This sunny Orange Blast Solid Conditioner Bar has a new position of prominence and glory in my shower. It smells like the juiciest of oranges, leaves my hair feeling downright divine (I’d invite you to run your fingers through it via the internet if I could), and I’m fairly convinced it just might last forever. In the quest for a low-waste, easy-peasy shower, this conditioner bar is citrus scented Lancelot. I think you’ll love it.
My first exposure to conditioner bars was on the LUSH website, and I liked the idea. I find I’m very fond of solid versions of things that are usually liquid. Shampoo bars and bars of soap are all kinds of awesome, especially when it comes to travel—that way I’m not hauling water around the world, and solid things don’t leak (ask me about the time I flew with 4L of maple syrup in my suitcase…). Solid things are also much more concentrated than their watered down counterparts, meaning they last longer, and you can customize their potency by adding exactly as much water as you want.
Conditioner bars are delightfully easy to make. It’s pretty much measure, melt, stir, pour. If you can make a body butter bar, conditioner bars are a cinch. The only difference is the incorporation of a wee bit of aging time (just a day—nothing like soap!) since these bars will be getting wet and we want to give them a chance not to turn into a squishy shower blob right off the bat.
In order to be a true conditioner, we must include some conditioning ingredients; that is, ingredients that are cationic. Cationic (or positively charged) ingredients adsorb (creates a very thin film on) our negatively charged hair. This leaves our hair feeling silky and soft, helping reduce breaking and increase hydration.
My cationic ingredients are BTMS-50, BTMS-25, and honeyquat PF. I’ve discussed some alternatives at the bottom of the recipe, but whatever swaps you make must also be cationic! If they aren’t, you are making more of a hair lotion bar than a true conditioner. Hair lotion bars can be pretty darn cool, too, but they aren’t conditioner.
To that cationic base I’ve added some other rather fun things—some super fragrant orange wax, some rich shea butter, hydrating silk and panthenol, and some plant sourced keratin to help your hair bounce and shine. I even played with adding 2% dimethicone; a mid-weight silicone that adds some extra slip to the hair (substitutions for that are also discussed below the recipe). I’m pretty new to working with silicones, but so far, they’re pretty fun—I can definitely see why they’re popular! The slip they offer is so lovely it almost feels like cheating 😝
I’ve been using this conditioner bar for about ten days, and I love it. I’ll glide it over my hair from about the ears down three or four times, massage everything around, and then gently rinse. My hair is oh-so soft and shiny, and I haven’t made a dent in the conditioner bar, leaving me to believe it may last upwards of three months. We’ll see! In any event, this Orange Blast Solid Conditioner Bar is lovely, it smells amazeballs, and you should make one so you, too, can have a shower that smells like a Florida orange grove and super soft princess hair.
2021 update: I’ve shared several newer, simpler, easier-to-make conditioner bar formulations since this one, and I’d recommend those instead. This one needs only BTMS-25 as the main conditioning ingredient, while this one needs only BTMS-50. This one is very simple, with just six ingredients. These formulations don’t do the “gloppy” thing some readers have reported here, nor do they get a weird wavy top. Happy making!
Orange Blast Solid Conditioner Bar
30g | 1.06 BTMS-50 (USA / Canada)
30g | 1.06 BTMS-25
5g | 0.18oz orange wax
5g | 0.18oz tucuma butter
11g | 0.39oz cetyl alcohol (USA / Canada)
5g | 0.18oz unrefined shea butter (USA / Canada)
2g | 0.07oz silk peptides (wondering about substitutions?)
Cool Down Phase
5g | 0.18oz honeyquat PF (USA / Canada) or Polyquaternium 7 (USA / Canada)
2g | 0.07oz panthenol powder (vitamin B5) (USA / Canada)
2g | 0.07oz plant sourced keratin (USA / Canada)
2g | 0.07oz dimethicone
0.5g | 0.017oz Vitamin E MT-50 (USA / Canada)
0.5g | 0.017oz Liquid Germall Plus™ (USA / Canada) (or other broad spectrum preservative of choice at recommended usage rate [why?])
Weigh the heated phase ingredients into a small saucepan, and melt everything together over low heat (the silk peptides will not melt, so you’re done when you can only see the powdery bits of silk). I found it was difficult to fully melt everything together in a water bath, hence the recommendation of direct heat. Be sure to keep a close eye on the pan so you don’t scorch your ingredients!
When the heated phase is fully liquid and clear, remove it from the heat, stirring. You’ll quickly start to see wisps of it beginning to cool and opacify. Quickly stir in your cool down phase, and pour the conditioner bar into a 100mL (3.3fl oz) mold to solidify. I used a single cavity of my round cavity soap mold.
Once the bar has set up, pop it out of the mold and leave it to fully set up for ~24 hours before use.
To use, glide the bar over wet hair in the shower, and rinse out any excess. Over time you’ll figure out if you’re a short swipe/long swipe/multiple swipe/swipe party kinda person.
- You can use 100% BTMS-50 if you don’t have BTMS-25, but I wouldn’t recommend using 100% BTMS-25 or you may encounter emulsion difficulties
- Do not use a different emulsifying wax or you won’t be making hair conditioner—just a sort of solid hair lotion bar
- Read this to learn more about orange wax substitutions
- If you don’t have tucuma butter, you can use cocoa butter instead. I’d recommend unscented if you want all orange scent, but chocolate orange is also a delicious scent combo!
- I do not recommend substituting out the cetyl alcohol. You could try stearic acid instead, but it is skiddy while cetyl alcohol is silky.
- You can use a different hydrolyzed protein instead of silk
- You can use a liquid oil instead of the dimethicone
- If you don’t have honeyquat, panthenol, and/or plant sourced keratin, make up those amounts with more BTMS
Recipe inspired by a framework recipe from Susan of Swift Crafty Monkey.