Buying zero waste shampoo and conditioners in a liquid containing plastic bottle has become second nature. But the number of shampoo bottles discarded every year is alarming. That’s why switching to a zero waste shampoo and conditioner is a sensible idea. We’d say the same is true for zero waste deodorant.
Most shampoo bottles are 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, zero waste 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 zero waste 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. We’ve also included a few zero waste shampoos that are not in bar form, as we know bar shampoos won’t work for everyone and can be a little tricky in hard water areas. See the end of this article for more details on choosing a zero waste shampoo.
Let’s take a look at 16 amazing zero waste shampoo options.
Our Favourite Zero Waste Shampoo Bars
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.
2. Battle Green Box Natural Shampoo Bar
Vegan, cruelty-free, non-toxic, palm oil-free, plastic-free packaging, syndet-based
Battle Green offers a range of natural body care and zero waste products. Their plastic free shampoo is packed with natural ingredients and is made in small batches by hand. Choose between Citrus, Mint, Lavender and Tea Tree scents.
These bars contain olive oil, grapeseed oil, vitamin E oil and coconut oil to help beat split ends and prevent hair breakage. In terms of packaging, the bars come in a plastic free shampoo travel case, just make sure your bar is dry before putting it in the tin.
Based in Snowdonia, North Wales in the UK the company was established in 2018 with the aim to create planet and human-friendly products. They offer a range of eco-friendly shampoo and alternatives to everyday products in plastic-free packaging. A lot of their items are refillable and reusable, helping you save money and reduce waste. All products are posted without plastic packaging!
3. Aspen Kay Naturals
Vegan, cruelty-free, non-toxic, certified sustainable palm, plastic-free packaging, syndet-based
Aspen Kay Naturals are 100% handmade, from setting 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.
4. My Plastic Free World Chamomile & Lemon Shampoo
Vegan friendly, SLS Free, Plam Oil-Free
My Plastic-Free World offers a range of essential oil shampoos using quality ingredients for all hair types.
The Chamomile & Lemon zero waste shampoo is made with soothing camomile oil, which protects against environmental pollutants leaving your hair feeling healthy and soft. It’s safe to use on blonde or light brown hair as it naturally lightens.
If you’re struggling with zero waste shampoo bars this is a great alternative as it’s still an eco-friendly shampoo and comes in fully recyclable and plastic-free packaging.
5. 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.
6. 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!
7. Plaine Products Eco-Friendly Shampoo
Vegan, cruelty-free, non-toxic, sustainable palm-oil, plastic-free packaging, biodegradable, non-GMO ingredients
Plaine Products offer plastic-free shampoo and conditioner that is good for you and good for the planet. The company was founded by two sisters and all their products are vegan, cruelty-free and toxin-free.
These products are suitable for all hair types including those with sensitive skin, it doesn’t contain sulfates or parabens and is child and colour safe.
As a bonus, the company offers refillable bottles that can be returned and reused for free, so no need to worry about a mountain of plastic waste. The pump mechanism is reusable and can be kept to use with the refill bottles.
Being an eco-friendly shampoo it foams less than drugstore shampoo, but it leaves your hair soft and shiny. Tangles are easy to comb out of long hair.
8. Beauty and the Bees Original All Natural Shampoo
Preservative-free, palm oil-free, cruelty-free
Beer may sound like an unusual ingredient when it comes to eco-friendly shampoo, but it’s famed for leaving hair bouncy, shiny and full of body. Brewed naturally through small breweries in Tasmania Australia these bars contain a kick of beer and are entirely chemical-free.
Beauty & the Bees use only premium quality and organic ingredients that can be used for healthy gourmet foods as well. Their ingredients list include Tasmania’s unique raw, unpasteurized Leatherwood honey, olive oil and biodynamic Tasmanian herbs.
Products are made in Tasmania and shipped from the USA
9. Eco Roots Shampoo Bar
Paraben-Free, Palm-Oil Free, Cruelty-Free and Vegan.
Eco Roots make their shampoo bars by hand in the USA. It’s silicone-free, Phthalate-free & Paraben Free, Palm-Oil Free, Cruelty-Free and vegan.
These bars are completely plastic-free and will last over 50 washes. Eco Roots make a range of flavours that create a good lather for clean and healthy hair.
To use gently massage into wet hair and rinse with water, repeat if needed. Follow with their conditioner and leave the bar to air dry thoroughly.
10. Bestowed Essentials Aloe & Tea Tree Shampoo Bar
Paraben-Free, Sulfate-Free, Cruelty-Free and Vegan.
The Bestowed Essentials’ Natural Aloe & Tea Tree zero waste shampoo bar is free from preservatives and nasty additives. It’s made with concentrated aloe vera juice, olive oil and coconut oil. It nourishes and cleans the scalp and hair without being harsh on your natural oils.
It ships in zero waste, plastic-free packaging and for every order Bestowed Essentials collect and recycles 1lb of beach trash thanks to their ongoing partnership with the Ocean Blue Project.
These bars are handmade in the USA in a production facility that uses renewable solar power.
11. Seed Phytonutrients Natural Daily Shampoo
Paraben-Free, Sulfate-Free, Cruelty-Free
Seed Phytonutrients is a family run clean beauty business with a mission to minimise their impact on the planet.
Their light-lathering shampoo is quick to wash away dirt while being gentle on your hair’s natural oils. It’s super nourishing with a light scent of sea salt and bergamot. As it’s a light shampoo it won’t weigh your hair down, which can be super helpful to keep curls bouncy.
When it comes to packaging their super innovative, as you can take the bottle apart to compost the paper exterior, recycle the inner liner and while you’re at it you’ll find a secret seed packet inside, ready for planting!
12. Moisturize HiBAR Shampoo
Paraben-Free, Sulfate-Free, Cruelty-Free, Vegan
All HiBAR products come in plastic-free packaging. The soap itself doesn’t look like your everyday bar, the shape of these bars are inspired by nature, pebbles on the shoreline. The unique shape also makes them comfortable to hold.
These bars are eco-friendly and correct moisture deficiency within your hair making it more manageable. You can safely use it on colour treated hair and its sulfate, paraben, silicone, phthalates, palm oil-free and vegan.
It’s simple to use, just lather, rinse and repeat. Finish with a HiBAR conditioner bar for best results.
13. Emerson Soaps Argan Natural Shampoo Bar
Vegan, Cruelty-Free, All Natural, Palm-Free
Emerson Soaps are handcrafted from scratch using the company’s own recipes. The soaps are produced in small batches from natural and ethically sourced veggie oils.
You won’t find any detergents, pre-made soap bases or sulfates here, only great natural oils and deliciously pure essential oils. Their colourants are all plant-based without chemicals. Emerson’s products are proudly cruelty-free.
We love that these soaps are superfatted, which means not all the oils are saponified.
Once used, leave your soap bar to dry thoroughly so that it doesn’t get mushy or slimy.
14. Meow Meow Tweet Shampoo Powder
Phthalate-Free, Vegan, Cruelty-Free, Paraben-Free
Shampoo powder seems like a very novel idea. But it’s the shampoo without the water, which is quite clever. This is a water-activated formula that goes from powder to lather in your palm.
This bottle is highly concentrated so ideal for a low-waste hair routine. It’s made with aloe and marshmallows and is 100% plant-based. It softens and cleanses while clarifying hard water build-up. It has a sweet floral smell and is similar to a lotion-based shampoo once activated.
It smells wonderful and cleans just as well. It’s definitely worth a try, for sure!
15. True Botanicals Nourishing Shampoo
True Botanicals makes an antioxidant-packed shampoo that cleans beautifully without being harsh. The hypoallergenic formula hydrates and creates a nice lather that leaves hair clean and nourished. You can use this version for all hair types. It smells bright, citrusy with a floral undertone.
The bottle is fully recyclable and the product is expectedly formulated without any surfactants. It contains aloe leaf extract and meadowfoam seed oil.
It’s great for sensitive skin and worth a try if you have psoriasis.
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.
Finding the Best Zero Waste Shampoo and Conditioner
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 shampoo brands we’ll use the following indicators:
- Cruelty-free (no animal testing)
- Organic/natural/clean skin
- Palm oil free/using sustainable palm oil
- Using low waste or zero waste packaging
We 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. If you’d like to clean up your beauty routine, even more, read our posts about zero waste makeup brands and organic lipstick.
What to Expect When Switching to a Zero Waste 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.
Types of Zero Waste Shampoo
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 them 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 and Conditioner Bars in Hard Water Areas
Zero waste 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.
If you have any other personal favourites or have tips and reviews around the options above, please leave your opinion in the comments below!
Zero waste usually means a product packaged without plastic. This means that a zero-waste shampoo is a product packaged in recyclable, biodegradable and/or reusable packaging. The term zero waste describes the material left behind once a product has been used, and zero waste usually refers to the amount of waste that ends up in a landfill once a product is finished. If a product is packaged in packaging it must be easily recyclable, but ideally, the most favourable type of packaging is biodegradable material such as cardboard.
Yes, most shampoo bars are more sustainable as it requires less packaging and fewer toxins. Soap in bar form is a good zero waste product as it can be packaged in a cardboard box without spoiling. Most bar shampoos that are listed as zero waste contain natural ingredients, which means it’s non-toxic and better for the environment. Not all bar soaps and shampoos are toxin-free, so please make sure that you check the label before you buy.
To make sure a shampoo bar is environmentally friendly it’s important to check the ingredient list and the packaging that it comes in. Handmade bars are more likely to be eco-friendly than mass-produced shop-bought bars. Double-check that the packaging doesn’t include any plastic and that it’s biodegradable. Avoid ingredients such as sulfates and look out for products that list their ingredients as natural and organic.