When I first started getting interested in clean beauty and began working to swap out chemically-laden products and single-use plastic products in favor of more sustainable options, I have to admit I had a bit of a rough time. One of the most difficult parts was giving up a few favorite products that I loved but knew probably weren’t so friendly towards the environment or my skin and hair.
One such clean beauty product that I side-eyed with suspicion for quite some time was a shampoo bar. I have really thick hair, and something about rigorously working a bar through my hair to suds it up– a task that actually took me a while even with cream-based shampoos– sounded frustrating and futile. It wasn’t until I noticed a friend of mine’s hair effortlessly bouncing and emitting shine one afternoon (which she attributed to an affordable shampoo bar), coupled with the frequent trips to my hair salon to buy my beloved but pricey Davines shampoo that I decided it was time to give the shampoo bar a go.
I waited until I finished my current bottle of shampoo, and, after draining it of its contents, I did some research on which bar would be best for my hair. As mentioned, my hair is thick, dry, wavy and a little on the course side so I wanted something that would be rich and conditioning, but I was skeptical I wouldn’t be able to find something in bar form that would cater to my thirsty hair.
I landed on a bar from my favorite low-waste shop in LA, and was warned by my aforementioned light and bouncy-haired friend that a shampoo bar generally takes some getting used to. During my first wash I felt like I had no idea what I was doing and wasn’t sure if my hair was getting clean at all. I worked the bar through my hair, attempting to create some suds and while it foamed slightly, I hopped out of the shower to check a mirror and noticed it didn’t have that thick, soapy foam that develops in your hair from traditional shampoos. Instead, it just looked like wet hair, but with a little bit of product in it. I washed it out and gave myself a pat on the back for at least trying to make positive changes in my life and for our planet.
The next day, my hair looked like there was indeed more life to it, but it was a little bit tangled and impossible to run my fingers through. A couple of days later I did my second wash, but brushed out my hair first with an eco-friendly brush made of ash wood so that I could really work the bar through it in the shower. Afterwards I towel dried my hair with my oft-used Turkish cotton waffle bath towel. I also followed up with a small amount of Leave-in Conditioner by one of my favorite clean hair care brands, OUAI. Much to my hair’s delight, getting my hair clean and detangled was WAY easier than the first time, and I felt like I had more of a strategy for working it through my locks than I did during the first go round.
When I woke up the next day, I immediately texted my friend to tell her that the bar actually worked. My hair felt bouncy, easy to run my fingers through, clean but not stripped, and not weighed down or limp like other traditional shampoos I’d used in the past. The downsides I experienced while using a shampoo bar is that it’s harder for people with dry and frizzy hair like myself because the hair tangles more easily after washing. The other con I discovered was that because shampoo bars have a more waxy and bar soap-like consistency, the soap can stick around in your hair and create some buildup around the scalp. This can be avoided by rinsing with apple cider vinegar from time to time!
I continued using the bar for another two weeks and my hair continued to maintain a weightless bounce and just an overall healthier feel. I felt like I had officially become a shampoo bar convert and was happy to know that I was no longer contributing to the nearly 55 million bottles of shampoo that can end up in landfills each year.
One of the major reasons why clean shampoo bars are great, aside from the fact that they aren’t bottled in plastic and last way longer than regular shampoo, is because the majority of all shampoo bars are made free of additives and are mostly comprised of all-natural ingredients like apple cider vinegar, avocado oil, and castor oil to name a few. They’re known to clarify hair that’s suffered from a lot of residue build-up caused by chemicals found in traditional shampoos and conditioners and restore it back to voluminous, resilient hair.
If your hair tends to run on the greasier side we recommend going for a bar like this one from Chagrin Valley, which is made from cold-pressed apple juice, chamomile flowers, and citrus-based essential oils and Kaolin clay to tame oily scalps or hair that gets greasy easily.
If you’re like me and you can stick a glob of conditioner in your hair and it’s magically absorbed within moments, opt for a cold-processed shampoo bar which is usually made of natural oils meant to deeply condition hair. We love this shampoo bar by Unwrapped Life, which is made of colloidal oatmeal, amla juniper oil, and palmarosa to give major hydration and aid in scalp dryness.
If you have processed hair that’s been chemically treated for many years, Christophe Robin’s shampoo bar is a must-try. Made with aloe vera and castor oil and free of sulfates and parabens, this bar easily cleanses and hydrates hair that’s been color treated or damaged over time. Overall, choosing a shampoo bar is a game of trial and error. If you have trouble at first– don’t give up! After a few weeks, you might just become a shampoo bar convert yourself.
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