rose shampoo bars

What is a shampoo bar?

Just what IS a shampoo bar? What is it made of? Well, as with so many things that is an “it depends” question…

Some shampoo bars are made of soap…

Some of the shampoo bars that you see on the market are lovely soaps, full of natural butters and oils. You will recognise these if their ingredients include things like ‘sodium olivate’ or ‘sodium cocoate’. These are the sodium salts of the fatty acids in the raw materials (in these examples, that would be olive oil and cocoa butter). These sodium salts are made when saponification takes place (this is when the magic happens between the oils and lye).

You may also recognise soapy shampoo bars if you see words like “transition period” or “cider vinegar rinse”. Why on earth would you need a cider vinegar rinse? Well, by its nature, soap is alkaline, with a pH of around 9. And your skin and hair are slightly acidic with your hair having a pH of around 4.5-5.5

If you’re happy to rinse your hair with vinegar to maintain a healthy pH after washing then choose soap!

Then there are syndet bars

From the tone of the paragraphs above you might gather that The Green Potionisa decided she didn’t want to rinse with vinegar. Hair washing is rarely an exercise to loiter over, but regularly done during a quick shower before the school run. When I decided I wanted to start making these things I quickly decided I’d go down the syndet route.

A synthetic detergent bar is primarily made by blending synthetic surfactants. Synthetic surfactants have been around for a long time and they include the names we want to avoid (e.g. sodium lauryl sulfate). Oh so many of these contain palm oil and, as it turns out, finding ones that don’t can prove to be ever so slightly frustrating. Not least when suppliers warn you that their suppliers have changed their production methods and palm oil is creeping in.

For now, The Green Potionista is making shampoo bars based on palm-free sodium cocoyl isethionate (SCI) and palm-free decyl glucoside. These are both derived from coconut oil. The decyl glucoside is Soil Association and Ecocert approved. The SCI is mild and gentle.

We are excited by the possibility of using biosurfactants from renewable feedstocks, as these sound to be the most planet-friendly alternatives, but at the moment these seem to be out of reach to small artisan makers. We will keep looking and aim to make the switch as soon as we can.

Blue Jasmine Shampoo Bar
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