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Zero Waste Shampoo & Conditioner Bars, Are They Really Worth the Hype

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Are zero waste shampoo and conditioner bars actually effective? Yes they are! Can they take care of my hair and scalp needs with the same effectiveness as the liquid? You bet they can! 

You’ve probably heard the hype around shampoo and conditioner bars by now, seeing as practically every company has come out with their own version of one. But do they work the same as a bottle of shampoo and conditioner? 

The answer is yes! 

Caucasian woman washes her brown hair with shampoo bar or soap, zero waste concept

Soap has been around for some six thousand+ years (in bar form) and people used soap, fragrant oils, or a variation, to keep their hair clean. In 1927, the first liquid shampoo was invented by Hans Schwarzkopf and since then various companies have put their own spin on it. 

The advent of liquid shampoo happened right around the time plastic was discovered to be a solution for everything, specifically as a cheaper alternative to existing packaging. It only made sense to store this new liquid shampoo into the cheapest and easiest option — plastic bottles.

Since then, purchasing shampoo and conditioner in plastic bottles has been a staple in American households and households around the world. But with environmental concern higher than it’s ever been, people are looking for more eco-friendly options to everyday products. 

In this blog, we want to highlight our sister store, Suds & Co, and their gentle, yet effective zero waste shampoo and conditioner bars. 

An assortment (12) of colorful shampoo and conditioner bars on top of a couple of soap lifts

What is a zero waste shampoo and conditioner bar

A shampoo and conditioner bar is exactly what it sounds like — shampoo and conditioner in the form of a bar instead of liquid. Just the same way that soap has the ability to be a bar soap and a liquid soap; plus shampoo and conditioner bars can come in a zero waste packaging option. 

Water is the primary ingredient in liquid shampoos for a variety of reasons. Mostly, in the past it has helped dilute harsher ingredients but as companies move away from using these types of ingredients, the need for water to be the primary ingredient is decreasing. Meaning, we can take these ingredients and put them into a solid form and let you, the consumer, add as much, or as little water, as you want. 

How to use a zero waste shampoo and conditioner bar

person holding the seaside blue shampoo bar under the water.

To use a zero waste shampoo bar, first wet your hair and the bar, apply the bar directly to your hair and rub back and forth or in small circular motions until it begins to suds. Repeat around your head as needed and then work into a lather with your hands. Alternatively, you can lather the bar in your hands and then apply the shampoo to your hair and repeat as needed. Rinse when finished.

To use a zero waste conditioner bar, wet your hair, wetting the bar is optional but we recommend warming up the bar, then swipe the bar across your hair until you feel you have enough product. Work the conditioner through your hair, reapply as needed, and rinse when finished. 

When finished, rinse off and store your bar(s) somewhere out of direct contact with the water. Use a soap dish, soap lift, soap saver bag, or something similar for safe preservation. 

A set of orange sunshine shampoo and conditioner bars on a white soap dish with bamboo slats.

What are the ingredients in zero waste shampoo and conditioner bars?

Suds & Co bars use sodium coco sulfate; nourishing oils such as jojoba, coconut, and olive; essential oils; natural coloring; and even fruit and fruit extracts. 

What’s the deal with sulfates — aren’t they bad?

We’ve all been conditioned that sulfates are the worst thing ever and we should avoid them at any and all costs. In reality, sulfates are found in many cosmetic and cleaning products — it’s what makes our shampoos and toothpastes foam and lather, they help remove oil and dirt from skin and hair, but most importantly, they’re not all created equal. 

Sulfates come from different places and are made in different ways. Take sodium lauryl sulfate for example, it’s a coconut derivative but when it’s overly processed that makes the fatty acid chain small, meaning it has a higher chance of entering your skin/pores and causing irritation. The irritation is because sulfates are really good detergents; sometimes they’re too good and that can cause redness and irritation. 

Sulfates actually play an important role in helping remove the buildup of oils, dirt, and bacteria that can lead to scalp conditions such as dandruff. 

Sodium coco sulfate, what Suds & Co uses in their bars, is the whole food version that comes from coconuts. It has a longer fatty acid chain that can’t enter pores like the overly processed ones. But because it’s still a detergent, it allows for the removal of dirty oils and dead skin cells. Rather than leaving your skin stripped and tight, the bars help to clean you of dirt and bacteria while leaving fresh, natural oils behind to make you feel clean and hydrated. 

a hand holding a set of used blue shampoo and conditioner bars covered in suds.

Will switching to zero waste shampoo and conditioner bars really make a difference?

The average person uses about 700-800 bottles of shampoo in their lifetime. Even if your intentions are good, only about 10% of plastic actually gets recycled, the rest ends up in the landfill, or worse, the oceans. 

Once in the ocean or other waterways, the plastic breaks down further into microplastic. If the word plastic doesn’t get you worried, microplastic should. Once plastics break down into microplastics, it could take hundreds of years more for these to fully degrade. 

Underwater image of a few fish surrounded by plastic in the ocean.

Photo by Naja Bertolt Jensen on Unsplash

In the meantime, since they’re nearly impossible to clean out of the water supply, they have been found even in rural water supplies, and marine animals are confusing these particles for food which means that people eating seafood are also consuming these particles. Furthermore, 90% of table salt tested around the world contained microplastics. 

Zero waste shampoo and conditioner bars can either come ‘naked’ without any packaging, or in a simple sleeve that can be recycled or composted making their footprint much smaller and using no plastic at all. If even a fraction of people switched entirely to plastic free shampoo and conditioner bottles that would be significantly less plastic being tossed out.

White peppermint shampoo bar in cardboard (recyclable and compostable) box. 3.5 ounces

And since you now know and understand the ingredients, you know that these bars are just as gentle and effective on your hair as any other shampoo in addition to being a better packaging option! 

How long will a zero waste shampoo and conditioner bar actually last

How long a bar will last you will of course depend on the length and thickness of your hair and how often you wash your hair. When stored properly, they can last over 75 washes! 

Of course various members of our team use our zero waste shampoo and conditioner bars. In our experience, one person used the same bars (shampoo + conditioner) for over six months and another two people are 3 months into their bars and still going strong. 

They’re also great for traveling — more room in your liquid bag for other essentials — excellent for gifting and getting your friends hooked on eco-friendly hair care products, and they make great shaving products when in a pinch or if one of your bars lasts longer than the other. 

a hand holding a soap lift containing two used blue shampoo and conditioner bars

This set is being used by 2 people going on 3 months!

What hair types are zero waste shampoo and conditioner bars good for?

A set of white shampoo and conditioner bars in peppermint. One bar is sitting on a bamboo coasting on top of mint leaves.

For example, this Peppermint Breeze bar uses peppermint essential oil and is best used on oily hair or those with scalp issues such as dandruff or psoriasis. But this Simply Shampoo bar is unscented and great for people with sensitive scalps and/or a sensitivity to natural scents and fragrances. And this Blossom Shampoo + Conditioner Bar Bundle is great for any and all skin types or colors, scented with plumeria flower, sandalwood, and citrus. 

A set of pink blossom bars. Conditioner bar is stacked on top of the shampoo bar.

So, is switching to a zero waste shampoo and conditioner bar going to save the planet? Probably not. And some people will argue that your efforts are wasted on small things and small replacements, but the truth is everything matters. If you don’t have a condition that requires you to use a certain product bottled in plastic, give these zero waste options a try! 

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