Do Shampoo Bars Really Work?

Organic soap

One of the first products I tried on my journey to zero waste was a shampoo bar from Lush and, despite it’s price, I was a convert. I loved the fact that I could buy it without packaging, save a sticker saying how much it was. This love affair lasted a year but then I went back on the bottled shampoo. If you want to find out why then read on.

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The Shampoo Bar Brands I trialled

I did enjoy using Lush’s Trichomania shampoo bar, but replacing it became too much of a hassle for me. The closest Lush store to me is in the city centre and I rarely visit there now. Normally I’d stockpile stuff like this but the smell from this product is quite strong and I wasn’t keen to have it’s strong smell outside of the bathroom.

So I hunted around for an alternative shampoo bar and decided upon a transitioning shampoo bar from AB Studio which I bought at the Zero Waste Festival in June. I really liked the smell of this soap and it lathered up very well but my hair definitely didn’t like this shampoo bar. I was told that it can take hair a while to get used to their shampoo bars so I persevered for 5 weeks, at the end of which my crown was lank and greasy and my ends were straw-like. Not a good look!

I then sourced a lovely Lemon & Chamomile shampoo bar from Airmid, which I bought in South William St Pharmacy on Dublin 2. Again a lovely smell and a bar that lathered up really well. The first wash looked promising, my hair felt lighter and smoother, but after a few washes I had a lank, greasy crown.

The last shampoo bar I trialled was the vegan Rosemary and Seasalt soap from Clarkes of Dublin. This isn’t branded as a shampoo bar but a friend who used it as one said they found it good, plus the supplier said it would be suitable as a shampoo bar. The soap smells lovely, is a good size and lathers up well, but from the very first wash I could feel the residue building up on my hair.

Other Irish Brands of Shampoo Bars

Other Irish brands of shampoo bar include Skellig Soaps, Lucy Soap KitchenThe Natural Aroma Company, Three Hills Soap, Justine Le Guil and Heartworks, Blathana and The Soapbox Project. In the UK you’ve got Beauty Cubes who also use a high percentage of organic ingredients in their shampoo and conditioning cubes.

The Last Straw

Fed up looking like a cross between a bag a chips and a scarecrow I gave in and used Faith in Nature’s Aloe Vera liquid shampoo. Finally I had hair that I didn’t have to hide away in a pony tail anymore.

Final Verdict on Shampoo Bars I tried

How did the Shampoo Bars Smell?

I thought the smell from the shampoo bars I tried were fantastic, and doubled up as a room fragrance.

How long did the Shampoo Bars Last?

To give you some context, here is my hair washing routine. I have long fine hair that I wash 2-3 times a week. When I was using these shampoo bars I was also rinsing my hair with vinegar.

I felt that the soap from AB Studio’s seemed to reduce the least of all of the bars I tested, with the Airmid bar a close second. I found the Lush soap melted away extremely quickly and although the cheapest initially cost me the most in the long run.

E

Published by Elaine Butler

I am a circular design consultant helping manfacturers prepare for the circular economy

13 thoughts on “Do Shampoo Bars Really Work?

  1. Hello! I know this is an old post but I just wanted to thank you for all the wonderful recommendations!!! I’m Swedish and just went to using soap bars and shampoo bars instead of liquids to reduce the use of plastic. I now buy them in a shop in Göteborg but I plan to move to Ireland next year and was looking at options there. There is Lush in Cork but I was interested in finding alternatives too and if there is local production as well. I loved all those links you shared here!!

    1. Thank you so you so much for your kind words and hope your move to Ireland goes well. Be sure to join the Zero Waste Ireland FB group. I’m just about to trial another shampoo bar and will update the post once I have. I keep most of my posts ‘live’ and update them regularly so they’re as useful as possible for people.

      1. Hi again! I’ll definitely check that group, as I’d love to get tips on how to reduce waste. I’m also very blessed to have friends in West Cork who care about these things – and generally, West Cork seems to be a good area where there’s lots of work to promote buying local, sustainability etc. Now when I re-read your post I was wondering if you have checked if the shampoo bars contain silicone? Since you experienced residue build up it could be because there’s silicone or mineral oils that need SLS to be removed. I’ve been using this “conditioner/no poo” method for a year and it works brilliantly for me. I have a couple of shampoos with SLS but no silicone, and now I found a shampoo bar with no silicone or SLS.

  2. Yes West Cork is a great spot. I’ll double check about silicone but I don’t think they do. In the article I refer to a post explaining why soap based products may leave a residue, particularly in hard water areas. Other people have had good results with the brands I tried. Can you give some more info on the method you use? I’m intrigued!

    1. Very interesting about the hard water! I must have missed that article – will go read it now.

      Regarding the method I use, I have only seen it in Swedish circles (and excuse me if my English isn’t great here but I’m not sure about all these no-poo expressions in English), but the concept is the same as with “no poo”. Commercial shampoos strip natural oils from your hair and then adds silicone that wraps the hair and makes it look shiny and nice. Fat solves fat, and that’s why using only a conditioner (without silicone and mineral oils) works for washing your hair.
      Before starting you need to use what is called the “last shampoo” which has to contain sulphate (SLS) but no silicone or mineral oils. The website I followed had a long list of accepted products.

      After this last shampoo you can go on and only use a conditioner from the accepted products list. The hair will be more greasy in the beginning because it’s not used to not being fed silicone and oils, but it will soon get used to the new method, for me it took 2 weeks or so. I only chose to test this method because I felt I wanted a more natural hair care, with less chemicals, and this seemed good to me. Since I was quite satisfied already with my hair quality, I didn’t care so much about conditioners but more about being able to use more natural and gentle shampoos.

      What I do now is that I use a gentle shampoo bar without SLS or silicone, and if I want to use conditioner I have one from Lush called “Veganese”. But with these shampoo bars I don’t think I need a conditioner much. My styling products obviously also need to be without silicone/mineral oils, but if I use commercial stuff which I do if I go for a haircut, and if I need to use my fragrance free salt spray (I have a friend who is allergic to perfume), then I use the “last shampoo” after that to get back to normal. As a last shampoo I’ve fallen in love with Big shampoo from Lush but there are lots of good ones out there.
      There is a list of ingredients that you need to avoid to use this method, it’s in Swedish but I can send the link if you’re interested. Some of them are only relevant if you want to use conditioners only. Personally I don’t have the patience to read through long ingredient lists when I do my shopping, so I try to only recognise silicones, and for the rest I test the product and see if it works for me or not.

      With this routine, my hair is nice and shiny, feels stronger and not as fine and thin as before, and the very very best result is that I only need to wash it once a week (maybe two depending on how much spray I use).
      I hope this makes sense!!
      As for Lush, have you tested their other shampoo bars? They have quite a few of them now.

  3. Thanks for that thorough explanation. I would love the Swedish link please. You’re right I didn’t link to post about soap residue in hard water in this post. I must add it in. I didn’t try any other Lush bars, cause the one I did use was the most sensitive.

  4. Thanks for this article. I’ve recently started a blog promoting zero-waste, eco-living and this article has really helped in pointing me in the right direction when it comes to eco-friendly shampoos. Thanks a mill!

    1. Great, thanks for that info. I’ve heard good things about both of those soaps too. Glad to hear they’re working for you. I might give them a go in the future when time allows.

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