Eco-friendly hygiene: My experience switching to shampoo bars

Photo of bar shampoo
Tools of Men/Creative Commons

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Switching from regular shampoo, conditioner and soap to bar soap and shampoo was something I waited a long time to do. Even though I knew it was an environmentally friendly option, I put it off because I wasn’t sure what brands to choose and how it would work. But one year after finally making the switch, I feel super happy about my soap routine, and love feeling as if I’m not using more plastic than I need to. That being said, it took a bit of trial and error to get into a groove. Lucky for you, I have a whole list of pros, cons and tips for making the switch while maintaining healthy and happy hair. 

What I’ve enjoyed

I’ve enjoyed a lot in my experience using bar shampoo, but my favorite part is how easy it is to use the bar. Shampoo bars, in particular, are super easy to use: I just take the bar and rub it in my hands until it gets nice and bubbly, then I set down the bar and work the soap that is on my hands through my hair. If I don’t have enough soap on my hands, I repeat this process. This leads to my second favorite thing about using bar shampoo: It makes my hair feel super clean! Because I’m spreading the shampoo through my roots more consciously, I always come out of the shower with fresh-feeling hair. Make sure to read reviews on different brands and find one that sounds great for your hair type.

Bar soap has been a blessing because it allowed me to throw out my gross loofahs and moldy washcloths. I keep my bar soap in a little dish so it can dry out a bit between washes, and it is super easy to store and use. It’s also easy to find locally made bar soaps that use fresh, natural ingredients and smell really nice. That being said, it’s always good to do a little trial and error and start with a minimally scented soap just to be sure it won’t irritate your skin. Both my bar soap and my bar shampoo feel as if they last forever, though obviously, this depends on the size of the bar. Nonetheless, using bars makes it easier to use the right amount of soap rather than accidentally squeezing half a bottle onto your hand.

Knowing that I’m making a difference for the planet is another aspect of bar soaps that I love. Not only do bars make it easier to avoid plastic packaging, but if you purchase a soap with natural or biodegradable ingredients, it’s won’t pollute water sources when it goes down the drain. 

What I didn’t love so much

I’ll admit it: I tried a bar conditioner, and I didn’t love it. As someone with really thin and fine hair, the bar conditioner didn’t detangle enough for me. However, if you have shorter or thicker hair, you might find that the conditioner bar (used the same way as you would use a shampoo bar) is a very quick and easy way to condition. If you don’t love conditioner bars but want to reduce plastic packaging, consider finding a shampoo brand that allows you to return containers or finding a beauty bulk store that may let you bring your own container. In order to not waste the conditioner bars I’ve tried and decided to pass on, I actually use my old conditioner bar as a shaving cream.

The other downside of bar soaps and shampoos is that they can be a little expensive, especially depending on what brand you’re interested in buying from. It can definitely take a couple of tries to find a brand that is ethically made, works well with your hair and doesn’t break the bank. Another thing to keep in mind is that you may have to buy a tray to keep your soaps separate from each other. When I keep all of mine together, I find that suds from my bar soap end up all over my other shower items, which can be a little annoying.

I would highly recommend trying out some bar soaps and seeing if you can replace plastic bottles with these natural, package-free options. While it may feel a little daunting, if you push yourself to try it, you may find that you really love it. However, it’s OK if you don’t: Some people’s hair and skin types may not react well to change or may respond better to liquid soaps. But if you’ve been thinking about making your hygiene a little more eco-friendly, bar shampoos are a great place to start.

Contact Elysa Dombro at [email protected].