Shampoo Bars: Can You Actually Wash Your Hair With A Solid Shampoo Bar?

shampoo bars

You’ve probably already heard of shampoo bars, maybe from friends who backpack or travel a lot. They might sound like a quirky idea. Do they actually work? Can you really wash your hair with a solid shampoo bar?

shampoo bars

What are solid shampoo bars?

In general, shampoo bars are solid soap bars used to wash your hair. If you look at the ingredients list on your shampoo bottle, the first, and by far most plentiful, ingredient is water. Solid shampoo bars get rid of all that and leave you with just the active components. Plus, they don’t need preservatives.

There are three kinds of shampoo bars.

Cold processed

Cold processed shampoo bars are usually made by home crafters and natural product companies. They use saponified oils such as sweet almond, coconut, castor and grapeseed, along with essential oils for scent and therapeutic properties. These bars typically don’t contain sodium lauryl sulphate and the like, just pure natural ingredients.

Glycerine based

Glycerine based shampoo bars tend to be gentler on your hair, but might have ingredients derived from palm oil, so make sure to check the label. They probably won’t lather up like the other bars and don’t have much clarifying action.

Solid surfactant bars

These quite often contain sodium lauryl sulphate, just in solid form. They can be very harsh on the hair and I don’t recommend them.

What’s so good about shampoo bars?

One really fantastic thing about solid shampoo bars is the lack of packaging. In 2017 one million plastic bottles were purchased every minute worldwide. By 2021 this number is expected to increase by 20%. The oceans and landfills are choking with them.


Shampoo bars are usually packaged in paper and cardboard, so they’re perfect if you’re getting into the waste free lifestyle.

Shampoo bars are light, compact and incredibly easy to travel with. Whether you’re going to the gym, backpacking or getting on an airplane, a shampoo bar is so much easier to pack than a bottle of shampoo. You don’t have to worry about spillage, liquid limits or overweight luggage fees.

Transition to shampoo bars

Like any other time you change your hair care habits, your hair might need a little while to get used to the change. Experiment with your new shampoo bar. You can try lathering it up in your hands before applying, rubbing the bar on your scalp or cutting it into small pieces so it’s easier to work with.


It won’t give you a great mountain of lather like traditional shampoos. But I’ve been testing out The Australian Natural Soap Company shampoo bars, and I find that they lather up just fine.

Because of their composition, cold processed solid shampoo bars might leave your hair with a slight waxy coating. I find that they leave my hair squeaky clean, and hard to pull a comb through. Depending on your hairstyle, you might like the extra body and texture.

How to use shampoo bars

I don’t like the texture by itself, but I’ve found how to make it work. Use a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and a couple of drops of essential oil. I’ve been using rosemary oil because it’s good for hair and I love the smell, but you can add any oil you like. I put them in the bottom of a jug, then fill the jug with about a cup of warm water while I’m in the shower. I just pour it over my hair, and leave it for a minute or so, then give it a quick rinse. It’s enough to condition and add shine without smelling ACV every time you turn your head.

If your hair feels dry, you could also apply a leave in conditioner and comb through.


How to choose the best solid shampoo bar for you

Find a shampoo bar that works for your hair type. If you have dry hair look for a bar with conditioning ingredients such as macadamia or argan oil. Someone with oily hair might like a bar made with lighter oils such as grapeseed, and clarifying essential oils such as tea tree and lemon.

Proper cold pressed bars are the best. Read the label and look for all natural ingredients – avoid anything containing sulphates, palm oil and artificial fragrances.

Looking for a shampoo bar that will fit your hair type? See our range of shampoo bars here

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Shampoo Smackdown: Andalou Naturals vs Herbal Essences

Shampoo Smackdown: Andalou Naturals vs Herbal Essence

Shampoo Smackdown: Andalou Naturals vs Herbal Essence

It’s a shampoo smackdown! I’ve been getting lots of questions lately about shampoo, so this smackdown is timely. Today I’m comparing my current favourite, Andalou Naturals Brilliant Shine Shampoo, with a Proctor & Gamble one from Herbal Essences. I’ve chosen shampoos that are both aimed at normal hair.

To start with, let’s have a quick look at what’s in shampoo. Shampoos generally contain:

  • detergents – this is what gets rid of the oil and dirt on your hair. They’re the surfactants, and they not only clean but they often do the lathering thing as well. The lathering doesn’t actually clean your hair any better, but consumers seem to prefer shampoos that lather. The problem can be that they are rather drying to your hair, and irritating to your scalp. Often you’ll find sulfates as the surfactants in shampoo. Sulfates lather up really well, but they’re not great for you. They can be quite drying for your hair, and irritating to your scalp.
  • conditioning agents – so that your hair isn’t left feeling dry and stripped. These conditioning agents often include silicones and polymers, to condition and stop those flyaways, but they can be oils.
  • protectants – like sunscreens, or heat protectants to help with straighteners and hair dryers, or even chemicals to protect against chemical damage from swimming pools.
  • cosmetic ingredients – ingredients that don’t really do anything, but add things that consumers seem to like. These are things like fragrances and colours.
  • functional ingredients – preservatives, thickeners, etc. The thickening agents mean that it doesn’t all run through your fingers when you pour it out of the bottle. Thickeners can be things like guar gum and salt, which is often used to help thicken products. And of course, you need preservatives because shampoos are water based products, and you need to keep the bacteria at bay!

Andalou Naturals Brilliant Shine Shampoo

Ingredients: Aloe Barbadensis Juice*, Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) and Linum Usitatissimum (Flax) Oils*, Vegetable Glycerin, Nigella Sativa (Black Cumin) Oil, Cyamopsis Tetragonolobus (Guar) Gum*, Chamomilla Recutita (Chamomile) and Pyrus Cydonia (Quince) Extracts*, Fruit Stem Cells (Malus Domestica, Solar Vitis) and BioActive 8 Berry Complex*, Hyaluronic Acid, Panthenol (Pro-Vitamin B5), Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Aspalathus Linearis (Rooibos) and Hibiscus Sabdariffa Extracts*^, Allantoin, Sodium Benzoate, Citric Acid, Potassium Sorbate, Ethylhexylglycerin, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) and Citrus Tangerina (Tangerine) Oils* (Non-GMO verified, *Organic, ^Fair Trade)

Price: $13.95 for 340 grams. Find it here.

The Andalou Naturals Brilliant Shine Shampoo scores a 2 on the EWG Skindeep Database. There’s nothing scary in this one.

The surfactants (detergents) chosen are very gentle. These are the Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate and the Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate. There’s also sunflower and flax oils in here for conditioning and some citrus essential oils for fragrance.

Herbal Essences Classics Normal Shampoo

Ingredients: Water, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Fragrance, Cocamide MEA, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Benzoate, Tetrasodium EDTA, PEG-60 Almond Glycerides, Linoleamidopropyl PG-Dimonium Chloride Phosphate, Guar.

Price: $9.49 for 490 mls. Find it here.

I couldn’t find this on EWG, but I’ve run it through the database and estimate it at a 4. So it’s not scoring high on EWG, but there are still some problematic ingredients.

The sulfates in this shampoo are an issue. Both sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) are strong irritants (although SLES is considered to be gentler than SLS).

There’s fragrance, of course, which can be a source of irritation and all sorts of other issues.

Cocamidopropyl Betaine can be a skin and eye irritant when it’s used in soap and shampoo, depending on how much of it is in the product. It’s fourth on the ingredients list, so it’s hard to tell how much is in there.

There’s also PEGs in here, which I avoid if possible.

Smackdown: Andalou Naturals Shampoo vs Herbal Essence Shampoo

Even though the Herbal Essences shampoo doesn’t rate too high on EWG, there are still ingredients that I’d prefer to avoid. The Andalou Naturals shampoo doesn’t have anything that concerns me, and I know that this is a great product. You can see my recent review of it here.

If you’re looking for other great natural shampoos and hair care, jump over to Hello Charlie.

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