Here’s a little riddle: what looks like a bar of soap, but isn’t a bar of soap? A shampoo bar! Shampoo bars are relatively new in the world of hair care, but they’ve already won over many fans. With their compact, plastic-free, and travel-friendly formulas, shampoo bars could be the key to a new era of hair care. In this post, we’ll explore the world of solid shampoo and answer all your questions: how to identify a shampoo bar (are we sure it isn’t soap?), how to use a shampoo bar, and, most importantly, how to store a shampoo bar so that it lasts for many, many months.
Are you–and your hair–ready to try something new? Then let’s get going.
On this post:
- What is a shampoo bar?
- What is the difference between a shampoo bar and soap?
- How long does bar shampoo last?
- Pros and cons of shampoo bars
- How to store bar shampoo
- How to use bar shampoo
What is a shampoo bar?
Shampoo bar, bar shampoo, waterless shampoo, or even solid shampoo–shampoo bars go by many names, but all of these names refer to the same thing.
A shampoo bar is, basically, a bar of “soap” you use to wash your hair. It does the same job as the liquid shampoo we’re all so used to, but it’s got a few interesting characteristics.
Shampoo bars are often made from plant-based ingredients, like botanical oils and butters. The formulas tend to be minimalistic, featuring fewer surfactants (meaning, cleansing agents) and preservatives than liquid alternatives. One ingredient that is practically absent in the formulation of a shampoo bar is water–which is why this product is also sometimes known as “waterless shampoo”.
The near-absence of water in a shampoo bar brings a number of very positive consequences. First, it makes the product more concentrated, which contributes to its longer lifespan. In addition, it also makes the shampoo bar easier to transport; after all, a waterless shampoo bar is compact, requires little packaging (no plastic bottles!), is spill-free, and it can go with you anywhere (including a plane cabin).
What is the difference between a shampoo bar and soap?
If you’ve been using soap bars your whole life, you may be wondering: what is the actual difference between soap and a shampoo bar? The difference isn’t very visible, as these two products look very similar in appearance.
To put it simply, the main difference between a soap bar and a shampoo bar is its formulation. Typically, a shampoo bar will have a more acidic pH (to match the hair’s natural pH) and contain a different balance of surfactants (aka the “cleansing” ingredients) and emollients (aka the “hydrating” or “nourishing” ingredients).
You may remember a time when shampoo bars got a bad rap. People would say shampoo bars made their hair feel dry and straw-like, almost too clean; sometimes, they’d even have to rinse their hair out with apple cider vinegar in order to “neutralize” the harshness of the shampoo bars! Those shampoo bars were probably closer to a traditional soap bar than a properly balanced shampoo bar.
These days, we have plenty of specialist hair care brands working to formulate shampoo bars that provide just the right balance of cleansing and nourishment. We’ll show you some of our favorites below!
How long does bar shampoo last?
On average, a shampoo bar will last you longer than a liquid shampoo: the formula is much more concentrated, so you’ll use less of it with each wash.
However, it’s hard to tell exactly how much longer. The number of washes you’ll be able to get out of a shampoo bar will depend on a variety of factors, including how often you wash your hair and your hair length, thickness, and texture.
Those who wash their hair everyday may only use shampoo once, for example, but those who wash their hair once a week may prefer a double shampooing routine. Those with short hair will use less shampoo than those with long hair, and so on. You may also encounter variations between brands, with some shampoo bars lasting slightly longer than others.
Pros and cons of shampoo bars
|Plastic-free (or plastic-minimal!) packaging
|May be hard to store and keep dry
|Compact and easy to travel with
|May be hard to use and handle, as the bar gets smaller with use
|Lifespan outlasts liquid shampoo
|Fewer options on the market, may be less affordable and accessible than liquid shampoo
|Highly concentrated formulas
|May take some time for the hair to adapt to the new product
How to store bar shampoo
People who are going to use shampoo bars for the first time often struggle with how to store them. A liquid shampoo is easy to store–just close the bottle cap and you’re good to go–but a shampoo bar has its challenges. However, they’re all easily overcome.
Your main concern should be to keep your shampoo bar dry. In order to achieve this, store it on a soap dish or tray–one of those self-draining trinkets that elevate your soap or shampoo bar up and away from the water at the bottom of the dish. Some shampoo bars, like the Foamie Shampoo Bars also come with a little ribbon you can use to hang your shampoo bar when not in use. This way, you can keep it dry without using up valuable counter or shelf space.
By reducing contact with water, you are extending the lifespan of your shampoo bar and, at the same time, preventing the development of mold.
Another trick you can use to extend the life of your shampoo bar is to split it in half and keep the unused half away from water–maybe even away from the bathroom! This way, even if the first half runs into some problems with water or mold, you will always have another half intact and ready to go.
How to travel with bar shampoo
We already mentioned that shampoo bars can be great for traveling–unlike liquid shampoo, they’re very compact, spill-proof, and safe to carry in your carry-on luggage. If you’re still a little confused as to how, exactly, you’ll travel with your shampoo bar, we’ve got a couple of tips:
- Make sure your shampoo bar is dry before you pack it;
- Pack your shampoo bar inside a suitable container or tin;
- After each use, give your shampoo bar enough time to air dry before you pack it up again.
How to use bar shampoo
If you’ve ever used a bar of soap, then you know how to use a shampoo bar–there’s nothing to it! You just have to add water, create a lather, and massage the product into your scalp and hair. You can do this in two ways:
- If you have short or very straight hair that doesn’t tangle easily, you can apply the shampoo bar directly to your scalp. Add a little water to the bar, and rub it directly against your wet scalp and hair. Then, just massage the lather into your hair as you normally would;
- If your hair is more prone to tangling, then it might be a better idea to create the lather in your hands. Add a little water to the bar, and then rub it between your hands to create foam. When you have a considerable amount of foam, apply that to your wet scalp and hair. Then carry on as usual!
Can you use a shampoo bar everyday?
The frequency with which you should use your shampoo bar doesn’t differ much from the frequency with which you would use your normal shampoo–basically, you’ll decide it based on the number of times you feel you need to wash your hair.
If you have oily hair, you may feel the need to wash your hair everyday. If you have drier hair, you may only want to wash your hair every two days, or even just once a week. Whatever you choose, a shampoo bar can perfectly accompany you in your washes, no matter how often. Just make sure to keep an eye out to see how your hair reacts, and make adjustments as needed.
Do you need conditioner if you use a shampoo bar?
If you’ve been reading the Care to Beauty blog for a while, you know exactly what we’re going to answer: it depends. Some people need to use conditioner after washing their hair with a shampoo bar, and others don’t. It all depends on the texture and condition of your hair.
Do shampoo bars really work?
If you are used to using liquid shampoo and have never used the solid alternative, you may be doubtful as to whether shampoo bars actually work. We’re here to tell you that they do! Over the past few years, many members of our Care to Beauty community have made the shift from liquid to solid shampoo: some started using shampoo bars on vacation and then never stopped; others like that the minimal packaging on shampoo bars allows them to reduce household waste.
If you haven’t found the shampoo bar for you yet, don’t worry: with more and more specialized brands setting out to develop shampoo bars that work with a variety of hair types, we’re sure it won’t be long.
Now that you know more about shampoo bars and their many advantages, you can make an informed decision about whether they’re the right fit for your hair care routine. When you’re ready to take the leap, make sure to drop by the shop, where you’ll find shampoo bars and many, many other eco-conscious skin and hair care products.
Beauty Writer & Editor