This sulfate-free shampoo bar formulation blends super-sudsy shampooing with a rice water rinse in a long-lasting, no-fuss bar form. You can also use this bar as body wash, it doesn’t require any heat to make, and you can have fun with the colour and scent. Let’s dive in!
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The basic gist of this shampoo bar is that it’s a bunch of solid/dry powders that are transformed into a mouldable dough with just the right amount of liquid ingredients. No heating or fancy moulds required (though you can use a fancy mould if you have one!)—just mix it up like you’re making pasta dough, shape the dough into a bar-ish form, and you’re off to the races!
Two solid anionic surfactants form the bulk of the dry phase of this formulation; Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) and Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate (SLSa). Both are natural, gentle surfactants made from coconut oil. Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) contributes a really rich, velvety lather while Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate (SLSa) bumps the fluffiness factor. I’m often asked about using just Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) in bar formulations; the reason I haven’t done that is because Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) is limited at 49.87% in rinse-off applications. So, if you want more solid surfactant than 49.87%, you need to choose something else—like Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate (SLSa)!
The final dry ingredient is rice starch. The inspiration for this inclusion came from two places—a very fun hybridizing of ideas! Back in 2020 I found a shampoo bar formulation from Colonial Chemical that contained quite a lot of corn starch, and I was really intrigued (here’s a formulation I shared using corn starch). The corn starch served a role similar to the role of water in a liquid shampoo; it helps dilute the surfactants, making for a milder finished product. Corn starch is kind of invisible in a syndet bar—it doesn’t negatively impact lather, and it won’t melt or soften in hot showers. So, that was place one—a sample formulation and some syndet bars that grew out of that.
Inspiration source #2 was quite a few requests for rice water things for hair + seeing a ton of videos from other YouTube creators about the benefits of rice water for hair. I was really intrigued by the boasted benefits of rice water and its long history of use in Japan and China, but I also knew I was not likely to keep up with something that required a jar of rice water to be maintained and retrieved for every shower. Rice is mostly starch, and that’s the bulk of what will dissolve into water when rice is soaked in water, so I got to thinking… why not skip the soaking step and go straight to the starch? Is rice starch in a shampoo bar exactly the same thing as a rice water rinse? Obviously not, but it’s a lot easier and lower fuss. It’s something I’ll actually use, and that definitely counts for something. I’ve complimented the rice starchy goodness with some hydrolyzed rice protein (one of our wet ingredients) so we get some of the protein from rice as well.
Our wet phase is where you’ll find our last surfactant; amphoteric Cocamidopropyl Betaine. This gentle surfactant helps boost flash foam and make the overall bar milder. I chose camellia seed oil—the oil pressed from the seeds of the plant that gives us tea—to re-fat the bars as I love it for hair and it also has a long history of use in haircare in China and Japan.
A small amount of fragrance scents the bars and lends a wee bit of perfume to the hair. I chose Bramble Berry’s Wildflower Honey fragrance oil, which is apparently inspired by the L’Occitane Honey and Propolis scent (I’m not familiar with it so I couldn’t say). It’s very true to its name, and smells wonderfully of fresh, sweet, floral honey. You could definitely use a different fragrance oil or essential oil if you want, just be sure to work within IFRA guidelines. There’s some more information on this in the Substitutions list at the end of the post 😊 You could leave the bars unscented, too—just replace the fragrance oil with more camellia seed oil.
This bar contains about 11.5% water when it’s freshly made due to the water content in the Cocamidopropyl Betaine and the hydrolyzed rice protein. We’ll want to leave the bar to dry for a few days to allow some of that water to evaporate off, resulting in a very hard bar that’ll last a long time in the shower. I found the bar lost about 3% of its weight in 3–4 days, with diminishing losses after that. These bars are hard enough to use after one day (~1.5% water loss), but if you have the time, I think waiting until day 3 or 4 is worth it for the sweet spot of water lost to time left to age.
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Relevant links & further reading
- Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate (SLSa) in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Cocamidopropyl Betaine in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Hydrolyzed Rice Protein in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Camellia Seed Oil in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Liquid Germall Plus in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Tocopherol (Vitamin E) in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- How to adjust colour, fragrance oil, and carrier oils
- Other shampoo bar formulations:
Sulfate-Free Shampoo Bar with Rice Starch
40g | 40% Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) (USA / Canada)
23g | 23% Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate (SLSa) (USA / Canada)
15g | 15% rice starch
11.99g | 11.99% Cocamidopropyl Betaine (USA / Canada)
0.01g | 0.01% water-soluble dye
4g | 4% hydrolyzed rice protein (USA / Canada)
5g | 5% camellia seed oil
0.4g | 0.4% Wildflower Honey fragrance oil
0.5g | 0.5% Liquid Germall Plus™ (USA / Canada)
0.1g | 0.1% Vitamin E MT-50 (USA / Canada)
Put on your dust mask and weigh the dry surfactants into a bowl. Stir until uniform.
Dissolve the dye in the Cocamidopropyl Betaine. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add all the wet ingredients.
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 3–4 days (that’s enough time for the bars to lose ~3% of their weight). 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 5.8, 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 formulation 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. You can divide this into as many bars as you want, but I probably wouldn’t try to squeeze more than 3 bars out of a 100g (3.5oz) batch.
- 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 please look up the ingredient in the encyclopedia before asking.
- The wet/dry balance of this formula is really important; if you change anything (especially any of the three ingredients in the dry phase) you may need to re-develop the formulation to get a workable dough.
- 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 C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate (Bio-Terge® AS-90) instead of the Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate (SLSa). Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate is a solid surfactant; do not confuse it for Sodium (C14-16) alpha olefin sulfonate (Bio-Terge AS40), which is a liquid.
- 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.
- You can try a different starch, but you will likely have to re-develop the formulation to get the liquid-to-dry ratio just right.
- You can substitute another liquid oil your hair loves for the camellia seed oil. Rice Bran Oil would fit wonderfully with the theme!
- If you’re like to use a different preservative, please review this FAQ and this chart. This bar is pretty easy to preserve, so I’d feel pretty comfortable using a different preservative assuming it doesn’t have any direct conflicts with the formulation.
- If you’d like to incorporate an essential oil, please read this.
- You can use a different fragrance oil if you want to, just be sure its usage rate for IFRA category 9A formulations is 0.4% (the amount used in this formulation) or higher.
- You can replace hydrolyzed rice protein with a different hydrolyzed protein (oat, baobab, quinoa); just make sure whatever you choose is liquid.
- The dye is optional; I just thought the bars looked rather sterile without it. Replace it with more Cocamidopropyl Betaine if you want to leave it out.
The Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate (SLSa), hydrolyzed rice protein, Liquid Germall™ Plus, and dye were gifted by YellowBee.
The Wildflower Honey fragrance oil was gifted by Bramble Berry.
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Oooh, I used to get tons of ads for the Viori shampoo bars that touted the benefits of rice for the hair. I’m excited to try this! I see your bag says “rice flour” on it. Is there a difference between rice flour and rice starch, or are they interchangeable? I have Mochiko Sweet Rice flour; would that work?
I want to know that too! I already have rice flour at home.
It should work!
I think it should, yes! As long as it’s a very fine, silky powder you are likely good to go 🙂 Even if it wasn’t exactly the same thing it would work, you just might need to adjust the wet/dry balance. Happy making!
I was wondering the same thing. I couldn’t find rice starch today. Can’t wait give this ago with fine rice flour (or potato starch if it doesn’t work, some use potato hair rinse), another fragance and my trusted preservatives. Thanks so much for sharing this formulation!
I look forward to hearing how it goes!
For anecdotal evidence, I’ve used potato starch 1:1 in Marie’s surfactant bars and other recipes (like the Matte Velvet Moisturizer) with great success 🙂 (and cannot wait for my powder SCI order to make this one!)
I was wondering if you can give us a recipe for a shampoo/condition bar all in one bar for thin straight hair that’s color damaged.
From what I have published now I would recommend one of my cleansing conditioners 🙂 Search “cleansing conditioner” at https://www.humblebeeandme.com/search. Happy making!
Could this be used on the face? I assume if this is good for hair it would be ok for the beard as well..?
This might be a lazy question but I’m wondering approximately what the breakdown of cost per bar is here? I’d really love to try this recipe!
You’ll have to do that math yourself 🙂 My math wouldn’t be terribly relevant unless we live in the same place and shop from the same companies—ingredients like these can vary a lot. Happy math-ing!
I’m currently using the Viori bars and really like them as a product but I’m really excited to try this because Viori seems to really push the idea that their products are inspired by foreign, exotic people and ideas. It just all feels really problematic after reading a lot of their texts, descriptions and website for me personally. But I’ve never used another shampoo and conditioner bar product that actually worked really well for me, so I’m really hopeful for this DIY!
I hope you love it! ❤️
I have indeed noticed quite a lot of variation in price for ingredients as I’ve begun looking around. I’m a very new formulator and finding myself a little overwhelmed with figuring out how to find quality ingredients. I’m unsure about what the wide ranges in price reflect—do you get what you pay for? Is the wide price margin a branding thing? An up charge for ethical sourcing?
I’m wondering if maybe in the future, if you have any tips, tricks, or good resources to educating about this sort of thing, could you do a post about what considerations you look for when sourcing ingredients and talk about what else impacts pricing other than geographical location? I realize this is a big ask—I’m very overwhelmed looking for this information myself!—but if you do happen to have some good insight or sources about this on hand, it’d be very much appreciated! Thank you for sharing what you do know, Marie!
Hi May! I’m afraid there is a whole lot of “it depends” when it comes to buying ingredients, but you might find this video helpful: https://youtu.be/JzEPkksladU. Good luck + happy making!
should the use limit of SCI (49.87%) in any formulation be calculated by active surfactant matter (84%)?
This is a really good question! Probably? The CIR document really isn’t clear as to precisely what they were testing. Different Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) products can vary a decent amount in their ASM %, so their stated % isn’t super helpful without that info :/ Neither “active” or “ASM” appear anywhere in the report. They do discuss impurities (“sodium cocoyl isethionate may contain the following impurities: arsenic (3 ppm max.), iron (25 ppm max.), lead (20 ppm max.), sodium chloride (0.8% max.), free fatty matter (10% max.), sodium isethionate (5%), free fatty acid (18%), and sodium soap (3%).) which could total up to 36.8%. I haven’t read all 17 pages, though, so I could be missing it. I think an argument could be made for calculating it for ASM vs. ingredient 🙂
Yes, I also think! thanks for the reply, I’m from Brazil and I love following your blog and testing your recipes! Thank you for everything!
This went well, yay! I found great wet dry balance and endresult is
pretty, small ylang ylang scented bar. The rice flour I bought was gritty so I used a combination of potato and corn starch and just a little bit rice flour. SCI I have has weird scent (I’ve tried to solve the issue with my supplier with no luck) but I’m glad that ylang ylang covers it totally. I don’t typically like ylang too much but the exotic floral scent works pretty well for me here. I like the fact that it hangs around after rinsing. I’m excited to try this out. Thank you again.
I miraculously had all the ingredients, so I whipped one up a few days ago and just used it last night. The only difference was in the fragrance oil; I used WSP Avobath, and my shower was full of its lemongrass-y and bergamot-y glory. I really like how quickly this bar came together without having to melt anything down. My hair was bouncy and shiny this morning, so I’d say this is a keeper!
I’m excited to make this shampoo bar, thank you for developing it. One question, the ingredient list says “rice starch” but the link is for “rice flour” which seems to be a different item, according to the internet. For the sake of the recipe, are they one and the same? Thank you.
Million thanks for the recipe. Have a question concerning the PH measurement of this anhydrous bar. How do you measure the PH in this case?
Thanks in advance for your answer.
Hello! I would love to know it too…is it already in range or we need to fix it? thank you
Is this shampoo considered more natural? If no why not? I have tried the natural shampoo bars I just couldnt adjust to it and love these but my sisters are all natural and would love to make these for them.
Hello Marie! I followed your detailed instructions and the results turned to be AMAZING! I was buying shampoo bars for years, but now I can make my own (plus, I used green apple fragrance oil and it smells really fresh). Next time, I would like to add a watersoluble extract (about 2%) for sensitive scalp, shall I reduce the amount of Cocamidopropyl betaine or it will have a negative effect on lather and cleansing? Thank you for your advice
I was considering a different fragrance oil, but I could not find IFRA category 9A – only a category 9. It to describe the category as “ primarily rinse off product“ (it is a fragrance oil from new directions aromatics). Is that the same thing, or are there actually subcategories to category nine for other fragrances?
There are sub-categories, but I’d assume if the supplier/oil you’re looking at doesn’t list all the sub-categories then it probably doesn’t matter (it’s probably the same value for all variations of the category). Happy making!
As a baker of artisan bread, I’ve used all kinds of flours and starches (the latter mostly for gluten-free breads) and I can confirm that there is indeed a difference between flour and starch. Generally a flour is a whole grain or other seed/pulse/vegetable that is dried whole, then ground fine, while a starch is just that – purified starch with all the other stuff (fibre, fats, etc.) removed. So potato flour is whole potatoes dried and ground into powder, while potato starch contains nothing but the pure starch. I made this recipe with oat flour and hydrolyzed oat protein, and I like it a lot! The oat flour makes it just a tiny bit scrubby but very nice on the skin and hair. I didn’t use any colour so the bar is naturally creamy oat coloured with little flecks, and I scented it with my favourite hair blend – lemon grass and cedarwood essential oils. The bar was easy to mold and dried nicely. Creamy lather too!
Hi Marie! I love all of your videos and the information you put out for us is so great!
My question is about the Cocamidopropyl Betaine. I know that for some people there is sensitivity. There is also talk about it possibly being a toxin to the environment. Would there be a substitution for this ingredient or can we leave it out completely? Thank you for your help!
Hi Marie. Is there a reason glycerin wasn’t added to this bar?
No hard reason, no. Try incorporating some and see what you think 🙂
Hi Marie. Thanks a bunch for the lovely recipe!! I really need a shampoo bar as going away soon and liquids in luggage are always a problem.
Just a little correction re Camellia oil: the one that you have is a Camellia Oleifera, which is generally used in skincare, and the plant that gives us tea is Camellia Sinensis. It’s a general misconception, as both are often referred to as ‘tea camellias’ I only know that as growing camellia sinensis in my garden (haven’t tried to make any tea yet, but did make a lovely glycerite with the flowers when they bloomed).
hello, I would like to ask you if I can use cocamidopropyl betaine powder instead of the liquid form (with the mention that the powder can be dissolved one part in two parts water but it does not dissolve well and I would prefer to use the powder form). I followed some recipes and they are very good. I mean, instead of 12 grams of liquid, add 4 grams of powder and liquid to this recipe ….. camellia seed oil or mentholated water or glycerin. Thank you very much for these very good recipes
Hey! I’m excited to make this recipe 🙂
I’m in Australia and was wondering…for the hydrolysed rice protein, is this what I’m after? It has water in the “ingredients list” so would it come as a liquid or can i add water to make it what I need for this recipe?
Hi, im from Philippines, and i cant find a hydrolyzed protein in liquid form.. its all powdered form.
Also if a powder form is ok to use.. can i also use the hydrolyzed wheat protein instead of rice? Thank you. I really wanna try this recipe and is preparing the ingredients.
Also if this sulfate-free shampoo can be categorized as natural or vegan? Thank you..
That should be ok, but you’ll need less. I’d probably use half the amount and replace the other half with distilled water.
This is my first sulphate free shampoo bar and I love it, I will never use regular shampoo again.
I’ve been making CP soap for about 5 years now. This making a shampoo bar is very new to me, needless to say it’s been a little overwhelming until I found this sulfate free shampoo bar. I found all the ingredients and have been making 1oz sample bars to hand out, so far excellent feedback!! Thanks for sharing. My curiosity is this, can I substitute “any” oil instead of using Camellia seed oil? I have rice bran oil, carrot oil, hemp oil. Or do I need to stick to the carrier oils I find in you awesome encyclopedia under “carrier oils”
Please and thank you!!!
Student for life…….Jim
Hi Marie, this is so inspiring. Thank you! Can you tell me if it’s possible to add distilled water just enough so it’s pourable? I want to use it with my silicone molds and I can’t quite figure out how to make a pourable shampoo bar. Is it even possible?
I’m really excited to try my hand at making these! I have some questions when it comes to the SCI. Does it matter what type of SCI it is? Could I use the noodles instead of flakes? If I use the noodles, would I need to melt some of them down or could I just incorporate them whole? Thanks!
Your website is always so helpful when I’m trying to figure out recipes. I love that you offer substitutions or reasons not to substitute an ingredient.