Minimalist Shampoo Bar & Body Cleanser

Five ingredients are all you need to make this multipurpose solid cleansing bar, which can replace your shampoo, body, face and hand wash. It’s perfect for travel and a plastic-free lifestyle. This recipe is basically the solid version of my minimalist vegan shampoo. Like that recipe, this product is simply a pH-balanced, gentle cleanser that is also suitable for sensitive skin and babies. Plus, if you’re nervous about working with lye to make your own soap bars, then here’s your solution.

Recipe Variations & Substitutions

Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate:

I really don’t recommend substituting the surfactant (SCI) in this recipe. Nevertheless, if you must substitute then the best 1:1 replacement for SCI will be Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate (SLSa). However, using SLSa means that the shampoo won’t be palm-free.

Deionised water:

If you would like some fragrance or plant-powered properties, then you can replace the distilled water with a botanical hydrosol or floral water instead (like rose water). As always, you can also use distilled water instead of deionised water.

Cocoa Butter:

You can use another solid butter with a similar melting point like shea, avocado or mango butter (32-38°C). I chose cocoa butter mainly for its hard and brittle texture, which contributes to a harder shampoo bar overall. Cocoa butter has the texture of a slab of chocolate, whereas other butters may be softer/creamier in texture. I have even made this recipe using coconut oil before (which melts at 24°C), but that was in winter when coconut oil is solid at room temperature. I’m not sure how the bar would hold up in summer when coconut oil typically melts. If you live in a cold climate below 20°C then coconut oil will work. Cetostearyl alcohol also makes an excellent substitute for an even harder shampoo bar.

Corn Flour:

Corn flour (or corn starch) is an affordable ingredient that is already in most kitchens, and is widely available at grocery stores – making it perfect for beginners. However, you can also substitute the corn flour with arrowroot, rice or chickpea flour if you’re inclined to be more creative.

Geogard Ultra (Preservative):

You can use any water-soluble, broad spectrum preservative which is compatible in an acidic pH range (and is not heat sensitive). Just remember to adjust my recipe according to the manufacturer’s instructions and usage rates, and to test and correct the pH accordingly.

Cost & Shelf Life

Cost price: R58 per 100g. (Costs accurate at the time of writing in 2023)
Lasted me about:
3 months as a multipurpose shampoo and body wash.
Estimated shelf life: 6 months if stored out of direct sunlight, and allowed to dry properly between uses.


  • No fancy active ingredients: It’s just a mild cleanser for the hair and skin. This is basically like a pH-balanced soap bar.
  • Subtle detergent scent is noticeable from the SCI, since there is no added fragrance. If this bothers you, then substitute the plain distilled water for a fragrant hydrosol, or add up to 10 drops of essential oils before you mould. I find that using raw cocoa butter makes it smell a bit like Milky Bar white chocolate.

Cherry on Top

  • Vegan Friendly
  • Eczema friendly, but I can only speak for myself.
  • Sulfate Free
  • Silicone Free
  • Curly Girl approved ingredients
  • Multipurpose
  • Clarifying: You can use this as a clarifying shampoo before you dye your hair to remove product build-up.
  • Customisable: You can use this as a base recipe to substitute in your own butter, hydrosol and essential oil combination.
  • Palm Free
  • Contains no cocamidopropyl betaine: which is a common ingredient that many people have an allergy / irritation to (including myself).


  • Deionised / Distilled water: is a pure, pharmaceutical grade of water that is suitable for cosmetics. It contains no minerals or ions. It is not the same as bottled, filtered or spring water and cannot be substituted by these. You can find distilled water at most pharmacies. (buy here)
  • Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate: or SCI is a mild, natural surfactant derived from coconuts. It is the primary cleanser in this recipe which provides dense and stable foam without stripping the hair and skin. It is also responsible for the snow white colour of the shampoo bar. (buy here)
  • Corn Flour: is also known as corn starch, and it’s primary purpose in this recipe is to help harden the shampoo bar. It also dilutes the SCI concentration, and helps to achieve a good wet-to-dry ingredient balance. (buy here)
  • Cocoa butter: is a natural emollient that will moisturise hair and skin to prevent it from feeling dry or over-cleansed. Also, the hardness of cocoa butter contributes to the hardness of the overall product, which allows it to last longer. (buy here)
  • Geogard Ultra: is a broad-spectrum preservative which is approved for use in certified organic products. It is approved by COSMOS/ECOCERT, NATRUE and SOIL association. It is composed of sodium benzoate and gluconolactone. (buy here)

Recommended Retail Option

If you’d rather buy a ready-made product, then I recommend Be.Bare Shampoo Bars as the closest retail equivalent of this recipe. Their Tame That Mane variety is also made with SCI as the primary cleanser, as well as cocoa butter. It is also fragrance-free. At the time of writing, this product was rated as a 5-star seller.

Safety Precaution

Please be very careful not to inhale SCI or any other solid surfactant! Even when you’re measuring SCI flakes, tiny particles always become airborne that will irritate your lungs. Always wear a well-fitted mask. I even hold my breath while measuring SCI, and then step outside to breathe while the SCI settles down again. Leave your mask on until the SCI has been melted down into a liquid/ paste form.

Not sure where to find these, or other ingredients? My shopping guide may help you. Are you new to essential oils? Please read how to use them safely.

How has this solid cleanser recipe worked for you? Please share in the comments section below.


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