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
4.75g | 9.5% mango butter
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.