Remember when I told you that our family would be switching to solid shampoo bars this summer? Well, now that summer is coming to a close (nooo!) I’m here to report back.
We originally switched from liquid shampoo to a shampoo bar because it meant one less plastic bottle in the landfill. In addition to that, soap-based solid shampoo bars are made from organic (biological) ingredients which means they’re more easily biodegradable. Shampoo bars typically last longer than a standard bottle of shampoo too, which also helps to reduce waste.
Dual-purpose shampoo bars can be used for both hair and body, so they were super convenient on our travels this summer, especially when flying. Shampoo bars don’t fall under the 100 ml restriction on carry-on liquids, and unlike shampoo bottles, they don’t leak mid-flight. Shampoo bars replace shampoo (duh), body soap/wash, and they work pretty well for shaving as well.
How do you use shampoo bars?
With shampoo bars, it’s really important to keep them dry when not in use. Don’t leave your shampoo bar in the bathtub soap dish. Keep it out of the shower and/or on a slotted soap dish so it doesn’t sit in the water. Many soap makers recommend slicing off a smaller piece from the larger shampoo bar to use in the shower while keeping the rest in a cool, dry place to last longer.
You can either lightly run the shampoo bar directly on your hair, focusing on your hairline where your hair tends to be oiliest, or lather the shampoo in your hands and then apply to your hair. Either way works, it’s just a matter of personal preference. When I rinse, the lather washing away is all I need to clean the rest of my hair. The key here is to rinse thoroughly. Any residue left behind makes hair feel sticky or waxy.
How do you make a basic apple cider vinegar rinse?
Before we started, I was warned that it might take a couple of weeks for our hair might feel a bit waxy for the first little while during the “transition” from SLS-based detergent shampoo to soap-based shampoo bars. I actually didn’t experience this until a a couple of weeks in, but a quick apple cider vinegar rinse took care of that. Only Tee and I, with our long, thick hair, experienced this. Chris’ short hair and Kay’s thinner hair were more forgiving, and neither needed to use a rinse.
Making your own rinse is ridiculously simple. Just dilute one or two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar into a cup of warm water and pour into a bottle. I use a peri bottle like the ones you get in the hospital after giving birth. After shampooing, spray or pour the diluted vinegar on your hair, focusing on the back of your head (where soap residue tends to build up the most). Leave the rinse on for a couple of minutes then rinse out. Adding an ACV rinse to my routine once every week or two kept my hair feeling clean, soft, and shiny.
Do you need conditioner with shampoo bars?
If you’ve got long hair like like me, I’m sure you have the same question I had… what about conditioner?
When it comes to conditioner, I used it the first few times out of habit. But then I stopped, and I discovered I didn’t actually need it. My hair tangled LESS with shampoo bars and no conditioner, than it did with commercial shampoo and conditioner. When you’re not stripping your hair of every drop of moisture, it turns out there’s no need to add it back in the form of conditioner. Every couple of weeks I run a bit of argan oil through my wet hair as an extra moisturizing leave-in treatment, but for the first time in 30 years I’ve stopped using conditioner altogether.
My wet hair doesn’t feel “slippery” like it does with silicone-based commercial conditioners, but I can still run a wet brush or hair pick through without much difficulty, and once my hair dries it feels soft and smooth.
How does solid shampoo make hair feel?
We have a variety of hair types and needs in our family. I have long, thick hair that tends to get oily at the roots and frizzy at the ends. I get an itchy scalp when it’s dry or cold out, but overall, my hair is pretty healthy since I don’t treat, colour, or use heat tools. 9-year-old Tee’s hair is long and thick like mine, and 6-year-old Kay has finer, shoulder-length hair. My husband has short, thinning hair he washes daily.
We tried a lot of different shampoo bars this summer, but they did have some things in common. In general, soap-based shampoo bars lather less than commercial shampoo. We’ve been trained to think that we need lots of lather for shampoo to work, but you really don’t. My hair still feels clean and I haven’t had an itchy scalp since switching, I presume because I’m not overdrying my scalp anymore. Having said that, at first my hair felt greasy quicker, but over the summer my hair has adjusted and I’m back to my usual washing frequency.
The natural shampoo bars we tried all use essential oils for scent instead of the artificial fragrances and perfumes typically found in commercial shampoos. That means our hair didn’t smell perfumey after washing. It didn’t smell like anything at all actually…just clean!
The last thing I’ve noticed was significantly less hair fall. I was used to leaving what seemed like handfuls of hair in my brush after a shower, but over the past few months of using solid shampoo, I was surprised by how much less hair fell out.
So…on to the shampoo! We partnered with five different Canadian soap makers who kindly sent us samples of some of their most popular shampoo bars to try.
The Quiring family has been making simple, healthy, and natural body care products on Saltspring Island, BC, for 40 years. Saltspring Soapworks shampoo bars are cruelty-free, vegan-friendly, and made from 100% natural, biodegradeable ingredients free from parabens, preservatives, shea butter, silicone, sulfates, gluten, and tree nuts. Each bar has its own unique blend of moisturizing oils and butters to meet different hair needs.
Jojoba Olive Shampoo Bar ($7.95) – This unscented shampoo bar contains nourishing jojoba oil to soothe and moisturizes sensitive scalps. This was one of the first shampoo bars we tried. It lathers noticeably less than commercial shampoos but still cleans hair well. Hair feels clean (but not squeaky, a sign of overstripping) and smells like…nothing. Once dry, hair feels soft, light, and extra bouncy.
Rosemary Mint Shampoo Bar ($7.95) – This bar works for all hair types, but is considered particularly good for dry, damaged, oily, or dark hair. Out of all the bars we tried, I loved the fresh, minty scent of this one the best. It lathers nicely, cleans well, and leaves hair ends feeling soft without weighing down my roots. My hair tends to frizz, but I found my hair definitely smoother after washing with this one.
Calendula Chamomile Shampoo Bar ($7.95) – This shampoo bar is specially formulated for straight, thin, and fine hair or sensitive scalps. Kay’s hair is fine and stick-straight so she used this one for a while. The shampoo rinses out easily and leaves her hair soft without feeling greasy. No conditioner needed.
This is off topic, but I have to mention that Saltspring Soapworks also makes shave bars. Hubby loves a classic wet shave with shaving soap, a lathering brush, and safety razor, so I asked him to put aside his usual glycerin shave soap and try the Cedar Eucalyptus Shave Bar ($7.95) instead. According to Chris, this shave bar lathers up and moisturizes just like commercial shave soaps, leaving his face smooth, soft, and free of nicks, but with all-natural ingredients. He likes it a lot!
Sherrie Le Masurier from Simply Natural Canada makes artisan soaps, deodorants, and other natural body care products inspired by nature and handcrafted in Peterborough, Ontario. She uses organic, sustainable ingredients like soap berries, as well as locally-sourced beer, wine, cider, lavender, maple syrup, honey and as much surplus product as possible, such as spent grains and apple pomace.
Sherrie makes it a priority to keep packaging minimal. Our bars arrived in a box packaged in home-compostable brown paper bags with a 100% recycled paper insert. SNC carries a huge variety of yummy-smelling shampoo bars for every hair type, and the round pucks are a nice size to hold and last a long time.
Apple Cinnamon Vegan Hair and Body Soap ($8.95) – This 100% vegan hair and body soap is enhanced with organic apple cider vinegar making it especially ideal for oily hair. Key ingredients include castor oil and shea butter for moisturizing. The girls really like this one because it leaves their hair clean and soft, smells exactly like delicious apples and cinnamon, and contains little chunks of dehydrated apple.
Beer Shampoo & Body Bar ($6.95) – Rich with antioxidants, this naturally unscented beer shampoo promotes healthy and shiny hair. Beer adds volume and shine, and honey helps moisturize and soften. Chris used this one daily for almost three weeks and liked how easy it was to substitute in place of his regular shampoo. Just wash and go, no extra steps needed. His hair felt clean and no, he didn’t smell like stale beer.
Rosemary Mint Shampoo & Body Bar ($6.95) – The rosemary and peppermint essential oils in this shampoo bar smell amazing. Shea butter and castor oil moisturize to help with dandruff and dry scalp, leaving my hair soft and frizz-free without feeling heavy or greasy at the roots.
Bergamot Lime Shampoo & Body Bar ($6.95) – The key ingredients in this shampoo bar include aloe vera gel for its moisturizing properties and castor oil which leaves hair feeling soft. It isn’t my favourite scent, but it does leave hair clean and soft. Fortunately, like all Simply Natural Canada shampoos, once dry there’s no scent left in your hair.
Cedarwood Citrus Shampoo & Body Bar ($6.95) – SNC recommends this shampoo bar for hair loss, thinning hair, and various types of alopecia (cedarwood essential oil is thought to help stimulate hair follicles and increase circulation to the scalp). So I gave it to hubby to try! His hair didn’t grow back, but the shampoo bar lathers nicely and cleans well, and he likes the “masculine” scent.
Based in Quebec, Savonnerie des Diligences has been creating body care products since 2005 from edible vegetable oils and essential oils. This family business believes in quality and authenticity, without compromise.
Sunflower Hair Soap ($7.99) – This bar is made from nourishing organic sunflower, olive, and coconut oils, then fortified with palmarosa, cedarwood, and tea tree oils. Once dry, my hair feels heavier than with the other shampoos, but that extra oil does a fantastic job of smoothing out my frizzy flyaways. I especially like this one for shaving due to its extra moisturizing.
Riverside Shampoo ($7.99) – This 100% vegan shampoo bar contains marshmallow root to nurture and moisturize your hair and scalp, and nettle to contribute to healthy hair growth. This one was a funny one for us. When I used this shampoo, I found it lathered less than some other bars, but left my hair feeling light, bouncy, and easy to brush through. On the other hand, my daughters had a hard time rinsing all the soap out, making for tangled, hard-to-comb hair, so I would say to spend a little more time rinsing or use an apple cider vinegar rinse for best results.
Pur Om Shampoo & Conditioner ($20) – Pur Om’s shampoo and conditioner bar contains activated charcoal (known for its deep cleaning and superior ability to remove impurities) for a clean, healthy scalp. Nourishing olive and castor oils moisturize, and ylang ylang and rosemary essential oils provide strength and shine with a very light scent. All of us really liked this shampoo. The lather starts out dark grey because of the charcoal, but turns white as it suds up and cleans thoroughly. We didn’t need a separate conditioner or an apple cider vinegar rinse with this shampoo, and our hair was easy to comb through both while wet and after drying. Yes, this bar is pricier than other options, but it’s also significantly larger (a substantial 225 grams) and replaces both shampoo and conditioner.
Aly Coy is the herbalist behind Barefoot Daughter. She first learned how to make natural skin care products in the Netherlands, and after stops in Spain and Toronto, she made her way to Saltspring Island, BC, in 2014 where she started her own natural body care business.
All Barefoot Daughter soaps and shampoo bars are free from sulphates and palm oil. Since her shampoo bars run larger than most, Aly recommends cutting them in half before using and storing the other half someplace dry.
Spirulina Mint ($10) – Spirulina, a type of blue-green algae found in both fresh and salt water, is rich in protective antioxidants and provides the colour for this marbled, muted green shampoo bar. I really like this shampoo’s minty fresh scent, and it leaves my hair feeling light and clean without overdrying. When I use this shampoo, I can go almost an extra day between washes before my hair feels oily.
Lemongrass Poppy Seed ($10) – This delicious-smelling soap lathers really well and leaves hair feeling clean and fresh. The naturally exfoliating poppy seeds in the bar make this a great choice for use as a body soap and shaving soap too.
Coghlan Cottage Farm is practically down the street from me! The Coghlan family hand makes their soaps from scratch in a 1892 farmhouse near Fort Langley, BC, using rescued lard and raw goat milk from their farm. All their soaps are free from palm oil.
London Fog ($12) – It looks like this shampoo is in the process of being renamed as our bar was labelled Fraser Fog, but either way we found it to be a good all-around choice for both my coarser hair and Kay’s fine hair. Lightly scented with lavender, bergamot, and vanilla oils and made with rescued lard and raw goat milk, it’s moisturizing enough not to miss a separate conditioner (and it works well for shaving my legs too).
Solid Shampoo Sample Set ($12.50) – Coghlan Cottage makes five different varieties of shampoo bars, and their sample set of five mini solid shampoo bars lets you try them all to find your favourite. This set includes London Fog, Vintage Rose, Lemon Cream, True North (clary sage and bergamot), and Rosemary Mint, all packaged in a cute little cardboard box perfect for giving as a gift.
Win Shampoo Bars!
Thank you to the soap makers who so kindly sent us samples of their shampoos to try. They have generously offered the chance for one of our readers to make the switch as well! Enter to win a selection of their bestselling shampoo bars in the giveaway widget below. Please note that the winner is not guaranteed to receive the same bars shown below or reviewed in this post.
This giveaway is open to residents of Canada and the US, 18+. All entries will be verified.
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