Loving the Shampoo Bar

By Carrie Chauhan

*Updated to include local shops now carrying shampoo bars: Life Unplastic and Buffalo Girls Soaps

Today, I walked into my hair stylist’s for an appointment, filled with trepidation for what I had to explain to her.  

I no longer use bottle shampoo, and while I love that she washes my hair to start the appointment, she couldn’t this time! I had a bar sample in my purse for her to see (and use if she wanted), but I had ditched bottled shampoo. But, really, how much of some crazy hippie chick was she going to think I was? Luckily, my hair stylist is awesome, and was interested in hearing the story. I found a cool company called Chagrin Valley Soap Company, but I would imagine there are other great companies out there selling bar shampoo. (Do you love yours? Let me know in the comments!! )

So why bother giving up shampoo? Partly due to the harsh chemicals found in shampoo, and partly due to the fact that a bottle of shampoo is plastic and filled with a lot of water. That plastic bottle of water and chemicals I don’t really want on me every day takes a lot of energy to ship and transport all around the country, and then I’m left with plastic to recycle, and let’s face it--the world doesn’t need any more plastic. Last year NPR reported that China was no longer buying our plastic recycling, so...now what?  

A shampoo bar is concentrated, will be fully used and often comes only in paper packaging which can be recycled.

There are other benefits to go along with eliminating harsh chemicals and plastic bottles. My hair is softer now, despite not using conditioner. (Never, not once!) You don’t need it! If you aren’t using harsh chemicals to strip your hair of the good stuff, then you don’t need a bottle of conditioner to add good stuff back in. My hair also dries in a fraction of the time. Apparently things like wax are added into shampoos and conditioners to replace the natural oils that they strip off, and this makes your hair harder to get dry.

One new thing I’ve added is rinsing my hair, either with an apple cider vinegar rinse or an herbal rinse. I know of a growing group of people who don’t shampoo their hair--they only rinse with herbal rinses. I may try that in the future, but for now, living in a damp humid climate, I need the shampoo bar. This makes my hair shinier and gets any shampoo bar residue out naturally. It doesn’t take much apple cider vinegar, and I buy that in glass bottles. I’m weaning my hair off of this, I’ve gone from 2 tbsp per rinse to 1, and hopefully once my hair fully adjusts I won’t need it every day.

A side note, I also switched my son's shampoo, who has short hair. Shampoo bars are gentler than baby shampoo and without as much foam, I found less of a chance to get soap in the eyes. Switch your kids, too :) You’ll spare them chemicals AND give them healthy hair!

This is a big transition for a lot of us--our hair is something we invest time and money in.  Here are my thoughts for easing this transition.

  1. Know your hair type. Some will know this, but also get feedback from your hair stylist--dry, mixed, fine, coarse?  

  2. Read descriptions and reviews of various kinds of soaps and companies. I found not only the company’s descriptions, but the feedback in customer reviews, helpful in deciding.

  3. Read the ingredients of each bar--I found olive oil too heavy for my hair, but coconut oil was best. For my darker-haired family members I got a bar with henna added.  

  4. Most sources of bar shampoo advise rinsing with apple cider vinegar, at least at the beginning. I’ve ‘weaned’ my hair down to half the amount of vinegar. When I ran out of acv over the holidays, I also found that my hair liked regular vinegar better than apple cider vinegar. No way to explain this, perhaps because my hair isn’t dry and can be greasy (at least in Florida. When visiting Ireland, with lovely sea breezes and less of a swampy environment, I could easily go 2-3 days without washing my hair. In Florida, I have to wash daily, no matter if it’s bottle or bar shampoo.)

  5. Be patient and persistent.  

  6. Educate everyone in the house about which is the shampoo bar, and which is the soap. Seriously, they look similar, and it can be helpful to say “my shampoo bar is white, the soap is green.”

  7. While you’re at it, switch to all-natural soaps for the rest of your sudsing needs. Who needs liquid soap when you can get yummy smelling chamomile calendula bars? And the kiddos adjust--my son was iffy with liquid soap, and he loves washing his hands with bar soap.  He thinks it’s a game.

Your hair is going to freak out a little at first--you’ve totally changed the rules. You are going to have a few bad hair days. Start this on a vacation or over a weekend so you have time to experiment and get the hang of it. It will take a little more time at first, as you learn how to do it. Don’t get scared off by this--it’s your hair getting used to the absence of all those chemicals and detergents, and realizing this shampoo is a kinder, gentler world.

So if lessening the amount of plastic you use is a New Year’s Resolution, or if you’ve been worried (as I have) about reports that the US is losing the buyers for the plastic it recycles, give a bar of shampoo a chance.  

**update** I’m about two months in, and our family has used one full-size shampoo bar and is on to a second. (That’s about $9 for the two months.) I’ve seen my hair stylist a second time, and she again said my hair was so soft and smelled great. My hair was acting differently--it’s poofier-- so we altered my cut just a little. I also went on a weekend to Disney world and ended up using hotel shampoo. It. Was. Awful. I’ve tended to have heavy, thick hair that would get really flat, something that is less of a problem with bar shampoo. Two days of hotel shampoo and my hair was flat on my head again. I’m still using a tbsp or so of vinegar each day to rinse to keep it tangle free, but I’ve been able to skip a day here or there and it's been fine.

I’m loving the bar shampoo.

Local shops with shampoo bars:  Life Unplastic  (bars in picture) and  Buffalo Girls Soaps

Local shops with shampoo bars: Life Unplastic (bars in picture) and Buffalo Girls Soaps