While it might sound too good to be true, DIY shampoo bars allow you the freedom to target the same hair concerns that a traditional shampoo might—all while reducing plastic waste. The concentrated nature of a shampoo bar means one bar can last for months at a time (and doesn't take up the precious shower space a bottle meant to last for a similar timeframe would). Shampoo bars can also be safely packed in carry-on luggage and dopp kits with zero risk of spillage. This got us wondering if there are any downsides to switching to a shampoo bar. So ahead, we turned to BosleyMD Certified Trichologist Gretchen Friese for her thoughts on creating your own DIY shampoo bar and best practices for using it.
Meet the Expert
Gretchen Freise is a BosleyMD certified trichologist specializing in hair and scalp health.
Are Shampoo Bars Safe For Hair?
Friese believes DIY shampoo bars can be a good alternative to liquid shampoos when made with beneficial ingredients. She notes that DIY shampoo bars can be suitable for those with allergies or those concerned with the ingredients in their shampoos, as the creator has complete control over what goes into the recipe. She adds that bars are best suited for people with short hair, as “it can be hard to really cleanse the scalp with a bar if there is a lot of hair to penetrate.” It is important to find a recipe that is suited to your particular hair type to avoid ingredients that can cause build up or frizz.
How to Use DIY Shampoo Bars
There is a certain art to using a shampoo bar versus a traditional liquid shampoo, which Friese detailed: “Wet your hair making sure to get it really wet or it may be difficult to get a good lather. Next, wet the shampoo bar with a little water and rub it in your hands to start creating some suds. Apply the shampoo bar directly onto your hair and massage gently across all parts of your scalp. Lastly, scrub your scalp with the pads of your fingers making sure to get the whole head and hairline.” This careful application process ensures that the cleanser reaches your scalp and is spread evenly throughout your hair.
3 DIY Shampoo Bars to Try
Convinced you need shampoo bars in your life? Same. Ahead, find three DIY shampoo bar recipes that address every major hair concern
For Dry Hair: Tallow Shampoo Bar Recipe
Melisa Tolsma of Bumblebee Apothecary developed this DIY shampoo bar recipe to cleanse without harshly stripping the hair. She finds that the moisturizing ingredients included, such as grass fed tallow and coconut oil, “leaves hair soft, completely clean, but not stripped of moisture.” Friese concurred that the tallow “replenishes the building blocks of our skin that decrease with age, which may assist in keeping the hair follicles healthy.” Also worth noting are the anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties of both the coconut oil and the castor oil, promoting scalp health while providing moisture to the hair. Friese did note that people with very sensitive, dry, or dandruff-prone scalps should replace the olive oil, as it may contribute to damage to the skin barrier. This recipe would work for those with coarse, dry, or curly hair, as Friese shares they can benefit from a bar containing more oils.
- 10 oz. grass fed tallow
- 10 oz. refined coconut oil
- 10 oz. olive oil
- 6 oz. castor oil
- 13.68 oz. water
- 5.11 oz. lye
- 2 tbsp essential oil
- Weigh tallow, coconut oil, olive oil, and castor oil, and put into a crockpot on high, or a pot on the stove on low heat.
- Weigh the water in a heat safe container or sturdy plastic bucket, and weigh lye separately.
- Once oils are melted, check the temperature. You want the oils to be 100 degrees F. Let oils cool if necessary.
- Once oils are at 100 degrees F, take the lye and water outdoors. Wearing gloves and safety goggles, carefully and slowly pour the lye into the water. Stir gently.
- Once the lye water has turned from cloudy to clear, leave it to cool for 10 minutes.
- Carefully pour the lye water into the oil mixture.
- Use an immersion blender to mix the shampoo bar mixture. After a few minutes, it will grow creamy, and start to thicken. Mix until it has reached “trace,” the light pudding consistency.
- Add the essential oils and blend again to incorporate.
- Pour shampoo bar mixture into molds, top with wax paper, and wrap molds in towels.
- After 24 hours, remove soap from mold and slice into bars. Let cure in an area with good airflow for 4-6 weeks.
For Oily Hair: Deep Cleansing Shampoo Bar Recipe
Sarah of Frolic and Fare created this deep-cleansing, vegan DIY shampoo bar recipe to help those with oily hair. In addition to deeply cleansing the hair, the apple cider vinegar helps to balance the pH of your scalp and boost shine. The jojoba beads provide exfoliation to your scalp and are a great alternative to microbeads because they are biodegradable. The use of essential oils in this recipe allows you to change the scent of the shampoo bar to fit your needs or preferences. Friese explains that essential oils have different properties and you can choose to include those that address your hair/scalp concerns. Some examples include rosemary oil, which is anti-inflammatory and tea tree oil, which can help with dry scalp and dandruff. In addition to deeply cleansing the hair, the apple cider vinegar helps to balance the pH of your scalp and boost shine.
- 15 g Jojoba beads
- 20 g Carnauba Wax
- 15 g Apple cider vinegar
- 10 g liquid Castile soap.
- 30 drops “pumpkin spice” blend essential oil: 5 cinnamon, 5 clove, 5 nutmeg, 5 ginger, 10 orange
- Melt carnauba wax in a double boiler.
- Once melted, let cool slightly and add apple cider vinegar, jojoba beads, essential oils and Castile soap. Stir completely.
- Pour mixture into soap mold of choice. Let solidify in the refrigerator.
For Sensitive Scalps: Babassu Oil Shampoo Bar Recipe
Jules of urbarium.de is a pharmacist and herbalist, who created this DIY shampoo bar recipe to remove the daily build-up from hair and oil from the roots. This recipe would be best for those with sensitive scalps and dandruff, as Friese notes “Babassu oil is used for medicinal purposes in South America, such as to treat skin conditions, wounds, inflammation, and stomach problems.” The exclusion of lye or traditional soaps from this recipe makes it less irritating to those with existing scalp conditions. Those with scalp concerns should exclude the dried herbs, with Friese noting that they can create a deeply exfoliating texture not suited for sensitive skin.
- 30g “soap-free cleansing bar” or mild baby soap
- 2g babassu oil or coconut oil
- 15 drops Argan oil
- 10 drops Essential oil
- 1 pinch dried herbs / flowers (optional)
- Cut the soap bar into thirds. Finely grate a portion (approx. 30g) with the kitchen grater. If necessary, finely powder 1 knife tip of dried herbs / flowers in a mortar and then sieve.
- Using card sheets, mix the sifted powder and the grated soap. Then add oils/fat.
- Put on protective gloves and knead: The waxes will melt in your hands and a malleable “dough” will form from the initial crumbs. Now press this mass firmly together and bring it into the desired shape with the palms of your hands or press it into a flexible muffin tin (or something similar).
- The solid shampoo should mature for a few hours. It will harden and can be stored in a bowl in the bathroom. Shelf life: 12 months