Today I’m sharing my first shampoo bar Bee Better project—this More Mango Sulfate-Free Shampoo Bar is an update on the Mango Mango Shampoo Bar I shared in March 2019 (almost exactly two years ago!). In writing, the differences between this updated formulation and its 2019 predecessor aren’t massive, but I find the differences between the finished products to be very pronounced. These updated bars are easier to make, harder throughout use (and therefore longer-lasting), and it’s much easier to create a smooth, lovely-looking bar with this formulation. Hooray!
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The main ingredients (mostly the surfactants) are the same, though the amounts differ. This bar contains 75% solid surfactants (a blend of Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) and Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate [Bio-Terge® AS-90]) while the earlier version is just 56% solid surfactants. Meanwhile, the liquid Cocamidopropyl Betaine has dropped from 17% to 13%. This nearly 20% increase in solid surfactants is a big part of why this updated bar is easier to make. The solid surfactants don’t need to be melted to work with (unlike the stearic acid and cetyl alcohol used in the previous bar for hardening), so we aren’t in a hot-and-sticky hurry to smash together and shape the bar before it solidifies. This is more like playdough; if you leave playdough out, it’ll dry and solidify. It isn’t as much about the temperature of the dough as it is about the moisture content. So—smash + shape at your leisure, and then leave it to dry to get all kinds of hard.
Since the solid surfactants are what makes this properly bar solid and hard, I went ahead and used soft mango butter in this bar so it’s mango-y in more than colour and scent. Back in 2019, I wanted to stick to a brittle butter (I used tucuma butter) because it was a structural ingredient, but since that job is being done by the surfactants this time around, we can use soft mango butter (or even a liquid oil) as more of a binding and re-fatting ingredient.
I swapped 2019’s conditioning ingredient (BTMS-25) for the easier-to-use and still very awesome Polyquaternium 7. Since it’s liquid, it’s super easy to incorporate. I find the BTMS’ difficult to melt and fast to solidify, making them a bit of a pain to try to evenly disperse into a dough. Polyquaternium 7 is wonderfully cooperative and works beautifully.
The colour and scent come from the same ingredients: orange lake dye and Essential Wholesale’s natural mango fragrance oil. I know “natural” and “fragrance oil” sounds like an oxymoron, so if you want to learn more, please read this blog post from Essential Wholesale. You could also use a different essential oil or fragrance oil, but I do recommend that you use something that smells nice because this bar doesn’t smell very good on its own. Without any sort of nice-smelling thing, it’s got a fairly pronounced chemically/surfactant smell that I’m not crazy about.
These bars get super hard as they dry out. The water content of these bars is roughly 8.5% as Cocamidopropyl Betaine is ~35% solids, with a 65%-ish water content. So—there’s definitely some water weight to be lost. These bars lost about 1.4% of their weight in 41 hours (just under 2 days), 2.18% in 117 hours (5-ish days), and 2.52% after 157 hours (roughly 6.5 days). After that, I gave up and started using the bar. If you can wait at least two days for ~1.5% water loss that’s probably fine, but longer obviously does make for a drier bar.
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More Mango Sulfate-Free Shampoo Bar
6.5g | 13% Cocamidopropyl Betaine (USA / Canada)
0.05g | 0.1% water-soluble orange dye
15g | 30% Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate (Bio-Terge AS90) (USA / Canada / UK)
22.5g | 45% Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) (USA / Canada)
4.75g | 9.5% mango butter
Cool down phase
0.5g | 1% natural mango fragrance oil
0.5g | 1% Polyquaternium 7 (USA / Canada)
0.2g | 0.4% Liquid Germall Plus™ (USA / Canada)
Combine the cocamidopropyl betaine and dye; allow the dye to dissolve. Melt the mango butter.
Put on your dust mask and weigh the dry surfactants into a bowl. Stir until uniform. Add the melted mango butter and the cool down 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 dough.
If your dough is too sticky, you’ll need to add some starch (arrowroot starch and cornstarch are good choices). 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 a few drops of 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. I used a very finely powdered Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI), so it is unlikely this will happen—I have never found a more finely powdered Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) than this.
Shape the dough into a bar-like lump/disc of your choosing and leave the bar to dry. I’d recommend at least 2–3 days (that’s enough time for the bars to lose ~1.5% of their weight), but if you can wait a week that loss will increase to ~2.5%. If you live somewhere quite humid I’d err on the side of more drying time rather than less as I live somewhere really dry, so that’s what my drying times are based on.
To use, massage the bar into wet hair to work up a lather, and proceed as you would with any other shampoo. This also makes a great body wash if you work it up into a lovely lather with a loofah. Enjoy!
When made as written, the pH of this shampoo is around 4.5, which is great.
Shelf Life & Storage
Because this shampoo bar will regularly come into contact with water, I recommend including a broad-spectrum preservative to ward off microbial growth. 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 50g.
- To learn more about the ingredients used in this formulation, 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 (Polyquaternium 7) please look up the ingredient in the encyclopedia before asking.
- 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 and read this FAQ.
- I’d recommend Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate (SLSa) instead of the Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate (Bio-Terge® AS-90).
- Remember that the maximum usage level for Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) is 50% for rinse-off products, so you cannot use just Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) in this formulation.
- The dye is optional; replace it with more of one of the dry surfactants if you don’t want to use it.
- You could use a different melted butter or a liquid oil instead of the mango butter.
- If you’re like to use a different preservative, please review this FAQ and this chart.
- If you’d like to use an essential oil instead of the fragrance oil, please read this.
The natural mango fragrance was gifted by Essential Wholesale. The mango butter was gifted by Mystic Moments.
Are you working with unrefined mango butter? Is it possible to find that in Canada? My mango butter definitely does not have that nice peach colour.
It’s from Mystic Moments; they say it is cold-pressed and don’t mention any refining. Beyond the colour, I’d say it’s really not noticeably different from the refined mango butter I had from New Directions Aromatics, though. I also think the picture makes it look more strongly coloured than it really is—it’s just a light beige, I wouldn’t say it is peachy at all 🙂
Helpp! Mine is SO wet it’s like thick pancake batter! I’m leaving it out for a while to see if it will set up a bit, but it is nowhere near your consistency. Any recommendations?
Oh no! I’m just looking at the ingredients again – I had bioterge AS 40! hahahaha
Oh well, i just made a very bubbly shower goo!
Ah yup, that’d do it! You might be able to whip it up and use it as a foaming bath butter base… it’s worth a try!
This is my second try at making a shampoo bar. This is just too easy. It’s not been 30 minutes since I finished and it’s almost a rock. It that normal? I double checked to make sure I added all my liquid ingredients because it’s insanely hard already.
I used a liquid oil instead of mango butter.
I love the sheen on the bar. I didn’t add color this time, but I can see why your mango color came out so pretty. Uncolored it’s almost snow white. I did add fragrance, but added something my daughter likes so she will be more likely to use it.
I can hardly wait to try it myself.
Thanks so much for doing the hard work! I greatly appreciate it since this can be so confusing for a newbie like me.
Would using mica work for colour in this?
Yes, but you’ll need to use more. I have an entire FAQ on this 🙂
Oops sorry – despite the many hours I’ve spent on your site I still somehow managed to miss that!!
No worries, I’m constantly adding to the FAQ! 🙂
Wow that is a hard bar! My shampoo bars have ~65% powdered surfactants usually, but I include hardeners like sodium lactate and cetyl alcohol. They’re similarly hard, but might dent if they were stored near moisture and slammed on the counter like that haha. Maybe I’ll cut out one of those ingredients for a higher surfactant percentage :). I would think that the butters/BTMS 25 would have a harder time softening than powdered surfactants, but I guess you never know until you experiment!
I love how workable it is! I definitely wait until my dough is cold before I even try to shape it lol. Thanks for sharing as always 🙂
I look forward to hearing how your experiments go! Thanks for DIYing with me, and happy making 🙂
This must be fantastic I’m loveing your sulphate free shampoo bars!
I look forward to hearing what you think if you make a batch 🙂
Thank you for this formulation and instructions. Wow, I like this a lot! Colors and scents are so summer’y! Well, I made a riff on it as I used rice protein (for quat), SLSA (bioterge) and another eo blend (mostly sweet orange eo) and jasmine floral wax (it’s firm, brittle stuff with relatively high melting point so I smooshed everything quickly together). So nice, firm bar that was easy to form. I didn’t even have too much product loss! I’m really excited to try it after several sulfate-free clay shampoo bars. xx
Hooray! Thank you so much for sharing your results ❤️
Lovely to see a shampoo bar recipe that I already have most of the material on hand! BTMS is very hard to find for personal use where I live so it’s a relief this recipe doesn’t need it.
One question though, the Polyquaternium 7 I came in powder form instead of liquid. I asked the supplier and they said it’s the same thing the liquid form is made from, so can I just use as it is and add it into the surfactant phase since they are all powder?
You can use solid PQ7, but you’ll only need about 25% of the amount as it’s more concentrated; replace the other 75% with distilled water 🙂 Happy making!
I’ve made this recipe twice, quadrupled it both times and haven’t had a chance to try it myself. I make bigger bars with a string on them so they can be hung up which suits my husband just fine. Because of his arthritis in his hands I make the bars bigger for him so he can hold on to them better. Anyways he’s quite spoiled with your shampoo bar formulas. These are indeed the hardest bars I’ve made so far from all your formulas and I really really like your shampoo are recipes, thank you.
I LOVE the string idea, Terry! Thank you so much for sharing + for DIYing with me ❤️
I have body safe gel colors from Rustic Escentuals, that I use in soaps. Would my orange water soluble dye work? Thanks
Hi Marie, I made this (my first ever shampoo bar!) and it feels pretty drying on the hands and hair. Is there any way to make it more moisturizing?
I also noticed it started to form condensation after leaving it to dry for a day. Is this normal?
If you wanted to add extract to this shampoo bar is water soluble ok or oil soluble? Also same question for the gentle face cleansing bar, Gentle Oatmeal Almond Body Wash Bar?
Either is ok 🙂
Do you think you could use a slow cooker to make these?
There’s really no need to do that since the only thing you should be heating in this formulation is the mango butter 🙂
For a hair type that is very fine and intolerant of oils, would there be any improvement to swapping out the mango butter? If so, what’s your recommendation? Could isopropyl myristate or an another ester work?
I have fine hair that is intolerant of oils and this works beautifully for me as written; the surfactant content more than cancels out the fat, and if you reduce the fat too much you may find you don’t like how your hair feels afterwards 🙂
You are totally right!! I think I was thinking it would be like conditioner. Duh. I did two versions – both liquid oil. They turned out beautifully. Thank you!
I’m thrilled to hear it! ❤️
Hello! I was about to order the ingredients when I read all comments. I have dry curly hair and need all the moisture I can get. Which of your sulphate free recipes would be best? I’m looking for a conditioner bar as well. My brain keeps shorting out as I cross reference ingredients. Thank you so much for all the work you do!
After doing some research and looking at humblebee’s preservative guide I’m thinking of using optiphen ND instead of liquid germal plus. Any objections?
Hello, I finally made my first syndet shampoo bar after months of researching recipes and ingredients. And failed. The link for Bioterge took me to a shop that is out of stock. I found what I thought was the same thing. Oops. It’s Alpha Olefin Sulfonate, a liquid. My shampoo bar is not setting up. Do I need to toss it, or can it be saved?
I’m guessing it’s rather paste-like? If so, I’d try using it to wash dishes like this (like this). It’ll just get softer and sadder in the shower 🙁
Hi Marie, Thank you for doing what you do. I had a small question, Is alpha olefin sulfonate and Sodium Alpha Olefin (C14-16) Sulfonate the same thing? I’m from India and here we get alpha olefin sulfonate in powder form. I used it in this recepie but it has a strong smell that i can’t get around
Hi Suneha! As the INCIs don’t match I’m not confident; I would ask your supplier.