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DIY Solid Conditioner: Spill-Proof for Your Travels

diy solid conditioner bar recipe for travel

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I love my Lush solid shampoo bar (Seanik), so much so that I also use it as a shower gel when I’m traveling. However, when I tried out Lush’s solid Jungle conditioner, I was in for a disappointment.

I hated the scent, was underwhelmed by the effect it had on my hair, and after three uses, it looked like I had already used up half the bar.

So I randomly googled DIY solid conditioner recipes one day, and a week later, I used my first homemade bar. And I am really, really happy with it.

Making your own solid conditioner is actually really easy, once you have the ingredients. And since it’s solid, it’s perfect for travel just like those store-bought Lush liquid-free toiletries.

Solid Conditioner Bar Ingredients

Here’s what you will need (for a 50g bar like mine):

Basic recipe:

30% (15g) cocoa butter (Amazon)
30% (15g) incroquat*/behentrimonium chloride (MakingCosmetics.com)
20% (10g) cetyl alcohol (Amazon)
20% (10g) nourishing oil of your choice – argan (which I used because I still had some), jojoba, almond, grape seed, olive, coconut…

*I am not a chemist, so I can’t really tell you much about the different kinds of incroquat there are. I got (apparently) pure behentrimonium chloride, but there are versions that have added ethyl alcohol, cetyl alcohol etc. As long as it’s a conditioning agent (read the description of the product you’re buying), it should be fine.

Optional Extras:

  • Colour pigments – I didn’t use any, the yellow colour comes from the butter and oil.
  • Fragrance oil – I used about 20 drops, but it will depend on the oil you get, just start off with less and increase until you’re satisfied. The options are nearly unlimited – any essential oil, or something more interesting, like clean linen? Acqua di gio? Egg nog? If you forego a fragrance, it’ll mostly smell of cocoa butter (slightly chocolate-y), and possibly whatever oil you used. Search for essential oils on Amazon.
  • Other nourishing ingredients like hydrolysed keratin (I used 30 drops, as per the shopkeeper’s instructions), panthenol, silk amino acids or anything else manufacturers like to put on the labels of their hair care products…
  • Supplies can also be found here and here.
The solid conditioner supplies.
The solid conditioner supplies.

Tools needed:

  • Kitchen scales
  • A spoon
  • Something to melt the ingredients in – I used a small chocolate fondue set, but any tea warmer or a cup over a candle will do. You might need more than one candle to get it hot enough, otherwise the surface might solidify again while the bottom remains liquid.
  • Some sort of mold to pour it in – I used a silicone cupcake tin, but you can use anything. You might have to cut it out if it’s not flexible, but that’s only an aesthetic issue. You can even use an old Lush tin!
Solid conditioner making gear.
Solid conditioner making gear.

Once you have everything together, the hardest part is actually over. All that’s left: Mixing and melting!

How to Make Solid Conditioner Bars

Measure out the right amounts and mix everything together (except for fragrance – leave that until later).

Measure out the ingredients.
Measure out the ingredients.

Heat it over the candle and watch it melt (maybe stir occasionally). The incroquat will probably smell weirdly fishy while it melts – the shopkeeper assures me that’s normal, and the smell will be gone once you’re finished.

Slowly melt the ingredients together, stirring regularly.
Slowly melt the ingredients together, stirring regularly.
pic 5

Once the main ingredients are all melted, take the container off the heat and stir in your fragrance oil of choice.

Pour it into the mould (and watch out, the jar is probably hot):

Pour mixture into mold.
Pour mixture into mold.

Let it cool down – preferably in the fridge or freezer for an hour, which will make it a bit harder, but anywhere works. Peel or cut it out of the mould.

DIY solid conditioner:  The finished product!
The finished product!

Congratulations, you just made your own solid conditioner!

Let it rest for another 24 hours before using, as it will still harden a bit more.

Follow Up

I’ve been using it for a month now, and I’m down to half at this point, so it seems 50g will last you for quite a while.

How do I use this conditioner bar?

It works exactly like the Lush conditioners: Simply wet both the bar and your hair, and rub it between your hands, then use them to spread it over your hair. Or rub the bar itself along your hair – this works well for me because it’s pretty short.

Unlike the Jungle conditioner, it’ll feel like normal conditioner in your hair, because the incroquat gives you that slippery feel, detangles and softens your hair and reduces static electricity. Cocoa butter tames and nourishes, as does whatever oil you use.

(The cetyl alcohol is only an emulsifier and thickening agent.)

Are conditioner bars expensive to make?

The ingredients I got will yield four or five bars, but it really depends on the kind of oil you use – olive oil or coconut oil is much cheaper than argan oil, for example. Mine with argan oil came to about €3-4 per bar, which is still 50% cheaper than what you pay at Lush!

Who does this conditioner bar work for?

Now, I have very thick and unruly hair, so this conditioner is perfect for me. If you have oily hair, you’ll probably need to use it a bit more sparingly, and leave out the roots. The oil and butter shouldn’t be a problem but the incroquat might.

When it comes to fine hair, however, I think it might be too rich and weigh it down too much. I’ve tried and failed to find a recipe suited to fine hair.

Final Thoughts

Not only does this conditioner work much better than the one Lush sells, it’s cheaper (if you have the time), easy to make, and fully customizable. The only downside is that I’ve found it to be a gateway project: I’m already planning my next foray into DIY cosmetics…

Happy mixing and melting!


Alternate Recipes for Solid Conditioner Bars

How to Store Solid Conditioner Bars

The key to making your solid shampoo and conditioner bars last longer is to store them properly and keep them dry. So, after you use your bars in the shower, you need to make sure you are setting them out of contact with water, and in a place where moisture is draining off of them.

When you are traveling this can get a bit difficult because we are often sharing showers, staying in hostels where we have to pack up our supplies immediately after use. My best tip is to pat your bars dry with the edge of your towel.

If possible, leave your soap containers open in your hostel locker or on the sink while performing the rest of your beauty routine. For optimal drying, stand up on its side if not round.

Travel Storage Ideas

Lush bar tins – These are great for travel, but you have to make sure your bar is as dry as possible before storing or else they will melt and stick to the bottom of the container. Storage hack: Place a piece of wax paper in the bottom of the tin so it doesn’t stick to the bottom!

Soap Saver Bags – I’m not sure this is a great idea or not. I love that the bags let your bars air dry better. You can even tie the bag to the outside of your backpack when out in the wilderness to air dry.

However, the bag will soak up a lot of soap/conditioner and applying the bag to your hair is probably not a great idea… I guess you can use the bag remnants as body wash.

Wrapping in Beeswax Wrap – I’ve seen that some people will transport their solid bars in a small piece of beeswax wrap. This probably works best if you are able to dry your bar out as thoroughly as possible before wrapping.

EZ-Pouch – JR Liggett’s have an EZ-Pouch made for travelers. It’s composed of water-repellent material and comes equipped with the EZ-Strip, which wraps around the bar for easy insertion and removal from the pouch.

Ready-Made Solid Conditioner Bars

Ethique's Guardian solid conditioner bar
Guardian Solid Conditioner Bar

Ethique

aloha conditioner bar beach babe body goods
Aloha! Conditioner Bar

Beach Baby Body Goods

earthly elixirs solid conditioner bars
Assorted Solid Conditioner Bars

Earthly Elixir

Big Pressed Conditioner Bar by LUSH
Big Pressed Conditioner

Lush

hemp collective conditioner bar
Hemp Conditioner Bar

Hemp Collective

superfly soap unscented conditioner bar
Unscented Conditioner Bar

Superfly Soaps

Pin these to your favorite boards

DIY Solid Conditioner for travelershow to make a solid conditioner bar

About the Author: Anna is a student of law and human rights in Vienna, Austria, who takes advantage of her uni holidays to travel as much as possible before she has to start acting like an adult. She’d like to be a travel blogger, but previous attempts have not been met with much success as she usually ends up being too busy actually travelling to blog about it. Twitter works just fine, though. It’s her goal to visit all continents before getting a real job, with South America next up this summer.

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Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Tracey says

    What a cool idea! I love the LUSH shampoo bars, but haven’t tried the conditioner because of poor reviews. I currently use a leave-in conditioning treatment spray in place of a standard conditioner. It’s liquid of course, but you only need a few sprays at a time so it lasts for months.

    • Anna says

      Yeah, I can’t recommend the Lush solid conditioner. I usually carry argan oil as well, but I just prefer to have actual wash-out conditioner too!

  2. Denise B says

    Thank you so much for publishing this. I’ve made other DIY cosmetics, but never for a solid bar like this. I’ve found that the Lush products just plain smell weird to me! Thanks for sharing and I’m looking forward to what you come up with for a soap/shampoo!

    • Anna says

      I agree, a lot of Lush products smell weird (including many of the shampoos, although there are like six or seven of them, so chances are at least one will appeal). The awesome thing is, there are so many different perfume oils for sale online, you can even make your hair smell like Armani perfume if you want. 😉 Not sure I’ll actually try shampoo, because it seems a little messier to make, but we’ll see!

    • Anna says

      Thanks 🙂 I don’t know what possessed me to look for recipes online, but it turned out to be a lot of fun, especially since I found out there’s an actual store selling supplies where I live. Glad to spread the idea!

  3. Evie says

    This is a great article! I love it!

    I am trying to make this myself as I am going travelling , I am from the uk and can’t seem to find any where to buy Behentrimonium , can any one help , who has tried this?

  4. Mara says

    I made this last weekend. Works great. I borrowed some lush conditioner from a friend and it was pretty awful. So I was glad this worked so well. I have a few upcoming trips and I’d just like to avoid the hassle of keeping enough liquid shampoo and conditioner with me.

    • Anna says

      I’m glad you like it! I’ve found conditioner kind of hard to come by in certain places (China, especially small travel-sized bottles), so I’m enjoying my creation 😉

  5. Sangita says

    Hi Anna, thank you for sharing this recipe. My question is can I do away with the cetyl alcohol and the behentrimonium chloride and just use butters and oils. What would I be missing here in terms of quality………..TIA

    • Anna says

      Hi, I’m so sorry, I completely overlooked your comment! Better late than never, I guess.
      Without those two ingredients, it would probably still work, but differently. Those two (especially the behentrimonium chloride) are what gives your hair that slippery conditioner feeling, and they make it easy to rinse out. Without them, I think you may have to make sure you don’t use too much, it might not disentangle as well, and you’ll have to make sure you rinse it well (possibly at a higher temperature to make sure there’s not too much greasy residue). But this is just a guess, you should definitely try. In this form, you could probably also use it (sparingly) as a leave-in conditioner, not to mention on your skin as well.
      Good luck!

  6. Desirée says

    Does anyone that has tried this know if I can replace the cocoa butter with Shea butter? I’m allergic to cocoa butter.

    • Anna says

      Hi – that shouldn’t be a problem, I think. It might be a tad softer than the cocoa butter version, but probably not significantly. Good luck!

  7. Suzy says

    thanks so much for the recipe, I am traveling to Europe with just a carry on and I have dry curly hair, I tried both of Lush’s bar conditioners and neither one did anything for my hair, it was like straw! So I am eager to try this so I can put it in my carryon, your comment about having curly hair has given me hope.

  8. Kim Fitzgerald says

    I have a few questions? I have so many conflicting info on the web about behentrimonium chloride saying its toxic and other places saying its not if used in the right proportions. European commission says up to 5% and makingcosmetics.com says up 3%. So I tried your recipe and I love it but am wondering if it can be used at lower percentage as yours is 15%?? What are your thoughts on the matter as for the toxicity claims and percentage use?

    • Vanessa says

      I know a bit about this. The website that spread the info that it was toxic is lying. Behentrimonium is in almost all conditioners, even the natural ones. In fact, behentrimonium 50 is sensitive enough to leave in your hair all day, which is why it is used for detanglers and leave-in conditioners.

  9. Su Ellen says

    I just made a batch yesterday. I put it in a twist–up tube, rather than a mold. Used it this morning and it works well on my thick, curly hair. For scent, I added a tablespoon of lavender EO.

  10. Crystal says

    Hi,
    I have wavy hair with little bit of frizz…my hair is normal to oily at the scalp. Will this be ok for my hair? I’ve tried LUSH solid conditioners and they are not very conditioning. I’ve also purchased one from a local that had shea butter…but it left my hair very waxy feeling. I found out later that Shea butter is best on ethnic hair types. So, I just wondered if this is good for most all hair types?
    Thanks 🙂

  11. Nina says

    Hi there! Thanks so much for this, I’m looking forward to venturing into the world of packaging-free cosmetics…

    Do you have a recommendation for a solid bar shampoo that would compliment this nicely? I’ve read mixed reviews about the Lush ones.

    • Brooke says

      Hi Nina! It would really depend on your hair. Even with the Lush, it may take some trialling to find which one works for your hair type. Otherwise, you could try Chagrin Valley Soaps: http://amzn.to/2hfQCW6 Or, you can trial some from Etsy. Where are you located?

  12. Brittany says

    Hello! So solid bars of shampoo and conditioner can be taken in a carry on bag through the airport with no problem? Just want to make sure since it seems like the best option for my upcoming trip!

  13. Jill says

    I would like to double this recipe and make a 100g bar. Does anyone have a ballpark idea for the size mold to use for a rectangular bar?

  14. Anastasia says

    If I were to use BTMS 225 in place of behentrimonium chloride, would I need to make any other adjustments or could I just substitute it?

  15. LY says

    Question: the only BTMS my supply company sells is Incroquat Behenyl TMS-225. Can I use this in place of the incroquat mentioned in your recipe?

  16. Teresa says

    I made this and was so disappointed. It sort of coated my hair and weighed it down. I’m wondering if I did something wrong?

    • Nicole says

      I tried this recipe with Argan oil. It was too heavy and a bit gummy for my taste. I tried it again with coconut oil. I also added 2 grams of bee’s wax to make the bar a bit harder. Then I poured it in 2 small molds and cured them in the freezer for a half hour or so. Done this way, I absolutely love this bar!

  17. Nola says

    I made this and I love it. I didn’t use cocoa butter but I had shea butter so I use that instead. I got my other supplies on Amazon. I didn’t even use any of the essential oil or additives like panthenol or keratin. At first I was skeptical if it would work because my hair is very long and very hard to do detangle and very frizzy but straight. It works so well that I don’t think I ever need to buy my own conditioner again. I’m going to make more and then I’m going to give it to all my friends and family to try to get them to give up the plastic bottle.

  18. Naomi says

    Has anyone else experienced problems with the bars not setting properly? I followed the recipe but the bars won’t set to a solid consistency. The ingredients aren’t cheap and I really want this to work. Can anyone help?

  19. Laura says

    I am also allergic to cocoa butter, but worried that replacing it with Shea Butter will cause it not to set up properly. I don’t want to use wax of any kind either.
    Surely there must be something else besides SB?

  20. Naomi says

    I have now tried this recipe twice and spent a fortune on the ingredients doing it. I can’t find the ingredients here so I have to order them (I’m in Canada so I ordered from the US). In any case I measures everything exactly and I cannot get these to be solid!! I let them set and when I try cutting them, they’re soft and crumbly and completely useless. HELP!!!!

    • Alejandra says

      Hi Naomi, I tried this recipe today. I put it on the fridge for an hour and then it was perfectly solid.. good luck!

    • Nicole says

      I tried this recipe with Argan oil. It was too heavy and a bit gummy for my taste. I tried it again with coconut oil. I also added 2 grams of bee’s wax to make the bar a bit harder. Then I poured it in 2 small molds and cured them in the freezer for a half hour or so. Done this way, I absolutely love this bar!

  21. Brenda says

    I made these and love them!! Behentriumomium is more expensive than BTMS50 . How would I use btms 50 in place of it? Like for like? Would I still add cetyl alcohol to?

  22. Cate says

    I tried your recipe even though I have really fine hair and I absolutely LOVE the results – thank you!

  23. The Soap Shack says

    Great article! They are similar to the ones I make in regards to the oils used etc. I LOVE the jejoba scent! These are great for traveling like you said and also they save so much space in the bath/shower. I have been making them for a while now and find a lot of people dont know how to use them or are sceptical of them, so maybe you could write something about that to help get the word out on how great they are and easy to use?

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