If you’ve been interested in making a solid conditioner bar, but have been intimidated by the long ingredient lists on the formulations I’ve shared in the past, this post is for you! These beautiful Cocoa Coconut Simple Conditioner Bars are made from just six ingredients and are as easy to make as a body butter bar. Simply melt, pour, chill, and unmould and you’ll have yourself some beautiful blocks of richly conditioning goodness!
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I’ve been wanting to create a simpler conditioner bar formulation ever since Cruz left a comment back in the spring of 2017 mentioning a simple cocoa butter conditioner bar they had made. I loved the idea of creating a conditioner bar with fewer than ten ingredients, though it definitely took me a while to get around to creating something that fit the bill! With all the cocoa/coconutty goodness floating around in my brain this holiday making season that idea finally re-surfaced and I found the time to breathe some life into it 😄
The bulk of this formulation is gorgeous, fragrant cocoa butter and a smaller amount of mouthwatering coconut oil, totally 47% between the two of them. Earlier versions used more of both (version #1 was 65%!), but I found the end bars were too soft. Cocoa butter melts around 34°C (93°F), which is brilliant when we want something to melt on contact with the skin, but we need conditioner bars to be a bit harder than that because most people prefer a shower to be warmer than body temperature. The average temperature for an enjoyable hot shower is around 40°C (104°F), meaning cocoa butter gets pretty darn soft in a hot shower situation. Earlier bars held together well enough for one quick use, but they were pretty mushy and deposited a lot of conditioner into the hair as they broke down.
I worked away, iterating the bars using just cetyl alcohol as the hardener, but after a series of still-too-soft bars I opted to include some stearic acid as well, and that worked beautifully. I probably could’ve eventually made the bars work using just cetyl alcohol as the hardener, but by combining the two I was able to keep the amounts of cocoa butter and coconut oil reasonably high, and that was important to me for this formulation.
As you might’ve guessed from the previous two paragraphs, the melting point of a conditioner bar is really important! Too soft and it turns into shower mush; too hard and it’s like trying to work an eraser through your hair. This formulation is very carefully balanced to get the melting point just right, and because it’s so simple, if you want to substitute much of anything, you will be changing the melting point. Depending on what you changed, and how much of it you changed, this could be detrimental to the performance of the formulation.
In keeping with the “simple” theme, there is no water part to these conditioner bars. If you’d like to make a more complex conditioner bar that incorporates some water-soluble goodies, I recommend checking out this Cranberry Orange Conditioner Bar that uses BTMS-50, or this Passionfruit Coconut Conditioner Bar that uses BTMS-25.
To mould these bars, I used my silicone honeycomb mold (USA / Canada). Each wee cavity can hold up to 15g, but I nudged that down to 12g to reduce the sloshing/overflow potential when carrying the mould to the fridge. I’d leave the bars to solidify in the fridge before unmoulding them, and that’s it! I did experiment with leaving the bars for a day or three before using them, but I didn’t notice any difference, and the weight loss was negligible (0.4% after 8+ days).
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Cocoa Coconut Simple Conditioner Bars
10.8g | 30% cocoa butter (USA / Canada)
6.12g | 17% traditional virgin coconut oil (USA / Canada)
7.2g | 20% BTMS-50 (USA / Canada)
2.52g | 7% stearic acid (USA / Canada / UK)
9g | 25% cetyl alcohol (USA / Canada)
0.36g | 1% Optiphen™ Plus (USA / Canada)
Preheat your oven to 176°F/80°C.
Weigh the heated phase ingredients into a small heat-resistant glass measuring cup or beaker. Place that beaker on a baking tray and pop that in your preheated oven for about 20 minutes, until everything has melted through.
Once the heated phase is melted/hot, we’re ready to add the post-heat phase and mould the bars. We want to move quickly at this point, so be sure you know exactly what you need to do and you have everything at hand before you remove the tray from the oven. REMEMBER! The beaker that was in the oven will be hot. Make sure you are wearing oven mitts whenever you touch it!
Remove the heated phase from the oven. Weigh the correct amount preservative into the beaker and stir to combine. Once that mixture is uniform, pour it into your mould. I used my silicone honeycomb mold (USA / Canada), dividing the 36g batch between three small cavities.
Carefully transfer the mould to the fridge and chill until solid (roughly one hour). When the bars are solid, gently unmould them. That’s it!
To use, simply glide the bar over wet hair after shampooing, leave it in for a minute or two (I usually shave my legs in that time), and rinse clean. I recommend storing the bar somewhere it can drain and dry out between uses; I have a wire rack in my shower that works beautifully.
While you can use these bars straight away, testers have reported they glide better if left to age for 3 or 4 days.
Shelf Life & Storage
Because these conditioner bars will regularly come into contact with water, I highly recommend including a broad-spectrum preservative to ward off microbial growth. This is non-optional. In the event you notice any change in colour, scent, or texture, chuck it out and make a fresh batch.
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 36, which will make three 12g bars using the mould I used.
- To learn more about the ingredients used in this formulation, 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.
- Given how short this ingredient list is, and how carefully balanced this formulation is to create an end product with just the right melting point, I really don’t recommend making any substitutions. You can use refined versions of the cocoa butter and/or coconut oil if desired. If you make any other changes to the ingredients in the heated phase, you will be in re-development territory.
- If you’re like to use a different preservative, please review this FAQ and this chart.
- If you’d like to incorporate an essential oil, please read this.
The cocoa butter and coconut oil were gifted by Baraka Shea Butter. Links to Baraka Shea Butter are affiliate links.
Hi Marie, I’ve noticed that you tend to use Optiphen Plus as your preservative for conditioners. Is there a particular reason for that or would Liquid Germall Plus work just as well? Thanks!
Heat tolerance 🙂
Yay! I do like bars of conditioner, they are great to pack for holidays, and convenient to store. I have everything to make these too, and great to melt everything in the oven instead of a water bath. I love the honeycomb mould you use. Thanks again Marie for another great recipe. 😀
Hooray! I hope you enjoy these 🙂 Thanks for DIYing with me, and happy making!
Thanks for a more simple recipe, I really appreciate you sharing your knowledge after doing all the hard work.
Thank you so much! ❤️
Substitute preservitive for optiphen plus
I have phenonip, optiphen n geogard at hand.
Something missing in the description and the recipe itself regarding mould (I use my ___). Looking forward to making these for gifting.
Whoops! Thank you for the heads up, it’s been fixed 🙂
Wow! your conditioner is really TOP! it leaves my hair very soft once styled. Fantastic for dry hair!
Hooray! I’m so thrilled to hear it 🙂 Thanks for DIYing with me, and happy making!
This is fabulous. Melting point and batch size are spot on – so is the performance. Thanks so much. I just made new batches of this and green clay bar as xmass gifts.
Remember that girl who used to think that she can’t DIY haircare? Or that haircare need to have tons of extras? Gone. 😛 xx
HOORAY! I am so thrilled you are enjoying this formula 🙂 Thanks for DIYing with me, and happy making!
Hi, if I don’t have stearic acid, can I replace it with something else? Thank you.
As per the substitutions list, “Given how short this ingredient list is, and how carefully balanced this formulation is to create an end product with just the right melting point, I really don’t recommend making any substitutions. You can use refined versions of the cocoa butter and/or coconut oil if desired. If you make any other changes to the ingredients in the heated phase, you will be in re-development territory.” 🙂 Good luck!
Hi, I am looking to make this (but make it sulfate free!). Any suggestions for making a sulfate-free conditioner bar? I see that the BTMS has sulfates in it.
Hey Annabelle! Trying to make this formulation without the BTMS is a bit like trying to make a steak recipe, but without the steak. The BTMS is the core, key, absolute must-have ingredient. If you don’t want to use it you will be starting from scratch, developing your own formulation from the ground up. There are a few natural cationic surfactants, but to be honest, they suck. I would not recommend wasting your money on them.
Something else to consider—BTMS isn’t the type of sulfate most people are looking to avoid (usually due to harshness). Read this for more information.
Good luck + happy making!
I am going to try this again. The first time I ran out of cocoa butter so I subbed half of it with mango butter. Didn’t work lol. So I have more cocoa butter now so I am going to try again.
Ah yeah, I can imagine that would be pretty soft. I hope you like take 2 better!
Hi Marie, I’ve been using a similar recipe that I wanted to modify since some ingredients are not mixing well (Collagen and keratin).
Anyways, My main problem has always been the BTMS, either BTMS-50 or a new one I got BTMS-80. When melting, it forms a liquid but for a VERY short time, before it turns into a thick paste and it makes the puring impossible and a mess.
Because of that, I put the BTMS last in the bain mairie, quickly mix it when liquid and pour it into the mould before it thickens fast. It’s crazy, and that may be the reason why the other liquids are not mixing well.
I saw your video, and can see you have no problem with the thickening. Maybe I’m doing something wrong? Do I need more temperature?
Did you notice I melt in the oven, not a water bath? 🙂
Oh, yes, 20 minutes at 80C… ok, so maybe the problem is that it’s not hot enough 🙂
Will try and let you know thanks!
By the way I saw another of your recipes (Vanilla spice conditioner bar) using a double boiler. Got it, I will try getting it more time in the heat 😀
Yeah, I gave up on water baths with conditioner bars pretty quickly. It’s odd; even though 80°C in an oven should be cooler than a water bath (which should be pretty close to 100°C, depending on altitude), I get far better results with the oven.
I wanted to ask you if you knew of any amazing substitute for BTMS and its cousins, because I just found out its a hazard for the aquatic life. I would like to make biodegradable and safe conditioner for marine life. I am looking for a natural cationic emulsifier. Thank you for your help and knowledge!
No—I know of some horrible natural substitutions but I cannot recommend you waste your money on them 🙁
hi marie, i just made this formula and it was my first conditioner bar, it smells, glides and leaves my dry hair beautiful, but i had a tiny issue and i would like to know if you could help me, i had a little of trouble detangling my hair in the shower, what do you reccomend me to add when i experiment with a new conditioner bar? much love!
I’d check out some of my fancier conditioner bar formulations, like this one 🙂 Happy making!
hi Marie. Can Varisoft EQ 65 ( INCI: Distearoylethyl Dimonium Chloride (and) Cetearyl Alcohol) be a substitute for BTMS? Or is just for liqued hair conditioner?
Have you read the substitutions list? 🙂 Short answer: maybe, but you will have to do lots of your own formulation work 🙂
The recipe calls for BTMS-50 but I only have the BTMS-25, would I use the same amount in this recipe or would I need to double the amount and then alter the reset of the recipe to fit around that alteration?
You’d likely want to use more, but as per the substitutions list, you’d be very firmly in re-development territory. Happy making!
Hi, such a good formula,, I will try it soon.. just wonder why you put in the oven? why not in a water bath or maybe straightaway on the heater? any particular reason pls?
Hi Marie! I’m from Argentina and btms here is quite expensive. Is it possible to replace the btms with Krim 400 (cetearyl alcohol + cetrimonium chloride)? If so, do I have to change anything else on the formula? Thanks a lot
Hi! The maximum usage rate for cetrimonium chloride is pretty low, but it might be ok depending on how much is in the Krim 400. Other than that, please read the 3rd point in the substitution list. Happy making!
Hi, how is this for dry, itchy scalp?
I only tested this on the ends of my hair, so you’d have to do that testing yourself 🙂
Can I use Phenoxyethanol Preservative Liquid 125g
for “optiphen plus”
As I can’t get the optiphen in the UK?
That would likely work here, but please read this 🙂 Happy making!
I use the tallow shampoo bars and an acid rinse since soap needs acid to help close the hair follicle after washing. Would this conditioner work with a tallow shampoo bar? Or should I stick to acid rinsing?
Please read this FAQ 🙂
if I do not have unrefined coco butter, can I use a refined one. But the refined one does not have that coco smell, so can I use some kind of Fragrance Oil? Thanks
how much fragrance oil can this recipe handle?!
I haven’t stress tested it to find out, but 0.3–0.5% fragrance oil is usually more than enough and that should be fine 🙂
Love how simple you’ve made this for us! Long research comment/rant short: What’s the volume of the melted formulation?
Long research comment/rant (I tried! haha): I’m wanting to try out various size (volume) moulds and have a question about the volume of the cavities you’ve used/the volume of the given formulation. I tried to deduce a few things, but I don’t think I have enough info to do so correctly. I see that the weight of each bar is 12g. The notes say these cavities can hold up to 15g. Would it be correct to say these are 80% full, or would that be incorrectly using weight to calculate volume? I looked up the mould you used and it says each cavity holds 1.5 ounces (80% = 1.2 oz). The notes on the Amazon listing refer to this number in the answered customer questions as both weight and volume, but wouldn’t the end weight of whatever is being moulded be fully dependent on the density of the material you are moulding? Sorry for the long rant, it just took me down a bit of a wormhole. Thanks for any advice you have and thanks for all of your solo hard work!
I might have figured it out based on vol=mass/density…
Cocoa Butter: 940 g/L
Virgin Coconut Oil: 924 g/L
BTMS-50: 870 g/L
Stearic Acid: 941g/L
Cetyl Alcohol: 811 g/L
Optiphen Plus: 102 g/L
Assuming these densities are accurate, it made 43.69 ml (1.47 fl oz), or 14.56 ml/bar (0.49 fl oz/bar).
Hi Marie I made this conditionner but look like it work only for the rest in the beaker mixe with water. Do you have any recommandation how to use? First time solid conditionner bar.
Thank you for this recipe! My ingredients finally arrived and I’m excited to try it. Would it be possible to add D-panthenol, or would that change the consistency at all? I know you usually only add it at around 0.5% but I wanted to check and make sure it would be okay to incorporate.
Hello! I found this recipe and love how minimal the ingredients are. I am working on using tallow for my main ingredient in my products and wondered if I could substitute the cocoa butter for tallow?
If I wanted to use a different hard butter instead of cocoa butter what amount of essential oil can I use to mask the BTMS-50 smell? Should I remove the EO amount from the coconut oil percentage?
I am no expert, but I tried it with shea butter for my mom who has parosmia and can’t stand the smell of cocoa butter. It was SLIGHTLY softer, but still works great! I can’t remember exactly, but I think I switched .5-1% of coconut oil out for orange essential oil (which she likes). Very faint smell of orange. I would increase by 1 percent next time. But check usage guidelines. If I find the shea makes it too soft I may slowly decrease and increase Cetyl alcohol to see if that helps
I’m glad to hear it! You could also use deodorized cocoa butter for the same results minus the chocolate smell 🙂
Hi Jen! This is a big “it depends”; please read this post to learn more about essential oil usage: How to naturally scent lotions with essential oils and natural fragrance oils.
And yes, I’d reduce the coconut oil to make room for it 🙂
I made these as my first ever conditioner bar and love them! Still not sure if I’m using them “right” but my curly frizzy hair is soft and SILKY for the first time in my life! (Also using a sulfate free shampoo).
The best thing, though, is that I started using these as shaving bars and my skin has NEVER been this smooth! I have had keratosis Pilaris since I was maybe 10, and after one or two uses, my legs were smooth and my pores were nearly completely clear! Not sure which ingredients had the magic touch, as I’ve used so many lotions and scrubs and products over the years… but when you find a good thing, stick with it!
My one question is why the tiny tiny bar? 12-15 g, while adorable, is really small. Great for travel, but I made mine 50 g and it seems a nice size to wield in my hand.
Is there a benefit other than cuteness and travel that I’m missing for the small size?
I’m so glad you are loving this formulation and it’s working so well for you 🙂
This formulation was shared as part of a series of giftable “Cocoa Coconnut” formulations—that’s why the size is on the smaller side. It allows you to introduce your friends to the awesomeness of conditioner bars without risking a bunch of waste if they don’t like it or use it.
Thanks for DIYing with me, and happy making 🙂
What is you opinion on Varisoft 65, are you planning to make a conditioner bar with this? I have made your formulations with btms and they are perfect and silky but with Varisoft they are almost like a candle, do you have any recommendations
Thank you very much
Hi! I was not impressed with Varisoft® EQ 65 at all and have no plans to make anything else with it. It did not live up to the hype 🙁