Body Bars vs Shampoo Bars

I have made “body bars” for well over 20 years. I did not look seriously at the chemistry of shampoo bars until the last six months. The first person to use our bars as shampoo was my husband, Steve.  He chose “Pet Bar”.  The Pet Bar is designed for pets with skin that is irritated and itchy. Steve uses the bar because of the essential oil content to treat his itchy scalp.

The shampoo bar revolution started more than a few years ago. People want to use a clean, non-detergent shampoo/plastic bottle alternative with natural ingredients.  I found it a little perplexing that all the shampoo bars I looked at had basically the exact same ingredients as body bars. The only exceptions being the addition of clays and or synthetic conditioning agents.  Something about that did not ring true, but it was not a product we wanted to get into at the time for a variety of reasons.

With the success of our body recipe, many people have used our bars on their hair and the question started asking if it was OK to do this?  My answer was that many customers did use our bars in that manner and seemed satisfied, but we were not marketing them as shampoo bars per-se.

In 2019, Bonnie and I were at the National Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetic Conference in Dallas, TX where I was a guest speaker.   Bonnie attended to take the exam to become a certified soap maker as well and I’m proud to say she IS my right hand.   While I was giving my presentation, Bonnie sat in on a presentation by a shampoo chemist trained in trichology, the scientific study of the hair and scalp.   With the pH mattering so much in hair products, the proper formulation was not to be taken lightly.

Why The PH of Your Shampoo is Important

Maintaining the correct pH value of the hair and scalp is critically important to the health of the hair overall. Any type of hair product you use on your hair alters the pH, for better or for worse.

If you remember basic chemistry from high school, the pH scale runs from 0 to 14.

  • A pH of 7 is neutral
  • PH less than 7 is acidic
  • A pH of more than 7 is alkaline. 

What is the perfect PH for Shampoo?

What is the best pH level for shampoo? Hair products with a pH value between 3.5 and 6 are considered beneficial for the structure and health of the hair. But why?

Did Grandma ever tell you about an apple cider vinegar rinse for your hair?  Older generations knew that certain ingredients benefited the hair long before the modern-day shampoos and conditioners were even on the scene.  Vinegar was the appropriate pH of a mildly acidic pH of 3 to 3.5 to soften the cuticle of the hair.

How does Shampoo Impact Hair?

The hair has 3 layers. For the purposes of this discussion we will focus on Layer #1: the cuticle or the outside covering of the hair shaft.  It is made up of hard, overlapping cells……like bark on a tree or roof tiles. The cuticle is made of Keratin, a protective protein that doesn’t break down or degrade like many other proteins in the body. (Your nails are made up of Keratin, think of how much abuse they take daily!).

Why The PH of Your Shampoo is Important

Products that are alkaline (a pH higher than 7) damage the keratin cuticle. The cuticle opens and expands (like a flower bud) when the pH is high.  It contracts and tightens when the pH is low.  This contracture seals the cuticle and strengthens it

What is the PH of Your Shampoo?

So let the buyer beware, many, many shampoo bars which are just a repackaged body bar in different shapes and decorative wrappings. Check the packaging for any mention of what pH that bar has. Sadly, the vast majority of shampoo bars on the market are indeed alkaline. Alkalinity is fine for the body, it balances the acid mantle in the skin during a shower.  The mantle returns to its acidic levels 20 minutes after your shower.

In 2020, Whole Foods in Cincinnati approached us to start making shampoo bars for the new Mid-West region.  Having toured our farm facility, they knew our dedication to the best formulations. So with that, we opened the door to making Shampoo bars.

We have formulated the recipe, test bars are curing and we guarantee our pH will be at 5.5 or less.  We hope to have them on the shelves in Whole Foods and online on our website sometime in the next 8 weeks.  Bringing these to market takes TIME and perseverance.  We hope you will enjoy this new product.