Learn how to make shower gel with this easy step-by-step tutorial. The DIY shower gel has a thick gel texture and foamy lather that will make your skin feel soft and clean. The homemade body wash is made with natural materials and comes together in minutes.  Included are 7 shower gel recipes, tips for customizing and achieving crystal clear shower gel, plus free printable labels.

Homemade body wash recipes

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Homemade shower gel {Natural body wash recipe}

In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to make shower gel at home with natural ingredients.

Shower gel is a bath product I use every day, and I wanted to create an easy, effective, and natural DIY shower gel. My goal was to develop a homemade body wash that performs just as well as commercial shower gels – but made with better ingredients.

Since my family goes through a lot of shower gel each month, the body wash recipe also needed to be easy, quick, and reliable. I simply don’t have the time to spend hours making a daily-use product. This simple natural shower gel recipe fits the bill, and I hope you enjoy it as much I do.

jasmine body wash

Benefits of making your own shower gel

I have a feeling that this shower gel might become one of your favorite homemade bath products.

  • easy – This cold-process shower gel recipe is super easy and beginner-friendly.
  • quick – It takes less than 10 minutes to make a batch.
  • rich lather – The DIY shower gel creates a thick, foamy lather with lots of bubbles.
  • customizable – This simple shower gel recipe can be customized to meet different skincare needs.
  • natural ingredients – The homemade shower gel is made with ECOCERT- and COSMOS-approved ingredients derived from natural materials.
  • scalable – You can easily double, triple, or quadruple the recipe to make larger batches for your family.
  • sulfate-free – This shower gel is free of sulfates, silicones, parabens, and other not-so-nice materials.
shower gel ingredients

Shower gel ingredients

I tested this homemade shower gel recipe half a dozen times to get the right lather and texture, and the following ingredients are key:

  • Distilled water or hydrosol: Distilled water is needed to dilute and dissolve the other shower gel ingredients. Hydrosols are a fantastic option to naturally scent the shower gel and introduce additional skincare benefits. If you don’t have access to distilled water, bring tap water to a rolling boil and then allow it to cool to room temperature.
  • Coco glucose (Plantapon SF) is a surfactant and gives this homemade shower gel its cleansing power. You can find more information about coco glucose at the end of this post.
  • Lactic acid helps to adjust the pH level and acts as a thickener. You can also make the body wash with a citric solution (see the notes in the DIY box below).
  • A preservative is a must in this water-based body wash to avoid mold, yeast, and bacteria. I used Preservative Eco (Geogard ECT), which is a natural, broad-spectrum preservative. See below for more info and places to buy.
Homemade mint shower gel

Optional ingredients

Feel free to customize your natural body wash recipe with one or more of the following materials:

Scent and color

  • Essential oils can be used to scent the DIY shower gel and impart additional skincare benefits. You can find a few ideas for homemade body wash with essential oils below. If using hydrosols, you may omit essential oils to scent the shower gel. And please note that essential oils can affect the shower gel’s clarity, color, and viscosity.
  • Colorant: Use soap colors or food colors to tint your DIY body wash. Some food colors will take a while to dissolve but otherwise work fine.
  • Mica powder: Mica powders give the shower gel the most beautiful shimmer, think liquid crystals. Stir up to 1/2 teaspoon into the recipe.
Shower Gel Formulation

Skincare ingredients

  • Glycerin helps the skin to retain moisture, provides softening qualities, and makes the body wash gentler. You can add up to 1 tablespoon for a moisturizing shower gel.
  • Aloe vera 200x powder possessesanti-inflammatory and analgesic qualities that help alleviate dryness + itchiness and encourage skin regeneration. A 1/4 tsp is enough for 1 batch.
  • Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant, promoting healthy skin and cell regeneration. You may add 1/2 tsp to the natural body wash. Vitamin E oil is a bit sticky and will take a while to dissolve.
  • Panthenol (vitamin B5) is an excellent moisturizer, skin-soothing agent, and said to restore skin elasticity. It’s a wonderful ingredient for sensitive and irritated skin. Add 1/2 teaspoon.
  • Plant oil: You can also add your favorite plant oil to the shower gel formula to make the shower gel more moisturizing. Fractionated (liquid) coconut oil, avocado oil, jojoba oil, or sweet almond oil are great options. But don’t go overboard with oils, 1 to 3 tablespoons is enough. Note that oils will make the shower gel cloudy. If you want a clear shower gel, it’s best to skip the oils.

Since shower gel is a wash-off product, I recommend reserving expensive skincare ingredients for stay-on applications like lotions or creams. It makes little sense to add a costly liposome complex to a product that is applied and washed off within minutes.

homemade shower gel

How to make shower gel

Don’t be afraid to create your own shower gel at home. Making body wash is easier than you think! Let me show you the simple steps for how to make shower gel from scratch:

  1. Mix water and surfactant. Carefully pour the distilled water and surfactant into a large measuring cup or mixing bowl (something with a spout is best). Using a spoon, gently stir until the surfactant is completely dissolved in the water. Stir by hand and avoid whipping air into the mixture. Do not use an electric mixer or blender because agitating the liquids too much will cause foam and bubbles.
  2. Add optional ingredients. Add any optional ingredients (e.g. glycerin, essential oils, colorant, etc.) and stir to blend. Some food colors take a while to dissolve.
  3. Preserve. Next, incorporate the preservative into the shower gel base.
  4. Thicken and adjust the pH. Finally, add the lactic acid and stir until the shower gel thickens, which may take 2 to 3 minutes. In case the body wash doesn’t thicken properly, continue adding lactic acid, 1 drop at a time, until you achieve your desired viscosity.
  5. Package. Using a funnel, pour the shower gel into a bottle or soap dispenser. Optionally, label the gel.
Orange blossom shower gel

How to thicken shower gel

There are several possibilities for how to thicken shower gel naturally:

  • Salt is often used as a thickening agent for body washes. It turns iconic surfactants into a gel texture. Many commercial cleansers and shampoos contain salt as a thickener, listed under the INICI name, Sodium Chloride (yes, that’s table salt, in case you’re wondering). Since our cleanser of choice is a surfactant blend with different ionicity, salt isn’t the best choice.
  • Natural polymers (botanical gums and starches): Another way to thicken shower gel is to enlist natural polymers, such as xanthan gum, guar gum, glucomannan, sclerotium gum, CMC, carrageenan, and others. Natural gums are an easy way to thicken homemade body wash. Check out my rose body wash to learn how to thicken shower gel with xanthan gum.
  • Lactic acid is the secret behind my thick, crystal clear shower formula. I found that 40 to 50 drops are perfect to create a luscious, viscous gel texture. However, you may end up using a little more or less.
  • Milk powder is yet another thickener that gives your an incredibly creamy and rich body wash.

Why do we even need to thicken shower gel?

But why do we even need to thicken shower gel? DIY shower gel is thickened to improve the skin feel, lather, and viscosity. Without a thickener, homemade body wash is very watery and inefficient as most of the product would wash down the drain.

Make your own body wash

Tips for crystal clear shower gel

Cloudy shower gel can be caused by a variety of factors. Follow these tips to avoid cloudiness and maintain crystal clear shower gel:

  • Combine the ingredients slowly, and do not use an electric mixer or whisk.
  • Skip the oils. All plant oils and some essential oils can make the shower gel opaque.
  • Only use lactic acid to thicken the gel. Botanical gums often cause cloudiness.
  • Bubbles will dissolve within a few hours.

You may notice that some of the shower gels have lots of tiny bubbles in them. The bubbles are a result of pouring the body wash into the bottles. I made the shower gels and took the photos all in 1 day. The next day, the bubbles had dissolved, and the shower gel was clear.

What is the pH of this DIY shower gel?

This pH-balanced shower gel has a pH between 4.5 and 5, which is close to the pH of the human skin and less likely to cause irritation. Of course, you can check the pH of the final product to be certain it’s where we want it to be.

DIY body wash for men

DIY shower gel without castile soap

Can you make this shower gel recipe with castile soap? NO, this shower gel recipe will NOT work with castile soap. Here is why:

When you combine lactic acid and castile soap, the acid breaks down the soap molecules as the ingredients cancel each other out. The mixture becomes oily and begins to curdle (solid white clumps), creating unsaponified soap. You can learn more in this article.

Another reason why castile soap isn’t ideal for body washes is the soap’s high pH level, which registers between 9 and 11. As I explained in my rose body wash recipe, using alkaline products disrupts the skin’s acid mantle and moisture barrier.

A gentle, pH-adjusted shower gel is a much better and safer option to keep your skin healthy and good looking.

DIY body wash without honey {Vegan Body Wash}

Many body wash recipes you find online call for honey. However, I wanted to create a vegan shower gel and decided to make a homemade body wash without honey.

homemade lavender body wash

How to package shower gel

Try one of the following packaging options for your all-natural body wash recipe:

Although glass bottles are a very eco-friendly way to store homemade shower gel, the glass could fall and break in a slippery shower. For that reason, I recommend a plastic or PET container. You can refill the container over and over again.

Squeeze bottles also help to prolong the shelf life. We can’t directly touch the product in the bottle, which helps to prevent contamination.

To safe money, recycle empty shower gel or shampoo bottles.

You can download the printable shower gel labels at the end of the post.

rose shower gel

How to use homemade shower gel

You use this homemade shower gel recipe just like you would use any other body wash.

  • Wet your entire body.
  • Apply a small amount of gel into your hand.
  • Rub both hands together to disperse the product and create foam.
  • Apply the shower gel to your underarms, groin area, and any other body part you want to clean.
  • Massage the body wash into the skin for a few seconds. Then rinse off with plenty of water.
  • Avoid hot water as it can cause drying. Warm water is ideal.
  • Follow up with a lotion, body balm or moisturizer afterwards.

Dermatologists recommend not using shower gel as a shaving foam as the gel coats the hairs and makes it harder to achieve a smooth shave.

I also don’t recommend using shower gel on your face as the facial skin is often more sensitive than the rest of the body. Instead, try this rose cleansing balm, Irena’s exfoliating cleansing balm, oil cleanser, cleansing gel, or cleansing milk.

Although it might be tempting to use the body wash as makeshift shampoo, a better option is to try one of our homemade shampoo recipes.

How often can I use homemade shower gel?

Since this is a pH-balanced DIY shower gel, you can use it every time you take a shower.

How much shower gel do I need?

Experts suggest that 2 to 3 pumps or a quarter-sized dollop are enough for one shower as using too much product may leave your skin feeling sticky. I admit that I often use a little more because I love lathering up my entire body.

Storage and shelf life

How to store DIY body wash

When not in use, keep your homemade body wash tightly closed in a cool place away from direct sunlight.

How long does DIY shower gel last?

This natural shower gel recipe lasts for at least 4 months if stored correctly.

natural shower gel recipe

Natural Shower Gel Recipes

Before finishing this post, I want to share 7 natural shower gel recipes that I’ve been making over and over.

You can make the shower gel recipes with:

  • only hydrosols (for gentle shower gel formula)
  • hydrosols + essential oils (for a strong scent)
  • distilled water + essential oils (most cost-effective)

Hydrosols give these easy body wash recipes a wonderful, natural scent and bring many skincare benefits into the mix.

Creating shower gel with essential oils and distilled water is a more cost-effective approach and a good option if you can’t find hydrosols.

DIY jasmine shower gel

DIY jasmine shower gel

If you enjoy florals, you’ll love this dreamy jasmine shower gel (it’s my personal favorite). This elegant body wash recipe cleanses beautifully and creates that shower-fresh feeling. Jasmine hydrosol provides a delicate floral scent, which you can enrich with a few drops jasmine absolute

I left this one uncolored so you can see what the shower gel looks like without any colorant.

Jasmine body wash ingredients

To make jasmine shower gel, you’ll need:

DIY lemon body wash

Homemade lemon shower gel

This energizing lemon shower gel refreshes and cleanses your skin, leaving it feeling soft and invigorated. Infused with lemon essential oil and lemon verbena hydrosol, the citrus body wash has an uplifting, zesty scent that will perk you up in the morning.

Lemon shower gel ingredients

Let’s check out the ingredients for this homemade body wash. Be sure to use steam-distilled lemon essential oil.

DIY orange shower gel

Orange blossom shower gel

This luxurious orange blossom shower gel helps you get up and feel awakened. Neroli hydrosol is extracted from orange blossoms and has a fresh, botanical fragrance. I also added a few drops of sweet orange essential oil to round out the scent.

DIY Orange shower gel ingredients

Make homemade orange shower gel with the following materials:

DIY rose shower gel

Rose shower gel

My rose shower gel cleanses gently and features a romantic rose scent. Rose hydrosol provides an enlivening rose aroma that lingers on the skin throughout the day. If you prefer a stronger rose scent, add a few drops rose essential oil. For some variation, try geranium rose hydrosol or this sensual white rose hydrosol.

Homemade rose shower gel ingredients

Gather the following materials to make rose shower gel:

DIY lavender shower gel

DIY lavender shower gel

This lavender shower gel is perfect to greet the morning or take a relaxing shower at night. The warm fragrance is perfect for unwinding, and lavender’s antiseptic and anti-bacterial properties can help to soothe irritated and sensitive skin.

Lavender body wash ingredients

You’ll need the following materials for DIY lavender shower gel:

DIY shower gel for men

Homemade shower gel for men

This list won’t be complete without a body wash recipe for men. As much as I adore floral bath products, the men in my family won’t touch them. Although my husband enjoys the lemon and mint shower gels, he helped me create a masculine essential oil blend for a manly shower gel.

Truth to be told, I love this woodsy scent combo so much that I often borrow his body wash.

DIY shower gel for men ingredients

Try the following ingredients for a natural body wash for men:

Homemade shower gel with essential oils

DIY mint shower gel

I wish you could smell this homemade mint shower gel. It has a crisp, refreshing scent and will make your skin feel cleansed and revive your mind. Perfect to kickstart the day! You can either use pure mint hydrosol or combine mint with lime hydrosol.

Mint body wash ingredients

Let’s have a look at the ingredients for our homemade mint shower gel:

Yield: 10 oz / 300 ml / 1 1/3 cups

DIY Shower Gel Recipe

How To Make DIY Shower Gel

Learn how to make shower gel with this easy step-by-step tutorial. The DIY shower gel has a thick gel texture and foamy lather that will make your skin feel soft and clean. The homemade body wash is made with natural materials and comes together in minutes. Included are 7 shower gel recipes.

Active Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Difficulty easy

Materials

Basic Shower Gel Recipe

Jasmine Shower Gel

Lemon Shower Gel

Orange Blossom Shower Gel

Rose Shower Gel

Lavender Shower Gel

Shower Gel for Guys

Mint Shower Gel

Tools

  • large measuring cup or mixing bowl
  • spoon
  • 10 oz / 300 ml pump dispenser

Instructions

  1. Mix water and surfactant. Carefully pour the distilled water and surfactant into a large measuring cup or mixing bowl (something with a spout is best). Using a spoon, stir slowly until the surfactant is completely dissolved in the water. Stir by hand and avoid whipping air into the mixture. Do not use an electric mixer or blender because agitating the liquids too much will cause foam and bubbles.
  2. Add optional ingredients. Add any optional ingredients (e.g. glycerin, essential oils, colorant, etc.) and stir to blend. Some food colors take a while to dissolve.
  3. Preserve. Next, incorporate the preservative into the shower gel base.
  4. Thicken and adjust the pH. Finally, add the lactic acid and stir until the shower gel thickens, which may take 2 to 3 minutes. In case the body wash doesn't thicken properly, continue adding lactic acid, 1 drop at a time, until you achieve your desired viscosity.
  5. Package. Using a funnel, pour the shower gel into a bottle or soap dispenser. Optionally, label the gel.

Notes

You can make the shower gel recipes with:

  • only hydrosols (for gentle shower gel)       
  • hydrosols + essential oils (for a strong scent)        
  • distilled water + essential oils (most cost-effective)

Did you make this project?

Please leave a rating and share a photo on Pinterest!

Printable Shower Gel Label

Click the button to download your free printable shower gel labels!

What is coco glucose?

Coco glucose is a concentrated cleanser and natural surfactant blend made of amphoteric, non-ionic, and anionic surfactants. A surfactant reduces the surface tension in liquids and helps things become clean, meaning it helps wash away oil and dirt from the skin.

The cleanser is very gentle, produces a dense foam and rich lather that rinses off nicely.  The material also acts as an emulsifier and helps to disperse any essential oils you may add to your natural body wash recipe.

Coco glucose is derived from coconut oil, non-GMO, sulphate free, ECOCERT and COMOS approved, and suitable for vegan skincare products.

DIY lemon shower gel

Where to buy coco glucose?

Coco glucose is also sold as Plantapon SF. In the UK, I also found it called Natural Surfactant Blend. To be sure, check the INCI name: Water, sodium cocoamphoacetate, glycerin, lauryl glucoside, sodium cocoyl glutamate, sodium lauryl glucose carboxylate

You can buy coco glucose/Planatpon SF here: US, US*, UK, UK, Spain**, Germany**

*These shops offer international shipping.

** Ships to EU countries.

Coco glucoside, another surfactant, is quite different from coco glucose, so be sure to buy the correct one.

Can I use another surfactant?

It’s possible that other types of surfactants might work, but I haven’t tried others, so I can’t say for sure. Shower gel usually comprises of 3 to 4 different surfactants to ensure enough cleaning action. Since coco glucose is a premade blend, you don’t have to use any additional surfactants.

Preservative Eco (Geogard ECT)

Preservative Eco, aka Geogard ECT, offers broad-spectrum protection and inhibits bacteria, yeast, and mold growth. The natural preservative is effective at 1%. The product consists of benzyl alcohol, salicylic acid, glycerin, and sorbic acid.

Preservative Eco can be bought here: US, UK, UK, UK,  CA, CA,

If you live in Australia, I recommend a preservative called Nat Defence (Geogard Ultra).

Geogard 221 is a good option if you live in New Zealand.

DIY natural body wash
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