Everything you need to know about shampoo bars and conditioner bars


Have you tried a shampoo bar or a conditioner bar yet? If not, what’s holding you back? In honour of Plastic Free July, we’re taking an in-depth look at what solid shampoo and conditioner can do for you and for the planet. Let’s dive in.

What is solid shampoo?

Shampoo bars are the solid equivalent of a bottle of shampoo. Picture a bar of soap for your hair and you’re there. Conditioner bars, meanwhile, are the solid equivalent of a bottle of conditioner.

What are shampoo and conditioner bars made from?

The ingredients of solid shampoo and conditioner bars vary hugely, just as they do for the products’ liquid equivalents. Most are made from a base of multiple oils, each chosen for its cleansing, nourishing, hydrating or other properties. Ultimately, both solid shampoos and solid conditioners are very similar to the liquid versions, just without the water that’s included in the bottled products.

The result of this is a solid product that can deliver the same results as the liquid version, but in a more compact format, and one that doesn’t need a plastic bottle to hold it.

Why is the use of shampoo and conditioner bars increasing?

Use of them has increased significantly during the past few years; so much so that, by 2018, the global zero waste shampoo market had reached a value of USD 101.78 million. That value is projected to increase at a compound annual growth rate of roughly 7.18% between 2019 and 2025.

Why all the interest? Mostly, it’s for the sake of the planet. Rising global awareness of the impact of plastic on the natural world is leading to many people trying to reduce their consumption of plastics, particularly single use items. A recent survey by All Things Hair, for example, found that 62.7% of the company’s readers are intending to participate in Plastic Free July this year.

Solid shampoo bars are an easy quick win in environmental terms. They usually come wrapped in paper or a tin, without a hint of plastic in sight. Many also shy away from the use of harsh ingredients, opting for natural oils that clean and nourish the hair in a way that is conscious of the environmental impact of what’s being washed down the drain, as well the potential for plastic reduction.

Do shampoo bars work?

Of course! Shampoo bars can provide the same rich lather and delightful scents as shampoo in a bottle. They come in a range of types, to suit hair of all kinds, from greasy to dyed to dry and brittle, along with everything in between. There are two-in-one bars for those in need of a quick morning routine and family bars available, for those who are raising their children to understand the importance of reducing our collective plastic consumption.

Shampoo and conditioner bars can leave hair feeling soft, silky and frizz-free, just as liquid shampoos and conditioners can. As with any beauty product, it might take a bit of shopping around before you find the ideal shampoo bar for your hair type, so be sure to have some fun trying out plenty of different options.

How to use solid shampoo

Using a solid shampoo bar is hardly rocket science. In the bath or shower, simply wet the hair as usual, then rub the bar over your hair a few times before massaging your head/hair with the resulting lather. If you want more bubbles, just rub the bar over your head more – or else turn it over in your hands to create lather that you can then transfer to your tresses.

It’s much the same deal with a solid conditioner bar, although you’ll want to run it along the hair from root to tip, rather than circling the scalp. You’ll know you have enough on when it feels like there’s enough on – it really is that simple!

Storing your shampoo and conditioner bars

Most shampoo and conditioner bars come with handy little tins that are ideal for storing them in when using them in the bath or shower. The tin keeps the bar from disintegrating in the steady stream of shower water in between uses. They also help with identifying which bar is which, just as bottles do. Of course, you can also use anything from a regular soap dish to a coconut shell for storage, provided it keeps the bar out of the water in between washes. 

Storage tins are also ideal for transporting your shampoo and conditioner bars, whether to the gym, for a weekend away or to take on holiday.

Will it take my hair long to adapt to using solid shampoo?

Opinion varies significantly on this point. Some people find that there’s a transition period between using liquid shampoos and conditioners and getting used to using solid versions, with the hair taking time to adjust. Others (and this has been my personal experience of making the swap) find that their hair is just as happy with the solid products from day one.

Everything from your hair type to the hardness of the water in your local area can impact your experience of switching to solid shampoo and conditioner bars. It may take you a little time to transition to them, or it may not. Either way, you won’t find out until you try!

Are shampoo bars more expensive than bottled shampoo?

The cost of shampoo and conditioner bars varies considerably, just as the price of their bottled equivalents does. However, most of those who have made the switch to solid hair products report a cost saving as a result of the change, with shampoo bars usually lasting for at least a month, if not two.

Is it time for you to start using solid shampoo?

Whether you’re reading this ready for Plastic Free July or at any time of the year, switching to using solid shampoo and conditioner can deliver financial and environmental benefits. So, what’s holding you back? 

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