Shampoo Bars - Waste of Time or Worth It?

Shampoo Bars - Waste of Time or Worth It?

A few months ago, this intriguing video about living without waste popped up on my Facebook feed.

It was about a woman, Lauren Singer, who had decided to try to live her life by generating as little trash as possible. She has been so successful that she could fit 2 years’ worth of trash into a 16-ounce jar!

Her tips on how to get started seem so easy:

  1. Know your trash – you need to understand what you are throwing away before you can start to reduce it.

  2. Reusable items – as Lauren points out, taking a reusable shopping bag with you is a great place to start!

  3. Make some products yourself

So, in the spirit of #3 on this list, I thought I would try to make my own shampoo bars. This would definitely decrease wasted packaging, and it would also make air travel much easier. Shampoo bars are solid, not liquid, so I wouldn’t have to cram as many liquids into that little plastic bag to get through security, plus they don’t spill!

What you need

  • 1-pound natural castile bar soap

  • ½ cup and 2 tablespoons pale ale

  • 2 tablespoons kaolin clay

  • 1 tablespoon jojoba oil

  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil

  • 2 teaspoons rosemary essential oil

  • Silicon mold

What to do

  • Shred / grate the castile soap.

  • Mix the shredded / grated soap with ½ cup of pale ale. Then gently heat this mixture in a double boiler / bain marie*, stirring often, until it is fully melted. This step took me a long time; about 45 minutes.

  • In a separate bowl, mix the remaining 2 tablespoons of pale ale with the kaolin clay.

  • Next, add the kaolin clay / pale ale mixture, with the jojoba oil and avocado oil to the melted soap and mix well.

  • Transfer the mixture to a mold – either silicon or a wooden mold lined with wax paper.

  • Leave the soap to harden for a few days.

* A double boiler or bain-marie is a bowl placed on top of a pan of simmering water. The bowl should not touch the water.

How much time?

It took over 4 days to make these shampoo bars, but most of that was the time needed to harden the soap. Here’s a breakdown of the timings:

Shredding the castile soap: 1 hour

Making the shampoo bars: 1 hour

Molding: 10 minutes

Hardening the soap: 4 days


Once I had totaled up the cost of each of the items in the shampoo bar recipe, I was shocked to find out that it came to $18.44 for 6 bars. The cheapest item was the Mickey Mouse silicon mold that I found for $0.25 in a local thrift shop!

I searched for a similar shampoo bar to purchase, and the closest I could find was a BRÖÖ Craft Beer Shampoo Bar which cost $7.50. The equivalent amount of homemade shampoo bar was $5.09.

Is it worth it?

Overall, I would give these a 3-pig grading. Making these shampoo bars did take more time and money than I expected. However, making your own does save money and they are more environmentally friendly as they are packaging free. Plus, they made my hair feel very clean and I definitely used less conditioner!

So, if you like the idea of packaging-free, no-spill shampoo, then I’d recommend you give these a try.

Anything else I should know?

How do I use a shampoo bar?

First, wet your hair thoroughly. Next, using wet hands, create a foaming lather with the soap bar and apply the foam to your hair, massaging it gently through your hair. Lastly, rinse thoroughly.

How do the ingredients in these shampoo bars help my hair?

My hair is colored, can I still use these shampoo bars?

Good news and bad news: it depends on how your hair is colored. If your hair has been bleached or lightened (i.e. color has been removed) then you should be OK to use these bars. However, if you have had color added then it’s not recommended. The pH of the castile soap used in this recipe is about 8.9 and, according to the Dr Bronner site:

The alkalinity of the soap opens up the hair follicles, where the color resides. The color will drain out and fade quickly. Colored hair needs acidic products only. (Soap, by nature, cannot be acidic. Only detergents (shampoo) can be.)

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