This fun, bright shower gel emerged out of a series of experiments I did last summer when I got a bag of Sodium Coco Sulfate for the first time. I basically tried combining it with a variety of different liquid surfactants and transforming those blends into shower gels, and then tested them over a couple months to see what I liked. This one immediately caught my attention for its fantastic spreadable gel consistency and amazing bubbles, and I thought it was high time I shared it!
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The surfactant blend is simple: super bubbly sodium coco sulfate and some amphoteric cocamidopropyl betaine to help make the blend milder. Once we’ve got those two ingredients all heated up and transformed into a clear paste we’ll dissolve said paste in some water (smoosh smoosh smoosh). Cool that down, add some glycerine, essential oils, and preservative, and we’re well on our way!
I’ve kept this shower gel pretty darn simple. There are a lot of things we can add to shower gels, body washes, shampoos, face washes, and other fun surfactant-y things, but I also know not everybody has all of those things, or wants to own them. So, this one is simple. Also, frankly, this is a body wash-off product and I don’t find the loss of something like a hydrolyzed protein or panthenol to be noticeable to my calves. If I’m going to put those ingredients in just one thing I’d prefer they were in the lotion I put on my legs after the shower, rather than the thing that’ll be on my skin for a few seconds before getting rinsed down the drain.
In my testing I tried a couple different pigment options: micas & lake dyes. Lake dyes outperformed micas by a wide margin as they dispersed very well in the base, with a tiny amount giving a wonderful punch of even, transparent colour. Micas eventually settled out of the gel, giving uneven colour and leaving a glut of mica at the bottom of the bottle. For that reason I’d recommend using lake dyes if you have them. Micas will work fine if that’s all you have, or you could also just leave the whole lot unpigmented (especially if you’re going to use an opaque or colour-tinted bottle). I didn’t use iron oxides because you can’t get a good, crisp purple without a bright red and a bright blue, and iron oxides don’t come in those colours. You can get purple with a combination of carmine and blue ultramarine, but it seemed a waste to put carmine in something that goes down the drain so quickly, and ultramarine don’t disperse well in water (it tends to waffle between sinking to the bottom and floating on the surface of the water, giving little colour to the overall product).
When it comes to thickening: I tried salt & Crothix. I ended up really liking salt on its own, not only for the awesome gel consistency, but also because you’re much more likely to have it than Crothix! Do take care to keep the amount quite low; not much is needed, and too much will do the opposite of thickening the shower gel, which is a bummer.
Once you’ve finished thickening the gel you’ll have the sort of thing that’s perfect on a loofa. I find one solid squirt is more than enough for a thorough full-body sudsing, and the lavender/spruce combo is wonderfully fresh and uplifting first thing in the morning, or after a particularly sloggy run (hellllo getting back into running after a winter full of sloth-like behaviour). Anywho—let’s get to the bubbles!
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Lavender Spruce Shower Gel
7.5g | 5% Sodium Coco Sulfate (SCS) (USA / Canada)
11.25g | 7.50% Cocamidopropyl Betaine (USA / Canada)
118.35g | 78.9% distilled water, heated
10.5g | 7% vegetable glycerine (USA / Canada)
0.075g | 0.050% red lake dye
0.075g | 0.050% blue lake dye
0.75g | 0.50% lavender essential oil
0.75g | 0.50% spruce essential oil
0.75g | 0.50% Liquid Germall Plus™ (USA / Canada)
1:1 citric acid solution, as needed
Salt, as needed
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 sodium coco sulfate and cocamidopropyl betaine into a small heat-resistant glass measuring cup. Place the measuring cup in your prepared water bath to melt everything through. Stir occasionally; after about 20 minutes you should have a uniform paste.
Once you have a uniform paste, remove the measuring cup from the water bath and add the water. Weigh the whole lot (cup + surfactants + water) and note that weight. Put the cup back in the water bath. Stir to combine, using your flexible silicone spatula to smoosh up the surfactant blobs and encourage them to dissolve faster. Stir fairly gently to avoid creating a ton of bubbles. After about 30 minutes the surfactant blobs should vanish into the water.
While the surfactants are melting and dissolving, weigh out the glycerine into a small bowl. Whisk in some wee amounts of the pigments; I’ve provided rough guidelines, but I’d really recommend just adding the tiniest bit of each colour (a few specks, really) at a time and whisking thoroughly between additions so you can see the colour bloom (keep whisking—at first you’ll think there’s nowhere near enough and then after about 30 seconds—bam! Purple!). Adjust to a purple you like—cooler (more blue) or warmer (more red), it’s up to you!
Once your mixture is uniform, remove it from the heat. Weigh it, and top off with water as needed, referencing your previous noted total weight. Let it cool to room temperature, either by leaving it until cool, or by putting it in an ice bath.
Once cool, stir in the pigmented glycerine, essential oils, and preservative.
This is a good time to test and adjust your pH. I found the pH of this shower gel to be ~8.5 as is, and three drops of a 1:1 citric acid solution brought it down to ~5.5. If you’d like to learn more about pH measuring and adjusting, Skin Chakra has a series of great articles you can find here.
Now it’s time to thicken! We’ll be using salt. I started by adding 0.5g, then 0.3g, then 0.2g. I stirred between each addition, waiting a few minutes between each addition to ensure I was getting a good feel for how thick it would be when it settled. When I got quite close to where I wanted to be I stepped the additions down to 0.1g and waited five minutes between additions to see how it was thickening up.
Once you’ve reached a lovely end consistency you’re ready to bottle up your concoction and get sudsy in the shower! I used a 120mL/4 fl oz tottle from Windy Point. Enjoy!
Shelf Life & Storage
Because this shower gel contains water, you must include a broad-spectrum preservative to ward off microbial growth. This is non-optional. Even with a preservative this project is likely to eventually spoil as our kitchens are not sterile laboratories, so 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 150g.
- You could try a different solid anionic surfactant in place of the SCS, like SCI or SLSa.
- You can use different essential oils, or a fragrance oil
- I chose lake dyes because they disperse very well in a watery base, giving even, clear, strong colour. I tried micas and they tended to settle to the bottom of the tube.
Hi Marie, Another one of your recipes that I’ve found really inspiring. Can I substitute sodium coco sulfate for sodium coco glucoside? I have very sensitive skin that’s prone to eczema…hence I’d like to make a body wash that contains white soft paraffin….what are your suggestions on quantity alterations or substitutions?
You can try the coco glucoside, but it is non-ionic instead of anionic, and will be less concentrated. I’d recommend adjusting the recipe to ensure similar ASM.
I’ve never worked with paraffin, sorry!
Hi Marie, thanks for sharing. I’m very happy that you kept the ingredients simple 🙂 I just want to ask, the 1:1 ratio CA, is that for example 5g CA solved in 5g distiled water?
THanks in advance
Have a great time
Yup, that’s exactly it!
Hello Marie! Is the type of salt used important? Iodized salt, raw sea salt, non-iodized salt marinade? Or if we can just use any kind of salt?
I’d say use fine grain, inexpensive salt. Mine was from the dollar store! 😛
I am making this with fine grain dead sea salt and it is just not thickening at all.
According to Wikipedia Dead Sea Salt is only about 30% NaCl (table salt), so that is probably why. Just use plain ol’ salt!
Another question I often ask myself … could I use food coloring for this recipe? It is certainly not toxic, but is there a risk of staining the shower?
I suppose you can try—use the smallest amount possible and see what happens?
Hi Marie! Quick question-would this be the same ratio used to premelt and store in the freezer? (From a previous recipe?)
The paste you’re talking about doesn’t use the same surfactants 🙂
I liked trying this one out. Never worked with surfactants like this before. I subbed a few elements;the SCS for SLSA;only had Preservative Eco to hand;added some cranberry powder to get colour… It’ll be interesting to see how the colour holds up, looks a nice pink right now. I’m sat waiting to see how the consistency is developing with addition of salt. Not used salt to thicken, usually use gum/glycerine mix. Great experiment. 🙂
Thanks so much for sharing and DIYing with me!
Hi Marie, can this recipe become a shampoowith some tweeks? As I saw recently, SCS is widely use as a surfactant for solid shampoos. After seeing this shower gel recipe, I’m eager to adapt it for a shampoo. What do you think?
Totally! I’d probably include some other things if I knew it would be used as a shampoo (keratin, perhaps, that sort of thing), but the base is suited for shampoo—it’d be a pretty strong one, though 🙂 Definitely not for use with coloured hair!
HI, I was wondering if this could be used as a cleanser recipe as well??? is there anything you would include if it were a cleanser?
I wouldn’t use this surfactant blend on my face—check out all the facial cleansers I’ve shared, there are a lot!
Okay, I will. I was looking through them and wanted to get a consistency similar to this but as a cleanser. Any tips on that? I like how clear/transculent it is versus the creaminess of most of the cleansers
Hi Marie, how would I go about adding a small amount of oil and/or extracts to this? Perhaps keeping it to less than 2% and reducing it from the water amount. Would I need to use a solubilizer such as polysorbate?
You’re totally correct; I would likely include some polysorbate 80 or choose something like water soluble shea butter as the oil 🙂
This was super easy to make! and fun to thicken with the salt- I used squeezed lemon juice in place of citric acid, and no colour-the clear makes it summery! and a different fragance oil.
Thanks so much!
Very cool! Thanks so much for DIYing with me 🙂
what is the purpose of making DIY simply because we wanted natural ingredients right? but sulfate seriously!!!!!
I’ve written an entire FAQ about this.
I’ll be deleting the other copies of this comment as I’ve addressed it here.
Many thanks for sharing this post.
On May 31st, Angelique asked you a question about the 1:1 Citric Acid and you confirmed the example of 5g CA being dissolved in 5g distilled water. As the weight of this batch you made in your tutorial is 120g, should the Citric Acid solution be 1.2g Citric Acid to 1.2g of distilled water and should I pour the entire 1.2g of Citric Acid solution in my shower gel?
I tried your recipe but I poured the 1.2g of Citric Acid grains directly into the recipe (without dissolving in distilled water) and my skin feels slightly sensitive.
You need to make a 1:1 solution; do NOT add the entire solution to the product, though! You are simply using that solution to adjust the pH, adding a drop at a time, and testing between additions. 1:1 could be 5g water and 5g citric acid or 1kg water and 1kg citric acid; all that matters is the amounts are the same. The size of the batch of body wash and the size of the solution are irrelevant; you will be using a very small amount of the solution, it’s just a good thing to have on hand for making.
You can see from the instructions that I used about 3 drops 1:1 solution to get the correct pH. That is probably less than 0.1g citric acid total.
I’m certain this is FAR too acidic with the quantity of citric acid you’ve added as you’ve likely added more than 10x what I did. You should adjust it upwards using some baking soda or NaOH. You MUST have something to check the pH yourself in order to do this.
Hi, I would LOVE to make this shower gel! I have a question though. My Cocomidopropyl Betaine is a liquid and SCI is in solid state. How can I make it work?
I love your site
That is exactly how mine are as well—the instructions are for exactly that 🙂 Follow them as written and it should be fine!
I’m absolutely loving your formulations!
I tried this one and substituted SCS with SCI but found it didn’t thicken very well with salt, compared to when I made the same formula previously using SCS. It also turned cloudy when salt was added compared to the SCS blend.
Are there some surfactants that thicken better with salt than others?
Many thanks for all you do for us,
Thanks, Charmaine! The short answer is yes; for a longer answer check out this passage from a textbook on liquid detergents 🙂 Hopefully you find that helpful, and happy making!
Hi Marie what can be added in the place of salt to thicken while using SCI. Would love to know pls
Liquid Crothix works beautifully!
that book link is no longer available
It still works for me; it may be more of a region availability thing? This is the book in question, but for that price, I’d probably see if you can get the Google Books things to work 🙂
I love your posts and your formulations and I’ve already tryed some of them <3 . I really want to try making some shower gel as well and I was wonderign why don't you have more recepies for this kind of product?
But really the reason I'm writing is this. Are Sodium Coco Sulfate and Cocamidopropyl Betaine substitution for potassium hydroxide and if yes why are they better? And one more thing. Why your recipe doesnt't contain carrier oils?
Hey! Sodium Coco Sulfate and Cocamidopropyl Betaine are not a substitution for potassium hydroxide—they’re an alternative to KOH + carrier oils + saponification. Both create a foaming thing you can cleanse with, but Sodium Coco Sulfate and Cocamidopropyl Betaine are surfactants while KOH + oils = soap. Kind of like beef vs. chicken—both meat, but not the same thing. I discuss this more in this video 🙂
hello, Can this formula be made as a master base? meaning can this be made without color (mica or liquid soap color) and without fragrance in a large amount (5 gallon bucket) and then when needed to make an order for customers, use an amount needed for the bottles that you are going to use…and at that time add the color and fragrance? or does this need to be made with the color and fragrance at the time of making?
if using the crothix, how much is used?
You would need to follow a similar procedure to the salt, though the risk of over-doing it isn’t there. I usually add 1% at a time until I have an end consistency I like.
I have to say that these days I like this formulation more ‘as written’. Texture and foam is stunning. Little amount is needed which makes it feel gentle. The batches thickened with salt have also been stable – they don’t loose viscosity over time in elevated temperatures, in lower pH (pH 4-4,5) and/ or with different eo’s. My skin isn’t too sensitive any more anyways. Thanks so much for sharing your formulations – you have so much to choose from. Looking forward to try another type of body wash’es too. x
I’m so thrilled to hear it! I think this was one of my first salt-thickening formulations and holy moly, I still remember how dang awesome it was to add salt and watch it transform like magic 😀
Marie, this is another older favourite of mine that never fails no matter how my skin is feeling. It’s just fantastic! 🙂
I’ve done about 15 different experiments with your recipe to find out what works for me I typically use SCI instead of SCS, 1-2 % HEC or some MSM/ salt (depending on room temp and personal likings) to boost foam and different preservative. Our very high room temp and low pH ~4,5 that my skin usually needs leads to viscosity loss and less foaming. I typically add eo’s or color afterwards to “master base” if useing them and use salt/MSM in that case.
Thanks for sharing, Johanna! I’m so glad you love it and have made it your own 🙂
When you use the SCI in place of the SCS…are you using the same amount? 7.5g?
Yes, I do (most of the times)!
I made this recipe yesterday and I loved it! I used sweet orange essential oil instead of lavender and spruce, and added 0,10% of carrageenan that helped with the thickness (I only needed to add 0,2 gr of salt to thicken it nicely and it’s not snotty). My only doubt is, can I use lactic acid to lower the pH instead of citric acid?
I’m glad you’re liking it! You can use lactic acid instead.
I’m eager to make this recipe, but first I need to understand the PH thing.
I saw you answered some questions on the subject, but I still don’t get.
For hand washes what I usually do to adjust the PH is to mix the citric acid (powder) directly into the concoction. Once I have mixed all the ingredients I measure the PH and add some citric acid to it until I get a 5.0 PH. The difference is: I don’t mix my hand wash or shower gel in this case with extra water in order to measure the PH. Am I doing it wrong?
Hey Gaba! Give this a read to learn about why we dilute samples for pH measurement 🙂 One of the biggest benefits for me is the loss of significantly less product to the testing process—and for the same pH reading.
Hello Marie. I can play with your recipe but I have a question. Wich ingridient increase if only I used. 0.1% of kappa carragenina and 0. 2 % of salt when you use 0.5%of salt. Waiting your coments.Thanks for your creations. God bless you
Water 🙂 Thanks for DIYing with me, and happy making 🙂
This shower gel is awsome. I am adopting a more minimalist lifestyle and I love how simple this formula is: just few ingredients for an amazing result!
And you know what? It magically thickened when I added the preservative! I left it unpigmented and used ConsNat AB (Benzyl alcohol & Benzoic Acid & Dehydroacetic Acid & Tocopherol) at 0.6%. When I corrected the PH with the solution of citric acid it went on thickening. At the end (with PH 5.5) the consistency turned to be perfect without any salt at all.
By the way, can I use next time lactic acid to correct the PH or is there any incompatibility?
Thanks a lot for sharing always such an inspiring formulas.
The lake dyes I have found locally say that they must be dispersed in Polysorbate 80. if I change the glycerine with the Polysorbate 80, will it be ok with the Cocamidoprophyl Bethune and SCS as they are non-ionic, amphoteric and anionic respectively? Thanks!
Hi Belinda! I can’t imagine why the specific lake dyes you have found MUST be dispersed in polysorbate 80 for all applications. I would follow the formulation as written, I suspect everything will be just fine 🙂
Very cool! I didn’t know you could thicken things like this with salt- I think I’ll try this before I order any Crothix =)
From what I’ve seen perusing around here the last few days you seem to favor the Crothix in more recent recipes. Is that just for the convenience of not being able to overdo it, or do you find it works better?
Hi Kay! Salt won’t thicken all surfactants, while Crothix is pretty darn foolproof. I like to use salt where I can, but sometimes I prefer the ease of Crothix (or salt won’t work). Happy making!