Go green in the shower—with fabulous results—when you swap out shampoo bottles for bars
By Dakota KimPublished on 11/30/2018 at 11:29 AM EST
I stared forlornly at my garbage can, ruing the day I’d bought my giant Costco bottle of Pantene Pro-V. Just a few months ago, I had signed an environmentalism pledge to waste as little as possible by avoiding plastic cutlery and disposable cups. Now, I was filling up my entire bathroom trash can just by washing my hair. But how else was I supposed to shampoo?
A few months later, the solution to my plastic problem found me in my local drugstore. Strolling the aisles of Rite Aid looking for a new shampoo, I saw a small soap bar that said “shampoo bar.” This Burt’s Bees “soap” was actually shampoo! I was skeptical at first, but using various shampoo bars since has made me a believer. They both clean and moisturize, last longer than liquid shampoo, conserve space in my suitcase, and make zooming through airport security a breeze.
I’ve tested out various brands and offerings, and I think these are the best shampoo bars you should try.
Best for damaged hair: Ethique Damage Control
Ethique has the widest range of scents of any of the bars I tried. Lime and ginger, lavender and mint, jasmine and ylang ylang … even a lavender and chamomile bar for babies! But the cream of the crop is their damage control bar, with coconut oil, cocoa butter, and peppermint.
This bar’s zesty peppermint scent is refreshing in the morning, and it really lathers, especially if you get a good scrub going in your hands before you apply to your head. This bar works for fine hair without weighing it down—an unusual quality for shampoo bars, which can sometimes leave a thick, heavy film. And it’s cruelty-free!
Best shampoo bar to splurge on: Lush Avocado Co-Wash
Okay, so this avocado “shampoo” is a little pricier than the other Lush solid shampoo bars. And might seem like a major splurge. But of the Lush solid shampoos I’ve tried, this one is my favorite. It’s 80 percent conditioner and 20 percent shampoo, and it’s made to “co-wash”—which just means shampooing your hair with conditioner in order to strengthen dry, fragile, curly, frizzy, afro or mixed-texture hair. With fresh avocado, cocoa butter, and Brazilian cupuaçu butter (considered a moister, lighter alternative to shea butter), this is a rich “shampoo.”
You won’t need to condition afterward unless you have the brittlest, driest of hair, and your hair will smell lovely and be oh-so-touchable. Remember to lather this one in your hands first, and then apply to your scalp. I’m a major fan.
Most environmentally friendly: Just Soap Rosemary Shampoo
Want to reduce waste and save electricity at the same time? This supercool soap is made by bicycle. Yes, bicycle. Frederick Breeden, an environmentalist and bicyclist from Massachusetts, worked with a bicycle maker to create a pedal-powered soap-making machine. The bicycle drives a belt that turns the blade in a vat where the oils and herbs are stirred. Workers take turns pedaling the machine to make Just Soap’s normal-to-dry clear aloe soap and normal-to-oily speckled rosemary soap.
Made with local honey and organic essential oils, herbs and spices, the soaps feel mild and moisturizing, with no harsh ingredients. Breeden’s cold-batch process retains the nutrients and natural glycerin that normal soaps lose in their heating process, and it’s the natural glycerin that allows for a generous lather that really works in this bar.
I love the speckled rosemary soap because it has more texture than the aloe soap, and I like a little scrubbing power in my shampoo bars. Plus, Just Soap is a true believer when it comes to environmentalism, using minimal packaging, recycling all its paper, reusing all its boxes, and they’ve just gone solar!
Best for daily use: Naturalviolet Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo Bar
One of the best things about the shampoo bars on Etsy is that they’re more economically-priced than many on offer at Amazon. The other best thing is that you’re supporting smaller, mom-and-pop businesses. And wait, the other (last, I promise!) best thing is that the ingredients are more unique and interesting in these small company bars.
This all-vegan bar has the apple cider vinegar that no-poo fans love, which adjusts hair’s pH. It has coconut oil for lathering, sunflower oil for conditioning and vitamins, and French red clay for cleansing. This bar gives off a lovely scent, it helps with my eczema, and it really lathers. This has become my regular 10/10 bar for daily scrub-a-dubs, glamping and traveling.
Buy a 4.0-4.5 oz. bar from Natural Violet on Etsy for $4.50.
Best moisturizing bar: Udderly Luscious Yogurt Bar in Lemon
Who doesn’t love yogurt, but Tasmanian yogurt? I’ll check yes in the box for that, since when combined with spring water from Mount Wellington in Australia, coconut oil, olive oil, Leatherwood beeswax and honey, and lemon essential oils (minus any SLS or sulfates), this bar does a seriously moisturizing number on my hair. Plus, the yogurt has antibacterial and antifungal properties, and you can definitely use its gentle formula on the rest of your body without any sting.
The only problem I find with this bar is that the film it leaves can be a bit heavy. It’s nice to use as a leave-in shampoo while you chill around the house, and then wash it out with another shampoo bar and condition with apple cider vinegar to remove any film.
Best cleansing bar: Voodoo Black Bamboo Charcoal Shampoo
I’ve been using charcoal face wash, taking charcoal caps and even drinking charcoal lemonade; charcoal is all the rage, so I thought, why not in my shampoo? Charcoal is super-cleansing and detoxifying, so it’s great for the pores all over your largest organ—your skin, including the skin on your scalp. This bar smells stereotypically masculine, with a licorice scent, and is a bit larger than the average shampoo bar (more than an ounce more than most of the other bars on this list).
What’s key about this is the black bamboo charcoal, which is popular in Korea for its ability to absorb harmful ingredients and bacteria. This bar feels more cleansing than some of the other bars, and it’s great for itchy scalps, but it does leave a residue on your shower.
I first heard of ghassoul clay when buying a Moroccan clay face mask. Ghassoul, or rassoul, is a Moroccan clay chock full of silicon, phosophorus, iron, zinc and magnesium. Ghassoul is a cleanser, detoxifier and anti-aging weapon, so it’s no surprise it’s showing up in shampoo bars that could also be used for the body when in a rush. My hair is thick and wavy, and it tamed it nicely. This bar has spicy orange and coriander oil, so it smells warm and spicy. With honey, French red clay and seaweed extract, it’s soothing for your scalp.
Like other shampoo bars, it takes more than one or two washes for this to start working properly, so don’t give up right away! And it never hurts to follow it up with an apple cider vinegar rinse to condition and clarify. Try this one by Cantu.