Today we’re mashing up a beautiful Ice Palace Sulfate-Free Shampoo Bar. You don’t need to melt anything and you don’t need a press (you don’t even need a mould!). Just mix and mash everything together until you have a smooth, workable dough, shape that into some sort of shampoo-bar-ish shape, leave it to dry, and you’re done! The lather is really lovely—dense, rich, and plentiful—and my hair feels fantastic after washing with this Ice Palace Sulfate-Free Shampoo Bars (and then conditioning with last month’s Cocoa Coconut Simple Conditioner). You can also use this shampoo bar as a body wash bar to further reduce the number of bottles in your shower. Enjoy!
Want to watch this project instead of reading it?
The surfactant blend features two different anionic surfactants, a non-ionic surfactant, and an amphoteric surfactant. The anionic surfactants are both solid—a blend of Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) and Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate (SLSa). Together they comprise 57% of this formulation and go a long way to making it a solid shampoo. I chose these two surfactants because they’re gentle and downright lovely together.
I selected decyl glucoside for the non-ionic surfactant because I am really in love with its rich, pillowy lather right now. Because decyl glucoside is fairly basic, with a pH around 11–12, I ended up working some citric acid into the formulation in order to bring the pH down into the mildly acidic range. The version without citric acid was around 6.4, while adjusting the formulation to include 0.25% citric acid brings the pH down to ~5.25, which is a good pH for shampoo. Gentle and amphoteric cocamidopropyl betaine rounds out the surfactant blend.
In addition to the two solid anionic surfactants, I’ve also included some cornstarch and kaolin clay for more solid-ness in this formulation. I first shared a syndet bar using starch in the Gentle Clay Facial Cleansing Bar after seeing it done in a sample formulation from Colonial Chemical. When formulating a syndet bar we’re aiming to create something solid, so it needs to contain mostly solid things (or some seriously potent solidifying ingredients). Solid surfactants are, of course, solid, but we generally don’t want the bar to be comprised almost entirely of solid surfactants as that can be too harsh (and potentially exceed maximum usage levels). So, we need some sort of diluting ingredients that are also solid. Butters and fatty thickeners like stearic acid can do some of this work, but fat diminishes lather and can soften/melt in warm climates, turning your supposed-to-be solid bar into a sudsy, squishy lump. Starch and clay don’t soften or melt when heated, and they don’t diminish lather. The starch is mostly invisible in the bar, while I find clay makes lather extra creamy—I love both of them in syndet bars!
The last of the ingredients are pretty simple. There’s some liquid oil—I used moringa oil, but you could feel free to choose any liquid oil that you have and your hair loves. I think argan oil or jojoba oil would be lovely! I’ve included a small amount of fragrance in this version, but I also made some fragrance-free variations as I was honing the formulation, and that worked beautifully, too. Optiphen Plus preserves the bar, and that’s that.
Once the wet and dry are all smooshed and mashed together you’ll end up with a stiff dough that can be easily hand-shaped into a puckish lump of shampoo and left to dry. Between the decyl glucoside and cocamidopropyl betaine, this formulation contains approximately 11.5% water, and we want to give some of that a chance to evaporate off before using the bar so it hardens up and stays hard throughout use. I’d recommend leaving it to dry for at least 3 days for ~1% weight loss, but if you can wait a week, that’ll double to ~2%.
Want to watch this project instead of reading it?
Ice Palace Sulfate-Free Shampoo Bar
29.6g | 37% Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) (USA / Canada)
16g | 20% Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate (SLSa) (USA / Canada)
8.8g | 11% corn starch
4g | 5% white kaolin clay (USA / Canada)
0.2g | 0.25% citric acid (USA / Canada)
3.6g | 4.5% moringa oil (USA / Canada)
0.4g | 0.5% wintery fragrance or essential oil of choice
5.4g | 6.75% Cocamidopropyl Betaine (USA / Canada)
11.2g | 14% decyl glucoside (USA / Canada)
0.8g | 1% Optiphen™ 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 shape/mould the bar. I chose to do this by hand as the dough is very well suited to hand forming. You could also press it or hand-smoosh it into a mould of your choosing. I more or less rolled the dough into a ball, and then squished it down into a bit of a puck.
After shaping, leave the bar to dry for at least 3 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 5.25, which is great.
Shelf Life & Storage
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.
- You could use a different starch, like arrowroot starch, instead of cornstarch.
- For the clay: I’d recommend choosing a different soft, creamy clay, like other Australian clays or a French clay. I do not recommend bentonite or rhassoul. If you want a bar using rhassoul, check out this one!
- I would choose a different glucoside (coco, caprylyl/capryl, lauryl) instead of decyl glucoside if you need an alternative.
- 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.
- If you change the surfactants you’ll also likely need to adjust the pH of these bars.
- You could use a different liquid oil your hair loves instead of moringa oil.
- If you’re like to use a different preservative, please review this page.
- For scent: