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two handmade shampoo bars on wooden dish

What are shampoo bars and do they work?

23 Nov 2022 • 2 min read

We all know the routine: step into the shower, run the water through your hair, squeeze a dollop of shampoo into your hand, work it through and rinse.

Afterwards, the plastic bottle heads to the bin and we never give it another thought.

We might all choose different products, but the process doesn’t change, right? Wrong!

Allow us to introduce you to the concept of the shampoo bar! This new way to wash your hair uses a form of solid shampoo that not only changes the way you clean your hair but how you treat the planet too.

Naturally, many people are concerned that whilst it seems like a great idea, these solid shampoo bars often have a lot of question marks on whether they are effective.

Here, we take a look at what the best shampoo bars can offer and whether they will ever substitute our favourite bottled shampoos.

What are shampoo bars?

The first thing to establish is that shampoo and conditioner bars use real shampoo, however, most of them are made up of natural ingredients such as plant oils, butters, botanicals and essential oils rather than the traditional ingredients we are used to.

Many shampoo bar manufacturers claim that their products last much longer, with some boasting that one bar is the equivalent of three bottles.1

When they were first produced, many shampoo bars seemed quite basic and did not offer the versatility of their bottled rivals.

However, this has changed in recent years and there are now shampoo bars for every hair type and concern.

These shampoo soap bars need to be lathered up between your hands, under running water or simply rubbed directly onto the hair and then thoroughly rinsed out. You won’t need to use too much water as they foam well even without the inclusion of foaming agents.

If tangles are still a worry, then you can also buy a conditioner bar to smooth the hair and nourish it after you have shampooed.

Remember not to leave your shampoo bar in the bottom of the shower, as direct contact water means it will quickly disappear!

The bars can be stored on a dish or rack, and some come with their own tin to store them in.

Read more: Discover 10 of the best shampoo bars of 2021

Are shampoo bars environmentally friendly?

Shampoo bars are not a new idea, as they have been around since the 1940s.

However, their sudden surge in popularity is due to the changing emphasis towards climate change, and the importance of caring more about the environment.

The packaging for shampoo bars is usually paper, cardboard or even nothing at all, therefore reducing the 13 billion plastic bottles that make their way into landfill every year.2

This means that anyone wanting to reduce their plastic usage can enjoy zero waste shampoo.

Their more natural ingredients also add to their green credentials, and the fact that they are much smaller than bottles means that more can be transported in one lorry load, therefore reducing their carbon footprint even more.

Can I make my own shampoo bars?

Many people aim to make their own shampoo bars at home, but this can be tricky as many recipes require sodium hydroxide, which can be dangerous and difficult to handle.

However, it is possible to make a DIY shampoo bar if you use a pre-made soap mix which can be melted down.

It can then be combined with ingredients such as peppermint or orange to help dry hair or lavender if you want to soothe the senses.

Chamomile or honey will calm the scalp whilst dandelion is one of the most versatile ingredients you can choose.

If you want to add a hit of extra energy to your morning shower, then the addition of mint or rosemary can give you an invigorating lift.

Shampoo bars are great fun thanks to their wide range of colours and scents, but they are not just novelty items. They can be very effective at cleaning away grime and grease whilst also caring for your hair whether it is dry, coloured or oily.

It is impossible to ignore the massive environmental impact that switching to shampoo bars can make, and as it looks like they may be the future of haircare, it is worth looking more closely at them.

Last updated: 3 March 2021


Manisha Taggar


Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate

Joined Holland & Barrett: May 2019

BSc Hons in Pharmaceutical & Cosmetic Science

Manisha started her career at a Cosmetics distributor as a Regulatory Technologist followed by a Regulatory Affairs Officer, ensuring the regulatory compliance of cosmetic products from colour cosmetics to skincare.

After 3 and half years in this role, Manisha joined Holland & Barrett as a Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate in 2019.

Manisha specialises in Cosmetic products, both own-label and branded lines, ensuring that these products and all relating marketing material comply to the EU Cosmetics Regulation.

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