Are shampoo bars the next big thing in haircare?

Compact, waste-free and typically free of nasty toxins, shampoo bars are winning fans. But do they do the trick?

If you are curious about trying shampoo bars, here’s what to keep in mind.

What are shampoo bars?

In a nutshell, shampoo bars are a solid form alternative to traditional liquid shampoos.

Because they require no packaging, they are waste-free and usually fully biodegradable.

Soap maker Louise Reid-Simmons says there are two types of shampoo bars available.

“Shampoo soap bars are made like regular solid soaps with the addition of ingredients that are known to be good for the hair and scalp,” says Louise, owner of Melbourne’s Quintessence Soaps.

“The other kind are solid detergent shampoo bars, which are made with the same ingredients as regular bottled shampoos but aren’t liquid based and have zero packaging.”

To apply, simply lather the bar in your hands and work the shampoo into your hair.

Are shampoo bars better than liquid shampoo?

Like liquid shampoos, bars can vary in quality and performance.

“It depends entirely on the formulation,” says Louise.

Ingredients matter, and it’s important to know the best for your hair type.

“Castor oil, olive oil and sweet almond oil in addition to highly nutritious, expensive oils like hemp seed oil, camellia oil and argan oil are all fantastic ingredients to look out for when shopping for shampoo bars,” says Louise.

“Hemp oil is a thicker oil that is very nourishing and great for drier hair, whereas camellia oil is a much lighter oil, and we find our customers with finer hair prefer bars containing that ingredient.”

But be aware that “too much of any ingredient can mess with the formulation and effectiveness of how the bar performs”, says Louise.

From an environmental perspective, shampoo bars win hands-down over liquid shampoos because they don’t require packaging.

Driven by a desire to be less wasteful, graphic designer Bec Evans switched to shampoo bars and hasn’t looked back.

“Waste-free and eco-friendly products are very important to me. I’ve always tried to make conscious choices, but this year I decided to go as plastic-free as possible. I liked the idea of having no waste; even the packaging is compostable,” says Bec.

Should you condition your hair after using a shampoo bar?

The short answer is yes.

However you can purchase conditioner bars, which work in a similar way to shampoo bars.

“I always recommend a conditioner bar,” says Louise.

“They are made with conditioning emulsifiers and nutrients. Another alternative are conditioning oils, but that’s a whole other conversation.”

Does it take time for your hair to adjust to shampoo bars?

Much like any skincare or haircare product, a transition period can be expected as your hair adjusts to the soap bar formulation.

“Most shampoo bar makers will tell you their customers experience a transition period, but I think if the customer gets the right bar, the good results are instant,” says Louise.

For Bec, there was little to no adjustment period.

“I was really surprised how the bars felt like normal shampoo and conditioner and was pleasantly surprised that they matched my salon products,” she says.

“It was great because I didn’t miss using the plastic bottled formulas at all. I was also surprised at how long they last; you don’t need much as they go a long way.”

Written by Charlotte Brundrett.