The Pros and Cons of Washing Your Hair With Bar Shampoo

Natasha Burton
The Pros and Cons of Washing Your Hair With Bar Shampoo
Photo: Allison Kahler/STYLECASTER.

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You may have seen bar shampoo products when you’ve gone camping or traveling—they’re super easy to pack and totally TSA-friendly. However, in the wake of the “no poo” craze, the idea of lathering up with something other than liquid shampoo has become more and more common for your everyday. Thinking about swapping your traditional hair cleanser for a good ol’ bar? We consulted the experts to find out what you need to know before making the switch. Essentially, bar shampoo is simply shampoo in bar form. As Brianne West, product formulator of Ethique says, “A good solid shampoo should do what a good liquid does—leave you with body and shine, without either drying the hair out or adding too much buildup.”

The Pros

Aside from being travel-friendly and seemingly longer-lasting than liquid shampoo, bars are touted as being able to get your hair back to its original, shiny, voluminous state by clearing away residue left from the chemicals found in traditional hair cleansers. “Plus, since shampoo bars do not strip hair in the same way as detergent-based shampoos can, you will notice a difference in the way your wet hair feels after washing,” Jamyla Bennu, creator and Grand Mixtress of Oyin Handmade, says.

How? Because many shampoo bars don’t include some of the icky additives used in commercial shampoos, such as sodium lauryl sulfate and ammonium lauryl sulfate. “Many educated consumers have become wary of the detergents found in commercial shampoos, finding them unnecessarily stripping of the natural moisture of the hair and scalp,” she says.

Gentle, low-lather bar cleansers leave hair clean without feeling dry the way many detergent-based shampoos can. For some people, conditioner isn’t even needed after their hair adjusts in a couple washings with a bar.

bar shampoo The Pros and Cons of Washing Your Hair With Bar Shampoo

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The Cons

Chicago-based master stylist Jon-David says that because of the high concentration of cleanser in bar shampoos, they tend to have more a waxy consistency, which can build up in your hair.

“This happens because the soap—which is saponified oils and an alkali—reacts with water when you use it, and this forms soap scum,” says Kirsten Connor, formulator and creator at Flourish Body Care. To avoid this, many bar shampoo users rinse with apple cider vinegar to remove the coating and shine their hair.

Those with long, porous or curly hair especially may also experience tangles and frizz, along with that “coated” feeling, something Susonnah G. Barklow, editor at NaturallyCurly.com, knows all too well. “Personally, I find the act of rubbing a bar of soap on my head awkward,” she says. “And it almost always results in very tangled hair.”

How to Choose One

If you want to go for it, there are actually three broad categories of shampoo bars out there, according to hair and makeup pro Grace Mahoney, owner of Blushing Brides. The first are cold-processed shampoo bars (typically made by home crafters and natural products companies). They’re usually chock-full of natural oils, which help condition your hair, and are typically free of sodium lauryl sulfate. (These tend to be the ones that cause buildup, she says, and might require an apple cider vinegar rinse).

Then, there are glycerin-based shampoo bars, which tend to be more gentle and pH balanced, but they might not be as clarifying as other shampoos and won’t lather as well. Finally, there are solid surfactant shampoo bars (think of the kind made by Lush), which lather the best and are more pH balanced but can be a bit too clarifying for some hair.

Really, it’s all about trial and error and, of course, avoiding products with bad-for-hair ingredients like sodium lauryl sulfate. (Really, any sulfates should be avoided). Sodium hydroxide—an extremely strong alkali that is used to make soap along with oils and fats—is another one to look out for. “The reaction that takes place produces a mildly alkali product—soap with a pH of 8–9,” Bennu says. “Since hair varies between pH 4 and 5 and doesn’t have an acid mantle like skin, this pH difference leaves the cuticle sticking up, resulting in rough, dull hair, which over time can cause damage.”

To use, natural hair expert Amanda Starghill, of NaturallyCurly.com, suggests cutting the bar into smaller portions so it’s easier to apply directly to the scalp. Ahead are some top-rated options to get you started.

Fresh and Clean Shampoo and Conditioner Bar Combo Set

This coconut-based duo is suitable for all hair types and highly concentrated so you only need a bit of lather for each wash.

Chagrin Valley Herb Garden Shampoo

Chagrin Valley.

Chagrin Valley Herb Garden Shampoo

The standout ingredients in this organic hair cleaser are rosemary for promoting blood circulation and growth, and nettle for softening the strands.

bar shampoo bamboo earth The Pros and Cons of Washing Your Hair With Bar Shampoo

Bamboo Earth.

Bamboo Earth 100% Organic Rose Shampoo Bar

A compact bar made of high-quality, cold-pressed ingredients.

bar shampoo by humankind The Pros and Cons of Washing Your Hair With Bar Shampoo

by Humankind.

by Humankind Shampoo Bar

A multi-task bar for head-to-toe cleansing, complete with a dish to help eliminate plastic routine.

bar shampoo soapbox The Pros and Cons of Washing Your Hair With Bar Shampoo

Soapbox.

Soapbox Tea Tree Clean & Purify Shampoo Bar

Enjoy the minty-fresh scent and tingling sensation of antimicrobial tea tree oil.

bar shampoo the right to shower The Pros and Cons of Washing Your Hair With Bar Shampoo

The Right to Shower.

The Right to Shower Tangerine + Honeysuckle Head to Toe Cleanser

Purchasing this soap will help bring mobile showers to the homeless.

love beauty and planet shampoo bar The Pros and Cons of Washing Your Hair With Bar Shampoo

Love Beauty and Planet.

Love Beauty and Planet Murumuru Butter & Rose Shampoo Bar

Should you want to give your color-treated hair a boost of moisture and shine, this new cleanser is infused with Amazonian murumuru butter, coconut oil, rose, mimosa, all of which are ethically sourced.

 

 

lush honey i washed my hair The Pros and Cons of Washing Your Hair With Bar Shampoo

Lush Cosmetics.

Lush Honey I Washed My Hair Shampoo Bar

If the name didn’t give it away, this ultra-moisturizing bar includes fair trade honey and honeycomb. Yuuuum.

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Lush Cosmetics.

Lush Avocado Co-Wash

Fresh avocados, cupuaçu butter, and cocoa butter make this an ultra-nourishing treatment for dry strands.

brite organix shampoo The Pros and Cons of Washing Your Hair With Bar Shampoo

Brite Organix.

Brite Organix Bar None Hydrating Shampoo Bar

This affordable and travel-friendly bar is made with 100 percent naturally-derived ingredients and comes in compostable packaging.

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Chagrin Valley Soap & Salve Company.

Chagrin Valley Neem & Tea Body and Hair Shampoo

Combine the protective nature of the neem leaf with the antibacterial powers of tea tree, and you’ve got a power-cleansing duo.

bar shampoo 2 The Pros and Cons of Washing Your Hair With Bar Shampoo

Christophe Robin.

Christophe Robin Hydrating Shampoo Bar with Aloe Vera

A trifecta of castor oil, aloe, and glycerin that can be used on the hair and body.

bar shampoo 3 The Pros and Cons of Washing Your Hair With Bar Shampoo

Daughter of the Land.

Daughter of the Land Morning Glory Shampoo Bar

Free of palm oil and filled with certified organic ingredients (including goat’s milk), this travel-friendly bar delivers a healthy dose of nutrients to skin and hair.

bar shampoo 4 The Pros and Cons of Washing Your Hair With Bar Shampoo

Ethique.

Ethique Eco-Friendly Solid Shampoo Bar

A combo of nourishing (coconut oil, shea butter) and soothing (peppermint) ingredients ensure that dry and damaged hair can be brought to life.

bar shampoo 5 The Pros and Cons of Washing Your Hair With Bar Shampoo

Indian Natural Hair Care.

Indian Natural Hair Care Henna & Cinnamon Shampoo Bar

Cinnamon is a prime ingredient for stimulating growth, while henna actually adds shine to lackluster locks.

bar shampoo 6 The Pros and Cons of Washing Your Hair With Bar Shampoo

J.R. Liggett’s.

J.R. Liggett’s Moisturizing Formula Shampoo Bar

Vitamin E, aloe vera, and almond oil have been added to aid in healing damaged strands.

 

bar shampoo 9 The Pros and Cons of Washing Your Hair With Bar Shampoo

OBIA Naturals.

OBIA Naturals Coconut Shea Shampoo Bar

Shea butter, coconut oil, and castor oil make this soap bar safe enough to use on your hair and body.

 

bar shampoo 11 The Pros and Cons of Washing Your Hair With Bar Shampoo

SheaMoisture.

SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Clay Shampoo Bar

If you’re dealing with a slew of buildup and gunk throughout your hair, this clay-based formula will be your saving grace.

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3 Way Beauty.

3 Way Beauty

Shampoo, shower, and shave with this all-in-one cleanser for anyone and everyone.

 

bar shampoo 13 The Pros and Cons of Washing Your Hair With Bar Shampoo

The Solid Bar Company.

The Solid Bar Company Botanical Vegan Shampoo

If your scalp needs a soothing treatment, prepare to fall in love with the soothing addition of lavender, patchouli, and geranium in this bar.

bar shampoo 14 The Pros and Cons of Washing Your Hair With Bar Shampoo

Tres Spa.

Tres Spa Organic Conditioning Shampoo

Chamomile is the perfect antidote for scalp and strands that have been through the styling wringer and need a much-needed break.

Our mission at STYLECASTER is to bring style to the people, and we only feature products we think you’ll love as much as we do. Please note that if you purchase something by clicking on a link within this story, we may receive a small commission of the sale and the retailer may receive certain auditable data for accounting purposes.

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