When I say shampoo, what do you picture? Is it some sort of liquid or bottle? If so, let me introduce you to conditioner and shampoo bars.

Reader, meet hair care bars. Hair care bars, meet Reader!

This could be a life-changing introduction right here.

Read on to find out why you should be using shampoo and conditioner bars to revolutionize your shower, and how they can help make your bathroom routine zero waste and toxin-free!

Shampoo bars with text overlay- how to use shampoo bars for zero waste hair care

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Shampoo bar benefits

There are a ton of reasons you should drop everything you’re doing and start using shampoo bars right now!

These are my tops reasons for why everyone (including you!) ought to be using shampoo and conditioner bars for their hair care.

1. Zero waste

There is a LOT of plastic and packaging in conventional hair care products.

Think about shampoo and conditioner bottles, hairspray, leave-in conditioner, and hair masks and oil treatments. Almost everything is packaged in thick plastic bottles, and it’s rarely recycled!

No one wants to go through the hassle of cleaning out their shampoo bottles so they usually just get tossed in the trash- and from there, straight to the landfill. Single-use plastic is a huge source of toxins and pollution, and the earth just doesn’t need any more of it!

Related: Creative ways to use less plastic

Switching to shampoo and conditioner bars eliminates plastic along with nearly all packaging (most bars come wrapped in recyclable brown paper, and if you get it shipped you can recycle the cardboard box too) and is a great step towards sustainable, zero waste living.

Related: The best zero waste products to start reducing your waste

2. Travel

My other favorite reason to switch to shampoo and conditioner bars is that it makes travel so easy!

If you’re traveling by airplane, there’s no need to worry about the liquids rule that can make it difficult to bring along shampoo and conditioner (not to mention requires even more plastic packaging!)

I’ve been through security multiple times with my hair bars and I’ve never had a problem with it.

And if you’re traveling by any other means, or even backpacking, all you need for hair care is a small bar holder that can contain both your shampoo and conditioner bars -but honestly, it doesn’t need to be labeled as a travel container specifically for soap. Just use a stainless steel box!

(It’s especially handy if you’re only bringing a 3-in-1 bar with you for all your hygiene needs!)

Just switching to natural hair care automatically lightens your load! I can easily pack for 5+ days with nothing more than a backpack- and still have room for my books. =)

Related: 10 zero waste travel tips for sustainable travel

So if you couldn’t tell, I love packing light and being able to pack all my shower supplies (bar soap, hair care, and my safety razor) in a tiny bag. No more worrying about what to do with your huge shampoo bottle next time you travel!

3. Non-toxic ingredients

Finally, shampoo and conditioner bars are great because they aren’t loaded with toxic ingredients– if you get them from the right places.

This is a benefit with a caveat.

There are still companies that, for some reason, find a way to add toxins to their shampoo bars while still marketing them as “all-natural”! This can include things like artificial fragrances (which could include hundreds of different carcinogens) and sodium laureth sulfate to make the bar foam.

So no matter where you buy your shampoo bars from, make sure to check the ingredient list!

Related: Get the free guide to reducing toxins in your home!

If there are any ingredients that seem unnatural or unpronounceable, I’d recommend looking them up on EWG.org – this site will tell you how safe those ingredients really are.

One of those popular -but toxic- companies, sadly, is Lush:

Lush shampoo and conditioner bar review

Some of the first shampoo and conditioner bars you come across in an online search might be from Lush.

This is a company that appears “all-natural” and proudly tout their cruelty-free products. But what’s in their products exactly?

I’d recommend that you do your own research (you can look up ingredients and their safety ratings on EWG.org/skindeep) but what I found was scary.

Even the most “natural” looking shampoo bar they had is made up of ingredients I’d never want to put on my body. The very first ingredient is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. This is an ingredient that could use some more research, but as of right now, there are concerns about skin irritation and organ system toxicity.

No thanks!

And on the ingredient list, you can find “fragrance” which is described on Lush as a “safe synthetic” but could be a combination of up to hundreds of different carcinogens- they aren’t required to expose which ones.

“Fragrance” is also listed higher on the ingredient list than any of the essential oils, meaning they’re probably using as few essential oils as possible to cut down on costs! So that yummy smell? It’s actually a mostly chemically derived scent… not so natural.

So, sorry Lush, no glowing shampoo bar review from me. Not even with fair trade honey as an ingredient.

Read on for some of my favorite hair care bars for all hair types!

Earthley shampoo bars and soap bars

Which hair care bars are best

I love the rosemary-lavender shampoo bar from Earthley. This is an organic shampoo bar for men or women, and it’s great for oily or normal hair. (They have an unscented bar too, get that one if you have sensitive skin)

I’ve tried a few different shampoo bars, and theirs works great for my thin blonde hair! It doesn’t strip your hair of its natural oils, but gently cleanses so that your hair can be clean and healthy, all-naturally.

Their shampoo bar ingredients are nothing but natural, with castor oil to encourage hair growth, and mango butter to nourish and moisturize your hair.

Earthley’s shampoo bar is also great for curly hair or colored hair.

If you have dandruff, you might want to try Earthley’s 3-in-1 bar instead. Plus, it doubles as a body and face bar, and it’s perfect for dry skin!

If you have a super dry scalp, I’d also recommend trying the Honeyed Beer and Egg shampoo bar from Valley Secret.

I have dry ends, so I follow up with a solid conditioner bar (I looove the conditioner bars from Valley Secret, best solid conditioner I’ve found!) and Earthley’s leave-in conditioner to tame any frizz.

This leave-in conditioner has two formulas. The thick formula is best for dry, thick, or curly hair, and has herbal ingredients to help make your hair smooth and easy to brush.

The thin formula helps to thicken and strengthen hair without weighing it down. It also works as a detangler!


Making the transition to shampoo bars

Another little caveat for this zero waste swap- it can a little bit of time for your hair to get used to using a shampoo bar.

It can be easy to miss sections of your hair when you’re using a shampoo bar for the first time, but that part’s pretty easy to figure out. There are more tips on how to use a shampoo bar below!

However, if you’re switching from conventional hair care to a shampoo bar, it might take a few weeks for your hair to adjust. This is the same kind of transition that you go through when you switch to non-toxic deodorant– you might go through a detox phase. 

It might seem like your shampoo bar is making your hair greasier for up to 2-4 weeks, especially if you’re transitioning from commercial hair products. The chemicals need time to slough off.

But don’t give up!

It would be a worse sign if your shampoo bar was completely drying out your hair right from the start.

I’d recommend trying out a shampoo bar for at least a month. If it still isn’t working for you, then you can try a different bar- it might just be that the particular bar you chose isn’t the best type for your exact hair type.

You shouldn’t experience any kind of adjustment when you’re switching to a conditioner bar, but you should know that there are a lot of different kinds!

Try to find a conditioner bar that works well with your specific hair texture and dryness.

Shampoo and conditioner bars

How to use a shampoo bar

When you first start using a shampoo bar on your hair, it can take some time to adjust to using a solid bar instead of a liquid. But it’s not too tough!

The hardest parts are learning how to get every part of your hair clean (it might take a couple of showers to learn) and adjusting to how to hold and store your shampoo bar.

But once you switch over, you’ll never want to go back to plastic bottles again!

Here’s everything you need to know about how to use a shampoo bar for clean hair.

  1. Wet your hair (this step’s pretty straightforward, right?)
  2. Wet and lather the shampoo bar
    If you have short hair, you can rub the bar straight on to your hair. But if your hair is any longer than a pixie cut, lather it on your hands and then rub your soapy hands all over your scalp.
  3. Lather your entire head
    The area most people miss is the very back of your head, just above the neck. Make sure that everywhere gets lathered! I usually have to wet the back of my head again to make sure it’s fully washed.
  4. Use your fingertips to massage your head
    Once you’re all lathered up, rub the soap all over your scalp, concentrating on the parts of your hair that are the oiliest. You don’t have to leave the shampoo in your hair. Once the lather goes away, that means all the oil has been soaked up and you’re done!
  5. Rinse your hair (again, self-explanatory yeah?) And you’re done!

Notes on shampoo bar usage

I’d recommend following your shampoo with a high-quality conditioner bar.

You can use a vinegar rinse if you want, which helps to close your hair cuticle and makes your hair softer and smoother. You can also follow your shampooing with a conditioner of your choice. I wouldn’t skip the conditioner, because your hair can feel pretty rough otherwise.

And if you want to, you can also rinse your hair in cool water after using conditioner to help close the cuticle- do whatever your hair likes! Spend a few weeks doing it different ways to find out what methods your hair does best with.

And note that if you have hard water, it might take a little more soap than normal to get your hair clean.

Store your shampoo bar away from running water, somewhere where it can dry out completely between uses.

Shampoo bars for natural hair

If you’re washing natural hair, shampoo bars are still a great option! Find one that doesn’t have artificial ingredients that could strip your hair of oils. You can check out this shampoo bar guide to help you find a good bar for natural hair. (Still, make sure to check the ingredients)

You’ll also find a link to the oil cleansing method for natural hair!

Shampoo bar recipes

If you’re into experimenting with DIY recipes, making your own shampoo bars can be an adventure! Most shampoo bar recipes contain lye, so make sure to use the proper precautions and be safe.

You can learn how to make a rosemary mint shampoo bar from Grow Forage Cook Ferment.

There’s also a guide to making coconut oil shampoo bars from Mommypotamus, with a video tutorial and the recipes for a few different superfat contents so that you can personalize your shampoo bar depending on your hair texture!

How to use a conditioner bar

Just like your shampoo bar, using a conditioner bar is a bit different from using conditioner straight from the bottle!

You still use it after shampooing (and after doing a vinegar rinse, if needed), and you don’t use it on your roots or scalp, but the technique for applying it is a little different using a solid bar.

To start with, wet your hair and your conditioner bar.

Separate your hair into two parts, on either side of your face. I do this even though I have thin hair because it helps me get all the way up to my ears on both sides.

Holding the conditioner bar in one hand, glide it down your hair with your other hand on the other side of your hair. Comb through your hair with your free hand to get all of your hairs conditioned.

Your bar won’t lather much, but you’ll notice it getting easier and easier to comb through your hair as the conditioner spreads!

Once all of your hair is silky smooth on both sides, let it sit for 2-4 minutes and rinse.

Then just continue on with your shower as normal!

You can rinse your hair with cold water after you’re done with your shower if you want to close up your hair cuticle- some people have hair that needs this, and some don’t. Experiment to find what your hair likes!

And try to let your conditioner bar dry out in between uses- it works best that way, and lasts longer.


Also. You should get this handy zero waste checklist


Do you have any questions about this zero waste swap or about using hair care bars? Let me know in the comments below!

And don’t forget to pin this post for later!

Shampoo bars and a towel with text overlay- how to use shampoo and conditioner bars for plastic-free, toxin-free hair care

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