I’m pretty stoked to share today’s project with you—it’s a Cranberry Orange Conditioner Bar that I’ve been working on for months. Satiny cranberry seed oil, ultra-conditioning BTMS-50, shine-ifying hydrolyzed silk, and beautiful sweet orange essential oil come together to create a gorgeous solid hair conditioner bar that’ll leave your hair super soft and combable, and it’ll last forever (well, maybe not forever, but many months). It makes a beautiful gift and pairs perfectly with my White Chocolate Peppermint Shampoo Bar!
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The initial inspiration for this particular formula was a sample formulation from Dow for a “Zen Conditioner Bar” that I found on UL Prospector. The thing about this formulation that really caught my eye was the inclusion of some water. Including water in something that’s supposed to be straight-up solid seemed a bit counterintuitive at first, but I tried it and it is awesome. I noticed zero difference in the hardness of the final bar (I still managed to create several versions that were so hard they felt like running an eraser through my hair, ha). The inclusion of some water gives us a solvent for the water-soluble powders (the dye, silk, and panthenol), blooms the water-soluble dye, and also conveniently eliminates the funny ripply/wavy top water-free conditioner bars develop as they set up. Hooray!
The original sample formulation used BTMS-25, which is what I started with (I’ll probably share that version next year!), but I decided I wanted to switch to BTMS-50 as it’s an ingredient I use more often, so I figured you guys would be more likely to have it. Making the swap from 25 to 50 required several iterations (see the mention of hair erasers in the last paragraph, ha) as I worked to balance hardness and melting point to create something I loved. Ariane gifted me one of her solid conditioner bars back in May at the HSCG conference, and it is gorgeous! One of the things I love about her bar compared to the ones I’ve made in the past is how creamy it is, so I aimed to make this bar a wee bit softer for some extra creaminess (thanks for the inspiration, Ariane!). If you’d rather buy a conditioner bar than make one Ariane has them for sale in her shop 🙂
The heated phase of this conditioner bar is all of our oily things. BTMS-50 is both our conditioner and our emulsifier, bringing its wonderful ultra-slippy, hair-loving goodness to the party. Cetearyl alcohol provides structure to the bar as well as offering softening and slip to the hair. Mango butter and cranberry seed oil are our “fun fats”—I love mango butter’s ultra-lightweight feel, and cranberry seed oil is all kinds of velvety and adds a lovely fruity/tangy note to the finished conditioner bar.
Our secondary phase is a bit funny—I was originally referring to it as the “cool down” phase as it isn’t directly heated, but it does get a lot more heat exposure than a cool down phase usually would, so I re-named it. It could also be the water phase, but it’s got our essential oil in it. Anywho, name fiddling aside, this phase contains a titch of water-soluble dye (for colour, of course) and some hydrolyzed silk to add shine and bounce to the hair. Panthenol (vitamin B5) helps soften hair and reduce static. Some orange essential oil rounds out our scent blend (it combines beautifully with the natural scent of cranberry seed oil), and Optiphen™ Plus keeps the whole lot preserved.
In a bit of awesomeness inspired by the sample formulation, the secondary phase includes a small amount of distilled water. Now, because this secondary/water/not-quite-cool-down phase was going to be added to a bunch of hot oily things, it needed to be close to the same temperature so it would combine with the melted fats rather than just seize up into a solid blob thanks to the temperature differential. To achieve this I heat some distilled water alongside the fats, and then quickly weigh the correct amount into the secondary phase before combining everything and pouring the bar. I’ve made at least 7 conditioner bars this way in the last 6 months and they’ve all come together beautifully and been stable for months in the shower.
When it comes to drying times, I find two to three days (48–72 hours) is about the sweet spot for the amount of water lost vs. the time required to lose it. My bars typically lost about 0.6–0.7% of their weight in the first 24 hours, ~1.2% in 72 hours, and 2% in 192 hours (8 days). Two to three days gets us in the 1% range, and I’ve found bars used after 48–72 hours of ageing don’t feel any different than ones aged for weeks once they get into the shower.
The finished Cranberry Orange Conditioner Bar is a cherry orange, smells great, and glides over the hair beautifully, leaving it silky and conditioned. I’m a huge fan of this new & improved conditioner bar formulation, and I hope you will be as well!
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Cranberry Orange Conditioner Bar
Heated (primary) phase
15.00g | 30% BTMS-50 (USA / Canada)
15.00g | 30% cetearyl alcohol (USA / Canada)
7.50g | 15% mango butter (USA / Canada)
7.50g | 15% cranberry seed oil
0.005g | 0.01% orange water soluble dye
1.00g | 2% hydrolyzed silk (USA / Canada)
0.75g | 1.5% panthenol powder (vitamin B5) (USA / Canada)
0.50g | 0.99% orange essential oil or fragrance of choice
0.50g | 1% Optiphen™ Plus (USA / Canada)
2.25g | 4.5% distilled water
Preheat your oven to 200°F/93°C. You’ll need three heat-resistant beakers or glass measuring cups for this project.
Weigh the heated phase ingredients into a small heat-resistant glass measuring cup or beaker. Pour some distilled water (I used about 40mL for a 50g [1.76oz] batch) into a second beaker or heat resistant glass measuring cup. The amount of water isn’t really important as we’ll be weighing it out later once it’s hot—just make sure you have enough water in there that it’s not all going to evaporate in the oven while you heat it up.
Place both beakers on a baking tray and pop that in your preheated oven for about 20 minutes, until the oil mixture has melted through and the water is nice and hot.
While the heated phase is heating up/melting, weigh the secondary phase ingredients into that third beaker. Chances are good that your scale cannot weigh out the 0.01% for the dye—mine certainly can’t! Watch the video to see the teensy speck of dye I used and the end colour I got. I recommend wearing gloves while weighing out the dye as it is very potent and will stain your skin. At this point, it’s also a good idea to get your mould ready and clear out a spot in your freezer (or on your porch if it happens to be below freezing out!) that is large enough for the filled mould to rest flat.
Once the heated phase is melted/hot, we’re ready to combine everything. 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 things that were in the oven will be hot. Make sure you are wearing oven mitts whenever you touch them!
Remove the heated phase from the oven. Weigh the correct amount of pre-heated distilled water into the secondary phase and whisk to combine. Once that mixture is uniform, add it to the melted BTMS/oils mixture and stir to combine. Once that is uniform, pour it into your mould and freeze until solid (at least half an hour). When the bar is solid, gently unmould it and leave it to dry for at least two days before using 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. That’s it! 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.
Shelf Life & Storage
Because this conditioner contains water and will frequently be in contact with water, you must include a broad-spectrum preservative to ward off microbial growth. This is non-optional. Even with a preservative, this project may eventually spoil as our kitchens are not sterile laboratories, so in the event that 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 50g, which is a good-sized conditioner bar that will likely last a single person close to a year.
- 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.
- I don’t recommend swapping out the BTMS-50 or cetearyl alcohol. If you do, you will be in re-development territory as the biggest challenge in conditioner bar development is balancing the melting point/hardness of the bar, and those two ingredients are 60% of the formulation and have a huge impact on the melting point/hardness.
- You could try a different soft butter instead of mango butter.
- You could use a different liquid oil instead of cranberry seed oil, but the whole theme here is cranberry orange so it does defeat the point a bit 🙂
- For the dye:
- You can eliminate it and round up the essential oil
- You could use a lake dye or mica instead. If you use a mica you’ll likely want to use more (I’d start with 0.5% and remove the extra % from the cranberry seed oil) and you’ll need to stir the liquid conditioner until it’s gained a bit of viscosity before pouring it so the mica doesn’t settle out as the bar hardens.
- You can use a different hydrolyzed protein, like quinoa or rice bran, instead of the silk. This change will make the formula vegan.
- If you’re like to use a different preservative, please review this page. I selected Optiphen Plus because of its high heat tolerance; keep that in mind when choosing alternatives.
The orange water-soluble dye was gifted by YellowBee. The cranberry seed oil was gifted by Essential Wholesale.
This looks lovely! Do you think that it will be suitable for fine hair? I wonder if the butters will weigh it down.
My hair is pretty fine and it works really well for me—I find conditioner bars can be better for people with fine hair as it’s harder to apply large amounts of products 🙂 Happy making!
Has anyone broken down the cost per bar? That’s kinda what’s holding me bar in making these. I’m aware that costs vary per area of the world but if anyone could share a ballpark figure in whatever currency you use that would be extremely helpful.
I for me – in NL – it comes out to €7.01/100 gram, using the following prices, per 100g product:
Cetearyl Alcohol €1.95
Mango butter €2.40
Sweet almond oil as substitution €2.65
Hydrolized silk protein €8.30
Essential oils €50
Hope this helps
Thanks so much for doing that math! And for reference, a 100g conditioner bar would probably be at least a year’s worth of conditioner for most people 🙂
I’m also finding cetearyl alcohol with different percentages of cetyl alcohol and stearic acid: 50/50, 30/70, 20/80. Does it make a big difference which one we use?
It does make a difference; mine is 30/70, as mentioned in the encyclopedia 🙂 Happy making!
I can’t find cetearyl alcohol where I live, however I already have cetyl alcohol and could buy stearic acid. Can I then just mix it manuallly according to the percentage you mention? Or am I misunderstanding sth here?
That’s the general idea, yes, but please start small so you can be sure you like the end result before scaling up—the melting point of a conditioner bar is very important, and those ingredients are a big part of determining that melting point. Too low, and it is too soft/may liquify in the shower. Too high, and it’s like trying to run an eraser through your hair, ha. Happy experimenting!
Happy Thanksgiving Marie! I’ve always wondered about how you keep these kind of bars (the shampoo ones as well) in the shower? Like I’m afraid they’ll go mush on me sitting in puddles of water
I’ve got a wire rack in my shower that hangs off the shower head—works beautifully! It’s similar to this one 🙂
Hi darling! I’m Brazilian and finding your project was one of the best things that ever happened to me, everything here, every shared information is amazing! Thank you for that. If possible, I would like to ask you a question: Recently I learned about two accidents involving the use of alcohol in the production of soap. I noticed that most of the recipes you share here use some kind of alcohol and we know alcohol is highly flammable. Could you give tips on how to use them safely and how to act in an accident?
Marie or someone else can correct me if I’m wrong, but cetearyl alcohol and cetyl alcohol are fatty alcohols found in plants, and are more like waxes. They are not the same as alcohol spirits that you drink, or isopropyl alcohol. Fatty alcohols are not flammable.
Yup, bang on! I’m sure fatty alcohols could be flammable given enough heat exposure, just like beeswax is, but nothing like the volatility of something like vodka 🙂
Hana is right—this isn’t the same kind of alcohol. Please read up on cetearyl alcohol in the Humblebee & Me DIY Encyclopedia (https://www.humblebeeandme.com/diy-encyclopedia/) to learn more 🙂 Happy making!
Hello, my conditioner bar has some bubbles on top and it dips when it hardens. How can I fix that? Thank you
You’d have to blast it with a hairdryer or heat gun to remelt the surface and let it harden again 🙂
This looks great! If you wanted to colour the bar with sea buckthorn fruit oil instead of dye, do you think that would work at 1% or so (replacing 1% of cranberry seed oil)?
Thank you for all the lovely Christmas recipes, these are going to make awesome gifts.
Yes, that would work brilliantly 🙂 Happy making!
Is there a reason you are heating this in the oven rather than a water bath?
Yup, I’m pretty sure I talk about that in the video 🙂 Basically, BTMS does not like melting in water baths for me.
Just wondering if I am able to melt the bar down after it has become solid. Would it affect the product? Just wanting to make 2 bars into one. Thanks!
I don’t recommend it—the water content will have changed after they were made & aged a bit, you might compromise the preservative as well, and you’ll probably destroy the fragrance or essential oil you used. I’d just make a bigger one next time 🙂 Happy making!
Hi Marie, just wanted to chime in; do you know that BTMS-50 is a one-pot emulsifier? I also had trouble melting it in a waterbath but since I learned that, I’ve added my water phase in with my oil phase and it melts much easier. I just stir it slowly with my spatula as it is melting. Comes together so easy!
Thank you for all you do – you are always a great source of inspiration.
Happy holidays and happy making!
Best wishes from Rosa in Denmark
I have heard that mentioned a couple times too! And I have heard people using lots of the ewaxes on the market these days in one pot mixes too. Never had the cojones to try it though. I really should!
What does one-pot emulfier mean?
Hi marie, I wonder why my conditioner surface were so wrinkly, it looks like a brain. I’m not sure what makes it that way 🙁
I’ve found that happens in conditioner bars with high BTMS content and no water. This formulation shouldn’t do that thanks to the water content—did you make this one?
I don’t see why I couldn’t use this as a body butter bar! Any objections?
I wouldn’t—it’s designed to be a rinse-off hair product, and that rinse-off vs. leave-on distinction can be pretty important. It won’t melt/glide well on dry skin, and the high concentration of BTMS could possibly be irritating in leave-on applications (recommended usage rates for leave-on products are typically much lower than seen here). I have lots of body butter bar formulations that would work much butter 🙂 Happy making!
I was finally able to make this after waiting weeks for lotioncrafters to get more cetearyl alcohol in stock. The only changes I made to the recipe were using argan oil (or was it rosehip?) instead of cranberry oil, and omitting the dye. I. LOVE. IT. It glides on super easily and really moisturizes my hair. You were so right about this being better for fine hair, as it’s just enough to coat the strands without excess. I’ll never use store-bought conditioner again! Thank you Marie!
Hooray! I am so thrilled to hear it 😀 Try using it to shave your legs with, too 😉
Hi, I was wondering if Liquid Germall Plus can be used instead of the Optiphen plus for this recipe.
No; please read the last point in the substitutions list 🙂
Does this recipe only make 1 bar? Is there a reason for this as opposed to just making a batch of say 5?
As written in grams this recipe will make 50g, which is a good-sized conditioner bar that will likely last a single person close to a year. Also, give this a read 🙂
I can’t find Hydrolyzed Rice Protein or hydrolyzed silk in my country. Is Polyquaternium 10 or Hydrolyzed Keratin Protein good substitute ?
The keratin would be the best alternative. Happy making!
Hello, Marie! I’m a huge fan of all your wonderful creations! I’ve been slowly familiarizing myself with ingredients and doing some experimentation of my own for shampoo and conditioner bars. I’m curious if Varisoft EQ 65 could be used in place of the BTMS 50!
Thanks so much for your time!
You can certainly try it, but my experiments trying more natural cationic emulsifiers instead of BTMS have all resulted in wretched conditioner bars :/ You’d be very solidly in redevelopment territory. Happy making!
Just wondering if I am able to melt the bar down after it has become solid. Would it affect the product? Just wanting to make 2 bars into one. Thanks!
You already asked this question above, and I answered it…?
OK, this one hasn’t been asked here. My silk and panthenol are liquid, not powder . Does that change the phase where they’re added?
I have the same question here…
For know I have been able to find only “liquid” Panthenol and silk protein and I don’t know if I should subtract water from the recipe…
I made one yesterday and it is looks really good!.. It did started to cool really fast so I had to put the beaker in boiling water again so I could mix both phases…
Now I’m just waiting the three days to start using it!
I made twice the amount (100g) and found that it wouldn’t melt in the oven, even at 210f for much longer time. Was the problem the amount of ingredients that had to melt? I used an 8 oz. canning jar. I love the oven idea, which is easier than a double boiler, so hope I can get it to work. What if I put a top on the vessel in the oven?
I thought the hot water recipe would mix better than other conditioner recipes I’ve tried, but I still immediately get a big solidifying blob in the middle of the liquid when I try to mix the two phases. And I’m not sure whether I should glop that blob into the molds too or what. Somebody else mentioned melting the water phase in together with the BTMS mix (if I’m reading that right) but isn’t the whole idea that the second phase shouldn’t be heated that long, because of the preservative, essential oil, etc.?
And finally, where can I get water soluble dye in the US?
I have love hate relationship with BTMS 50 as it’s really hard to melt, but I put it everywhere in my DIY. I tried to make this one few weeks ago. I poured the hydrosol (as replace for distilled water), when heated phase were all melted except the BTMS (I use double boiler to melt them). Then BTMS melt easier and when all melted, I wait for a while and pour the secondary phase. Marie use distilled water to melt the secondary phase, but my panthenol and hydrolyzed silk are in liquid form so I don’t have to.
I love this bar! Could you say it is sulfate free? Paraben free?
I just made this so haven’t tried to use it yet, but I love the recipe! I tried melting the first phase in the oven as you describe, but got tired of waiting and zapped it in the microwave. Worked a treat! 🙂
I love the melt and pour method here, rather than mashing stuff into a mould by force. Can you do this similarly with a shampoo / syndet bar?
I haven’t yet found a way to do a melt + pour with shampoo bars because the vast majority of the ingredients used in a shampoo bar don’t melt, and that’s the first step of “melt + pour”! I have moved more to making a smooth, workable dough for shampoo bars—that makes smooth bars 🙂
Hello. I’m commenting here too to keep me updated. So I made a bar based on this recipe. Idea is skin nourishing + barrier boosting shaving bar in case it doesn’t work as conditioner. It should but who knows. I used prebiotics/ inulin, betaine and panthenol. I added some floral waxes and used less mango butter. I developed it so far that it’s tecnically not this bar anymore but not entirely mine either. 😛 Color is stunning green thanks to hempseed oil + bluetansy. Thanks for your hard work and generousity. I keep you updated how it goes. xx
Sounds lovely! I look forward to your updates 🙂
Conditioner bar works really well. Difference to more naked bar is noticeble – it makes my hair feeling bouncy / airy, silky but strong and less weight down. My hair also moves differently and is much moisturized (it dryies quickly) and ends are softer. Starting point was really dry hair, though. Scent profile is perhaps not for everyone but exactly my taste. All in all I would make it again but maybe dial back the amounts of actives a bit and save them for hair masks etc or try botanicals like henna, soapnut or indigo.
Oh, almost forgot that no itchy scalp! 😮 It’s still a bit irritated and I can’t use hair masks or other additional products. My earlier ayurvedic conditioner has antiflammatory effect on my scalp and it both darkens hair color and keeps my greys away. I really miss that (sob) so I use ’em both.
Hooray and yay! I’m so glad you are enjoying it and your scalp isn’t itchy!
Hi Marie, can I use food grade rice protein powder (from health food stores) as my protein? I can’t find any other powdered rice proteins on the supplier list for the UK :-/
Hi Maya! No, that’s not the same thing. Cosmetic grade hydrolyzed rice protein is a liquid, and the hydrolyzed part is really important—without that, it won’t dissolve in water and you’ll have a gritty end product. Perhaps try asking in a making/formulating Facebook group with members in the UK?
Hi! Ive been looking at your conditioner bars and was wondering why there are no PH adjusters or mentioning of PH? There is probably a reason for this but I dont know what! Thank you!
I’ve made these conditioner bars a couple of times now. And as much as I love them, they always result in a slightly fishy smell when I rub the bar into my hair. I’ve made other conditioner bars using the same batch of BTMS-50, and yet.. no bad smell!
Any idea what it could be?
Hello, I love using BTMS-50, but one iPod my friend asked me to make her a conditioner bar with natural ingredients. Some consider BTMS-50 to be a natural ingredient other not. What can I use instead so I can make a natural hair conditioner bar?thank you
Hello, how do you test the ph of the solid conditioner? Is it in the same way as for cream? I’m having problems with the panthenol because where I live it’s hard to find the powder one and we only have the liquid, but unfortunately it shifts the ph of the product in where I use it to around 8. Do I change it in the same way as in a cream conditioner?
Hello, so I made a bar of this lovely sounding Formula and then read these comments and read about the different types of Cetearyl alcohol. I looked at mine at it didn’t list the strength but said I could only allow maximum amount usage of 4% so I’m confused which one I have. I’m in Europe. It wasn’t listed on the certificate either. I also noticed the formula felt drying and scratchy. If I can only use 4% of my Cetearyl alcohol, any ideas what else I could use to make up the other 26% of the formulation ? Thank you