I’ve been working on these chocolatey, clay-spiked shampoo bars since early March, and I’m super excited to finally share them with you today! They’ve got a stunning, creamy lather that leaves your hair feeling fabulous, and I’m making them with my beautiful new automatic press from the Edmonton-based The Bath Bomb Press company. You don’t need a press to make these, but I’m sure having a ton of fun with mine and love how quickly it produces super sturdy & professional-looking shampoo bars.
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The initial inspiration for these bars was my new year’s resolution to take more risks and do more things I’ve been told won’t work. Rhassoul clay is famously wonderful for hair care, but like most clays, it can be hard to preserve, so I’d shied away from including it in shampoo bars—until now. My first version included 10% rhassoul clay, and after those were completely fine throughout use, I bumped it up to 12.5% as I was fiddling with the formulation. I’ve since made several batches of those 12.5% bars over the past few months, gifting them out to friends and testing them myself, and they’ve all been fine. I even left one wet in a plastic bag for two months to see if anything would happen—nothing did! Booyah.
The first batches of these shampoo bars weren’t pressed as I didn’t yet have my beautiful Bath Bomb Press, but as soon as it arrived I knew I needed to try pressing this formula. I ended up tweaking the formulation a bit to make it a bit drier for better pressing, and oh my goodness—I’m in love with pressed shampoo bars. You can still make these without a press by forcefully smashing the mixture into a mold of your choice, but the press makes them quite a lot firmer and sturdier. I’ve found this formulation works well pressed and hand-smash-molded, but not all do. A bar I intend to share at some point in the future did some pretty whacky oozing when I tried to press it 😂
Our surfactants are a blend of Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) and Sodium Coco Sulfate (SCS) with a touch of Cocamidopropyl Betaine. Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) and Sodium Coco Sulfate (SCS) are both solid anionic surfactants, and I’ve chosen the stick versions of both for that Lush-like look. I love a blend of these two surfactants—the Sodium Coco Sulfate (SCS) offers excellent cleansing and crazy amazing lather, while the Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) tempers the strength of the Sodium Coco Sulfate (SCS) and ensures the pH of these is naturally hair-friendly without adjusting (they average around pH 5). Some amphoteric Cocamidopropyl Betaine helps further gentle-up the blend.
70% dry surfactants + 6% liquid Cocamidopropyl Betaine makes for some slightly damp-ish dry surfactants, so to round that out and create something useful and press-able, we need some melted hard fats to hold everything together. I went with a blend of cocoa butter and stearic acid, choosing unrefined cocoa butter for a delicious chocolate-y scent that pairs nicely with the brown colour we get from the rhassoul clay. I further complimented that scent with a blend of two Brambleberry fragrances; Kentucky Bourbon and Cinnamon Cocoa. I used a variety of scents throughout the development and testing of these bars and found fragrances and essential oils that pair well with chocolate are downright lovely; if you want to use something that doesn’t work well with cocoa I’d recommend using deodorized cocoa butter instead. Something I find fun about fragrances vs. essential oils in shampoo bars is how the scent lingers in my hair post-washing; essential oils just don’t do that. This isn’t a good or bad thing, it’s just a thing to keep in mind based on your preferences 😊
After making the bars you’ll want to leave them to dry out for a while, similar to when making soap. I’d say 24 hours is the bare minimum, but I’d recommend a week to ten days for the best balance between longevity of use and ability to use ’em quickly after making them. In my experiments, the bars lost an average of about 0.3% of their weight in the first 24 hours, and an average of about 1.2% if left to dry for 10 days. Because Cocamidopropyl Betaine is approximately 60% water, these bars will contain ~3.6% water. I left one bar unused for eleven weeks, and over that time it lost a total of 2.38% of its overall weight. That bar got to 1.08% weight loss in 12 days, and then took another 65 days to roughly double that loss. I don’t notice a difference between a ~1% and ~2% loss when it comes to usage, so 1% it is! If you are hand pressing the bars they will lose more moisture due to the bar not being as tightly packed. My hand pressed bar lost 0.8% in the first 24 hours and 1.9% in a week.
Making-wise, this is mostly a bit of stirring and mashing before moulding and waiting. Make sure you have a good, tight-fitting dust mask when making these! I have this one and I’ve been very impressed with it. All my testers have loved this shampoo bar and I hope you do, too!
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Chocolate Rhassoul Shampoo Bars
60g | 40% Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) noodles
45g | 30% Sodium Coco Sulfate (SCS) (USA / Canada)
9g | 6% Cocamidopropyl Betaine (USA / Canada)
0.75g | 0.5% Kentucky Bourbon fragrance
0.75g | 0.5% Cinnamon Cocoa fragrance
0.75g | 0.5% Liquid Germall Plus™ (USA / Canada)
Prepare a water bath by bringing about 3cm/1″ of water to a bare simmer over low to medium-low heat in a small saucepan.
Weigh the heated phase into a second heat-resistant glass measuring cup. Place it in your prepared water bath to melt everything through.
Once the heated phase has melted (the clay won’t melt, but the stearic acid and cocoa butter will), remove it from the heat and stir, allowing it to cool a bit before adding it to the surfactant phase and stirring thoroughly to combine. I recommend using a metal stirring implement for this as I find my favourite silicone spatulas aren’t always up to the task with this stiffer mixture.
When the mixture is uniform, it’s time to press! I used the cube mold, pressing 75g of the shampoo bar mixture into each bar. If you don’t have a press you can hand-press the mixture into a silicone mold; I spooned the mixture into a mold, lay a sheet of parchment paper over top, and then used the base of a flat metal measuring cup to squish the mixture as much as possible. Make sure the silicone mold you chose is relatively simple (no intricate details) and has relatively sturdy sides so they don’t bulge out as you’re pressing.
Carefully un-mold the bars and leave them to dry for at least 24 hours, but preferably 7–10 days, before using. Enjoy!
Shelf Life & Storage
Because this shampoo bar contains some water and will come into contact with water regularly, I have included a broad-spectrum preservative. In my experience, these bars last 3+ months in the shower—I’ve never had one spoil on me, I just finish them by the time three or four months have passed!
As always, be aware that making substitutions will change the final product. While these swaps won’t break the recipe, you will get a different final product than I did.
- As I’ve provided this recipe in percentages as well as grams you can easily calculate it to any size using a simple spreadsheet as I’ve explained in this post. As written in grams this recipe will make 150g.
- To learn more about the ingredients used in this recipe, including why they’re included and what you can substitute them with, please visit the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia. It doesn’t have everything in it yet, but there’s lots of good information there! If I have not given a specific substitution suggestion in this list please look up the ingredient in the encyclopedia before asking.
- If you’re like to use a different preservative, please review this page.
- If you’d like to learn more about the surfactants used and compare them to ones you might already have so you can make substitutions, check out this page.
- You can try a different clay in place of rhassoul.
- You can use deodorized cocoa butter or tucuma butter instead of cocoa butter.
- I don’t recommend swapping out the Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI), Sodium Coco Sulfate (SCS), or stearic acid unless you want to possibly re-develop the formulation.
- You can use a different fragrance or essential oil.