator: a product with 60% Active Surfactant Matter can be very easily too aggressive.
So now that we know the challenge, let’s attempt to formulate a Solid Shampoo!
First of all we need powder surfactants: most of the recipes I have seen around as well as the only solid shampoo I have bought in my life, were made of a single surfactant. However, as you well know, surfactants need to be mixed together in order to give a milder result (and this is something we ABSOLUTELY need in such a product).
So, rule #1: create a mixture of surfactants.
Simply mixing compatible surfactants won’t still make the shampoo mild enough, so a good idea is to add incompatible surfactants: anionics + cationics.
They both won’t work at their best, which is quite a waste, but in the case of a solid shampoo bar it is really needed.
You could use, for example, BTMS or (like I did in this recipe) Behentrimonium Chloride. Avoid the liquid ones (like Cetrimonium Chloride) because you need the solid shampoo to be… well, solid! 🙂
You will need to add a thickening ingredient in order to be sure your shampoo bar will be actually “solid”: common ingredients would be cetearyl alcohol or stearyl alcohol (maybe even better).
Surfactants are emulsifiers as well and this product is packed with them; plus, the thickening agent (cetearyl alcohol) is also a co-emulsifier (if that was needed) so there is really no need to add any extra emulsifier (I have seen some recipes with ewax, well I wouldn’t add it here). 🙂
Now, finally, to the RECIPE (at the end I have added a little comment on the formula):
Cocamidopropyl Betaine 20% (this is the only liquid surfactant – it is needed to decrease the aggression of ionic surfactants. If you don’t have so many different powder surfactants it is still ok as long as you do have the CAPB)
Butters and oils mix 10% (I have used cocoa butter 7% and argan oil 3% – you can use whatever you like, but keep in mind that you need the shampoo to be really solid so try to use butters and not too many oils)
Behentrimonium Chloride 10%
Cetearyl Alcohol (I had a 50%-50% one) 3%
Fragrance Oil 1.5%
1) Measure the surfactants (excluding the cationic one for the moment)
2) Melt them – this will take longer than you might think; luckily the water of the liquid betaine will make the process faster.
3) Measure the butters, the cationic surfactants and the thickener (Behentrimonium Chloride and cetearyl alcohol are in the same becher on the right)
4) And add them to the magic cauldron 🙂
I didn’t melt them separately first, but I suggest you to do it! (it will speed up the process)
(Yes, it does look like a mess!) 🙂
5) Once all looks homogeneous, take it out from the hot bath and keep stirring slowly until it is not too hot anymore (check the temperature: around 35°C). At this point add the last ingredients (fragrance oil and preservative… I have added a drop of colorant as well)
6) Put the soapy paste into molds
7) The easiest thing to do is place the mold in the freezer until the solid shampoos are hard enough to be unmolded and let them dry for a couple of days before trying to use them.
This is a simple recipe without any “extra” ingredients. You could add some hydrolized proteins (1%-2% for example) at cool down, or even D-panthenol (not too much, cause anyway all these ingredients are washed off moments after).
How I have found this shampoo:
It had a very high wetting ability, with an extremely soft lathering made of small bubbles. This was very comfortable.
What my head didn’t like were the waxy and buttery ingredients: even if there were all these surfactants, I still felt like the shampoo wasn’t cleaning enough. Next time I will lower the percentage of butters and oils and see if the result is more balanced 🙂
53 thoughts on “How to Formulate a Solid Shampoo”
Cool ! Thanks for the procedure, I’ll have to try it out sometime. Keep up the good work!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks for your amazing blog, I’ve just found it and I’m going to read through all your posts for sure! I’ve been “playing around” with making solid shampoos as well. I love the way they work and how convenient they are for traveling, etc. Maybe you can help me figure our some of the stuff about formulating them?
1. I haven’t used preservative before, why is it needed if we don’t add any water to it?
2. I’ve started using a combination of SCI + SCS for milder effect, is there a way to choose even milder surfactant combination? Because like you said, at such high concentration it might be a little too drying on the scalp and too aggressive.
3. I have cocoamidopropyl betaine at 35%, sorry for a silly question BUT: for example in this recipe of yours, do I just add my CMDB mixture at 20%? OR do I need to calculate that the active surfactant matter is 20%?
4. Do you have a post about Behentrimonium Chloride? What does this ingredient do, and especially why do we use in it in this recipe?
5. In making SOLID cosmetics, how important is it to mix ingredients in separate phases? When I made my first solid shampoos I simply melted everything together (even panthenol) but it seemed to work just fine! So could you let me know what is the difference if I add them separately like in your recipe?
6. Do you have some suggestions of what other ingredients could be incorporated here to improve the recipe?
Sorry for flooding you with questions. Hope you have time to look though them. Please don’t stop posting, keep this wonderful blog up! Cheers!
The preservative is usually not needed if there is no water BUT if there is high chance that the products gets in touch with water, then you should add it (and a solid shampoo is definitely going to touch water)
I think ALL solid shampoo formulas are too aggressive unless there are many butters, in which case they don’t wash enough! 🙂
The CAPB you have is the right one for this formula. No need for more calculations.
Behentrimonium chloride: I dont have a post about it but I have used it in other posts. It is a good hair conditioner. It is a little wasted here but it helps making the formula milder.
The panthenol shouldn’t be heated so you should add some ingredients towards the end (while cooling down) cause the high temperature spoils them.
🙂 Hope this helped!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Can you use decyl glucoside in place of the cocamidopropyl betaine? or is there anything else to use in place of it? it seems to be irritating to a lot of people.
The cocamidopropyl betaine in this formula is exactly to lower the irritable effect of the anionic surfactant. Decyl glucoside wouldn’t really work the same way.
If you have problems with CAPB you can make a shampoo using glucosides, for example, without any problem… but I wouldn’t simply substitute CAPB with decyl glucoside in this formula.
Thank you for replying. I am confused though, you said I could substitute with glucosides, but decyl glucoside isn’t a glucoside? What about coco glucoside? Sorry if that is a dumb question I am really new to this!
Hello Bre, no problem but I said something else.
I said that I don’t suggest substituting the CAPB with a glucoside in this formula, but you can make a shampoo based on glucosides (decyl gl. included) creating a different formula 🙂
Wow! Thank you for this post. Very cool! I am wondering, could beeswax be used as a thickened?
It could be used but it might make the effect a little more greasy/waxy on the hair. But you can try
LikeLiked by 1 person
FINALLY, an awesomely informative post on solid shampoo making! Thank you so much I’ve been looking all day. My husband has been nagging me for an all-in-one shampoo bar for camping.. Could I get a comment on this potential formula:
(I don’t have SCS, can I leave it out?)
Cocamidopropyl Betaine 20%
Butters and oils mix 7% ( butter 5% and KUKUI oil 2%)
Cetyl Alcohol (instead of cetearyl?) 5%
Essential Oil Tea tree & Rosemary 2%
Really appreciate your comments!!
Which preservative are you using? I would increase it to the maximum suggested percentage, because the shampoo bar is dipped in water at every use and therefore it is susceptible of being contaminated very easily! 🙂 This said, I think the formula looks fine.
I have to say thought that after this attempt I only made it once more, because I didn’t like the effect on my hair. But that’s just my preference. For camping it sounds as a good solution (clearly it can be used like a soap as well, so it is an “all in one”).
Let me know how the experimenting goes (make a small batch first, so you can tweak the formula if needed). Happy Experimenting!
Thank you for such a prompt response and that I only just found this thread again after the crazy weeks I’ve had!!.. Nipaguard SCE is the preservative I will use, good advice, will increase..I MUST find time to make a test batch today – shall update (:
LikeLiked by 1 person
Hi, this is a very interesting post.
I have been looking at several of these syndet bar recipes, but most of them contain Cocamido Propyl Betaïne and I cannot use it. I got myself tested after I started getting eczema on my eye lids and this happened to be the culprit. I have thin hair and a greasy and sometimes flaky scalp. I would prefer to make a solid bar because of the zero waste aspect. I was wandering if there are liquid (amphoteric) alternatives that are still effective for greasy but thin hair.
There are many liquid amphoteric ingredients which you could use, hoping they won’t cause you the same reaction.
However if you have thin hair and a greasy scalp just like me, I have to say that this bar was not suitable for our kind of hair!
A normal liquid shampoo is much easier to make and, honestly, much more effective! Bars tend to leave the hair either too greasy or too dry! It is extremely difficult to moderate the surfactant matter at such high concentrations!
What if, to follow your ethics, you make a shampoo without CAPB and store it in a glass bottle? Or just re-use a plastix bottle you might already have? Would this work for you? 🙂
Do you think something like foaming apple would work for someone with a sensitivity to CB? The INCI is Sodium Cocoyl Apple Amino Acids; it is an anionic surfactant. My kiddos all have sensitivities to CB for some reason and I’m wanting to formulate a conditionong shampoo bar that won’t irritate their scalp.
I would definitely NOT formulate a shampoo bar for someone with sensitivities: a liquid shampoo is way less concentrated so there are less chances for irritation 😉
I never used Sodium Cocoyl Apple Amino acids so I cannot know how delicate or aggressive it is. You would have to make trials 🙂
Hi this was very helpful!! How necesary is it to use the cetearyl alcohol? and can it be replaced with cetyl alcohol?
Not exactly. Cetearyl alcohol is a mixture of cetyl and stearic acids, so you can make the mixture by yourself if you have already cetyl alcohol, just buy stearic acid. The thing is, stearic acid makes the bar much harder than cetyl acid so it is pretty necessary. This bar was already not the hardest bar I have ever tried.
If you only have cetyl you could try lowering the butter contents.
Hi, this was such an informative post…..can we replace all the surfactants with just sci and capb? Will it be mild enough?
Not sure it will be mild enough but you can make a trial batch and test it!
I would like to avoid sls and slsa,and also the other available surfactants for my place are only sci, capb,that is why I had placed the query.is there any percentage limit for the above two surfactants?or can we add any other additives to make the shampoo milder?and again thank you for the information and your prompt replies
Hi! I just found this and I’ve been looking up ways to make solid shampoo for a long time so thanks for the informative post! Is there a specific store you get all your ingredients from BTW? I’m look g to make these for the family and Amazon tends to not carry much of these ingredients (affordably)
Hi Mina! I have a post just about “Buying cosmetics ingredients online” 😉 check it out! 🙂
Hi, apologies for taking up an old thread but I just discovered you and am absolutely thrilled as I read through all the useful and competent information you are offering! Thak you! May I ask your opionion about using only a combination of SCI and SCS (total 70) without an amphoteric surfactant i.e. Cocamidopropyl Betaine? Would you add BTMS to that if there’s already Guar powder in use? Most grateful for your take!
I would add the BTMS as it would also emulsify the oils, not just be conditioning. 70% anionics without amphoterics… You can try. I have seen them on the market but I didn’t like using them. It depends on your hair and personal preferences 🙂
Thank you for your advice! What exactly could the downside of using only anionics without amphoteric surfactant be i.e. why didn’t you like the bar? Is there value in using oils at all? Cocoa butter could do the job or am I mistaken?
It was too strong in stripping the hair of oils. Adding oils or butters occupy some of the surfactant power, making the bar milder 😉
Hi. Such great informations you have here. Been searching for so long to.ask.this question. If I only have SCI can I still use the sample formula you gave without any adjustments? If needed, what are the ingredients I need to adjust? Sorry I’m not knowledgeable on any of these and i’m only relying on what I read.
Hi Evelyn, exactly which are the ingredients you don’t have? 🙂
I don’t have the SLSa. As I read articles to find a good sub for it, some say SCS can but my gut feel say otherwise; that’s why till now I haven’t tried anything. Sorry as I said I’m not knowledeable about any of these andany times I put my emotion before trying anything. .Thanks for replying this soon I didnt expect it.
Hi upon checking with supplier available in mos area here in the Philippines is SCI no SCS and SALsa.
Well you can definitely try and make a batch sample and see if you like the end result 🙂
One more question – is there value in using glycerine in a shampoo bar formula? Is stearic acid’s role only as a hardener? If yes, what percentage would you advise? Thank you so much!!
Hi. Since I can’t find SLSa and SCS in.my place. I found recipe for bar scoop with SCI, corn starch and EO. I.mixed it and it’s okay. But can I given it a hot bath to.make a smooth shampoo? Thanks. Im really looking for something to gift friends and relatives this Christmas season.
Hi, no there are many missing ingredients so that won’t work. You would just make the EO evaporate
Thanks a lot you’re such a great help.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Hi. I was wondering what is Behentrimonium Chloride? I can’t find it anywhere from my cosmetic ingredient suppliers. Can you replace it with something else similar? Thank you!
This is the INCI name, it might have a different commercial name. You can substitute it with another cationic conditioning emulsifier 🙂
Hi, what ever you have used in this recipes are all anionic surfactants ans betaine is amphoteric. But you have mentioned as anionic + Cationic is best
The cationic here is the behentrimonium chloride 😉
I was wondering if there’s a way of incorporating activated charcoal or another powder in this? If so what would you replace in the formula to put it? (I mostly just want to color it black, but would like to benefit from the properties as well, if possible).
Thank you so much! Your blog is amazing and I’ve been learning so much 🙂
LikeLiked by 1 person
I would lower of 1-2% the surfactants only, to include 1-2% of charcoal.
However, please notice that charcoal, as any other organic material, can bring issues of stabilization and preservation. It is quite challenging to add organic powders from the point of view of preserving the product.
But you can still try, just be careful to use necessary broad spectrum preserving system.
Thank you! I’ll be sure to try anyway 🙂
One more thing I forgot – is it possible to include Panthenol/Rice protein in this formula? If so what would you replace?
I realize they’re liquids so it might be harder…
I wouldn’t add them. Rice protein increases again the preservation issues and this is an hot process formula. You would have to stir it in at so high temperature that whatever the rice proteins are supposed to do, they won’t do it anymore.
The same for panthenol. Better add it in the hair conditioner.
Lovely. Thank you for sharing. I am a very eager newbie and this information explains and spells out so much of what i have been search for. Things i didnt know but need to. I cant wait to give this a go. Great information. Thank you.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you for your generosity in providing all this great information! I’ve read and learnt a ton of things on your blog today and to me it is the most helpful source of information on formulating I have found so far.
Anyway this is the post that actually brought me to your blog after reading through a lot of recipes for shampoo bars online and not being able to make any sense of them, they all seem so different. A lot of them (as well as the ones you see in shops) seem to contain ingredients other than surfactants and oils/butters. Mostly its things like clay or starch (which to me seems to be a nightmare in terms of preservation) or other “powdery” things. You answered a question above about using a small amount of charcoal as a colourant but those recipes use really high percentages of these powders, up to 30%! I was wondering if this is to “thin out” the surfactants and therefore minimise the problems that come with using a high percentage of them instead of using a lot of butters? Would that work? Or is it just for label appeal (magical healing clay!) or to make a more solid bar?
Your explanations on the science behind cosmetics have made me understand a lot of things a lot better but this one still confuses me…
In all honesty I am not too sure. Clay might indeed help thinning out the surfactants, so to speak, but I don’t know if the commercial bars have these formulas indeed (I mean with 30% charcoal).
I do know a blog that knows TONS about shampoo bars, much more than me in fact: Swift crafty monkey! She is great and she even has facebook groups ONLY about shampoo bars and also sells ebooks on how to formulate them! She has made TONS of them and really knows much more than me in terms of how to create the perfect formula.
This formula I made here actually was good for a few times I used it and then made my hair very greasy, so I ended up using it like a soap! 😐
Hey, thanks for your super quick reply and recommendation, I checked out that website and its very helpful! Between that, your explanations on detergents etc and some wild experimentation I’m sure I’ll figure it out. Wish me luck and thanks again 🙂
LikeLiked by 1 person
Hello and thank you very much for all the information. May I ask you what ingredients you would recommend for dandruff and an itchy scalp? Or alternatively where I could look.
Thanks in advance.
Hello, it really depends what the dandruff is about. If the itchiness and dandruff comes from an eccessively aggressive shampoo, then a very mild shampoo could do the trick (so a mild blend of surfactants). If the itchiness is caused by dandruff then a more aggressive blend of surfactants might do the trick by properly cleaning the scalp. If the dendruff is instead caused by a fungus, then the proper ingredients are pharmaceuticals and can be found a proper shampoo in the pharmacy.