Solid Shampoo & Conditioner

16 May
 Rosemary and Lavender Solid Shampoo Bar by Veve's Handmade

Rosemary and Lavender Solid Shampoo Bar by Veve's Handmade

I love shampoo and conditioner bars. Sometimes I actually feel like a walking advertisement for the stuff (as well as my beloved diva cup) but sadly no one is paying me to sing its praises throughout the land. When I talk about the benefits of solid shampoo, I inevitably find myself dealing with TONS of questions — the most popular being “Why Why WHY does this exist!?” So let’s clear up some of this now before we get into fun DIY recipes and the awesome Etsy shops where you can buy them readymade.

SO, shampoo bars. There are so many reasons I love them to death, but one of the most important reasons has to do with the ecological impact of traditional shampoos vs. specific types of solid shampoos.

Solid shampoos typically require FAR less packaging and what little paper they arrive wrapped in can often be recycled. Seriously, think about all the shampoo bottles you use per year. I have really long hair so I go through about one large 16 oz. bottle of shampoo per month. Multiply that by 12 and you have a mass of plastic that could easily take up the space of a wine crate. If you only live for about 70 years, that’s up to 70 wine crates worth of plastic waste. And that’s not even taking conditioner bottles into consideration. Think about that for a minute.

The best solid shampoos win extra points with the environment by relying as much as possible on natural ingredients and an outright elimination of the otherwise ever-present sodium lauryl sulfates. These chemicals are in a ridiculous number of everyday products–from the shampoo we use in our hair to our face wash, hand soap, laundry detergent, dishwashing liquid, the list goes on and on. Sodium lauryl sulfate is toxic to the environment AND to our own health. The sudsy water at the bottom of the shower runs into our rivers, lakes, and oceans — our watershed — and contaminates not only plants but also animals.

Besides sodium lauryl sulfate and a bunch of chemicals you can’t pronounce, what else is in your off-the-shelf shampoo? MilkAndHoneyNaturals, one of my favorite Etsy sellers, explains that “When you buy a regular store shampoo you are paying for mostly water. A solid shampoo bar is only the shampoo and it is able to stay all natural because there is no need for preservatives. Solid is always better ~ lasts longer, all natural and eco-friendly.”

Another reason I love solid shampoo: it’s just so damn convenient!

Say you’re traveling somewhere you won’t have access to the your preferred shampoo (backpacking abroad, camping, etc). Solid shampoo to the rescue! Airlines only let you bring 4oz of shampoo in your carry on but if your shampoo is solid then you’ll have enough no matter where you’re going or how long you plan on staying there. Your shampoo will only take up a tiny amount of space in your bag, unlike an enormous bottle of traditional shampoo.

Given their small size, you’d think these bars wouldn’t last long. WRONG! Of course it all depends on how often you wash your hair and even where you store your bars (they’re best kept in a tin far away from your moist shower environment when not in use). I know I’ve been able to use the same shampoo bar for multiple months, but that’s just me. Shampoo and conditioner bars range in price but most are well under $10. When you calculate cost per use, it turns out that most people spend the same amount or even less on solid hair products vs traditional shampoos and conditioners.

So how do they work? Shampoo bars lather up quickly once you get them wet — much quicker than you’d expect, in fact. Simply rub it on all over your head or work up a lather between your hands and then rub that on your hair and VOILA. You just used a solid shampoo.

Finding solid shampoo in a mainstream brick-and-mortar store can be tough.** Whole Foods in my neck of the woods sometimes carries one type — JR Liggett — but it’s usually tough to find and doesn’t offer anything in the way of variety. What do you do if you don’t like the smell of the single bar of shampoo they sell? You turn to the internet, that’s what.

If you want to try making solid shampoo on your own, try one of these recipes:

If you’re not up for the challenge, you can always buy solid shampoo (AND conditioner!) from Etsy. Here are a few of my favorite shops and products:

  • Get Lathered‘s Solid Hair Care Bars Travel Pack: This functions kinda like a sampler pack. For roughly $10 you get two small solid shampoos and two small solid conditioners. It’s a pretty low-risk way to try out solid hair products to make sure they’re for you. If you like GetLathered’s products, be sure to try out their Thai Coconut Solid Shampoo. Smells so good!
  • Soapily Ever After: This also serves as something of a sampler pack for newbies to solid shampoos, conditioners, and lotions. For $15 you get solid shampoo, conditioner, body soap, and lotion shaped like little brains. Perfect for trying out solids OR for taking on a trip.
  • K9 Solutions: Solid pet shampoo! Such a good idea.
  • Pretty much everything from MilkAndHoneyNaturals. How awesome would it be to smell like lemongrass and coconut? Their Chrysanthemum solid conditioner smells to die for as well (“100% conditioner with no added water, preservatives, scents or colors”).

These are my tried and true favorites, but by all means search Etsy for whatever type of solid hair product sounds good you. There are tons of different scents out there as well as formulas for different types of hair. With a little bit of poking around on Etsy you’ll be able to find the perfect one to try out.

Now, just in case you decide to plunge into the world of solid shampoos and consitioners with not-so-satisfying results, know this: Sometimes first-time users of shampoo without sodium lauryl sulfate notice that their hair looks a bit dull at first. CCrafters, one of my favorite ex-sellers of solid shampoos, explains what you should do thusly:

“If you are new to shampoo bars, it is important that you rid your hair of any product build-up. The use of a shampoo bar for first time users may cause tangleness, limpness, and just unruly hair. To return your hair back to its normal state please follow the instructions that are included with each bar we sale whether a sampler or full size bar. For those who may have discarded their instructions, here they are again

To do this, mix ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar to 1 gallon of distilled water. Shampoo and rinse as usual. Pour 2 cups over the scalp and let mixture saturate your hair. Finish with a cold-water rinse. Store any left over mixture in a refrigerator and use it every couple of weeks.”

**I should probably mention that you can buy solid shampoos and at least one type of solid conditioner from LUSH. Having tried a number of these products, I have to say that I don’t recommend them too highly. The only solid conditioner bar smells weird once I put it on my hair and left my hair exceedingly greasy and lifeless even after I did special rinses AND used it long enough for my hair to get used to it. Yuck. Sadly most of their shampoo bars contain sodium lauryl sulfate so I don’t feel like they’re worth buying at all. Many of their shampoos also have little bits of stuff — herbs, coconut chunks, etc. — in them that make the bars look pretty but unfortunately just wind up stuck in my hair post-wash. Not fun. My advice is just to steer clear of them if you want solid shampoos and conditioners and instead stick to LUSH’s solid lotion.

Want to read more? Start here or pick up a copy of No More Dirty Looks: The Truth about Your Beauty Products–and the Ultimate Guide to Safe and Clean Cosmetics by Siobhan O’Connor

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