DIY Shampoo Bars

purple lavender shampoo bar on a wooden surface

Posted by Bonnie

Recently I’ve had a lot of questions about a post I had up for a couple of days in our Instagram story (@homesteadalive) about my shampoo bars. I’ve been making them for a while now and have seen a dramatic improvement in the quality of my hair.

I’m told shampoo bars do not work well for everyone – It’s not that they won’t work well but that you need to find a formulation that works well for YOU. Someone with oily hair may not want to use the same bar as someone with dry hair. And it does take a few washes for your hair to find a new groove, because it is so used to conventional shampoo and conditioner.

Rewind a second here and I can give you some history on my own hair. The first time I used a box hair dye, I was in grade 9. I had been reading SO many Seventeen magazines and was obsessed with changing my look, which to be fair needed a change because I was a 14 year old making very bad style choices! I bought this hair dye at the local grocery store and hid it under my jacket, then took it to a friends house for a sleepover and dyed my hair… I swear I did! You wouldn’t know it, because… I was a big chicken and got essentially the same color of dye as my natural color already was. From there, it snowballed. I’ve had black hair, every shade of brown, peroxide blonde and pretty much everything in between. I’ve had red hair twice (you know when you do something and you think it looks great and then you look bad and you think oh boy who let me outta the house like that? Yeah, that was my red hair).

High school was right around the time that super straight hair was all the rage. Pin straight. The kind of straight that you can’t get from a straightening iron but that you CAN get from…. A clothing iron!! I would iron the crap out of my hair before school every morning, and the result was gloriously smooth, straight, silky hair (for a while – until it started snapping from heat damage).

My hair was super, super damaged. And I’m not going to tell you that these shampoo bars will bring you back from that. They won’t. The only way to repair your hair after that life of abuse is to fix it the way I did and CUT IT OFF. Start fresh. Sorry. That’s all you can do.

So, about 10 years after the hair abuse started I chopped most of it off. So smooth sailing now, with virgin healthy hair right? Incidentally, this was just after H was born. Have you had a baby? Did anyone tell you your hair falls out? I mean, I know that when you’re pregnant it stops falling out. So it makes sense that it would start again after the birth of your child. But MAN. I could pull the stuff out in what seemed like clumps for MONTHS (and now, after little H was born I can again. So lucky.) My hair was falling out so fast it was clogging my drain when I took a shower. And cutting it off helped with the hair loss – Not that I was losing less, but that it seemed less because the hair was shorter. But it was brittle too, and was never the same after that. Now, after having little H, the same issues are arising.

Ok. So why should you care about the bad choices I’ve made? Mostly because it means one thing. I’ve tried pretty much every hair product you can imagine. All of these products making lofty promises with no results. It felt like the products I was using were somehow watered down, or didn’t contain enough… Goodness. So I took matters into my own hands and tweaked some of my soap recipes to make shampoo bars. My hair was silky smooth and beautiful after only a few weeks!

As I said above, shampoo bars are perhaps a bit more personal than conventional drugstore shampoo. The great thing is you can customize it to your own preferences very easily. If you’re wanting to make these and have made cold process or hot process soap before that is great… forge ahead, you will be able to tweak the recipe based on the oil properties you like.

If you haven’t made soap before STOP RIGHT NOW and read this simple cold process soap recipe post first. This is not a project you can undertake without some basic terminology and safety knowledge first. 

And now, for the recipe. Finally.

Ingredients – Makes about 10 – 4 oz bars

Run your oils through a lye calculator to get your lye and liquids. I used water for this recipe, but you can also use milk, tea, whatever you want. Just remember to freeze before mixing with your lye. I used a 10% water discount for my bars to make them harder, faster. This isn’t necessary though and (while I had no issues) if you’re doing a hot process method the water discount may make your mixture on the dry side and more difficult to work with.


  1. Using safe handling practices and personal protective equipment, mix your water and lye. Add your sodium lactate. Set aside.
  2. Melt and combine your oils. Heat to about 120 degrees F, or within 10 degrees of your cooled lye mixture.
  3. Using your immersion blender, begin blending your oils and slowly add your lye mixture. Blend to a light trace.
  4. When trace is achieved, add your citric acid.
  5. If using a cold process method, add your fragrance and colorant now.
    1. Blend to medium / medium thick trace and pour into your mold (I sprinkled some lavender buds into mine first). I
    2. Insulate for a few hours, checking periodically for cracks or other flaws, if you wish for it to gel or refrigerate if you do not.
    3. After about 10 minutes of rest, spray with isopropyl alcohol to prevent soda ash.
    4. Unmold after 1-2 days depending on size and type of mold. Cure for 6 weeks. You’re done!
  6. If doing hot process, stick blend to thick trace.
    1. Add your soap batter to a crock pot set to low and cover. Check your soap every 10 minutes to ensure even cooking and stir if it is mushrooming up or if it is not changing in appearance uniformly.
    2. When the whole batch has a translucent appearance it is done. Allow it to rest in the crock pot, covered, until the temperature comes down to about 140 degrees F or so if you want to add fragrance.
    3. Once the temperature has come down, stir your fragrance and colorant into your batter. You can even use your fragrance oil to disperse your colorant if you choose. I didn’t disperse mine and so I was left with a more rustic, variegated color which I like.
    4. Spoon your mixture into the mold of your choice. Spritz with isopropyl alcohol. I placed mine in the freezer for 30 min to speed up the cooling.homemade shampoo bars are in a blue silicone mold in a freezer cooling
    5. Unmold after about 4 – 24 hours. Your bars are ready to use right away, but are dramatically harder after sitting for about a week so if you can wait, I would do it!purple lavender shampoo bar on a wooden surface


Using a shampoo bar can sometimes make your hair feel like it has more buildup than normal. If this happens, or if you want beautifully shiny hair every time you shower, try this lavender scented hair rinse.


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