Maintaining an awesome beard has become a daily passion of mine. At any moment, if you looked on my computer it’s not uncommon to find a beardcentric web page hiding in my taskbar.
It didn’t take me long to stumble upon sites and posts advocating dedicated beard wash. I was intrigued as I was just using the cheap regular shampoo I had always been using on my head. What was the big deal?
What I learned the more I read was that all modern commercial shampoo was bad for your hair - all of it. Instead of just cleaning and letting your natural oils do their job, common shampoos strip your hair of everything, good and bad, and then the conditioner coats it in silicon and other unnatural gunk to make it feel smooth and soft.
I found several respected makers of dedicated beard shampoo. But, as my name suggests, I’m too cheap to actually buy any of them. If you want a high quality, all-natural product to show up at you door without any work on your part, give one a try.
What I did do though was closely examine the ingredients. Since I was already making my own beard oil and balm (and hair wax, I guess), I checked with the good people down at the internet to see if I could make my own shampoo, too.
Here’s my trials attempting to make a quality shampoo:
Initially, shampoo/soap-making seemed quite daunting. While my wife already possessed all the required equipment, she used most tools regularly to make our family meals and wasn’t too keen on me using them to make soap.
Thankfully, one day I happened upon an old crockpot at a thrift store for $2. The pot’s coating at the bottom was chipped off a bit, but since I wasn’t making anything that we were ingesting I was okay with that. (I also have ideas of finding out if I can repair it eventually.)
The other key tool is an immersion blender. Like the crockpot, my wife wasn’t willing to let me use her good blender for my beard shampoo...at first. I also found an immersion blender at the thrift store, but to be kind, it was more of a toy.
It was this fact I made two attempts using two different recipes pretty early in my soap-making career, but more on that later.
The other items needed to make shampoo are just various mixing and measuring tools. As for a mold, you could really use anything, but I used an old bread pan my wife didn’t want anymore.
Instead of bowls, I just used an old mason jar. And, I bought my wife new wooden spoons (don’t tell her they were only 99 cents), so I claimed an old, cracked one and made it my dedicated shampoo/soap-making spoon.
I have a cheap food scale I use for beer-brewing, and I just reused it to measure my shampoo ingredients. It’s not as precise as some recipes would like, but I’m not worried about being accurate down to .01 of an ounce.
As mentioned, I made two different recipes. I have to admit, I didn’t fully read the first recipe - I just looked at the ingredient list and they closely matched a popular beard shampoo bar. That was good enough for me.
What I didn’t notice was that it was not a hot-process recipe. What that means is that instead of cooking the ingredients in the crockpot, you only warm them to make mixing easier. Then you need to let the shampoo bars mature for 4-6 weeks before you can use them in the shower.
Also, because my blender was tiny and designed more for whipping the Baileys into your coffee than turning liquid oils into a pudding-like consistency, my mixture never got as thick as I believe it should.
When my arm finally got tired, I gave up and poured it into my mold anyway and placed it in a cool, dark place.
While the recipe said it would take 24 hours to harden then I could cut it into bars, when I checked mine a day later it was still quite soft and oily. I waited another day, but it was still semi soft.
Thinking I had failed, I dumped it onto a cutting board anyway to see what it looked like. Apparently it was only to top quarter-inch that wasn’t solid. I’m guessing my soap wasn’t mixed well enough and the oils separated.
Taking that into consideration, I cut what I had into half-inch thick bars and placed them onto a baking sheet to let them dry. Maybe they would still be salvageable.
Still thinking I failed, I searched for a different recipe. I also gushed to my wife how easy all the equipment was to clean. I was angling to get her to let me use her good blender on my next attempt.
It was not difficult to find another, even easier recipe, and I scheduled a time to make a second batch. I liked this recipe because it only had 3 ingredients - coconut oil, water and lye.
At the last minute, I convinced my wife to let me use her blender, on the condition that I clean it very well. I managed to screw that up a bit, but everything was fine in the end. I still got a lecture, though.
This time everything went well and exactly as it should. Despite my anxiety, within minutes my shampoo looked like a coconut pudding.
After letting it bake for 45 minutes, it looked all fluffy and there were no puddles of oil.
At this point, I could have bought pH strips to ensure that all the lye had done its job, but, come on, I’m frugal.
Instead, I used the “zap test.” I let a small amount cool, and then put it on my tongue. If it were to zap me, then the soap was not done. But, mine just tasted like soap, meaning it was finished baking.
I don’t really know what would have been better, getting shocked or having the taste of soap in my mouth, but at least it didn’t cost me anything. And, a few swigs of homebrewed beer got rid of the taste quickly enough.
I was warned that this recipe solidifies quickly, and becomes very hard, so I only needed to give it a few hours before cutting.
It had been about a month since I made my first batch of beard shampoo. It had dried out quite a bit, but it still left an oily residue on my fingers whenever I checked on it. Regardless, I thought I would give it a try anyway.
Conveniently, I had the perfect conditions to test both shampoo bars on the same day. My family and I had just spent the week at a cottage, so needless to say, I needed a good wash. Also, my wife and I had a rec soccer game later that evening, so I definitely was going to need a shower after that.
After a quick beard trim, I hopped in the shower with a bar from attempt number one.
I didn’t know what to expect, but I was very impressed with how well it lathered. It was quite easy to use and my hair felt clean and smooth after I was done - it rinsed off completely with no fuss.
I finished my shower off with an apple cider vinegar conditioner I quickly mixed up - 1:5 ratio of vinegar to water.
To be honest, I was pretty amazed. Our soccer game wasn’t going very well, and I spent more time than I should have playing with my hair and stroking my beard because it was so soft.
I also have to confess: I’ve never been one to really use conditioner. It’s been over a decade since I’ve hair longer than a quarter-inch, so I never bothered. But, now that I’m letting my hair grow out, I genuinely enjoyed how my hair felt after the first wash with my homemade shampoo bar.
I also read that initially your hair can feel a little gummy as it takes time for the new all-natural shampoo to remove all the junk you’ve been putting on it for the past however long. I haven’t noticed that, but it could be that since I never used conditioner much, I have less bad stuff on it.
When I was finally finished embarrassing myself on the football pitch, and drowned my sorrows with a few wobbly-pops, I was back in the shower. This time I brought a fresh coconut oil shampoo bar.
Entering with the same hope as my last experience, I was surprised that this one lathered quicker and produced even more suds. That caught me off-guard, but ultimately this shampoo bar returned very similar results as the first one.
I don’t know which one I like better. Since they work equally well, I think I’m leaning towards the all-coconut oil one, simply because it was easier to make and we can start using the first bar within a couple hours.
What do you think about my beard shampoo-making experience. Do you think you could make your own healthy beard wash?