This champagne-scented ultra-sudsy solid shampoo bar was inspired by the 110th anniversary of the maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic. I’ve shared a few Titanic-inspired formulations (and costumes!) in the past, and I thought we were overdue for a formula inspired by one of my longest-standing loves ❤️
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When I think about the RMS Titanic, I think about luxury and decadence. I knew I wanted to make a shampoo bar, and in my mind, luxurious shampoo requires tons of rich, dense, indulgent lather. To that end I chose a blend of Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) and Sodium Coco Sulfate (SCS) as the primary surfactants. Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) gives dense, rich, gentle “lace glove” lather while Sodium Coco Sulfate (SCS) amps up the lather to truly decadent levels.
Creamy white kaolin clay ensures the lather is extra rich and slippy, and it also makes the bars a bit more doughy and easier to shape—with or without a press or mould. You could use a different clay if you want, but I’d stick to smooth, creamy clays for this bar. French green clay and zeolite would be lovely; bentonite and rhassoul are more coarse/sandy than I want for these bars (though click here for a great shampoo bar made with rhassoul!).
Because Sodium Coco Sulfate (SCS) is quite basic, this formulation includes 0.6% of a 90% lactic acid solution to lower the pH into a good-for-hair range. If you use a different surfactant—or a different acid—this will change. Leave the acid out initially, make a small (20–30g) batch of the dough, and test the pH of that dough by making and testing a diluted solution. If the pH is lower than 4 or higher than 6 you’ll definitely need to adjust it (though it’s very unlikely it’d be below 4 without any added acid!). When I’m formulating shampoo bars I generally make a new small batch for each pH adjustment; this formulation needed four wee batches before I got the pH to where I wanted it.
Abyssinian oil re-fats the bar, polyquaternium-7 adds no-fuss conditioning goodness, and Cocamidopropyl Betaine boosts flash foam and makes the finished bar milder. For scent—I considered using the lemon/rose blend of Vinolia (which is lovely!), but a bottle of Champagne toast fragrance oil caught my eye. I tried it, and loved it. After all, what could be more Titanic-level decadent than shampooing with champagne? You could definitely use something else that you prefer, but in the spirit of the Titanic I encourage you to keep things fancy 🥂
The wet/dry balance of the formulation is very important to getting a workable dough consistency. If you use a different clay, or if your surfactants are a different format that mine, that can throw the balance off and give you a dough that’s too wet or too dry. Thankfully, this is a fairly easy thing to fix! Very basically, if the dough is too dry, add more wet stuff. If it’s too wet, add more dry stuff. I’d choose some water in a mister bottle for the “wet stuff” and more clay for the “dry stuff”. Make sure you weigh any additions so you can work them into future versions of the formulation. The mister is also useful if the dough starts to dry out a bit too much while you’re shaping it. This wasn’t an issue for me when I was making single-bar batches, but for the 300g batch I make in the video, I did need to mist the scraps to turn them into the final tiny nugget bar.
These bars dry out pretty quickly; 24 hours is more than enough, though you can always leave them to dry longer if you have the time. They’ll be plenty hard in no time, and they last ages in the shower. I store mine on a wire rack/shelf in the shower and they do beautifully. Enjoy!
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Relevant links & further reading
- Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Sodium Coco Sulfate (SCS) in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Kaolin Clay in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Abyssinian Oil in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Polyquaternium 7 in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Cocamidopropyl Betaine in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Liquid Germall; Plusin the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- How long will ______ last? What is its shelf life?
- Can I use a different preservative than the one you’ve used?
- pH meter in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- pH measurement in cosmetic lab: why we dilute samples? from Skin Chakra
- How to adjust the pH of your cosmetic products from Skin Chakra
- Why do you create a 10% dilution of a formulation before measuring the pH?
- Amino Acids for pH Adjustment? from Realize Beauty
- How to adjust colour, fragrance oil, and carrier oils
- Other shampoo bar formulations:
Champagne Shampoo Bars
33g | 11% Abyssinian Seed Oil
4.5g | 1.5% Polyquaternium 7 (USA / Canada)
22.2g | 7.4% Cocamidopropyl Betaine (USA / Canada)
1.5g | 0.5% Liquid Germall Plus™ (USA / Canada)
2.1g | 0.7% Champagne toast fragrance oil (USA / Canada)
1.8g | 0.6% 90% lactic acid solution (USA / Canada)
Put on your dust mask and weigh the dry surfactants into a bowl. Stir until uniform.
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 more clay. 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 liquid; I find a mister is very helpful here! Water is an easy choice of liquid; I used 70% isopropyl alcohol because I already had some in a mister bottle and that worked really well. 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 as desired. I opted to press the bars using my Bath Bomb Press. I used the shampoo bar mould, pressing 100g of dough at a time. I highly recommend lining the top and bottom of the mould with sheets of mid-weight plastic (I cut up a freezer bag), securing each sheet with an elastic band (watch the video to see what I mean—and thanks to The Bath Bomb Press for this tip!). I set the regulated pressure on my compressor to 55psi. Please watch the video to see this in action.
If you don’t have a press you can use your hands to roll and smoosh it into a shape of your choosing.
I’d recommend at least 24 hours before using them. 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 these shampoo bars comes out to around 5–6, 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 300g. This is at least a few month’s worth of shampoo. You could make one massive 300g bar (I don’t recommend it, but you could!) or a bunch of smaller bars—it’s up to you.
- 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.
- 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.
- Stick to solid surfactants if replacing solid surfactants, and liquid for liquid.
- You could use Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate (SLSa) or Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate (Bio-Terge® AS-90) instead of the Sodium Coco Sulfate (SCS). This will change the pH of the bars and will require adjustments.
- 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 could use a different soft, smooth clay instead of kaolin. French green clay or Zeolite would work well. I do not recommend rhassoul or bentonite. Changing the clay will probably mean you need to adjust the wet/dry balance; please read the blog for details.
- You can substitute another hair-loving oil like Jojoba Oil or Camellia Seed Oil instead of Abyssinian Seed Oil.
- You could try polyquaternium 10 instead of 7, but you’ll need less. I’d use 0.5% (in the dry phase) and add 1% distilled water.
- You could try a different liquid amphoteric surfactant instead of Cocamidopropyl Betaine. I was recently gifted a bottle of Shea Butteramidopropyl Betaine from Simply Ingredients and it looks like a lovely alternative!
- 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 could use a different acid to adjust the pH of the formulation, but you will need to do some re-development work to determine how much is required. Read the full post for more information.
The Cocamidopropyl Betaine was gifted by YellowBee.
The Abyssinian Seed Oil was gifted by Plant’s Power.
The bath bomb press and shampoo bar mould were gifted by The Bath Bomb Press.
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