It's a soap! It's a shampoo! No, it's a shampoo bar
Updated: Oct 5, 2021
You've come across them in your feed, on your friend's Pinterest board and at your favourite natural foods store - the fabled shampoo bar, a solid bar of shampoo that looks like soap. You're supposed to rub it on your hair instead of doing the ol' squirt squirt from a bottle. Shampoo bars last basically forever, or at least for hundreds of shampoos; they produce no waste (unlike the steep environmental price of plastic bottles, which for some reason we still can't be bothered to recycle properly) and they also don't contribute as much to the pollution of waterways, since many shampoo bars are made with far more natural ingredients than commercially available liquid shampoos.
But, dude, do they work? Or are you gonna be running around like it's Crazy Hair Day in grade school and you are aiming to take home the ribbon for Best School Spirit?
Shampoo bars: soap, or shampoo?
Ask anyone who's run out of shampoo and had to run a regular bar of soap over their tresses in desperation, and they'll usually tell you their hair got clean all right; but was it soft, shiny, and manageable, or was it a tangled mess? That depends on several factors, including hair length, hair type, and the amount of dirt/oil/product buildup that already existed in the hair. One thing is for certain: while shampoo bars do look like soap and can be used on the rest of the body, they aren't formulated exactly like soap. The special concentration of oils and other ingredients is designed to:
-Provide more conditioning than regular bar soap
-Promote healthy, shiny hair and clean scalp
-Lather well and rinse clean
Why do some people prefer liquid shampoo vs. shampoo bars?
Some people swear by shampoo bars and others won't touch them with a 10-foot pole, citing hair that feels dull, dry, or even greasy after using a shampoo bar. The conventional wisdom seems to be that we've all been so conditioned (if you'll pardon the pun!) to putting chemicals on our hair - not good ones, either - that we just don't know what it's like to wash our hair with a natural shampoo anymore. Speaking for myself, I have dry, processed, super-curly hair, and when I use a natural or nearly-natural shampoo (liquid or solid) my first thought is "God why does my hair feel like this!!!!" It feels squeaky clean... like too squeaky. Then when I use a conditioner or a leave-in conditioner, it feels super soft and manageable, probably because the buildup is gone. But the initial natural shampoo experience feels so different than using drugstore shampoo. No wonder they say shampoo bars take some getting used to!
Tips to improve performance from your shampoo bar
Before liquid soaps were a thing, everyone washed their hair with a solid bar, and they learned how to make it work for them. If you're determined to go plastic-free, or just don't like the idea of hideous ingredients like SLS and parabens and this scary stuff going on your hair and scalp, you might want to give shampoo bars a(nother) try. Here's five hacks to help get a better deal out of your shampoo bar.
Try different brands and types of shampoo bars formulated specifically for your hair. Every ingredient list is different!
Use a deep conditioner after (learn how to make your own natural conditioner using pantry ingredients) or a leave in conditioner, especially if you have very dry hair
Do an apple cider vinegar rinse afterward to balance PH
Try combing your hair with a wide-tooth comb while it is still lathered up in the shower, to remove tangles at the source
Stick with it for 14 days. Everyone is different; some people need more time than others to adjust to natural shampoo. Don't give up after one wash!
With this slight adjustment to their hair care routine, proponents of shampoo bars say they enjoy soft, shiny, clean hair and less scalp irritation, buildup, flyaways, dandruff and other issues commonly experienced with commercial formulas.
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