Shampoo Bars – Better Than Your Regular Bottle Of Hair Wash?

Eco And Travel-Friendly, Solid Shampoos Offer A Range Of Benefits, But How Do They Scrub Up? We Put Them To The Test

We’ve been making all kinds of bathroom swaps in the name of plastic-free beauty, from switching to reusable cotton pads to using mouthwash in a metal bottle, but one of the easiest of all is switching from bottled shampoo to shampoo bars. Compact and convenient, this fast-growing beauty category is one to watch with environmental concerns increasingly playing on our minds.

As well as plastic packaging-free, other common qualities include a more natural focus when it comes to their ingredient lists and greater longevity when compared to liquid counterparts, (in fact, one claims to last 80-100 washes and do the job of three 250ml bottles). Furthermore, because of their smaller size, more can fit into the lorries that transport them to reduce your carbon footprint even further. Some can also be used on body and hair and they’re refreshingly affordable too.

According to Lush, the number of shampoo bars sold globally in the last financial year is equivalent to 500 million hair washes – washes that didn’t come from a plastic bottle; since 2007, Lush has sold over 38 million naked shampoo bars 
globally, saving over 90 million plastic shampoo bottles from being used at all (based on the idea that one shampoo bar is equal to two point four bottles of liquid shampoo). “Shampoo bars have a hugely positive impact on the environment,” says Lush co-founder Mark Constantine. “We’re extremely proud of them because they’re long-lasting and totally unpackaged.”

When shampoo bars first arrived on the scene they didn’t address different hair concerns in the same way liquid shampoos do, but this is slowly changing. Lush has 15 different shampoos bars now with each promising different results from a refreshing cleanse, volume, shine to a bar for fine hair, while Biovene has a bounty of 12 different shampoo bars to hydrate, nourish and prevent damage control.

Certain to appeal to natural beauty fans and the eco and space-conscious, does quality lose out to size and cost? I found out.


With an open mind. The change in application takes a little getting used to. Some brands recommend rubbing the bar between your hands first while others advise applying it directly to the scalp instead. They lather surprisingly well (even those without SLS) but require thorough washing through to keep residue to a minimum.


Yes – in this way it’s no different to bottled shampoo. If using conditioner in a plastic bottle feels counterintuitive, Lush has a selection of conditions bars too.


In much the same way you look after a bar of soap – keep it out of the way of direct water, ideally on a dish or a wrack where the water can run out of it to allow it to dry easily.


Ethique Eco-Friendly Shampoo Bar for Normal Hair – Buy from Ethique at Amazon

In much the same way you look after a bar of soap – keep it out of the way of direct water, ideally on a dish or a wrack where the water can run out of it to allow it to dry easily.

Having given them a try, I’d say they’re best for those who frequently wash their hair to eliminate daily grime rather than a build-up of grease. They also work well for those looking to subtract some kgs off their luggage if travelling. There are some clear pros and cons to them.

1. They’re lightweight – their compact size makes for a more travel-friendly alternative to bulky bottles.

2. They’re long-lasting – and they hold their shape well (no crumbly Dove soap situations happening here).

3. They’re more eco-friendly – wrapped in paper or card, they help reduce the industry’s problem with over-packaging.

1. They can leave your hair feeling greasy – if not used correctly. Application is key and only a little is needed. If too much is used, your hair will feel pretty waxy when dry.

2. They can take a while to wash out – linked to the above, this all boils down to application. Use a little at first and then build up to more if your hair needs it.


Although providing some impressive benefits from packaging and practicality perspectives, I’d find it hard to swap my bottle for a bar when it comes to performance. Applying a little seems to be the secret to keeping post-wash residue to a minimum but I found it tricky to find the right balance – too little and my thick and long (and greasy) hair didn’t feel clean, too much and my hair felt weighed down and waxy. While the additional grit was useful for keeping my hair in an updo, leaving it loose was an option that was off the table entirely.

However, if you’re looking for a long-lasting option that addresses frequent cleansing of daily grime, they could have a place in your regime (they’re more for day 2, less for day 3 or 4). Just make sure to use only a little and if you’re using a SLS-free variation, be wary that it could take a couple of weeks for your hair to adapt to the formula.

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