Today we’re making a lovely French Green Clay Sulphate-Free Shampoo Bar. It features a beautiful, gentle surfactant blend, silky Abyssinian Oil, and creamy French green clay. It’s easy to make, with no heat required—just a bunch of squishing and stirring. The assembled mix is a soft, pliable dough that can be pressed or hand moulded, and then left to dry. Once dry, the bar lathers beautifully, leaves your hair feeling fantastic, and lasts for ages. Let’s dive in!
Want to watch this project instead of reading it?
Part of the inspiration for this shampoo bar came from a recipe request from Dixie, who shared a long-lasting syndet bar she loved. The bar I’m sharing here isn’t close to it at all, really—the only two common ingredients are Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) and Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside. I was intrigued by the pairing of solid anionic + liquid non-ionic surfactants and decided to give that a go here. And it’s great! The lather is positively decadent—rich, thick, plentiful, and just *muah*
Another part of the inspiration for this bar was working to create something that would work with the shampoo bar mould from The Bath Bomb Press. It’s an open mould, with no sides to corral the mixture that’s being pressed, and it creates bars that are a similar shape and size to the ones LUSH sells.
The other mould I’ve used from The Bath Bomb Press to make shampoo bar is a cube mould, with a tall side that allows you to corral what you’re pressing before you smash it into a solid brick. I found the open-sided shampoo bar mould didn’t work well with piece-y, crumbly shampoo bar mixtures—that crumbly mixture would crumble right out of the side of the mould as I tried to press the bar. That was very messy and really frustrating.
The texture for this bar is much more like a smooth cookie dough than a crumbly biscuit or scone dough. It uses small grain solid surfactants rather than the sticks/needles, as those create more crumbly mixtures. It also includes some French green clay as I 1) love clay in hair care products and 2) it helps create a gorgeous dough-like consistency in the bar. All the ingredients in this bar are liquid or powders, so we just need to stir and squish everything together into a stiff dough, and then press that dough!
A lovely side effect of the doughy consistency of this shampoo bar mixture is that you absolutely do not need a press to shape it—you can easily hand roll it, or press it into a mould of your choosing. It’s a smooth dough that’s more interested in sticking to itself than your hands, so it’s pretty darn easy to work with. If your dough is being cantankerous, be sure to read the instructions + watch the video to learn how to troubleshoot it and adjust!
When it comes to drying times; I recommend leaving the bar to dry for at least four days (roughly 100 hours). They’re pretty soft when first made—not surprising, given they’re fully hand-squishable! This drying time results in a weight loss of about 1.25%, and is around where the graph really starts to flatten out. We know the bars contain approximately 9% water (5% water + 4% from the Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside), so we’re definitely not waiting until all of that evaporates out. I left one bar to age for just over 50 days and that got up to 4% loss, but that’s a lot of extra time for those extra gains.
Want to watch this project instead of reading it?
French Green Clay Sulphate-Free Shampoo Bar
4g | 5% distilled water
8g | 10% Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside (USA / Canada)
4g | 5% Abyssinian oil
0.2g | 0.25% lavender essential oil
0.2g | 0.25% rosemary essential oil
0.32g | 0.4% Liquid Germall Plus™ (USA / Canada)
Put on your dust mask and weigh the dry phase into a bowl. Stir until uniform.
Add the wet phase to the dry phase. Put on a pair of nitrile gloves and blend thoroughly with your hands. Once the mixture is uniform, you’ll be left with a stiff, easily-mouldable paste. Please watch the video for an idea of what it should look like, and how to adjust if needed.
If your dough is too sticky, you’ll need to add more clay. This is likely to happen if you used a larger grain Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) than I did, as it has less surface area to absorb moisture.
If your dough is too dry, you’ll need to add more water. This is likely to happen if you used a finer grain Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) than I did, as it has more surface area and will absorb more moisture.
Now it’s time to press the bars! I used the shampoo bar mould, pressing the entire 80g batch at once. I highly recommend lining the top and bottom of the mould with sheets of mid-weight plastic (I cut up a freezer bag), securing each sheet with an elastic band (watch the video to see what I mean—and thanks to The Bath Bomb Press for this tip!). I set the regulated pressure on my compressor to 55psi. Please watch the video to see this in action. If you don’t have a press you can use your hands to roll and smoosh it into a shape of your choosing.
Carefully un-mold the bars and leave them to dry for at least 4 days before using.
To use, massage the bar into wet hair (or a wet loofah, for body washing) to work up a rich lather. From there on out it’s just like using any other shampoo or body wash. Enjoy!
When made as written, the pH of these shampoo bars comes out to around 5–6, which is great.
Because these shampoo bars will regularly come into contact with water, I recommend including a broad-spectrum preservative to ward off microbial growth.
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 80g (one palm-sized bar).
- 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 Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) or Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate (SLSa), including the formats.
- If you do use different formats of the surfactants, you will likely need to adjust either the water content or clay content to get the desired end consistency.
- If you use a finer version (meaning more surfactant surface area), you’ll need more water.
- If you use a chunkier version (meaning less surfactant surface area), you’ll need more clay.
- For the clay: I’d recommend choosing a different soft, creamy clay, like other Australian clays, a French clay, or kaolin. I do not recommend bentonite or rhassoul. If you want a bar using rhassoul, check out this one!
- You could try a different gum instead of the iota carageenan, or a different type of carageenan (kappa or lambda are the ones you’re most likely to find)
- I would choose a different glucoside (coco, decyl, lauryl) instead of Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside if you need an alternative.
- You could use a different liquid oil your hair loves instead of Abyssinian oil
- If you’re like to use a different preservative, please review this page.
- You can use a different fragrance or essential oil.
- 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.