Shampoo Bars 101

Shampoo Bars 101

As soon as you set foot in the zero waste world, one of the first products you encounter is the shampoo bar. Such an easy way to completely eliminate a plastic bottle — two plastic bottles, in fact!

But not a lot of people use shampoo bars, and compared to the number of liquid shampoos on the market, there is not a lot of information out there on what shampoo bars are, exactly; how they’re made; what’s in them; or how to use them.

Truthfully, switching from conventional liquid shampoo to a shampoo bar is a bit of an adjustment. But, armed with a bit of accurate information, you can be prepared for this adjustment and triumph in the name of low waste living and soft, shiny hair!

“Shampoo” Doesn’t Always Mean the Same Thing: Differentiating Between Soap and Detergent (And What It Means for Your Hair)

There are two different types of shampoo bars: soap, or detergent.

Detergent shampoo bars are the ones that are generally round/disc-shaped. They are made using a press and usually contain Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate. There shouldn’t be much of an adjustment to using this type of shampoo bar, as liquid shampoo is also a detergent.

Meanwhile, our shampoo bars are actually cold processed (all natural) soaps. Our shampoo bars differ from our regular bar soaps in that they contain oils that are specifically beneficial for hair. There’s an adjustment period for most people as they transition from detergent shampoo to soap shampoo, but after two to four weeks, things should be working well.

Our shampoo bars are handmade just 5 km from our store, by our sister company All Things Jill. They’re made with a foundation of coconut butter, shea butter and avocado oil, with castor oil and argan oil to moisturize hair, and promote hair growth and health.

Lastly, kaolin clay is an added cleanser that helps to strengthen the roots and won’t strip the natural moisture from the hair. The end product creates a luscious lather that cleanses without stripping the hair’s natural oils.

What You Need to Know Before You Lather, Rinse and Repeat

From here, we’ll be talking about soap-style shampoo bars, rather than detergent, since that’s what we sell (and we like that they don’t strip your natural oils).

So you’ve taken the plunge: your new, amazing-smelling shampoo bar is in your hand, and you step into the shower. As mentioned above, washing your hair this way can take a little getting used to. If you don’t fall in love immediately, don’t give up quite yet! (If it helps, think about how many years you’ve spent perfecting your liquid shampooing technique.)

First, you should know that shampoo (soap) bars lather differently than liquid shampoo and shampoo (detergent) bars. They can also make your hair feel a bit different than you’re used to — especially if you have product build-up in your hair.

If you think this might be the case and you’d like to start with a fresh canvas of build-up-free hair, you can do so by using a 1:3 solution of baking soda and water. Simply pour over hair, work through with fingers, let sit for a couple of minutes and rinse with water. This will set you up with a clean slate for using your new shampoo bar!

What About Conditioner?

Well first, let’s talk about why conditioner exists in the first place — why do we need it?

Detergents (conventional shampoos and pressed shampoo bars) actually strip the natural oils from your hair, necessitating conditioner. That’s right — conditioner is a product born from a need actually *created* by modern shampoo. Because our hair produces natural oils, if we can leave those (mostly) intact, we shouldn’t need conditioner.

This means that if you switch from liquid shampoo to a detergent shampoo bar, you’ll still need conditioner to replenish the oils the detergents are stripping. This is why companies that sell pressed shampoo bars also sell pressed conditioner bars. This is also why shampoo bar instructions can get a bit confusing — because we’re not always talking about the same thing when we talk about shampoo bars!

Now, what about our shampoo bars, which are soap? Because soap washes dirt and other foreign debris from the hair without stripping the natural oils, conditioner is not needed. Some people will use no conditioner at all with the type of shampoo bars we make, while others might choose to rinse their hair with diluted apple cider vinegar, and/or use a hair oil after they wash their hair.

Using Your Shampoo Bar: Step by Step

This is how we use the shampoo bar, with great results in Calgary, where the water is quite hard. Your process might be a bit different – we’d love to hear about it!

  1. Wet hair normally.
  2. Mix a pinch to a tablespoon of baking soda with 1-2 cups of warm water, and pour over hair.
  3. Lather shampoo bar between hands; apply lather to hair. Repeat until you have the desired amount of lather.
  4. Work lather through hair and rinse normally.
  5. Add 1-2 cups of warm water to 1-2 tbsp apple cider vinegar (we put this in a jar in advance and bring it into the shower with us – you may wish to have a pre-mixed solution in a plastic bottle). Pour over hair; do not rinse. 
  6. We like to use about 10 drops of argan oil on our hair after lightly towel drying, for extra conditioning and shine. You could also get fancy and make your own custom hair oil
Posted by Lindsay on 1/5/2021 to Products