Formulating New Shampoo Bars

Before I started thinking about reformulating my regular cold-process soap recipe, I was playing with a new formula for a shampoo bar. The Beer & Seaweed shampoo bars that I currently offer are already my second best selling soap. They work really great for normal hair and balancing the oils in the scalp. The scent is what I call Deep Patchouli – an amazing blend of patchouli, cedarwood and lemongrass that clings to the hair. Not everyone is enamored with the earthy scents though, and I figured I might as well branch out a bit and try something a little different.

For my first test batch, I used the same basic recipe as the Beer & Seaweed, but this one is Coconut Honey. I used coconut milk for the lye solution and just a bit of honey instead of seaweed. It was scented with a synthetic honey fragrance that’s quite yummy!

Coconut Honey shampoo bars - first test batch

Coconut Honey shampoo bars – first test batch

I asked 12 of my customers who were either currently using or had used the Beer & Seaweed shampoo bar to try this new formula and give me their feedback.

Since it can take up to two weeks for someone’s hair to adjust to a shampoo bar after using commercial shampoos, I wanted to find out what state each person’s hair was in when they started the trial. The majority were already using a shampoo bar so their hair was adjusted to it.


I also wanted to make sure I had people with a variety of different hair types testing the bar and see how each one responded.


I was happy with the representation – pretty much everything except for straight hair!

Now it’s time to see how the Coconut Honey shampoo bar performs compared to the Beer & Seaweed one:


This actually surprised me! I didn’t expect the coconut milk to lather as well or better than beer! I’m just guessing the added sugars from the milk and honey are what boosted the lather to compete with the Beer & Seaweed bar.

Next, I wanted to find out what differences the Coconut Honey bar made in each person’s hair or scalp.


The results are somewhat inconclusive, but it would seem that it is a more moisturizing bar than the Beer & Seaweed. Of those who said it made their hair feel “heavy” or even greasy, two out of three had not been using a shampoo bar when they started the trial which could contribute to that feeling as the hair was transitioning from commercial shampoo.

Finally, I wanted to know how the testers would rate the Coconut Honey bar and whether they thought it was ready for market or if it needed any changes.


Half of the testers gave the Coconut Honey bar a “10” which was pretty impressive! Of the ones who rated it lower, scent was the main thing they would change. One requested that it be reformulated to make the “residue lighter”.


I believe a natural scent is the one thing that I would like to change about the Coconut Honey shampoo bar before I’m ready to sell it. One of my testers wasn’t even able to use the shampoo bar past the second day because of the synthetic scent. I received some great tips from my friend Michele about how much honey you need to add for the natural honey scent to come through in the soap. I’d like to attempt to increase the honey to that rate in this shampoo bar and have it re-tested. My only fear is that the honey is a natural humectant, which means it draws moisture to itself, and since this shampoo bar is already more moisturizing to the point of being too heavy for some, I’m worried that the added honey will make it even more so.

I’m certainly open to suggestions for a natural scent that would go with the Coconut Honey. I think it needs to be more on the sweet side, not herbal or earthy, which is a pretty tall order for natural essential oils. There aren’t many essential oil scents that actually cling to the hair, which was another request from the testers, but may not be possible.

Shampoo Bar Official Announcement

Beer & Seaweed Shampoo Bars

I’ve been considering discontinuing the Beer & Seaweed Shampoo Bars. They have been out of stock for almost a month, and I requested that anyone who would like to see them re-stocked would send me a message to that effect. The result?

“I would like to see them stay, Amy. I would even just buy a whole batch at a time if you would make it.”

“I like shampoo bars because when I use it, my hair is shiny and feels light, not weighted down. It’s clean! I appreciate using natural products and like that you are willing to make a variety of items.”

“So sad that it is out of stock! Can’t wait ’til it is back so I can stock up!”

“My husband’s hair is softer than it has been in years and I was hoping to order some bars for him and my youngest son. I will pre-purchase six or more bars if you will make it again.”

Also had a customer who came to me in person and said she would buy up half a batch…and another who told me she just loves the Deep Patchouli scent.

Interestingly enough, I believe ALL of the above folks are fans of the Deep Patchouli scent. So today….I made a batch. I had a near disaster as the mostly full bag of soap let go from where it was nesting at the top and landed on a towel on the floor! Here’s a photo (from my phone) of me pouring the shampoo bars last June, just so you get an idea of what I’m talking about:

Pouring Shampoo Bars – last June

Fortunately, I was able to salvage almost all of it without too much damage. Scared me pretty good though!

I will keep the Deep Patchouli shampoo bars in stock for now (no Lemongrass Herbal Mint) and see how it goes! They will be available for purchase after the holidays are past us and my girls are back in school – I believe that would be January 3rd!

Another Shampoo Bar Convert

One of my customers (and faithful blog reader) just sent me some great photos of her hair that she took after the first time using the Beer & Seaweed Shampoo Bar, which seems to work best for dry/normal hair:

Candy's hair - using the shampoo bar ONLY

Candy says, “I am so in love with the shampoo bar it’s almost ridiculous.”

And to prove it, she just ordered three more bars.

Thank you, Candy!! I am so happy when my customers are happy!

I have been working on formulating another bar for those with oily/normal hair. Ten ladies have either tested it, or are still in the process of testing it. (I had two in Canada, and one on a military base in Turkey, plus another one just had a baby!) I will post their results as soon as I’ve received them all, which should be in another week – or two at the most.

For those just now hearing about all this shampoo bar business, if you would like to learn more, there is a lot of information under the Shampoo Bar category on this blog. Some of you have heard me go on long enough, and you just need to try it for yourself!

Shampoo Bars Now Available!

Beer & Seaweed Shampoo Bars by Great Cakes Soapworks

The Beer & Seaweed Shampoo Bars are finally available! According to testers, these just might be the best shampoo bars around for normal to dry hair. It’s definitely my own personal favorite right now. If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you know I started my quest to create a shampoo bar last May, and have been trying out different recipes ever since. I had 13 gals test the Beer & Seaweed formula last November and got a very nice report including this before and after photo:

Linda's hair before and after using the Beer & Seaweed Shampoo Bar

After seeing these photos, I knew it was time to start producing. But it had to be the right size and shape, and it had to have the right scent(s). Having a nice, round bar that not only fits your hand, but also your head was important. So I invested in a custom-sized 2.5″ PVC pipe that had to be ordered from the plumbing store to use as my mold.

For the fragrances, I chose to keep the Deep Patchouli blend of patchouli, cedarwood, and lemongrass essential oils that I sent to the testers. The scent lingers in your hair, so if you like deep, earthy fragrances, you will love this scent! But I also added Lemongrass Herbal Mint, which is a super refreshing blend of lemongrass, lavender, rosemary and peppermint. You won’t smell it after your hair dries, but it will definitely invigorate the senses during the wash, which is sometimes all we need in the morning. Am I right?

So if you’re ready to give it a try, you can get your shampoo bars HERE.

What Do You Mean You Don’t Comb Your Hair?

These were my exact thoughts as I was reading the feedback from one of my shampoo bar testers. One of the questions was about how easily the tester was able to comb through her hair after washing it with my shampoo bar. Her response: “I do not comb my wet hair but did not experience any tangles while styling.” As I look back now, I realize that her hair is shorter than shoulder-length, so it makes more sense.

Well, this past week I decided to do a little experiment on my own hair. After I get done towel drying it, my hair is sort of wavy. Of course, after I’ve combed through it, it goes pretty straight. So I wondered…if I didn’t comb it, would it remain wavy? I haven’t had naturally wavy hair since before I had kids. With each pregnancy, it got straighter and straighter. Other shampoo bar users have reported that their hair has more waves, so maybe I could too!

Here’s a photo of my wet hair, right after using my shampoo bar:

My wet hair - I've scrunched it up a bit with my hands, but haven't used a comb on it.

Scrunching it up sort of brings back memories from the good old days when it was permed to perfection. Here’s one of my high school graduation photos with all my curly locks:

May 1992!!!

Ok, so back to the present. I can either diffuser dry my hair at this point, or just let it air dry. The conclusion is that most of the waves fall out, but at least the body remains:

My air dried hair

At this point, I can easily run my fingers through it. It’s not tangled. So now, I just use my curling iron to enhance the body that’s already there. I don’t have to use any mousse or gel, just a little bit of aerosol hairspray, and I end up with this:

My uncombed curled hair!

Or, I can put half of it into a clip, and have this:

My uncombed updo!

Quite honestly, I was beginning to tire of my long, straight hair and wondering if I should just get a new cut. Now, I’m pretty happy to have a couple more options! Today, I’m making a full-sized batch of the shampoo bars that my testers used. I’m getting a little bit giddy about being able to offer it for sale – finally! Of course, it will be a few weeks before it’s done curing…

So now, I’m curious. Anyone else NOT comb their wet hair? Is it short or long?

Shampoo Bar Testing Results

I sent out samples of my latest shampoo bar to 13 ladies at the beginning of November. They were given the task of using the shampoo bar for a full 14 days, keeping notes about the changes they saw in their hair, and submitting answers to my survey questions when they were done. Since this is a rather busy time of year, I simply asked that they submit their feedback by mid-December. The group of testers consisted of ladies who had never used a shampoo bar before, as well as some seasoned users. Seven of them have natural hair, six have color-treated hair. There was representation of nearly every hair type and length, except for oily. Only two of the testers reported having hard water, the rest had soft water, or somewhere in between.

So what was this shampoo bar that I sent out? It’s a beer and seaweed bar, with aloe vera juice, hemp oil, nettle, and silk. I took a chance using Jen’s lovely patchouli, cedarwood and lemongrass essential oil blend, knowing that earthy fragrances are not everyone’s favorite. Only three of the testers “loved” the fragrance.

I had one local tester who did NOT have a very good experience with this bar. This was Juliet’s first experience with a shampoo bar, and while she loved the idea and convenience of the bar, her hair didn’t get past the greasy stage, and she was forced to stop using it after 7 days. Her hair type is coarse, normal, natural (no color added), and shoulder-length.

Karen P. also had difficulty. She says, “My hair felt weighted and grimy during the day. In some cases, my hair became uncontrollable by the end of the day. Previously I was able to go 2-3 days without washing and restyling my hair but during the testing time, I HAD to wash and style my hair every day.” She pushed through the 14-day testing period, but after returning to her regular shampoo and conditioner, she says, “my hair is softer and flows better than it did with the shampoo bar.” She described her hair type as normal, natural, and shorter than shoulder-length.

On the other end of the spectrum, Diana Z. is a seasoned shampoo bar user (and one of my regular blog readers!) who responded, “I had super positive results!!! Loved the suds! Loved the feel of my hair…not grippy after like some soap bars! LOVED the shine of my hair! Loved my fluffy hair!! Better than any bar I have used. I would definitely buy this bar!”

Laina L. is another seasoned shampoo bar user with fine, shoulder-length hair. She says, “I’ve used a shampoo bar soap (all natural) for about 2 years now. This one did lather much better, but with the other one, I did not need to use as much conditioner to detangle. [With this shampoo bar] I have to use conditioner to detangle it. Vinegar won’t do the trick to get a comb through. Yours gets my hair cleaner, though.”

Two gals mentioned that they thought it stripped the color off their hair. Teresa D. said, “I can see my hair color come out in the water each time I wash (just light coloring) of brown that i had done about 3 weeks ago. My scalp always felt very clean after using the bar but my color did come out and my hair felt coated and greasy like I could not wait to wash.” Elizabeth S. said, “The only thing I wonder about is if anyone else thinks it strips color off of their hair after you have it first colored. Maybe it just seems that way because your hair seems to grow faster. I think this would be my only concern about using it.” This wasn’t a huge concern apparently because she’s already asked me when I will have these bars for sale!

I got to thinking that perhaps the dark brown color of the soap makes the lather turn a light brown…just a thought.

Those with shorter hair were more likely to be able to go without conditioner. “Jaime R. says, “I used only vinegar the whole time – I didn’t feel like I ever needed conditioner. My hair felt great.” However, she felt like it was more work to use the bar/vinegar than it is to use regular shampoo & conditioner. Diana Z. also has short hair, and used just the bar. “No vinegar rinse (or conditioner) needed!”

I was glad to have several soapmakers test this shampoo bar as well. Patrice H. of The Soap Seduction said, “Black hair is very different from Caucasian hair. The most obvious being the texture. I really enjoyed using this shampoo bar because it lathered like a dream, and it did not cause unruly tangles like most commercial shampoos. I typically use a vinegar rinse after my conditioner to seal in shine, so that was part of my regular routine. I highly recommend this bar for coarse, dry hair!”

Rachel L. of Harvest Moon Soap Co. said, “My hair is softer, I see a lot less breakage/split ends, my hair feels healthy!” She also became a convert in favor of the fragrance over the course of time. “At first, I wasn’t crazy about the fragrance, but the next day after the first wash, I kept wondering what that earthy scent was and realized it was my hair! Now I just love it!”

Amanda G. of Cocoa and Shea said, “My hair is softer, and noticeably less dry. There’s less frizz, and I can actually put it in a braid when wet and just take it out when it’s dry and go – no styling or sleeking down required. I did use regular conditioner, but found that I needed far less than usual, stretching out my supply, and I only needed it on the bottom half of my hair – and even with that, I still noticed a marked improvement over time.”

Tina B. of Essentially Made Soap Company said, “My hair is silky smooth and feels so clean. I also have lots of natural wave and body that doesn’t come out when using traditional shampoo and conditioner. I like the fact that I don’t need a conditioner or vinegar rinse because it conditions so well by itself, even with long hair, although my water is softened.”

Clare S. was my rockstar hard water tester in Arizona. She says, “Because of the very hard water I sometimes use Calgon to rinse before and after shampoo, it softens water and helps it get to my scalp as my hair is very thick. Then the vinegar afterward. I was very surprised that I didn’t always need to do this and the shampoo bar rinsed out very well even with the hard water. Also, even without conditioner I could comb through pretty well, waist length tangly hair. My hair looks good and it even helped some of the natural wave come out.” Oh, and she was one of the three testers who loved the fragrance!

Linda R. was another tester who was surprised at the amazing results! She had tried another shampoo bar before, and had been disappointed. She says, “I would definitely buy this shampoo again, please let me know as soon as you start selling. I hate to go back to my regular shampoo. I’m glad I didn’t give up on shampoo bars.” Linda sent me her before and after photos of her hair:

Linda's hair before and after using Great Cakes Soapworks shampoo bar

Her description of her hair: “When I started using the bar my hair was really dry & would have to use argan oil to make it softer & less frizzy. Now my hair is soft, shiny & I don’t have to use anything on it plus it’s no longer frizzy.”

The results of this testing simply support my assumption that unfortunately there is no one-shampoo-bar-fits-all. From here, I plan to make another batch of the beer & seaweed shampoo to sell, but probably use an essential oil blend of lemongrass, lavender, rosemary and peppermint instead of the earthy blend. I may make a small batch of bars that are exactly like the testers for those who really enjoyed the earthy scent, but I haven’t decided on that yet! I will also be formulating at least one more shampoo bar – but only after the first of the year.

The Great Shampoo Bar Exchange: The Beer & Honey Bar

This is it! My final review in the Great Shampoo Bar Exchange! The last shampoo bar came the farthest – all the way from Spain! Jennifer of Naturalmente Mediterraneo sent us three different bars, but asked us to focus on her favorite: the Beer & Honey Bar. She actually had to split her last bar three ways, so that’s why it’s smaller than the others – but what a treat!

Shampoo Bars from Naturalmente Mediterraneo: Carrot & Coconut, Rosemary Nettle, and Beer & Honey

I enjoyed the Beer & Honey bar so much, that this is all I have left:

What's left of the Beer & Honey Bar

The magic in this bar is not in how well it lathers or how squeaky clean my hair felt, but rather in the fragrance. Odd, you might say. Oh, but you haven’t smelled it, have you? The essential oils are listed as patchouli, cedarwood, and lemongrass, and I’d say it’s pretty heavy on the patchouli. There’s something about the blend that is just so intoxicating! It was strong enough to linger in my hair throughout the day, which I loved! In fact, when I was using the bar, Hubby’s uncle, who happens to be a very talented artist, came for a visit and after giving me a hug said, “you smell good” in the most complimentary way possible.

Ok, so hair pictures!! I did continue to use conditioner on the ends, as well as the apple cider vinegar rinse. It was a delicate balance between using enough conditioner to give an easy comb-through, but not too much so my hair wasn’t weighed down.

Nice body, even at the scalp!

More great body at the ends as well!

I believe Jennifer is still working out her formula, so after all this gushing, you won’t be able to get your hands on a Beer & Honey Bar just yet, but please peruse her other soap offerings, and check out her blog!

As for me, I have so enjoyed trying out these shampoo bars! It has helped me in my formulations immensely! In fact, I have already made another test batch, combining some of the things that I liked from each of these bars, and just tested it out yesterday. With just a couple more tweaks, I think I may have something worthy to sell. You know, in the midst of getting ready for the holiday rush!

The Great Shampoo Bar Exchange: Tierra Verde Rosemary Citrus Shampoo Bar

And, now back to our regularly scheduled program! In case you missed it, background info on the Great Shampoo Bar Exchange can be found here, and I just reviewed the Heirloom Soapworks Pooh Bar here. This is my review of the Tierra Verde Rosemary Citrus Shampoo Bar created by Michele Lang.

Michele’s bar is unique in several ways. First, is its round shape, which was so easy to hold and work around my head:

Tierra Verde Rosemary Citrus Shampoo

Tierra Verde Rosemary Citrus Shampoo

Second is its lovely aroma. The essential oil blend is made with grapefruit, rosemary, orange and litsea cubeba. It’s so lovely, in fact, that I discovered that Hubby was using it and had to tell him to keep his hands off!

Third is the explosive lather. I do mean explosive!! There was no lack of bubbles when using this shampoo bar.

After using this bar for a week or so, I realized that my hair was very difficult to comb through. This shampoo bar is formulated to perform well in hard water, which made it seem drying for my hair. This was easily remedied, however, by increasing the amount of conditioner I was using in addition to the apple cider vinegar rinse. Now, I have an added benefit: beautiful body in my hair!

Even at the scalp, I have great body to my hair!

Even at the scalp, I have great body to my hair!

This is how the ends look - no styling products needed!

This is how the ends look – no styling products needed!

The best part about using Michele’s Rosemary Citrus Shampoo Bar was taking it to my hair appointment so that my stylist could experience the fabulous lather and see how it works. It was my intention to bring the bar with me to my appointment. However, in my haste to leave the house, I left it behind. My hair stylist (who is also named Michelle – only with two L’s) actually let me drive home with foils in my hair to get it! As I neared my driveway, my heart started pumping a little faster at the thought of my neighbors seeing me in such form. I was wishing that my garage was cleaned out enough so I could just pull the van inside and close the door behind me, but that wasn’t the case. Instead I was forced to take a quick look around to be sure no one was looking before I took a deep breath, and did a “duck and run” into the house! Well, I made it back to the salon without losing my dignity, and this is the only photo I can show you from that day:

Getting my hair washed with the Rosemary Citrus shampoo bar at the hair salon

Getting my hair washed with the Rosemary Citrus shampoo bar at the hair salon

Needless to say, Michelle (with two L’s) was impressed by how well it lathered and how healthy my hair was. I could tell it was difficult for her to wrap her mind around how that could be possible, since everything she was ever taught was that you cannot strip your hair down with “soap” every day and still have it be healthy.

I have completely used up my bar of Rosemary Citrus shampoo – that’s how much I loved it!

The Great Shampoo Bar Exchange: Heirloom Soapworks Pooh Bar

In case you missed it, background info on the Great Shampoo Bar Exchange can be found here.

Somewhere along the way, Jennifer (instigator of the exchange) started having issues with using shampoo bars and hasn’t pinpointed the problem just yet, but she encouraged me to go ahead and post my reviews. So I will do that this week.

This is my review of the Heirloom Soapworks Pooh Bar. Becky first posted about her shampoo bar here. And what a lovely bar it is!

The Pooh Bar, all wrapped up

The Pooh Bar, all wrapped up

Pooh Bar: Under the Label

Pooh Bar: Under the Label

Ingredients listed: saponified oils of olive, coconut, jojoba, castor & flaxseed; stag beer, goat’s milk, water, carrot tissue oil, rosemary oil extract, essential oils & honey.

Becky has a proprietary blend of essential oils, so I’m not exactly sure what’s in it, but to me it smells like a combination of ylang ylang and honey – and it’s strong enough to leave your hair lightly scented.

The lather is super dense and creamy – and abundant! Wow! Must be the goat’s milk that makes it much creamier than my shampoo bar. Becky says it’s only superfatted at 3%, which explains why the bar is so hard and lasting so long, but it certainly isn’t drying at all.

After using this fabulous shampoo bar for about two weeks, and my hair absolutely loved it! First, let me explain that my hair is highlighted, and about six inches past my shoulders. Texture is fine, but thick. Also, it seems important to note that we have soft water due to the water softener that my hubby installed when we moved in.

My usual routine when washing my hair with a shampoo bar is to rub the bar directly on my hair – all over my head. Then I work up the lather. Rinse and repeat. Only with the Pooh Bar, by the time I lathered up the second time, I hardly had to rub the bar at all and the lather just exploded everywhere! After the second rinse, I take a small dab of conditioner and work it through the ends, then add the diluted apple cider vinegar rinse over the top of the conditioner, working it into my scalp with the tip of the yorker cap. Then a final rinse, and I’m done.

The one thing I changed while I was using Becky’s bar was my apple cider vinegar rinse. I happened to run out mid-way through using the Pooh Bar, so when I mixed it up again, I increased the amount of vinegar to somewhere around 3 parts water, 1 part vinegar. My hair felt so much smoother and silkier during the final rinse and it also helped tremendously with the comb-through – I couldn’t believe it!

Here is my hair after using the Heirloom Soapworks Pooh Bar:

Silky smooth & soft!

Silky smooth & soft!

Next up: Tierra Verde Rosemary Citrus Shampoo Bar

The Great Shampoo Bar Exchange

I am participating in a shampoo bar exchange with three other soapmakers:
Michele of Tierre Verde Soaps in Texas
Becky of Heirloom Soapworks in Illinois, and
Jennifer of Naturalmente Mediterraneo in Spain

Jennifer instigated this exchange at the beginning of the summer when several of us were trying out shampoo bars for the first time. The goal is to compare recipes and experiences and come up with the best possible shampoo bar. I was the first one to send out my package, so my shampoo bar is the first one to be reviewed. I sent the Original Opus recipe, plus one more “modified” Opus bar which I hadn’t tried myself when I sent it (now that I’ve tried it, I don’t like it as well as the original, so the original is the one that has been reviewed).

The other soapmakers have all shared their insights with me, both the good and the bad. Becky & I both have soft water and similar hair types, but Michele and Jennifer have both had issues with this soap. The shampoo bars they have formulated for themselves seem to work well for their hair, so now the task is to figure out if there is a way to make “one shampoo bar fits all”, or accept the fact that there are too many competing factors.

We are putting our heads together on this, but welcome your input as well if you have any!