Skip to main content
Woman washing hair with a bar of shampoo

A bar of shampoo? The personal care industry is starting to think outside the bottle

Share to

The Syensqo company, comprising the solutions, activities and markets represented in the article below, was spun off from Solvay group in December 2023.

With solid shampoo on the rise, Solvay is fully equipped to help develop new formulations

Solid shampoo is making a serious come-back. 21st century environmental and healthfulness concerns have ushered the return of powders and bars to wash one’s hair, decades after liquid shampoos wiped them off the map of hair care routines.

Why is that? Well, because eliminating water from shampoo comes with a host of advantages: the end of the plastic bottle as the dominant packaging solution, a smaller carbon footprint thanks to reduced transportation emissions, the possibility of doing away with preservatives and generally shorter and more natural-based ingredients lists.

One single figure to illustrate this: one unit of solid shampoo can replace two to three bottles of its liquid equivalent, lasting 80-100 washes. “Younger generations are the ones driving demand here, so this is a trend that isn’t going anywhere over the next few decades,” says Stéphanie Neplaz, International Head of Innovation Marketing for hair care at Solvay’s Novecare business unit. “The market is still niche, but fast-growing.”

As a result, all the major global players in the personal care industry have launched solid shampoo products over the past few months, proving that this niche has gone mainstream. “Our goal is to demonstrate we have the right ingredients for these types of products,” continues Stéphanie. “We’ve conducted a customer survey and have been reaching out to experts to gain expertise, because this is a new field for us as well.”

We care about the impact of single-use plastic on the planet and on human health. We are here to help innovate on the shape and form of hair care products that will cut down on packaging waste in the future.

Stéphanie Neplaz, International Head of Innovation Marketing for hair care, Novecare, Solvay

Shampoo formats for the future

The main challenge now is to improve the performance and practicality of solid shampoos by working on their formulation. Issues such as premature disintegration, substandard ease of use and the difficulty to carry the product around are hindering consumer adoption. Many different formats have been launched to try and avoid these problems: in addition to bars, manufacturers have created powders, sheets and single-use pads, for example. “But new and improved formats need to be developed to overcome these hurdles and fully develop the market,” confirms Stéphanie.

The big international players mentioned above are Solvay’s usual customers in the hair and personal care market. Collaborating with them “to create the solid formats of the future is the way to move forward,” according to Stéphanie. “We need to develop research and innovation together. We have a really strong portfolio of ingredients whose performance is clearly demonstrated, and our aim is to partner with our customers to accelerate the development of new generations of products.”

Solid formats for personal care GRAPHIC

Towards more natural-based hair care formulations

The ingredients in question fit into three categories – the three elements you need to formulate a solid shampoo: cleansing agents, mild amphoterics & binders (to decrease irritancy and increase lather quality), and conditioning ingredients. Solvay has all three of these categories in its portfolio, including in non-liquid form (typically powder), a necessity when formulating a solid shampoo. These include cleansing agents such as Mackanate® LO 100, Mackol® CAS 100 N and Rhodacal® LSS-80/RP, and natural conditioning agents Mackpro® Plus Rice, Dermalcare® LIA MB, as well as some specialties among the Jaguar® range (Jaguar® Excel, Jaguar® C162 and Jaguar® Optima).

Shampoo Format Survey Results

“In this market where consumers tend to seek products that are as safe and natural as possible, we have the advantage of offering many natural-based ingredients,” details Stéphanie, “as well as ingredients suitable for sulfate-free formulations.” These include the guar-based Jaguar® line (Solvay is the global leader in guar derivatives) and rice protein-based Mackpro® Plus Rice and Dermalcare® LIA MB, for instance.

“Though the overall performance of the product remains the priority, the move towards biodegradable, non-ecotoxic and natural shampoos is clearly the trend here, and we’re completely aligned with that,” adds Stéphanie. “We care about the impact of single-use plastic on the planet and on human health. We are here to help innovate on the shape and form of hair care products that will cut down on packaging waste in the future.” 

How is shampoo formulated