Sensational Syndet Bars

  Let’s talk about soap. Or rather, non-soap soap . Not making much sense, am I?

AKA syndet bars, non soap soap bars or shower bars have been around for ages. They are often marketed as “cleansing bars” or “dermatological bars”  with the term “soap free” or “soaps without soap.”  These are different from soap as you know it, as they are not made via saponification of a fat, oil or fatty acids with sodium hydroxide. They have a neutral pH of about 5- 5.5, compared to regular soap which is naturally alkaline with a pH of around 9-10.

Syndet  bars are made up mostly of surfactant blends with low water content. Often synthetic blends of harsh detergents are blended with colorings and fragrances to get your regular commercial shower or soap bars. SLS and SLES for example, are harsh detergent based surfactants that can irritate skin which can lead to itchy scalp and dandruff.  It also has potentially toxic effects on aquatic organisms. So make sure your bars do not include these ones. The word Syndet is made up from both synthetic & detergent. It sounds bad, but by using gentle, natural, eco friendly surfactant or tension-active agents, we have a safe product that is not like the original syndet bars used to be.

The surfactants used here are mostly in powder form, with a smaller amount of liquid ones to get a nice foaming effect, which is what everyone expects from products we wash with.

Natural, plant based powdered surfactant SCI , or Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, is a sodium salt ester of coconut fatty acid and will be a large part of the bar as this helps makes a product solid, with some wax or stearic acid used to help further harden the bar.

Firstly let me say that I do love all those absolutely gorgeous saponified soaps made by fellow formulators and artisans, they are so creative and their skill and artistic talent are much appreciated and respected. I do crack and buy lovely goat milk or honey soap when I do come across them, they are so gorgeous and lovely. I just have a personal preference to making these as I find them easier to fabricate. I have made beautiful cold processed soaps before and I probably will again at some point as I like to change and improve on various techniques. But for long term, daily use, I personally do prefer an organic syndet bar to protect my skin.

Syndet versus Soap

I will point out a few advantages to these shower bars over soap:

  1. We do not need to work with lye, which is harsh and can be dangerous to work with if not careful.
  2. There is no need to go through the saponification process. We can use our syndet bars right away, just wait 24 hours for them to harden. There is no need to cure one for weeks until the lye transforms the fat into soap and it is safe to use.
  3. While making our syndet bars, at the end we are able to adjust the Ph as needed. We can get a lower ph of 5 or 5.5 then we have with a normal soap, which we cannot adjust at all. So that means we can adapt our bars to our physiological skin ph of 5, so our epidermis with all its complex microbial systems and friendly bacteria is not whacked out of order by a higher ph which can kill them all, aggress the skin and destroy the protective barrier.
  4. Syndets are recommended for cleansing sensitive skin and even baby skin, as they are far more gentle and skin-friendly than traditional soaps. People who wash hands constantly use these.
  5. Since we have a non alkaline ph in our bars, we have the options of using various herbal and botanical extracts, colorings and aromas that would not survive saponification or alkaline ph levels of a regular soap.
  6. We can make very small or large batches and use beautiful molds to make one bar or more.

Fabrication process

These adorable bars take a little practice to perfect. Finding the right balance of wax/surfactant to get a hard enough bar, may take several trials. SCI is a solid surfactant, the only one I use, and the first step is getting this ingredient to the right consistency. It must be heated on quite high temperature, and the dry powder or tiny granules (I’ve never used the noodles) will swell, they do not melt, with the water content and become smooth and gel like. This step takes time and high temperature, mixing and pouring the right way at the right moment. Keep trying till you understand the process and see how the ingredients work together. It’s all a learning experience and practice will make perfect!!

Always take a pH measure at the end, and then you can adjust it accordingly in your next batches by adding more or less lactic acid as needed. Please let me know if you have any questions about this as I won’t go into too much detail about pH adjustment here.

These bars harden quite fast and must be poured very quickly into their molds. I find smaller batches much easier to manufacture. I can’t even imagine making these in large quantities in an artisanal lab. Stirring and pouring techniques would need to be done differently and with special equipment.

To preserve or not to preserve?

I do not add preservatives to my solid shower or shampoo bars all the time. Many have been made without and used over several weeks time with no signs of contamination, even when left on  humid shower racks. I do recommend letting them air dry between uses by keeping them in a bowl that has some holes so they are not sitting in water puddles between uses. If you add herbs, clays, aloe vera, or other ‘live’ botanical extracts, test your product for microbial stability and you might want to add a preservative system.  I used an herbal infusion here instead of plain water so this is the main reason I chose to add a preservative in this formula.

I am happy to share a lovely sample formula, so please give it a try and let me know how it turns out!!

Sample Formulation

stage Ingredients 100 gm
A Hibiscus, Rose & Mallow Infusion 30
A Hibiscus Glycerite 7.5
A SCI 25
B Beeswax 20
B Coconut Oil 6
B Vitamin E .5
C Coco Glucoside 5
C Betaine 3
C Hibiscus powder .3
C Lactic acid powder 1
D Sorbate & Benzoate .7
D Monoi  aroma 1

Fabrication Method

  1. Boil water and infuse your herbs in it for 15-20 minutes, then strain.
  2. Prepare A phase in a medium sized heat proof bowl                         .
  3. Prepare B phase in a small metal bowl or glass beaker. Prepare other phases in separate beakers.
  4. Place A bowl in water bath and start heating . Use heat proof gloves, the containers will get hot. This step can take time, be patient and stir ingredients well until a smooth blend is obtained and you cannot see individual pieces of the SCI. It will get translucent and thick.                                                             
  5. Heat oil phase B (not vitamin E) till melted, and then add this slowly to the SCI phase A while mixing by hand with mini whisk or spatula until well combined. Keep this mix on the warm water bath but with the heat turned off. Otherwise your blend will solidify too fast. Vitamin E can be added once the blend is cooled slightly.
  6.  Add phase C and stir gently, still keeping everything on the water bath.
  7. Add rest of ingredients, stirring well after each addition. Make sure everything is measured out in small beakers and ready to add quickly                                 
  8. If you work fast you can take a small amount of product and mix it in some distilled water, and take your PH measure. You might not have time to adjust it if it is too high, but note down the PH, and in your next batch you can add more or less lactic acid  to your formula as needed  to get the desired pH of 5 or  5.5. Remember, a tiny % will change the pH quiet drastically so go ea     
  9. Pour quickly into molds. Tap the molds on counter to release any eventual air bubbles, there are usually a few that come to surface. Sometimes the mix is more pourable than others, if it’s too thick, you can work with a spatula or spoon to get the paste into your molds.
  10. Let cool in fridge or in room temperature, if it is not too hot in your work area. After 24 hours the bar is solid and ready to use .                                                                                             

Feel free to swap vegetal oils or use herbal powders to those you prefer. Betaine can be replaced with sodium lactate, if you don’t have either, just try the formula without and recalculate the % to add up to a total of 100 . This should make 2 small bars. Hibiscus gives a light pink color to your bar but it can fade over time. Other colorants of your choice can be added as you wish !!

I used my home made hibiscus glycerite, but if you don’t have this plain vegetale glycerine is fine. Use herbs you have on hand to infuse into your water phase if you like, or plain distilled or deionized water will do.

Have fun experimenting to get the effect you want and please share your trials with us!!

References :



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How to make a Gel Masque


Masques are a huge trend these last few years. There are so many types on the market these days which are a big change from the traditional clay masques, from sheet masks ( big korean beauty trend ) cream masques, superfood masques, gel-to –milk masques, and so on. It is a great way to give your skin an instant boost, a deep clean, or treat specific skin issues such as acne or blackheads.

What is a Gel Masque?

Gel masques are masques which feel cool and light on the skin, as they can be kept in the fridge and then used on skin. They have a gelatinous type consistency and give a ‘tightening’ feeling on the skin,  you almost feel that your  skin is being temporarily lifted or tightened. A gel can be left on the face overnight if you don’t mind the tightening feel, or it can be rinsed off after a few minutes, so it can be a rinse off or leave on product accordingly.

Of course you can make clear transparent gels, but I love playing with colorful natural botanicals , so I make many colorful gels with various ingredients like golden tumeric or purple potato ,  colored glycerites,  fruit powder extracts,  even colored oils can be incorporated at small percentages. The possibilities are endless so get artistic  and creative and show us what you come up with !!! Just remember that many water soluble plant extracts are not very stable and beautiful pinks and blues can fade quite quickly , even when correctly formulated and stored . Making these types of natural products should be done in small batches.

Here is a red colored exfoliating masque which I came up with and really love, it has anti aging and hydrating benefits due to the beautiful extracts and aloe vera gel , and regenerates dull tone with panthenol or vitamin B.


stage Ingredients 100% 25 Ml


A Xanthan gum 1 .25
A Sclerotium gum 1 .25
A Pomegranate glycerite 3 .75
A Raspberry glycerite 3 .75
B Raspberry and Chamomile floral waters 76 18.25
B Aloe vera gel 10 2.5
C AHA acid 1 .5
C Cherry Tree Flower extract 2 .5
C Pomegranate Co2 extract .5 .125
D Gromwell root extract (colorant) .5 .125
E Pomegranate Aroma 1 .25
E Sorbate and benzoate preservative 1 .25


After weighing the glycerites and  gums , mix them together in a small glass beaker until very smooth. Let sit 15-20 minutes until this mixture thickens. Xanthan can be used at 2% alone if that’s the only gum you can find, but you will need to experiment to get the perfect gel texture . I find mixing 2 or even 3 gums together gives a much lovelier  texture then xanthan alone.

Now slowly trickle in the water , stirring well after each addition.  Add  aloe gel slowly and stir well  until everything is well blended.  Other hydrosols can be used to replace these ones, such as rose, orange, green tea…… or any other favorite.

A homogenizer type blender will help blend everything together much more effectively when using gums  , hand blending will not have the same effect . The gums incorporate much more completely .  If you do not have a homogenizer, let the gum and water mixture sit for a few hours or overnight to thicken.  Make your mixture a bit runnier then you want it to be at the end result , and adjust accordingly by adding a bit more water later if it is too thick.  Then stir very well .  Experimenting and trial and error is needed to get the exact texture you like.  Gums are tricky !!!

Add all the  extracts, one by one, stirring well after each is added.

Add gromwell root extract to get the red color drop by drop until you get the tone you are happy with.  Stir well . There is  only a small % of oil  here , which the  water soluble gel can handle without separation. If you incorporate more oil, you would need to use a solubilizer to prevent this. A few drops is enough to get a beautiful red.

Add the preservative. Check the pH of the product to ensure it is within the compatible range for your chosen preservative. This range is normally indicated by the supplier of the preservative. If your pH isn’t in a suitable range, you can lower it by adding an acid or raise it by adding sodium hydroxide or sodium bicarbonate mixed in distilled water. Add drop by drop till the right ph is obtained.

Transfer it into a  jar and label. To protect the color use a dark colored  or opaque  container.

Store in fridge to give added cooling  effect if you like. This masque makes skin feel super soft , nourished and regenerated after, and skin tone is bright and fresh looking as the exfoliating effects of AHA acids help with exfoliatio.

Pomegranate Flower

I found these dried pomegranate flowers while in the spice market of Istanbul. They are the red , large hard flowers and just caught my eye because I’d never seen anything like them before. I figured they couldn’t hurt in cosmetic formulas considering how amazing pomegranates are for skin. Most pomegranate fruit parts—its juice, peel, oil, seed, flowers, bark, roots—are known to possess enormous antioxidant activity (amongst other things), with benefits especially for the skin.

A few tiny pieces will turn an infusion bright pink, but the color quickly fades. I macerated the dried flowers here in glycerine and got a beautiful light pink glycerite which I used here.

It has high antioxidant, antimicrobial and anti viral properties, and is used for skin, hair, anti aging and anti wrinkle purposes. It can also help dry skin. It could be a nice addition in a scrub, as pomegranate gives radiant, glowing skin.

The flowers are a source of phenolic anti oxidants, phytosterols and terpenoids, and are highly concentrated in flavonoids and carotenoids. They restore the stratum corneum and reinforce the skin barrier. It is nourishing and moisturizing, protecting aging skin.

Cherry Tree Flower

The nutrients of flowers of the cherry tree are extracted here in glycerine . They are interesting for cosmetic use as they are rich in flavonoids and tannins, made up of anti oxidants and protective nutrients for dry and aging skin. It helps regenerate , and is an anti-glycation agent which helps promote collagen formation in the fibroblasts. They contain vegetal sugars which give them softening and hydrating properties.. Rich in essential fatty acids, it repairs the skins natural barriers to promote a smooth, supple skin. It has anti-inflammatory properties and can also help to lighten uneven pigmentation, due to sun exposure, by inhibiting the production of melanin. It cleanses the skin of toxins to leave a brightened, healthy skin.

AHA acids

Alpha hydroxy acids are a group of natural acids found in foods. They include citric acid (found in citrus fruits), glycolic acid (found in sugar cane), lactic acid (found in sour milk and tomato juice), malic acid (found in apples), tartaric acid (found in grapes), and others.

Alpha hydroxy acids are most commonly used for dry or wrinkled skin, or even acne. They work by removing the top layers of dead skin cells, giving an exfoliating effect and making the skin look refreshed and less dull after use, lightening skin tone and clearing up pigmentation spots and skin irregularities.  They can also increase the thickness of deeper layers of skin, promoting firmness. Be very careful to not exceed recommended dosage as too much can have strong almost peeling like effects and can cause burning and redness on sensitive skin, which is why I only put 1% here. I recommend testing final product  on a small patch of skin before using if you have sensitive skin.


Chamomile is a plant which has soothing and powerful anti inflammatory benefits for the skin. It reduces inflammation, minimizes redness and decreases swelling so I added it here to balance the effects of the AHA acids , which can be harsh on skin as they have strong exfoliating effects and can cause redness and some irritation. . You can use it for acne inflammation, eczema, psoriasis, rashes and more. It is good for dry or sensitive skin.


Raspberry is a rich source of sugars, vitamin C, and minerals. Raspberry floral water is used mainly for moisturizing, anti-aging and skin smoothing properties.. It also helps to tone and balance the skin. Red raspberry leaf is naturally astringent, which when incorporated into skin care, will help tone and tighten the skin. It contains tannins which help to stimulate skin cell regeneration. This leaf is also packed with flavonoids and elagic acid which are both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds.This hydrosol is recommended for mature or aging skin.


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Glorious Glycerites

What exactly is Glycerin?

Called Glycerin, Glycerine or Glycerol, one of the most widely used ingredients in skincare, is a substance present in all human and animal fats. It can be derived naturally by the fermentation of sugars, or by hydrolysis of fats, but it can also be synthetically made in a lab from petroleum based oils. ( Noooo way do we want that one !! )

There are several different grades of refined glycerine, but in our natural or green lovely cosmetics we prefer the highest USP grade, naturally derived & made from 100% vegetable or plant oils, such as palm kernel or coconut oil. Glycerin derived from corn or soy are both Genetically Modified Organisms.

Glycerine is also a humectant, (like honey!!) and can draw water from the environment and the dermis (the lower layers of skin) into the outer layers of the skin. They attract moisture to themselves; it keeps skin and hair moisturized, soft, and is a huge plus in our products!! But we have to be careful here, we shouldn’t: use more than 10% in general in a formulation,  & should :  use in combination with other natural emollients and botanical oils to help improve the finished feel of the moisturizer. A small % will help create a barrier against water loss which is exactly what we want. Too much can have negative effects, such as drawing too much moisture from your precious deeper dermis, which can  dry out skin, or cause your final product to be too sticky.

And what is a Glycerite?

A glycerite is the final result of the strained liquid left after maceration of dried or fresh herbs, vegetables, or fruit, by using glycerine as the extraction method. Traditionally, dried or fresh herbs or plant matter are added to glycerine and left in a cool dark place to sit and macerate , while shaken gently daily, for anywhere up to 2 to 6 weeks. Many medical remedies are made this way .They can also be heated very gently in a slow cooker for 3 days, while the closed jar is immersed in water, as a faster method of extraction.

Now, for the exciting bit!

Here’s the basic steps…..and you can really use just about any fruit or vegetable, herb, plant, dried or fresh, get glycerite happy and watch the magic happen.

How to make Colorful Glycerites

Warning!! This practice is highly addictive, fun and so easy to do, so save some fridge space because you are going to go crazy making all sorts of different wonderfully colored and scented stuff to use in those wicked formulas you will be creating! And make sure nobody eats them!!!  (This did actually happen in my house!!!)

  1. Take your washed, fresh, organic fruit , vegetable,  plant or herb ( I used blueberries, cherries, pomegranates, rose petals , cinnamon, all full of super nutrients  great for the skin) and chop it into smaller pieces , while making sure your workspace and equipment  are super clean. Research your ingredients to see their benefits in skincare.
  2. Weigh the fruit /plant matter and note it in your special glycerite notebook. Buy a pretty one to keep it fun and just for these glycerite recipes, it will fill quickly with notes you can refer back to!!!
  3. Put them in a sterilized jar, I recommend making small doses at first, as we use such small amounts (3-10% max) in our products, a little will last quite awhile, and stay fresh. Fill with your vegetal glycerine , let it fill between the spaces, and then top off the jar to the rim. Weigh accurately to see exact amount of glycerine and note it down. You can also prepare the exact measures you would like in a formula beforehand like this:
  • 55% glycerine,
  • 44.4% fresh fruit,
  • 0.6% preservative

This is just an example formula, other percentages for different foods or herbs will vary. Just experiment as there are no exact rules here. For dried herbs, you can pour a small amount of boiling water onto the herbs first; infuse a few minutes, and then top off jar with glycerine.

Add your preservative.

  1. Label your jars with dates, ingredients, batch number, preservative name, as you’ll totally have no idea which is strawberry, raspberry, or cherry in a few days!!
  2. I store all my glycerites in the fridge. A wine cooler could also work. Try to remember to gently shake your jar daily. For fresh foods or plants and flowers , I keep them about 14-20 days to get the maximum benefits of the ingredient, though some keep them only 6-10 days. This is experimental, without scientific backup, so see how your finished product looks and smells and take notes. The glycerine will absorb and hold the smell and color of the fresh food wonderfully; a dash in a toner gives an amazing yummy boost of originality and freshness to your cosmetic. Dried herbs can be kept a bit longer; some herbalists recommend 2-6 weeks!!
  3. Once your glycerite is ready and bursting with color, you need to filter it. A coffee filter works well, or I have even used cleaned, washed stockings. This is much faster than the coffee filter method and I do it twice to strain fully. The coffee filter strains drop by drop, and could take hours. You can change the filter several times (with your gloved hands ) as the paper gets fully soaked and stops to strain after awhile .Be gentle so as not to tear the filter. Cover with a clean lid or foil while it’s being filtered to keep off dust. Then just go do your thing while it drips away into glory!!
  4. Once fully strained, close jars, label them, don’t forget to note in detail the final weight, the smell, texture, dates, length of maceration time, preservative used, and store in fridge. The more water content in your food or plant, the more liquidly your glycerite will be. ( kinda logical )

So what can we do with these Beautifully Colored Macerates?

Add them to your natural skincare products like toners, creams, gels, lotions, and have fun!!!!  How glorious is that???

Keep in mind that a small % will not always affect the final color of a cream, it works better in gels, but the colors are natural so not super stable and can fade after some time. Experiment, keep samples, and take notes!!Shelf life can last from 6 months till about a year, according to its’ water content and storage method. If you see funny bits floating on the bottom or it smells funny, bye bye lovely glycerite. When in doubt, do a microbial count test, & learn from these experiences.

Last Note about Vital Preservatives

The shelf life depends much on how much exposure to the air the glycerite receives. Anytime you add water to a preparation, you invite bacteria, mold, yeast, and other undesirables. As a side note, even though glycerin has preservative properties at 50%-60% concentration of a formula, and even though it is a humectant and a lovely addition to skin cream, it cannot be used effectively alone to preserve a typical lotion or cream recipe. I highly recommend using a water soluble broad spectrum natural  preservative , ( I use leucidal or sorbate & benzoate, or cosgard ) from the start of maceration in your beautiful glycerites,  we don’t want to take any risks or have them go off after one or two months only.

And now fellow formulaters ….You know how it’s done, easy as pie, start with small quantities and get glycerite happy!!! Please post us your lovely results and photos, we’d love to have a look at your creative efforts!!


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