Reduce plastic waste from packaging with the best shampoo bars to suit all hair types
Plastic waste has been a growing environmental concern for some years, with single-use plastic bottles among common culprits adding to piles of waste in landfill. Refilling and reusing your plastic bottle is one solution, but an alternative that’s getting more popular is to use a solid shampoo bar.
A shampoo bar is very similar to a bar of soap. To use one, simply wet the bar and lather it into your hair. Shampoo bars come in many varieties for different hair types, including coloured hair or hair that needs a little extra TLC. Many ranges include conditioner bars as well, so you can follow your hairwash with an equally sustainable conditioning treat.
Below, find out more about solid shampoos and how to use them, then read on for our pick of the best shampoo bars to suit your hair type and budget.
Best shampoo bar: At a glance
How to choose the best shampoo bar for you
What are the advantages of shampoo bar?
The biggest advantage of solid shampoo is that these handy bars really cut down on single-use plastic waste. A 2019 report found that UK consumers waste up to 3.7 million tonnes of plastic each year, mostly from packaging. Around half of unrecycled bottles were used for drinks, but billions of bottles emerge from the bathroom every year. Solid shampoos skip the bottle altogether and are usually packaged in recyclable card or paper, so using a solid shampoo is an easy and effective way to do your bit for the environment by reducing plastic waste from bottles.
Another reason to use a solid shampoo is value. One solid bar typically lasts for three times as many washes as a standard-sized bottle of shampoo. They’re also neat, and easy to store in the smallest of bathrooms or a travel bag. As we’ll see below, saving the environment doesn’t mean skimping on quality, either. Many solid shampoos are packed with high-quality natural ingredients that will leave hair soft, shiny and smelling wonderful.
How do I use a shampoo bar?
To use a solid shampoo, wet the hair as you would for a liquid shampoo, then moisten your shampoo bar. You can then either lather the bar between the hands and use the resulting lather on the hair (again, as you would with a liquid shampoo), or rub the bar directly onto the hair, focusing on the roots. Rinse and repeat if necessary. You can then follow with a conditioner bar using exactly the same method.
Keep your shampoo bar somewhere dry and safe from the bath or shower (a soap dish or waterproof soap case might be a good investment), and let it dry off before storing, to prevent it turning into mush between uses.
Can I just use a bar of soap on my hair?
The principle of using a solid shampoo bar on the hair is similar to using a bar of soap, but soap formulated for the body tends not to rinse out of hair so well, which can lead to a scummy or waxy-feeling build-up unless your hair is very short. Soap made for the body usually doesn’t contain the conditioning ingredients found in most hair products, and you may also find it irritating to the more delicate skin on the scalp. Shampoo bars are made to rinse out cleanly, and to protect and condition both scalp and hair.
The best shampoo bars to buy in 2021
1. Grüum Hår Revitalising Shampoo Bar with Cocoa Butter 50g: Best shampoo bar for dry hair
Price: £8 | Buy now from Look Fantastic
This wonderfully softening shampoo bar for dry hair has a delicious chocolatey smell, and it lathers up a treat with just a little water. Natural cocoa butter is a great ingredient for nourishing the hair, bringing dry and damaged locks back to life. This rich and moisturising shampoo is just one of a range of clean, vegan and cruelty-free products from Grüum (despite the umlaut, the company is actually based in Manchester), and it leaves hair feeling ultra-soft, supple and healthy. One 50g bar lasts up to 60 washes, and the company also produces plastic-free conditioning bars to complete your bathroom routine.
Key specs – Pack size: 50g
2. Lush Jumping Juniper Shampoo Bar 55g: Best shampoo bar for oily hair
Price: £8 | Buy now from Lush
Lush was at the forefront of the solid shampoo revolution way back in 1988, and its range of shampoo bars has expanded in the intervening decades to cover all hair types and needs. This solid shampoo with lavender, rosemary and juniper cleanses deeply yet gently to leave hair soft, shiny and smelling divine. It’s certified vegan and cruelty-free, and can be purchased packaging-free. A great choice to freshen up oilier scalps.
Key specs – Pack size: 55g
3. Nuddy Extra-Thickening Shampoo Bar 100g: Best shampoo bar for volume
Price: £9 | Buy now from Nuddy
Fine or thinning hair will love this combination of nourishing coconut and argan oils, which boost its moisture content and add natural volume. This gentle cleansing bar will plump up the hair while smoothing the cuticle, taming frizz and leaving hair stronger, fuller and glossier. Nuddy’s solid shampoo is sulfate- and paraben-free, with a yummy fragrance of cocoa and cardamom that smells like a sophisticated pudding. The generous-sized bar should last you up to 80 washes.
Key specs – Pack size: 100g
4. Garnier Ultimate Blends Delicate Oat Softening Shampoo Bar 60g: Best shampoo bar for sensitive scalps
Price: £8 | Buy now from Look Fantastic
Oat is a great ingredient for calming sensitive scalps prone to rashes or dermatitis, and Garnier’s gentle shampoo bar contains natural oat milk and rice cream to cleanse without irritating. The vegan formula is 94% plant-based and silicone-free for hair that feels clean and looks shiny without the slightly waxy feel that silicone can leave. The bar lathers up well and rinses out clean, again reducing potential scalp irritation from soap deposits. The box is recyclable and produced from FSC-certified sustainable forests.
Key specs – Pack size: 60g
5. Shine Shampoo Bar 75g: Best shampoo bar for dazzling shine
Price: £9.50 | Buy now from Shine
Natural lemon and ginger combine in this richly foaming shampoo bar that cleanses, moisturises and seals the hair’s cuticle for maximum shine. The shampoo has a clean, fresh scent that will appeal to all members of the family, and the bar comes in a neat little tin that makes it easy to store in the bathroom or pack for travel. The tin itself is recyclable after you’ve finished with the shampoo. The Shine Bar is natural and cruelty-free, leaves hair shiny and soft, and even looks stylish in your shower rack.
Key specs – Pack size: 75g
6. Earth Kind Shampoo Bar for Dry and Coloured Hair 50g: Best shampoo bar for coloured hair
Price: £7 | Buy now from Earth Kind
Coloured hair needs special care to prevent colour fading. Earth Kind’s solid shampoo bar is formulated with bergamot and sage to protect hair that has been colour-treated and promote vibrancy and shine. Organic avocado and olive oils moisturise the hair, while coconut cleanses gently, without stripping colour. Earth Kind’s shampoo bar is natural, vegan, sulfate- and paraben-free and cruelty-free, and comes in plastic-free recyclable packaging.
Key specs – Pack size: 50g
7. Ethique Mintasy Solid Shampoo 110g: Best shampoo bar for a minty tingle
Price: £13 | Buy now from Holland and Barrett
New Zealand-based beauty company Ethique is another of the brands that got onto plastic-free packaging early. The company has been carbon-neutral and working to reduce plastic waste worldwide, as well as in its own operations, since 2012. This fresh and tingly shampoo with cleansing coconut and natural peppermint oil was the company’s first shampoo bar, and it leaves the scalp with a fresh tingle that’s great for waking you up in the morning. Suitable for normal to dry hair, the minty fragrance of this shampoo bar will appeal to men and women alike.
Key specs – Pack size: 110g