How to choose a shampoo bar

Citrus & ylang ylang shampoo bar

If you'd like to remove more plastic bottles from your life, and are thinking of dipping your toes into using shampoo bars, this guide is for you.

If you've tried a shampoo bar before, and have been scared away by 'waxy' hair and a seemingly-unending transition period, this guide is also for you.

I get a lot of questions about shampoo bars, and have had all kinds of experiences with them myself. There are the days when you think you just can't get the right technique, and the ones where your hair is riding high and split ends seem like a thing of the past!

To help you get on the good side of using shampoo bars, and make the most of everything they have to offer, I've put together this quick guide. It's informed by my experiences, those of my family and our customers, covering lots of different hair types.

To start with:

What is the difference?

For all the shampoo bars you see, there is one main difference.

Soap-based shampoo bars are gentle and, like the name suggests, similar to soap. They can be restorative for your hair and, for some a great discovery. If you've ever experienced a transition period with your bar, you were using one of these.

Soap-based shampoo bars you'll find on our shop are - Citrus & Ylang Ylang, Mint Tea Matcha and Rosemary & Lavender.

Rosemary & lavender shampoo bar

Surfactant-based shampoo bars are almost exactly the same as conventional liquid shampoos. They have no transition period.

The surfactant-based shampoo bar you'll find with us is - Lemon Verbena. We have more scents coming soon.

Lemon verbena shampoo bar

Now you know your shampoo bars:

Which shampoo bar is right for me?

The best way to see which shampoo bar is best for your hair is to try both. If you'd like some help choosing though, here are some pointers from our experiences to help:

Choose a surfactant shampoo bar if any of these apply:

  • Your hair has a tendency to get oily.
  • Your hair is very thin
  • You want lots of volume in your hairstyle.
  • You apply a lot of styling products.
  • You want similar results to your liquid shampoo.
  • You don't want to go through a transition period.

Choose a soap-based shampoo bar if any of these apply:

  • Your hair is very dry or damaged.
  • Your priority is restoring condition to your hair.
  • Soap-based shampoo bars are working well for you.
  • You're willing to go through a transition period to help your hair rebalance its natural oils.
  • You're happy to use an apple cider vinegar rinse to clarify and condition your locks.

And that's about it.

If you do go with a soap-based shampoo bar though, there are some techniques that can set you up to have the best experience with these. Remember, if you can make this bar work for you, your reward is much healthier hair than you might have experienced in a long time.

Tips for using a soap-based shampoo bar

 Let's get started. The trick with these shampoo bars is to NEVER apply the bar directly to your head.

Instead, you lather up the tips of your fingers and massage them into your scalp, below your locks. Keep repeating this until you're happy that your scalp is completely clean. It might take longer to apply than you're used to, but that also means an excuse to spend longer in a lovely, hot shower.

When you've applied your shampoo bar, rinse it out and, if you have one, use a wide-toothed comb to comb the product out from your hair. This helps to make sure your scalp is left clean and is a great head massage too.

When a soap-based shampoo bar is disappointing, it's usually because you haven't washed it out completely. A way to prevent the 'waxy' look is to follow up now with an apple cider vinegar rinse. To make this, fill a jar up to a quarter with apple cider vinegar and top up the rest with water.

In the shower, I will apply three lids' worth of the vinegar rinse to my hair. I'll then comb it through and leave it in while I wash. The vinegar is really good for your locks too and, once washed out and dried, you won't smell it.

As you get used to using your soap-based shampoo bar, you can adapt your method. Maybe you don't need the vinegar rinse as often. You'll likely see a transition period of about a couple of weeks where your hair is changing until it settles.

Hair washed with a soap-based shampoo bar doesn't look exactly the same as hair washed with surfactants. You'll find it's less frizzy, but also less buoyant, and more glossy. It's up to you whether you like this look in your hair or not.

And, if you've tried soap-based shampoos and they're not for you, you can always go back to the surfactant bar.

I hope this guide has been useful for you! I've done my best here to share with you everything I know about choosing the right shampoo bar for your hair type. If you'd like to share your experience, or have a question, please do add it to our comments below or get in touch with me if you'd like some help.


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