Today’s recipe is definitely long overdue, but I wanted to make sure it was on point before I shared it—it’s a sulphate free shampoo bar. I started working on this back in January 2018 and have been testing and tweaking ever since. About six weeks ago I decided to include this in the Mango Mango series, so here we have a Mango Mango Shampoo Bar!
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Shampoo bars are mostly solid surfactants. As a home crafter in Canada, I can only purchase four different solid (powdered/prilled/noodle/flake) surfactants: Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI), Sodium Coco Suphate (SCS), Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate (SLSa), and Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate (Bio-Terge AS90) (AS90 is different from AS40, which is liquid, and will not work here). Given the whole point of this recipe was the lack of sulphates, the SCS was out, leaving me with three ingredients to create this shampoo bar around.
I knew this bar would include SCI; my previous experiments with shampoo bars have taught me I’m a big fan of SCI in shampoo bars. It’s mild, I love the lather, and the mildly acidic pH creates a wonderful base for our shampoo bars. I have found I prefer a secondary powdered anionic surfactant in my shampoo bars, though—something to give a bit more cleansing and some richer bubbles. In my Snowflake Shampoo Bar that secondary surfactant is sodium coco sulphate, but in this recipe it would need to be something else… and from what I can buy, that would have to be either SLSa or Bio-Terge AS90.
So I tried both. And, honestly, I liked them both! I have lumps of lathery things made with both surfactants (and blends of all three non-sulfate solid surfactants) in my shower at this very moment! Today’s recipe features Bio-Terge AS90 (this is a solid product—AS40 is liquid, and will not work!) as our secondary solid anionic surfactant, but I’m sure you’ll see a formula for one featuring SLSa in the future.
Something I like about this formula is how dang fast it comes together. I used finely powdered versions of both the SCI and the Bio-Terge AS90, so once you mash those together with some liquid Cocamidopropyl Betaine and the melted butters and thickeners, you’re pretty much done. I made this bar on a particularly cold day here in Calgary so I simply covered it and stuck in on my porch for twenty minutes before un-molding it and leaving it to dry for a week or so.
Something I’ve learned in my solid shampoo experiments is the benefit of extended drying periods. Much like soap, the shampoo bar lasts longer if it dries longer. While a day or two is fine, I find at least a week is great. I’ve made some particularly soft bars that seemed like they were destined to be shower slop, but after 6 weeks of aging they turned into brilliant hard bars that are surviving just fine in the shower.
I tried two different approaches for colouring—straight sea buckthorn fruit oil from SIBU and a blend of orange lake dye + the oil. Both variations were bright orange directly after making, but the only sea buckthorn fruit oil bar faded quite quickly. In just over two weeks it went from bright orange to nearly white with just a few little hints of orange flecking, while the orange lake dye + sea buckthorn fruit oil version has remained vibrantly orange (as seen in the photos in this post). For that reason I would not recommend the just sea buckthorn fruit oil avenue for colouring as it doesn’t really work.
The finished bars smell wonderfully of mangoes (thanks to the beautiful natural mango fragrance oil from Essential Wholesale). The lather is rich and luscious, and your hair is left all kinds of clean and soft afterwards. The bars last well in the shower—provided you don’t leave it sitting in a puddle you should easily get two months out of a bar depending on how often you use it. I hope you love this brick of mangoey goodness as much as I do!
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Mango Mango Shampoo Bar
0.9g | 0.9% sea buckthorn fruit oil
0.1g | 0.1% orange lake dye (USA / Canada)
22g | 22% Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate (Bio-Terge AS90) (USA / Canada) this is a solid product!
34g | 34% Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) (USA / Canada)
17g | 17% Cocamidopropyl Betaine (Amphosol CG) (USA / Canada)
Put on your dust mask. Weigh the sea buckthorn fruit oil, orange lake dye, powdered surfactants, and Cocamidopropyl Betaine into a small heat-resistant glass measuring cup or bowl and mash everything together with the back of a spoon. You’ll end up with a bright orange stiff paste. If your solid surfactants are not already quite fine powders you may want to run them through a coffee grinder or smash them up in a mortar and pestle before blending the first four ingredients together.
Melt the tucuma butter, BTMS-25, stearic acid, and cetyl alcohol together. Pour that mixture into the surfactant mash and mash everything together. Once you’re done stirring everything together the mixture should be cool enough (below 50°C) to proceed. If it still feels hot to the touch, let it cool until it feels cool to the touch before continuing.
Add the natural mango fragrance oil and liquid germall plus and mash everything together until thoroughly combined.
Press the mixture into your mold (I used a single 100mL circular cavity mold). Freeze for twenty minutes before unmolding, and then leave to dry for a week. You can use the bar after about two days of drying, but I find more drying time = a longer life in the shower once wet.
To use, glide the bar over wet hair a couple times to deposit some shampoo—that’ll be enough to fully lather up your head and wash your hair! Make sure you leave the bar somewhere it can drain and dry out between uses for the longest shelf life.
When made as written, the pH of these shampoo bars is approximately 4–4.5, which is suitable for the hair. If you make any alterations/substitutions please test and adjust the pH as necessary.
Because this shampoo bar will regularly come into 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 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 100g.
- 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 you’re like to use a different preservative, please review this page.
- 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.
- For a colour alternative you could use 1% orange mica (with no sea buckthorn fruit oil and orange lake dye)
- You can use a different orange oil (like buriti or sea buckthorn seed oil) instead of the sea buckthorn fruit oil, or you can replace it with a different liquid oil.
- You can use SLSa instead of Bio-Terge AS90. Any substitution made here must use a solid surfactant. Bio-Terge AS90 is a solid/powder, and if you use a liquid instead this recipe will fail.
- Please don’t substitute the SCI.
- You can use a different brittle butter, like cocoa butter, instead of tucuma butter.
- You can use a different cationic emulsifying wax like BTMS-50 instead of the BTMS-25.
- You can try cetearyl alcohol in place of the stearic acid/cetyl alcohol blend.
- You can use a different fragrance if you prefer.