Homemade Shampoo Bar: Review and Giveaway

shampoo bar 002

(Update: Giveaway contest closed!)

I’ve written a number of posts on ditching shampoo, and switching to the “no-poo” method (i.e. washing my hair with a baking soda and then apple cider vinegar rinse).

Since I know a lot of people have tried the no-poo method with unsatisfactory results, I’ve been trying to hunt down a good alternative. I’m still perfectly happy with the no-poo method myself – honestly, it just keeps getting better with time – but I really wanted to be able to suggest a second option for those who weren’t having luck but still wanted to ditch conventional shampoo. Conventional shampoo is so bad, you guys!

I wanted something that was frugal, eco-friendly, and body-friendly – i.e. something that didn’t rely heavily on plastic packaging or synthetic chemicals, but was still affordable.

Enter the shampoo bar.

I first heard of solid shampoo a few years ago, being sold by a company called Lush (they had a store in our city mall). The first major appeal to me in solid shampoo is that it doesn’t require throwaway plastic bottles. Apparently, solid shampoo doesn’t require (harmful) preservatives, either, unlike its liquid counterpart. I was totally pumped!

After digging a little deeper, though, I discovered that Lush used sodium laurel sulfate (SLS) in its solid shampoos – one of the bad ingredients I’d hoped to abandon with conventional shampoo. (According to the book No More Dirty Looks, SLS isn’t super-harmful in itself, but when mixed with other ingredients to soften its harshness, it produces a carcinogen called 1, 4-dioxin. No thanks!). They also often use questionable perfumes. So I kept looking.

I eventually discovered that there are plenty of other artisan-made shampoo bars available for purchase on the internet (like these), made with all-natural ingredients. Most looked a little pricey, though, and shipping in Canada is always expensive, so I was wary about taking the risk.

So I was excited when I came across a tutorial on making your own shampoo bars from Frugally Sustainable. I’d always wanted to try my hand at making soap, so I decided to give it a try. Here are my notes!

shampoo bars

Making My Own Shampoo Bars – Notes:


The first thing I need to tell you about is the cost involved: the ingredients needed to make your own shampoo bars are a rather expensive investment. I didn’t keep my receipts, but I probably spent $40 at Whole Foods on the oils that I didn’t already have on hand (i.e. castor oil, jojoba oil, shea butter and cocoa butter). I decided that for me, it was worth it, since I wanted these things in my cabinet for future homemade body-care projects anyway. I already had beeswax on hand from my parents’ beehive, but that would be an additional cost for anyone whose family members are not dabbling in beekeeping. I also pinched some lye from my mom.

Whether or not it would be worth it for you to invest in these ingredients would depend on a number of factors, including how much you plan to use them in the future and how much you value the learning experience.

The Experience

Making my own soap for the first time was SO COOL, you guys! I felt like a mad scientist, cooking up crazy concoctions in my kitchen. It was fascinating to observe the lye get scalding hot just by adding it to water, and to watch the liquid oils “saponify” – i.e to transform into a solid mass that could be cut into bars that create a lather when applied to my wet hair. Rad!

The Verdict

I went into it really, really optimistic: the tutorial says this shampoo bar is “the most amazing natural hair product I’ve ever used!” How can you beat that?

In the shower for the first time, I LOVED the way it lathered. After two years of pouring cold liquids onto my head in the shower, it felt good to massage that rich, luxurious lather into my hair.

Even though I thought I’d put in a good amount of essential oils (I went with lavender and lemon), the smell ended up being very subtle. Turns out you need close to half a bottle of essential oil in a recipe that size to get a strong scent, and that would just get too expensive. So I guess I’ll settle for subtle.

Sadly, I wasn’t overly thrilled with the results when my hair was dry. It almost felt like the shampoo had cleaned my hair too well – the roots of my hair felt like they’d been stripped of all their natural oils. My hair looked and felt kind of limp. It was perfectly clean, but lacked oomph.

I admit I only tried it once more after that. Since I wasn’t dazzled, I didn’t want to mess with the delicate balance I’d finally achieved with the baking-soda-vinegar method. The no-poo method had been working so well for me, and was still cheaper and simpler than the shampoo bar, so I decided I’d just stick with that.

I gave my mom a bar for her and my sisters to try, and they weren’t super-crazy about it, either – I’m not entirely sure why.

But it’s not a loss at all, and I’ll tell you why.

First of all, Ben has been using the shampoo bar ever since I made it two months ago and has no complaints. Being a guy, he’s not so concerned about his hair falling exactly perfectly, and the shampoo bar is really handy. For one thing, it enables him to wash his hair in the sink if he wants to.

Moreover, the shampoo bar makes a lovely a body soap. It’s lather-y and moisturizing and smells (subtly) nice, and I know exactly what’s in it. (For someone who used it as a shampoo bar as well, it would be the ultimate minimalist shower bar: everything all in one.)

I’ve read that shampoo bars are less ideal for people whose water is on the harder side. So someone with softer water might have more positive results.

As for cost, I figure it probably cost me about $20 to make one recipe, which made 7 bars. With Ben and me both using it as a body bar, and him using it as a shampoo bar, it has lasted us over two months, and there’s still quite a bit left. I gave several away, but if I’d kept them all they probably would have lasted us a year. $20 a year for all-natural shampoo (and soap!) is not bad!

Even though I didn’t personally love it on my own hair, I will probably make this recipe again (or one very similar)!

Giveaway Time! (Update: Giveaway Closed)

Curious? Want to give the shampoo bar a try, but not sure you want to invest in the ingredients?

Now that I’ve told you every freaking thing there is to know about this bar, I want to offer my last two bars to you dear folks as a giveaway! You can give it a try at no cost; and if you don’t like it in your hair, you still have a luxurious homemade soap for your shower.

Just let me know in the comments that you’re interested. If there are more than two of you by the end of the week (Saturday night), I’ll randomly select a winner and send it to you! (Canada and US only, I’m afraid. I can’t afford to mail it overseas!)

*Linked to Your Green Resource over at SortaCrunchy.

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  1. I would love to try it! I made plain olive oil soap for the first time in October, and I love it! I gave a bunch of it away at Christmas, hopefully they all love it as much as I do. It was a great experience, truly magical.

  2. Oooo I’m interested! And I have a US mailing address even though I’m in Germany. That sounds like something I could get into, I LOVE bar soap (I’m weird). And I haven’t had much luck with trying no-poo so far, although I admit I haven’t tried very hard.

    • I should add though, that since learning how bad shampoo is, I have cut back and only wash my hair every other day, which I haven’t done since I was a kid. And it’s great!

  3. I’ve been going with your no poo method for almost a year and I love the results!!! Thank you for sharing your experience which ultimately led to me finding the right formula for my unruly hair. I would love to try your bar as I haven’t found a body wash I’m impressed with yet.

  4. PepperReed says:

    Oooh! Oooh! **Jumping up and down waving my hand** I tried ‘no-poo’ before (my hair texture is similar to yours, but it wasn’t a great fit. But I’d like to try something like this before I make it (and I’d take 1/2 a bar if someone else wanted to split one).

  5. I would love to give your shampoo bar a try!! I haven’t gone “no-poo” or anything, but, I have cut my shampoo use down to once a week….I just wash with plain water during the rest of the week. My hair is more on the dry side so I really haven’t noticed to much of a difference :)

  6. Sue Friesen says:

    Interested! I would love to try it but like you said, its expensive!

  7. I would love to give it a try! I’ve been looking for something safe and easy for me and my girls to use. And thanks for sharing the details and pros and cons about it!
    Amy recently posted..Winter in Connecticut – Wordless WednesdayMy Profile

  8. I would love to try the shampoo bar out! After awhile of using the baking soda no-poo, my hair began to get greasy and have all these white specks in it. I definitely want to wash my hair with a healthier alternative!

  9. I would love to try it out! This is the first I have heard of shampoo bars, you have definitely peaked my curiosity :)
    Chelle recently posted..SongwritingMy Profile

  10. I’d love to try the shampoo bar!

  11. This bar is exactly what we’ve been looking for. I have 5 daughters and we’ve tried many alternatives to shampoo. Thanks for a wonderful post. We’d love to try even a part of the bar. Thanks!

  12. Lucky Girl says:

    I have tried “no poo” and have cut conditioner out completely. (ACV only) But everything I’ve tried when getting rid of shampoo just leaves my hair feeling waxy. I’ve even tried one of Frugally Sustainable’s other bars. I’m intrigued by yours because you mentioned that it lathers, an the one I tried definitely didn’t. I wonder I it might work better? I’d love to give it a whirl!
    Lucky Girl recently posted..Pursue: (Password Protected)My Profile

  13. Ooh, I’d love to try this! Just switched to no poo amd this sounds great!

  14. I think I mentioned on your no-poo posts how abysmally no-poo and natural shampoos have worked for me in the past. I’m back to normal icky shampoo, but I only shower once or twice a week. I’d love to try your shampoo bar–how fun to give away something you made yourself! Beeswax, when I’ve looked into it, seems pretty expensive, so you’re lucky you have a free source. :-)

  15. I’m interested. Thanks for the chance to win. :)

  16. Alice Connor says:

    I’d love to try it. Have been hoping to try your baking soda method soon.

    In other news, in a campus minister and used your “Word for 2013: Holy” post in a small group discussion this week. The students totally identified with your functional atheist feeling. Thanks!

  17. I’m interested in trying some of your soap! I’ve benn looking for alternatives in the shampoo area.

  18. I would LOVE to try it and so would my husband. :)

  19. I’ve used a locally made shampoo bar for the last couple years. I’m not far into my third bar in almost 3 years, they last forever! Over the last few months I’ve been trying to get away from that as well and use baking soda and ACV. With the bar I can wash my hair once a week, with baking soda it’s more like every 5-6 days and I can generally go for about 3 weeks using it at this point before my hair starts to feel weird and I use the shampoo bar for one wash before switching back to baking soda. Do you ever put herbs in your ACV? I’ve found that it smells much nicer and certain herbs are supposed to do different things like lighten your hair, or help with dandruff.

    I made a large batch of soap once about 7 years ago and it was so fun! I’d love to do it again, but it was a big undertaking and then I had more soap than I knew what to do with. I was giving it to people for a couple years afterwards. I love buying handmade soap, and really I have enough to last me a long time so I probably shouldn’t consider making more anytime soon. I kindof want to make my own lye too…someday maybe. :)
    Carolyn recently posted..NaNo Wrap-up 2My Profile

  20. I am also interested. I tried no-poo but only lasted a few weeks. I live 1 hour from the closest grocery store and even the health food store in that town carries heavily perfumed and not-so-healthy bar soaps! Thanks!

  21. I’m intrigue and would love to give it a try! Thank you for the opportunity to win.

  22. I’d like to try it! One of my girlfriends mentioned these and said she prefers them to no-poo, and since she has pretty thick hair like mine I was intrigued. But too lazy to actually look into it and too cheap to actually buy the stuff to make it :)
    That Married Couple recently posted..Game changerMy Profile

  23. Hey! I’d love to try one of your bars. I have used the baking soda no-poo method but have rarely liked it. I make our own toothpaste, my own deodorant, and have made lotion/body butter, too. But i keep going back to conventional shampoo at least once or twice a week. And even if the shampoo bar doesn’t work on my hair, I’d love to use it for a body bar. Thanks.

  24. I’m interested! I’ve decided that I’m not buying another shampoo bottle again so I’m needing to start the no-poo method soon! Thank you for motivating me to do so!

  25. Always interested in cutting down on household waste, especially plastic.

  26. Found you via YGR. Thanks for your post. I would love to try your shampoo bars! I plan on making my own soap for the first time soon too, so thanks for sharing that recipe as well :-)
    Olivia Lane recently posted..Four Fantastic Pot & Pan ScrubbersMy Profile

  27. That sounds awesome! I’d love to try it.

  28. I would love to try one of your shampoo bars!

    I also read that post at Frugally Sustainable and I was just thinking about trying it out because my two-year-old LOVES to rub soap in her hands and her hair. We are almost out of her store-bought shampoo and my home-made liquid hand soap, and I don’t want her to go through my body bars too fast because they are store-bought (I haven’t found any home-made ones that I like, I don’t like how my skin feels after using plain castile soap … I’m looking at a recipe using coconut milk and hoping I might like that.). I have almost all of the oils and things I need (I made that expensive investment two years ago when I started making things at home and I still have a lot left) except lye (which my husband will magically produce when I ask him for it) and cocoa butter. But I’m 7 months pregnant and EXHAUSTED all the time so I don’t know when I’ll get to making the shampoo bars! I am excited by the prospect that they make good body bars. I would love for all three (soon four) of us to use the same non-store-bought stuff!
    Ryann recently posted..Sticker ChartsMy Profile

  29. Chrissy G says:

    I’ve never heard of this before, I would love to try it!

  30. Let me start by saying I have EXTREMELY oily hair and skin and I’m allergic to metal (which is found in shampoo). I break out all over my face and shoulders and anywhere store bought shampoo has touched. I’ve tried every shampoo on the market and started using the no poo method of baking soda and my hair became even more oily, I don’t understand it. Does anyone have any ideas? Also, I can’t use any sort of oil or moisturizer or I’ll break out. I’m at wits end. Thanks

  31. Smallbones Studio of Home Arts & Sustainable Living makes a great organic hemp soap & shampoo bar, as well as other 100% natural soaps. http://www.smallbones.ca/100-natural-soap-for-a-healthy-green-clean/hemp-oil-soap-shampoo-bar (Full disclosure: I’m the person behind Smallbones. I hand make everything in my shop & everything is 100% natural & certified cruelty-free by Leaping Bunnies.)

  32. Margaret Ellison Mabe says:

    Have been trying to find out how to make soap and shampoo that’s cold pressed and no lye.

  33. I know I’m very late to this post, but as someone who makes her own soaps, I can tell you that if you felt this shampoo bar was too drying, it’s because there’s not enough oil. When you make soap to be used on your body, you want there to be more oil than the lye can saponify to balance the “stripping” effect of the natural oils. This leaves whatever you washed clean feeling AND moisturized. These extra oils are called “super fats” and range between 2-15% depending on what you’re using it for and on your own personal body. For shampoo bars, I tend to stay at the higher end, especially because my hair is very curly and becomes a nightmare very easily. If you make a soap for a purpose and don’t like it for that purpose, use it for something else and try again! Just make sure to run any recipe adjustments through a lye calculator to make sure you stay on the safe side of chemical reactions. Making your own soap is fun and a great way to stick it to P&G!

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