A couple of months ago I wrote a post about simplifying and reducing waste in the bathroom, and one of the products I briefly mentioned there were Shampoo Bars.

As the name suggests, shampoo bars replace the regular liquid shampoo that we all know and they are shaped like regular soaps. The beauty of these bars is that we can buy them loose, no packaging or plastic required.

This type of products is quite uncommon and I believe more people should know about it, as shampoos are one of those items everyone uses on regular basis.

This version of shampoo makes a big difference when it comes to plastic waste reduction. For that reason today I am telling you a bit about shampoo bars, hopefully you’ll feel curious enough to give them a go.

Types of Shampoo Bars

Something I learnt recently is that there are two main types of shampoo bars

Cold/hot process – Traditional soap methods

These are made with natural ingredients like oils (coconut, olive, castor etc), butters, herbs  and essential oils. I consider this type of shampoo bar the cleanest version, because they are all natural.

When you switch from a regular shampoo full of synthetic chemicals , usually the hair takes time to adjust to these bars, that is called the “transition period”. For few days/weeks the hair may feel greasy or heavy, while the scalp oil gets re-balanced.

Many brands recommend users to do an acidic rinse (water with white/apple cider vinegar) after the wash and stop using conditioner.

Shampoo Bar

Shampoo Bar

Syndet shampoo bars

These are also called solid surfactant shampoo bar. According to verywellHealth:

“Syndet is a hybrid of the words “synthetic” and “detergent.” Syndet bars are made from synthetic surfactants. These surfactants are made from oil, fats, or petroleum products which are processed in ways other than traditional saponification”

The best way to identify these shampoo bars is by reading the full list of ingredients, you’ll find stuff like Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, Sodium Coco Sulfate etc.

It seems based on what I have researched most people don’t need a transition period – as long as you find a type of shampoo bar that is right for your type of hair, you are good to go. These generate more foam and are usually more expensive.

My experience

It is important to know the type of shampoo bar you are buying because that way you know what to expect.

When I started researching about shampoo bars, I read comments from people using them and saying how awesome these products were, so I got excited to try them. The first time I did it was a disaster, my hair didn’t look clean at all, it was so greasy and heavy.

Then I tried another brand and it was a bit better but my hair started falling out like crazy after a couple of weeks. Then I tried a third one and it was worse than the first one…. Agrrr

Keep in mind that I was using a natural brand of liquid shampoo before trying these bars, so it wasn’t a shocking switch, but still the difference was quite evident.

What I didn’t know at that time was that all those products I tried were natural traditional shampoo bars, while the popular brand these women swear by makes syndet shampoo bars!

Of course most of  them didn’t experienced any issue, and because many of these syndet shampoo bars are more gentle than conventional shampoos and they still use natural ingredients, their hair was probably happier with the change.

I am not saying this is a black and white thing, I have read comments from people complaining about syndet brands and also comments from women saying natural shampoo bars were great from day one. So this is not exact science, it depends on the brand and the ingredients they use, our type of hair, how healthy the hair is, what type of products we were using before switching and I am sure many other factors.

Long story short, recently I found a natural shampoo bar that is going well, I still need to test it for longer but I haven’t had the heavy/oily hair I had with the other brands during the transition period. So far I haven’t started using the Apple Cider Vinegar rinse, but I may try it soon. Apparently it helps to avoid build up in the hair.

What’s the best type?

I prefer shampoo bars made with the traditional method because simple is better, the ingredients are natural and they are safe for us and the planet. Having said that, synthetic ingredients used in syndet shampoo bars are usually safe – it is worth checking the label though.

If you have doubts about a particular ingredient, you can visit Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep website and search their database, that gives you a rating for that particular ingredient and tells you about any concerns/studies; it is a great resource.

At the end of the day it is a matter of trial and error and finding what works for you. Regardless of the type, these shampoo bars will help you reduce plastic waste.

If you are wondering what I did with the shampoo bars that didn’t work, two of them we used as regular soaps and my husband inherited the other one…nothing got wasted!!!

Update: I wrote another post about shampoo bars after using them for several months. You can read it here.

“Take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints!”― Chief Seattle

That’s it for this week, I hope you have learned a little something about shampoo bars. Please tell me in the comments below: Have you tried them before? How was your experience? Please share so that I can reach more people.

Thanks for reading