Updated: Sep 17, 2021
The world of soaps is an interesting one, or a confusing one, depending on who you ask. Most of us, when discussing soap making, refer to the process of mixing lye (Sodium Hydroxide) to different types of vegetable oils (eg. olive oil, coconut oil). This can either be a hot process which involves mixing oil and lye over low heat, like in a slow cooker; or it can be a cold process, which literally just allows the mixture to harden on its own over time. Soap makers use different oils to achieve different textures and qualities of the soap bars and some creators are able to adapt the formula to produce bars that are suitable for washing our hair.
As a soap making hobbyist, I enjoy making soaps and also toyed with the idea of making a shampoo bar this way. After extensive experimentation, I soon learnt and accepted that it was not suitable for my hair. Some fellow soap makers have suggested using a hair rinse made with vinegar to bring down the pH level of the scalp and hair after each hair wash. But alas, that didn't really work for me and my hair became frizzy, dry and totally unmanageable. This led me to believe that using soap as a shampoo isn't for everyone.
More than a year later, I signed up a course to learn more about haircare and how to produce haircare products using natural and organic ingredients. I discovered the entire category of ingredients known as surfactants (e.g. Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate) which in layman terms, refer to materials that are cleansing and foaming. They are used in products such as liquid body wash.
There are some surfactants that are fully synthetic and there are others, that are made from plant derived materials. Clearly, these differ greatly in terms of availability and pricing, with plant derived surfactants being easily the more costly.
However, the common advantage is that the pH level of surfactants can be more readily adjusted to suit our hair and scalp.
At Patrichory, we choose our surfactants very carefully to ensure that they are from plant sources, friendly to the environment and gentle to our skin!
So in short - check out the key ingredients the next time you shop for a soap or a bar. If the main ingredient is lye, it's likely to be a soap - while shampoo bars would typically use surfactants.