While you might take your cotton tote bag to the supermarket and have accepted paper straws in your drinks, there’s still a lot we need to do to cut down on single-use plastics.
An easy way is to use more solid products in your beauty routine, avoiding the need for packaging.
I’ve been using shampoo and conditioner bars almost exclusively for three years and when I first started there wasn’t a whole lot out there.
I tried a few, my hair felt awful and I stuck with Lush because it was easily available, not too pricey, and I knew I liked them.
Since then, many more companies have popped up with all sorts of options. Even Morrisons launched a supermarket own-brand version earlier this year, though I couldn’t find it in my local store.
But are they really worth the faff?
What are shampoo and conditioner bars?
Shampoo and conditioner bars are like a block of soap for your hair.
The bars contain use less water and require very little packaging, making them a much more eco-friendly option.
They’re also really useful for those who travel (when that’s finally allowed again) as they aren’t subject to the 100ml liquid limit and take up far less space.
Even if you aren’t going abroad any time soon, they’re great for gym-goers or folks who needs to take toiletries on the go. Many brands also make tins or travel cases to keep them in.
Some shampoo and conditioner bars focus on being free of sulphates like SLS, a foaming agent which gets that lather you’re used to, but also strips away some of the oils naturally in your hair.
Using SLS-free products can feel different, though, and it takes some time for your hair to get used to those so when you try a bar.
Before I get into a detailed review of each brand, there are some things to note if you’re a first-time haircare bar user.
Switching from liquid to solid shampoo does take a little getting used to.
The shampoo bars themselves tend to lather up quickly, just like a typical shampoo – but conditioners take more work.
I tend to take the bar, get it wet and rub it between my hands, then rub it over the ends of my hair in sections, before massaging it through my hair. It adds maybe an extra minute to my morning routine.
Once you’re finished showering, it’s best to store the bars out of contact with water to stop them going soft and mushy. I know some people like to store them in a different room because of the humidity, but that’s never been an issue for me.
Stored properly, the bars should last for the equivalent amount of washes as two to three bottles of shampoo and conditioner.
Faith in Nature
These were the first bars I tried and, well, it was a bad start.
The products themselves smell nice and there’s a huge amount of choice but they just weren’t for my hair.
I have quite fine hair and these left it feeling greasy and heavy.
I gave them a second go just in case it was just a weird coincidence but it had the same effect again – but every hair texture is different and if you tend to use heavier products, these might be for you.
Buy the Dragon Fruit Shampoo Bar for £5.79
Buy the Dragon Fruit Conditioner Bar for £6.99
The Yorkshire Soap Company
These bars were the most like Lush out of the ones I tried, though a little more subdued in both colours and scent.
They were delivered in tiny tins, which I’ve had before from Lush and hated because once the bar gets a little soft, it sticks. But these ones seem pretty solid.
My favourite thing about these bars was the smell. I tried the Damaged Goods shampoo, which uses lavender, rosemary and nettle, and the Perfect Condition bar, which smells of seagrass and cotton (and it has CONDITIONER written across it to help you figure out which is which in the shower).
The lather was good, they were easy to use and my hair felt soft and shiny afterwards.
For the price, I was really impressed.
Buy the Damaged Goods shampoo bar for £4.95
Buy the Perfect Condition for £5.95
I tried the hydrating shampoo bar and restoring conditioner and both worked well but I didn’t like the smell much.
These bars are sulphate free, and I struggled with the lack of a lather more than some of the other bars. According to the brand, the bars are denser to prevent crumbling – but I think the Nut & Noggin bar and Foamie got this balance better.
The next day, my hair felt a little limp and lifeless but it was soft.
The bars are more expensive than most and I didn’t feel it was quite worth it.
Buy the Hydrating one for £12.50
Buy the Restoring one for £15.95
Nut & Noggin
Nut & Noggin bars were fantastic to use and I think might be my new favourite.
The shampoo comes in a tall column shape, which is actually great for gripping in the shower when wet.
The conditioner is a smaller, more traditional shape but feels really rich when you rub it through your hair.
It includes beer and flax seed oil, which doesn’t sound like it would smell great, but the pomegranate and mint scent really does, even the next day.
This one is SLS free but my hair felt great from the very first wash and there was no need for a transition period.
At £25 for a shampoo and conditioner bar, though, it’s pricey. That said, if you care for it properly, the brand says it should be the equivalent of three bottles.
Buy the shampoo and conditioner set for £25
Foamie makes unusually shaped bars, but when you try them, it makes sense.
The curve means you can really massage the shampoo and conditioner in and there’s a hole in the middle with a piece of ribbon so you can hang it to dry once you’re done.
Amazingly, the bars are sulphate free – but as the name suggests, incredibly foamy.
I tried the argan oil shampoo and conditioner for dry and frizzy hair. However, Foamie has a huge range including a purple shampoo for toning blonde hair.
Once dry, my hair felt pretty good and smelled fantastic, although it didn’t quite have as much shine as some of the other bars.
The shape is great too, but will obviously become less effective over time as you keep rubbing at the bar.
Buy the argan oil shampoo bar for £7
Buy the argan oil conditioner bar for £7
Upon opening the packaging, these bars ticked a lot of boxes. The shampoo and conditioner were different shapes so easy to tell apart. They didn’t seem too crumbly and I liked the smell.
I tried the Everyday Fresh set with the Citrus Leaf shampoo bar for frequent use, and the Organic Oats conditioning bar for all hair types.
The lather was quite good and my hair felt fine the next day.
I liked the bars overall but I don’t think they really stood out like some of the others.
Buy the Everyday Fresh set for £13.90
Ethique is a brand that started out in New Zealand but is now available in the UK and on the high street in Holland & Barrett.
The bars (I used Mintasty for normal to dry hair, and Too Delicious, which is a super hydrating conditioner) smell good, are easy to use and left my hair feeling sleek.
It does feel a little counterintuitive, though, to cut back on plastic to be more eco-friendly but then buy shampoo bars made across the world.
Buy Mintasty bar for £12.
Buy Too Delicious for £14.
These bars were generally fine – they smelt nice, my hair felt ok afterwards and there was some shine.
My main complaint was that the NOURISH me! shampoo and conditioner bars look exactly the same.
Once out of the packaging, I quickly got mixed up about which one was which and that was even trickier in a steamy shower when I didn’t have my glasses on. As the bars are silicone-free, sulphate-free and paraben free there isn’t much of a lather making it even harder.
They do offer the shampoo bars in different types and the colours of those vary, so it might be better to mix and match.
Buy NOURISH me! shampoo bar
Buy NOURISH me! conditioner bar
Garnier is the first ‘big brand’ to offer a shampoo bar and I had high hopes, expecting it to be just like some of their bottled shampoos.
It was great that it was easily available and affordable for anyone who wants to try out a bar, but the results were lacklustre. The initial smell of the bar didn’t really transfer in the shower and my hair was soft but a bit flat afterwards.
Sadly there isn’t currently a matching conditioner bar just yet.
Buy Ultimate Blends Delicate Oat Softening Shampoo Bar from Amazon for £3.96
Another option with just shampoo available, the Davines bar comes in four types.
With a block shape, you could easily mistake it for soap. Once wet it foams up really well.
I tried the VOLU bar for volume, and although my fair felt soft and looked really shiny the next day, there wasn’t much happening at the roots.
At £14 it’s one of the pricier options. I think some of the cheaper bars performed better overall.
Buy VOLU bar for £14
After trying a lot of the other bars on the market, I went back to my old favourites from Lush to compare, and I think I might be ready to make a switch.
Lush bars are bright and strongly fragranced, as you might expect from the brand – and I love that I still get the scent of my favourite American Cream conditioner bar all day.
But the bars are crumbly, meaning they don’t stay together as well as some of the others. They also contain sulphates and are pricier than some of the bars I tried.
Buy Coconut Rice Cake shampoo bar for £8
Buy American Dream conditioner bar for £9
Is it worth the faff?
I’ve been a big fan of shampoo bars for so long and I hope that the huge variety on the market will convince more people to give it a go.
The Nut & Noggin bars were my favourite by far and I’m happy to find a great sulphate free option, but if you’re on a tighter budget and not so fussed about the additive, The Yorkshire Soap Co. bars are a great choice, with both shampoo and conditioner for just over £10.
Foamie is another good option, with a range for every hair type. The bars I tried worked well and cost £7 per bar.
With the bars I did like, I find I have less of a problem with product buildup compared to liquid shampoo and conditioner, and I can get an extra day out of each wash.
For me, reducing plastic while improving how my hair feels is worth the faff of a few extra minutes in the shower.
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