What is in a Shampoo Bar?

Have you ever wondered what is in a shampoo bar, when looking for chemical free options? There are three basic components that most solid hair bars are made of: 

  • oil / fat
  • water
  • lye (or a lye alternative). 

You can use different oils, an alternative to lye (glycerine) and you can add essential oils or colors, but the basic components are the same for almost any shampoo bar.

Here is a guide to what you might find in a solid shampoo, and what each component is for.  Most people consider shampoo bars to be chemical free due to the mostly natural ingredients. You might find one or more of these ingredients in any bar you buy. 

I’ve also suggested a type of hair that each ingredient is good for, and a link to each in its raw form, in case you want to try making shampoo bars or conditioner bars, yourself.  You can find proven recipes on this website here.    

If you are lazy, like me, then I’ve suggested a ready-made option that you can buy from Amazon. Just click on the links and it’ll take you straight to the product where you can read more.  If you purchase something, I might get a small fee (don’t worry, it doesn’t cost you any extra). You can find product reviews here.

Or you can find a product recommendation for different hair types here.

The ingredients included on this page are: coconut oil, olive oil, aloe vera, shea butter, cocoa butter, castor oil, glycerine soap base, lye, rosemary oil, citrus oils, tea tree oil, baking soda, apple cider vinegar.

Chemical free shampoo – yes! SLS free shampoo – yes!

Read on for information about what is in a shampoo bar and why.

Coconut oil

Properties: Coconut oil is the richest natural source of medium chain
fatty acids, making it nourishing and moisturizing without
being too heavy. It’s a fantastic ingredient for a natural
shampoo and a common ingredient in any conditioner
bar too.
Best for: Fine to medium hair
Buy here:Make your own
Buy ready-made

Olive oil

Properties: Olive oil is rich in vitamins A, E and antioxidants. 
It helps protect the keratin in hair and seals in moisture.
Great in a hair bar, not just food!
Best for: Dry hair, brittle hair, dandruff
Buy here:Make your own
Buy ready-made

Aloe Vera

Properties: Aloe vera is rich in vitamin C, vitamin E and beta carotene
which gives it its nourishing properties – it is great
for your hair and your scalp (which is the secret to
healthy hair).
Best for: Any hair
Buy here:Make your own
Buy ready-made

  Shea butter

Properties: Unrefined shea butter is easily absorbed into our skin,
anti-inflammatory and nourishing.  Shea butter also
has a low amount of SPF and may help protect hair
against the sun. Shea butter is moisturizing and so it’s
good in a conditioner bar too. Loads of people recommend
unrefined shea butter for hair.
Best for: Dry hair.  Particularly good for scalp conditions.
Buy here:Make your own
Buy ready-made

Cacao Butter

Properties: Cacao butter has a high percentage of fatty acids
which are moisturising.  It also contains anti-oxidants
which are thought to have anti-aging properties.  It’s
easily absorbed into the scalp and hair. And it’s a
by-product of the chocolate making process – which
we all like to encourage! Add cacao butter to hair bars
– shampoo or conditioner bars.
Best for: Dry hair, dandruff, scalp conditions.
Buy here:Make your own
Buy ready-made

Castor Oil

Properties: Castor oil has been used for years and is thought to
encourage hair growth.  It has natural antibacterial and
antifungal properties and is high in vitamin E, minerals,
proteins, and beneficial fatty acids.
Best for: Any hair, dandruff, scalp conditions
Buy here:Make your own
Buy ready-made

Glycerin soap base

Properties: Glycerin is a gentle and moisturising cleanser. 
It is sulfate free and rinses easily. Hair shampoo bars
are one of many glycerin uses.
Best for: Any hair! Dry hair, sensitive scalp.
Buy here:Make your own
Buy ready-made


Properties: Lye is one of the oldest forms of soap.  It is very
good at breaking down dirt and has great cleansing
properties.  The fat that is used in the lye soap is
moisturizing.  If you want to use it to make your
own shampoo bar, there are some precautions
to take due to the way it is made and its ingredients. 
More about lye here.
Best for: Dirty hair, oily hair.
Buy here:Make your own
Buy ready-made

Rosemary Oil

Properties: Promotes hair growth, strengthens circulation,
anti-inflammatory.  Some people also say that it
can help prevent premature graying and dandruff.
Best for: Dark hair, dandruff, fine hair.
Buy here:Make your own
Buy ready-made

Citrus oils (e.g. sweet orange, lime)

Properties: Helps remove oil build up, smells great, has an
uplifting energy.  Good for skin, contains
Best for: Oily hair, scalp problems
Buy here:Make your own
Buy ready-made

Tea Tree Oil

Properties: Anti-bacterial, stimulates blood flow to the scalp
and promotes healthy growth, also a repellent for
insects (so great for kids hair to reduce the risk of
pesky lice).
Best for: Any hair, dandruff, kids hair.
Buy here:Make your own
Buy ready-made

Baking soda

Properties: Baking soda makes hair softer and shinier, and
more manageable.  Also treats dandruff.
Best for: Oily hair, thick hair, dirty hair, dandruff.
Buy here:Make your own
Buy ready-made

Apple cider vinegar

Properties: ACV is cleansing and has antibacterial properties. 
It can give your hair more shine, help with an itchy
scalp and treat / prevent dandruff.
Best for: Any hair – great if you have hard water (more about
that here).
Buy here:Make your own
Buy ready-made



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