How Switching to a Shampoo Bar Has Been Better for My Hair Health, and the Environment

By Annie Burdick

How do you manage your hair health? Are you vigilant about the products you use and their effects on your hair, or is it a facet of your health that generally goes neglected? If you fall in the latter category, you’re far from alone. In fact, even people who are highly motivated to take care of their mental health or bodily health often fall short when it comes to their hair. But taking great care of your hair and keeping it healthy and strong is just another great piece of the holistic health puzzle. 

I, like most people, am far from perfect when it comes to my hair health. However, I do try my best to avoid the biggest hair blunders whenever possible, and make good choices when I can. The best hair swap I’ve personally made was a year ago when I started using a natural shampoo bar instead of liquid shampoo. I’ll never go back. 

What’s the deal with shampoo bars?

If you’ve never used or seen one, shampoo bars are highly concentrated solid forms of shampoo that hold their shape. Rather than being poured from a plastic bottle, you rub it in your hands or directly onto your hair (or use my hack: put the shampoo bar in a sheer pantyhose and tie a knot to hold it in, then rub that directly onto the hair. This keeps any broken off pieces from getting lost and wasted) to form the same suds effect. And from there, the act of shampooing is exactly the same. 

Why has it been so much better for me? There are a few reasons. 

First, most shampoo bars have a higher emphasis on natural ingredients. That means it’s much easier to find products that are free from the stuff you don’t want to use on your hair–things like parabens, sulfates, glycols, and so on. Instead, shampoo bars are more densely concentrated with ingredients that benefit your hair health: things like essential oils, natural extracts, aloe, healthy oils, and biotin. Typically they have great conditioning properties too, so my hair gets the added benefit of great ingredients, and has looked and felt better since switching. 

And while the first ingredient of most liquid shampoos is water, meaning you need to use more product to have the desired effect, that’s not the case with shampoo bars, so you need less per wash, and they last much longer. Each of my shampoo bars has lasted months and months, probably as long as two or three normal bottles of liquid shampoo. 

But the benefits don’t end there. Shampoo bars are incredibly easy to travel with (no worries when it comes to that 3 ounces of liquid rule!), and take up much less space, whether in your shower or in your suitcase. 

The environmental factor

While all of these benefits are amazing, and my hair is absolutely healthier than before, the biggest reason why I made the switch to a shampoo bar and definitely won’t switch back actually comes from the environmental health benefits. Every year around the world, millions and millions of plastic bottles from hair products–shampoo the highest percentage among those–fill landfills and oceans. The vast majority of shampoo bottles either can’t be recycled, or aren’t properly recycled, the result being that they’re among the massive buildup of plastic waste piling up in dumps and landfills around the world. 

The difference for shampoo bars? They’re plastic packaging-free. Typically they come simply wrapped in a small piece of recyclable paper or something along those lines. So rather than throwing out a large plastic bottle every few months, your hair can get clean with no plastic waste involved. And on top of that, because they’re so compact, shampoo bars are substantially lighter than your bottle of shampoo, meaning their carbon emission to ship and transport is exponentially less. Those are the kind of eco-health benefits I love to get behind.

So will you make the switch? Both your hair and planet’s health could be better for it.