Shampoo bars. With their minimal packaging, they’re better for the environment than traditional plastic bottles. They’re convenient for travel (TSA approved, no chance of unfortunate spills or explosions). Plus, since a standard bar lasts for around 80 washes, they’re a much better value than liquid shampoo. But how well do they actually work? By popular demand, I tried five bars in search of the answer…
Truth time: I went into this experiment with a lot of skepticism. Like any unfamiliar territory, I was a bit intimidated. As one who relies on daily exercise as a pillar of personal sanity, I wash my hair almost every day, so I need something effective but gentle. I’d heard tales of shampoo bars contributing to tangles or creating a waxy build-up. Thus, I eyed the bars for a number of days before finally taking the plunge:
1. J.R. Liggett’s Old-Fashioned Shampoo Bar
I was attracted to this bar for both its price (under $10) and the avalanche of positive reviews. The scent was subtle and pleasant, but beyond that, it wasn’t my favorite of the bunch. It lathered nicely, but on my hair, it felt rubbery and sticky, and was hard to fully rinse out. Once dry, my hair didn’t feel as moisturized as with some of the other contenders. Also — and I don’t know how this happened — as I was using it, some of the soap found its way into my mouth, and good lord was that terrible.
Rating: Three out of five stars
2. Daughter of the Land Hair & Body Shampoo, Moon Flower
This certified organic, fair trade bar doubles as a shampoo AND body wash, which does wonders for simplifying your shower. I’d heard many good things about the brand (a friend swears by their body oil) so I was excited to try it. And it did not disappoint! The scent was lovely but not overpowering and left my hair feeling pleasantly clean, albeit with a touch of that waxy, hard-to-comb-through feeling as I was rinsing it out. Bonus: The cardboard packaging is display-worthy and happens to match my pink-and-black-tiled bathroom.
Rating: Four out of five stars.
3. Christophe Robin Hydrating Shampoo Bar
This vegan bar, the fanciest (AKA priciest, at $22) of the bunch, lathers nicely and feels moisturizing, even as you’re using it. It still leaves hair with that “squeaky clean” feeling typical of shampoo bars, but my hair dried nicely and felt soft after I styled it. It’s also suitable for use on the body, making this excellent for travel. I detracted one star since the price is a bit of a deterrent, but based on performance alone, I would definitely recommend this!
Rating: Four out of five stars.
4. Love Beauty and Planet 2-in-1 Bar, Coconut and Mimosa Flower
Long before I opened the box, this bar was like, “HELLO, DO YOU LIKE MY SCENT? PLEASE INHALE MY SCENT. WONDERING WHAT THAT SMELL IS? IT’S ME!” So for anyone sensitive to smells, take note: this will make your bathroom smell like a synthetic botanical garden. The bar itself is heart-shaped, which is cute, but not nearly enough to redeem it. It left my hair feeling drier than the others, which solidified its home in last place.
Rating: Two-and-a-half out of five stars.
5. Ethique Eco-Friendly Shampoo Bar, Heali Kiwi
This New Zealand based line offers a variety of scents and ingredients for different hair types. (They even make a kids’ version.) This kiwi version is for “touchy scalps” and has little grainy oatmeal bits in it. I loved it immediately. It foamed easily in my hair, but rinsed completely clean, with none of the waxy rubbery feeling that accompanied every other bar. My hair was soft and shiny and stayed that way — even when I skipped my wash on the second day. This was easily my favorite of the bunch, and what I plan to use in the coming weeks.
Rating: A constellation of so many stars. Or, five out of five stars.
If you are looking to try shampoo bars, keep in mind that much like the switch to natural deodorant, your body needs a moment to adjust. I recommend giving yourself at least a week or two of regular use to decide if you like it. Do you need conditioner with a shampoo bar? Answers vary. Many bars suggest the optional use of conditioner as a follow-up. For my long hair, I still require my regular conditioner, though only on the ends.
All in all, I was pleasantly surprised by my experience and am officially a convert. As it turns out, so is my boyfriend, who decided to try the bounty of bars that kept appearing in the shower.
After using all the bars in tandem, I asked for his thoughts. “I really like shampoo bars!” he tells me, “Even more than liquid shampoo. It feels cleaner.” But did any bar stand out? “They’re all basically the same, with slightly different scents.” And there you have it! If you have short hair and are not at all particular, all of these bars are pretty great.
Have you tried shampoo bars? Do you have any recommendations? We’d love to hear.
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