Tips for Switching to Zero Waste Shampoo Bars and Conditioner + Brands You’ll Love

Tips for Switching to Zero Waste Shampoo Bars and Conditioner + Brands You’ll Love

Buying shampoos and conditioners in a liquid containing plastic bottle has become second nature. But the number of shampoo bottles discarded every year is alarming. Most of these bottles are also filled with a cocktail of chemicals with names you can’t pronounce, which most likely means that it’s not good for you or the planet. For more information on some of the questionable ingredients in hair products the Clean Beauty Gals have put a list of 10 ingredients to avoid together for info. So what can be done? Switching to cruelty-free, natural shampoo is great but it will still come in a plastic bottle and sometimes still contain unsustainable palm oil and SLS’, so you’ll need to do a little bit of digging before clicking the buy button with those.  There are so many shampoo and conditioner options available in plastic-free packaging, most of which are in bar form. Which is a great way to help eliminate waste and single-use plastic from our homes. These bars usually contain fewer ingredients and you do get many handmade varieties from smaller manufacturers, which I love. 

Types of Shampoo Bars

In general, there are two types of solid shampoos – syndet surfactant-based and soap-based. 

Syndet-based bars are the closest thing you’ll get to liquid shampoos, minus the water that makes it liquid. These shampoos contain surfactants as cleaning and foaming agent and are good at cleaning oil, dirt and impurities from your hair. The pH of these types of bars are typically lower and will generally not disrupt the oil balance on your scalp. If you are buying a surfactant-based bar the most common is sodium cocoyl isethionate, but some also contain sodium lauryl sulfoacetate and sodium lauryl sulphate or SLS, which is are best avoided.

Soap based bars are made with either a hot or cold soap making process using sodium hydroxide also known as lye. This is the same process followed for regular bar soaps except that they contain ingredients targeted at hair. The pH of these shampoos is more alkaline than that of your scalp. This can give you a frizzy look, which can be rectified by using an acidic rinse, such as apple cider vinegar, after shampooing to help balance the pH of the scalp. I have included one soap-based bar should you wish to experiment with an apple cider vinegar rinse, but the other soaps listed are all syndet-based for your convenience.

How to make an apple cider vinegar rinse to rebalance after using soap-based shampoo bars: Dilute one tbsp of organic apple cider vinegar with one cup of water and pour over your hair or spray using a reusable spray jar, then rinse. You can add a few drops of essential oils to make your rinse spell beautiful.

Shampoo Bar pin 1

Shampoo and Conditioner Bars in Hard Water Areas

Shampoo bars work better in soft water areas, especially the soap-based versions. If you live in a hard water area, the minerals can cause build-up on the hair shaft making it feel sticky, waxy and wiry as it will leave deposits in your hair. It’s not a pleasant experience at all. Large parts of South East England has very hard water. In hard water areas, you’ll notice that your kettle and appliances need frequent descaling and your shower door is likely to have more watermarks than normal. You can find a map of hard water areas in the UK here, the US is here, Canada here and Australia here.

If you’ve not found a shampoo bar that works for you it’s likely that you have mineral-heavy water issues. To solve this try a pH balanced syndet based bar or you can buy a water softening shower filter like this (US) or this (UK), which is useful. If you are super dedicated you can consider a baking soda rinse to remove build-up, followed by an apple cider vinegar rinse to bring the PH value of your scalp back to where it belongs with the rinse listed in the previous section.

What to Expect When Switching to a Shampoo Bar?

Using a shampoo bar is similar to washing with bar soap. Instead of putting a dollop of shampoo in your palm before applying, you’ll need to gently run the bar over your hair. Then lather as normal.

Depending on which shampoo you have been using prior to switching, your hair may become slightly oilier at first as your scalp might need a bit of time to adjust to the new shampoo. That’s absolutely normal, stick it out for a few weeks as things should normalise over time. If not, you can try a different bar as it might take a bit of trial and error to find the right bar for you.

Finding the Best Zero Waste, Non-Toxic and Eco-Friendly Shampoo and Conditioner Brands

In the spirit of a zero-waste philosophy, aim to look for products that can be reused or composted rather than ending up in the general waste wheely bin. Choosing zero waste products one by one is done in small and incremental steps, not all in one go. Use what you have first and then replace the products gradually.

When choosing the best sustainable and zero waste brands we’ll use the following indicators:

  • Vegan
  • Cruelty-free (no animal testing)
  • Organic/natural/clean skin
  • Palm oil free/using sustainable palm oil
  • Using low waste or zero waste packaging
I have kept the list of options streamlined, not to overwhelm, but as mentioned you might need to try a few different options before you find one you really like.

Ethique

Vegan, cruelty-free, non-toxic, palm oil-free, plastic-free packaging, syndet-based

Ethique is a brand that always comes highly recommended in any shampoo bar discussion and is recommended in hard water. Their products are highly concentrated and are made to last.

They make a nice little taster box (pictured left) for newbies to try out and see what works for them.

The company was founded in 2012 when owner Brianne started mixing formulas up in her kitchen at her Christchurch (New Zealand) home.  They have been growing steadily and is now available in most countries.

Get the Ethique sampler pack here

Aspen Kay Naturals

Vegan, cruelty-free, non-toxic, certified sustainable palm, plastic-free packaging, syndet-based

Aspen Kay Naturals are 100% handmade, from to cutting and packaging, in the US.

All of their soaps are made with organic and certified sustainable palm oil, organic unrefined shea butter, organic extra virgin olive oil, organic sunflower oil and organic castor bean oil.

The soaps are naturally coloured using plants, herbs, clays and natural mineral pigments and they focus on making organic natural soaps.

Get the Aspen Kay Shampoo & Conditioner Bar Set

Little Soap Company - UK

Vegan, cruelty-free, non-toxic, sustainable palm-oil, plastic-free packaging, syndet-based

I’m a big fan of Little Soap Company as they are handmade in the UK and can now be found in a few major retailers such as Boots and Tesco. Their products are plastic-free and natural all the way.

The company was founded by Emma Heathcote-James who is committed to getting clean skin soap into supermarkets so that you can pick it up as part of your weekly shop.

Get their Eco Worrier Shampoo bar

GOOD CUBE

Vegan, cruelty-free, non-toxic, sustainable palm-oil, plastic-free packaging, syndet-based

GOOD CUBE is good for your hair, your budget, the oceans and the planet! Based out of New Zealand, GOOD CUBE is made by Good 3 who focus on making either plant products or products made from plant-based ingredients. They are nature-inspired and free of synthetic and artificial additives. And importantly, they contain no carcinogens. 

One bar should last 100+ washes, so it really does go a long way!

Get the GOOD CUBE 2 in 1 shampoo bar

J.R.LIGGETT’S

Vegan, cruelty-free, non-toxic, palm oil-free, plastic-free packaging, soap-based

J.R.LIGGETT’S have over 30 products they sell nationally and internationally. All with a consciousness toward ecology and their customers’ well being. They have been making soap for 30 years! The company was started by J.R a successful Art Director at advertising powerhouse, Ogilvy & Mather and his wife Diane who were looking to swap New York living for a quieter life in Hampshire.

Diane suggested making shampoo and selling it. The idea stuck and soon they moved to New Hampshire and had a growing and successful business of their own.

Get the J.R.LIGGETT’S Shampoo Bar

If you have any other personal favourites or have tips and reviews around the options above, please leave your opinion in the comments below!

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