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What Makes A Good Shampoo Bar?

Updated: Sep 17, 2021

It's not difficult to make soap bars and shampoo bars at home. As a long-time user and creator of natural products and having led many DIY workshops, I'm confident to say that as long as you have the ingredients and the right recipes, creating your own personal care products is like preparing a simple dish.

However, what I find more difficult is making a GOOD shampoo bar. This obviously starts from a recipe or formula that uses ingredients that are plant-based and eco-friendly, sourced from trusted suppliers.

A good shampoo bar should be "gentle" - and for me that means it should be pH neutral (or pH balanced), so it doesn't leave the scalp and hair feeling dry after use. Some believe being pH neutral means it won't clean as well as more alkaline-based soaps or shampoos - but the trick here is to ensure the cleaning agents (surfactants) do their job of removing oil and dirt, while being pH neutral - and that's where the challenge lies!

And that's just the start of what makes a "gentle" shampoo bar. We need to also ensure that the blend of surfactants we select are able to synergistically achieve a balance of cleaning efficacy, creating sufficient foam (suds), and being mild and non-irritating to sensitive skin at the same time. This then requires some understanding of basic chemistry to make it all work well!

Good shampoo bars also need to be moisturising without causing a feeling of greasiness. I have seen some DIY shampoo bar recipes online that recommend a whole host of oils and butters to make the bars more emollient (like softeners). But, there are very few oils that really penetrate the hair follicles, and most of them just act as a protective coat for the hair. While protection is what we also need in a good shampoo, having too much of that will cause the hair to be greasy and weighted.

There is a fine balance in the making of the shampoo bar which results in hair that feels light and moisturised, compared to feeling heavy and oily. It's like baking a cake sometimes - get one part wrong, or use the wrong ingredient, and the cake doesn't rise or ends up dense, rather than fluffy.

A good shampoo bar should also be specific to the hair and scalp's needs. Not all shampoo bars are meant for all types of hair. That's why we created our Herbal Therapy bar to target people with oilier hair and scalps, or people with flaky scalps and suffer from dandruff issues. Meanwhile the Finer Things bar is meant for people with fine hair since that requires a different treatment and ingredients. For everyone else, our Daily Indulgence would provide the nourishment and conditioning needed for normal hair and scalps.

Last but not least, a good shampoo bar should make your hair feel soft, smell good and easy to manage once it's dry, thanks to the essential oils and conditioning agents used. Personally, I'm sensitive to synthetic fragrances (like commercial perfumes), so we never use them in our bars. I know some people can be allergic to essential oils as well, so we are developing some scent-free bars and will make them available at Patrichory soon!

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