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How To Find The Best Shampoo Bar

14 min read

A woman asking questions

How To Find The Best Shampoo Bar For Your Hair.

Eco and travel-friendly shampoo bars are more luxurious and popular than ever, so now is the time to ditch the bottles for good with one of these eco-friendly alternatives that are good for the planet, your wallet and your hair.

Today there’s a different option for every type of hair. This ultimate guide has been prepared to help you find and choose the best shampoo bar, that is also environmentally friendly, for your hair type. 

But we haven't stopped there - this complete guide will show you, not only what to look for in a shampoo bar and what to avoid in a shampoo bar but also, how to use a shampoo bar, how to store a shampoo bar to get the most from it, and what conditioner bar to use to follow on.

So, whether you have fine, dry, coloured or curly hair, there’s a bar of shampoo to meet your needs.

We have an unrivalled collection of plastic-free shampoos and conditioner bars so there is no need for plastic bottles in the bathroom anymore. Our selection of UK-made solid natural shampoo bars lather, strengthen and clean your hair without any chemicals.

So let's dig into the subject a little deeper and tell you everything you need to know when choosing your ideal shampoo bar.


Girl with questions

1 - Make Sure It's A Bar of Shampoo and Not a Soap Bar!

That might seem like stating the obvious but believe me, it's not, after all you're looking for the best shampoo bars for your hair and not a soap bar.

When you start looking 'behind' the label you will start to notice a lot of very strange things going on. 

The very basics you should 'investigate' and pay close attention to when shopping for a shampoo bar are:

- does the label clearly state where the shampoo bar is made?

- does the label identify all the ingredients in the 'shampoo' bar?

- is aqua/water/Eau listed as the first ingredient in the shampoo bar? (I'll come to more on this later)

There are a lot of products flooding the UK market, with their packaging and marketing making wild and wholly unsubstantiated claims, which to put it mildly have extremely dubious provenance.

They are imported (but not all!) from overseas, where there is little if any governance over what should or should not be put in a product that is destined to be applied to a human's hair and skin.

Their ingredients, if listed at all, are as low-grade and/or as vague as possible to ensure a low cost to market with no concern for the end-user, you! 

Of course, they are cheap and unfortunately, but understandably, that is a key driver behind many people's shopping choices these days.

Are you recommended to use a vinegar rinse after using the so-called shampoo bar that you are considering? 

If that is the case then it is probably made from soap ingredients and not proper shampoo ingredients. This will give you completely the wrong pH for your hair, hence the vinegar rinses to make up for the alkaline soap bars!

Consequently, many first time buyers of shampoo bars are naturally disappointed and return to their old water-laden plastic-packaged liquid shampoos. 

Also, beware of many of the listings you find under shampoo bar review UK and so forth.

In case you hadn't already twigged most, if not all, of these, which at first glance appear to be independent shampoo bar review websites, are affiliated or paid for sites that promote specific brands or website shopping areas.

So don't just pop over to Google and look for the Best Shampoo Review as the chances are the results will not be impartial.

One of the most notorious for producing these comparison review sites, through their widespread and diverse range of paid bloggers and affiliates, just happens to have the same name as the largest rainforest in South America (wink wink!).

It should therefore come as no surprise to you when you see the same product names and brands cropping up time and again.  

am regularly asked about the difference between our shampoo bars and all the others on the market. 

Some of these other ‘shampoo’ bars are huge in size and inexpensive, so they seem good value for money - but are they? Let's find out.

So, what are the real differences between our amazing solid surfactant shampoo bars formulated and hand-made in the UK and other shampoo bars? (ps. surfactant = foaming agent) 

 Chocolate cakes as analogies for luxury vegan shampoo bar versus liquid shampoo

Well, to start with as a simple analogy, just as there are chocolate cakes and then there are Chocolate Cakes...

....so there are shampoo bars and then there is The Solid Bar Company's Best Shampoo Bar! 

Let’s look at a few examples to explain this more.  

If you make a quick internet search, on several main store websites, you can find products listed as ‘shampoo’ bars and even a few conditioner bars. Check on Walmart, Amazon, Target, Costco and others. 

Online retailers for vegan solid shampoo bars 

Yet, the key thing to look at here, in these 'so-called' best bar shampoo reviews on the other search sites, is the ingredients!

After all, what you are looking for is the best UK shampoo bar for ordinary hair, the best shampoo bar for coloured hair, and in fact, the best shampoo bars for pretty much any type of hair.  

- What Is In Your 'Shampoo' Bar?    

When you check out the reviews you will read that most of these bars are made with ‘saponified’ carrier oils, such as coconut oil or sunflower oil, using non-essential oils for scent. 

This means these oils have been mixed with sodium hydroxide (a.k.a. Lye), an alkali with a high pH14 level, to turn them into a traditional soap bar through a process known as saponification. 

These traditional soap bars are the earliest surfactants (surface active agents) known. They have been around for hundreds of years, used to break down the interface between water and oils and/or dirt.

In essence, pardon the pun, these ingredients are fine for soap bars BUT not shampoo bars, as many have high water content and include synthetics and/or chemicals

They are as far removed from the quality natural vegan ingredients of our luxury high-quality shampoo bars at The Solid Bar Company as Pluto is from Earth!

Sadly many people try these types of bars - as inevitably they can be marketed as proper shampoo quality to the unaware, they are also very cheap by comparison and many do not even fully list their ingredients and if they do they are of 'dubious' quality and so of limited value as a shampoo ingredient if at all.

Consequently, the results and effect on their hair of using these 'soap' bars is poor, the new users immediately think that all bars are the same, so write them all off from this bad experience and revert to water-filled liquid shampoo 

Whilst these oil ingredients will create a natural soap bar that is fine to use for the body (please note that we also make similar organic body soaps here) they are not the right product to meet the needs of your hair. 

They are only meant for your body, not for hair application as a shampoo! 

pH chart to test alkalinity or acidity of shampoo bars 

 Why is that you may ask? Well, it's because:

  • This type of traditional soap bar is not pH balanced for use on your hair.
  •  The Lye solution will create a bar with a pH8 or so, far too alkaline for your hair.
  •  Your hair and sebum have natural pHs of between 4 and 5.5. (our shampoo bars are created with a perfectly balanced pH value to fit within this range!)
  • This is a perfectly natural and normal slightly acid level that prevents bacteria from forming and keeps the hair cuticles closed and healthy.
  • If an alkaline product is continually used on the hair, the cuticles won’t lie down and the alkaline will cause abrasion, eventually leading to dull, dry hair and possibly breakage.
  • These traditional soaps, when combined with hard water, form insoluble magnesium and calcium salts through hard water ions creating an insoluble scum.
  • This can leave a film on your hair. This is much the same as you may well have seen from a soap bar ‘scum’ line around the side of the bath.  It will make your hair look flat and dull.  

That is why you won’t ever see this type of saponified soap bar ingredient in professional salon hair care products. 

This is no accident. Professional salon products have become a 50 billion dollar industry today with a huge amount of research invested in it.

 Pile of gold demonstrating money spent on shampoo advertising and development

This has resulted in modern-day anionic surfactants being used in shampoos. 

They have replaced the carboxylate group found in traditional soap, by creating calcium and magnesium salts that are more soluble in water thus leaving no film on your hair whatsoever. 

The majority of ‘shampoo’ bars from your internet search will have found products made from lye, carrier oils and essential oils. 

These are body soaps not shampoo bars for your hair!

So, this combination makes a great body soap but not a good hair shampoo!

There are also a few shampoo bars containing sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) as the main ingredient, with other synthetic ingredients and also diluted with a large proportion of water. 

You should note that SLS is a cheap, harsh surfactant and the synthetic fragrances may be irritants to your scalp as they are primarily chemical additives. 

Ideally, hair requires a balanced, neutral to slightly acidic, shampoo obtained through the use of a blend of mild surfactants.

Notably, we have six in our fabulous natural solid shampoo bars so that makes them the perfect solution as probably the best shampoo bars even for colored hair. 

Not only that it also gives you quite probably the best solid surfactant shampoo bars - but you should be the judge if that by trying them out for yourself, you'll be amazed!

The best shampoo bar should have a good lather with cleaning and conditioning properties that won’t strip the hair of its natural oils and make the hair follicles lay flat for smooth feeling hair that looks shiny.

This does mean more expensive ingredients, such as those found in the top end salon shampoos. 

They are all SLS free, paraben-free, silicon-free and synthetic fragrance-free shampoo bars made in the UK. 

The result should mean healthier hair in the long run.

 Image showing a girl with better healthy hair from a natural shampoo bar

One of the most important factors users/customers seem to want from their shampoos is the 'smooth' glide feel that it offers by spreading the product across and through the hair. 

This has been provided in traditional, and most mainstream, shampoos from some sort of silicone-based ingredient. Silicones are a large class of materials, not just one item. They can usually be recognized by names ending in ‘cone.’ In hair care, they are primarily used to lubricate/condition and to add shine. 

After extensive testing, an exciting step forward for us has been the switch away from silicons to plant-derived and sustainable silicon alternatives without compromising on the many benefits they bring.

Although these plant-derived alternatives represent a small percentage of our ingredients, they play an important role in both hair care and body care.

For shampoos and conditioners, the benefits include improving wet and dry hair combing, offering a silkier texture to the hair with added softness and shine, reducing frizz and static charge and acting as a humidity resistor.

For lotion bars, they are lubricating, acting as an emollient to soothe and hydrate skin, adding slip and glide as well as protection from the elements.

Because silicone adds another layer to one’s hair, it can make the hair feel heavy, as silicone builds up if not washed properly.

As silicone can be listed under so many names, you may wish to check the products that you own to check for them.

Below is a list of the ones that commonly occur in shampoos, haircare and other beauty products so you can be sure that your hair not only appears to be but is naturally healthy.

- What Do You Not Want To See In Your 'Shampoo' Bar?

Any of the following really - these are the ingredients to look out for By that we mean avoid!

  • Amino Bispropyl Dimethicone
  • Aminopropyl Dimethicone
  • Amodimethicone
  • Amodimethicone Hydroxystearate
  • Behenoxy Dimethicone
  • C24-28 Alkyl Dimethicone
  • C30-45 Alkyl Dimethicone
  • C30-45 Alkyl Methicone
  • Cetearyl Methicone
  • Cetyl Dimethicone
  • Cyclomethicone
  • Cyclopentasiloxane
  • Dimethicone
  • Dimethicone Copolyol
  • Dimethiconol
  • Dimethoxysilyl Ethylenediaminopropyl Dimethicone
  • Hexyl Methicone
  • Hydroxypropyldimethicone
  • Lauryl Methicone Copolyol
  • Methicone
  • Phenyl Trimethicones
  • Polydimethylsiloxane
  • Stearamidopropyl Dimethicone
  • Stearoxy Dimethicone
  • Stearyl Dimethicone
  • Stearyl Methicone
  • Sterile Dimethicone
  • Trimethylsilylamodimethicone
  • Vinyl Dimethicone 

This brings me to a question that is frequently asked - can shampoo bars cause hair loss?  The answer is that if it is a 'fake' one, or a cheap one, or one including the wrong ingredients then that is a possibility. The same as it would be with a liquid shampoo of similarly low calibre ingredients.

The same applies to people who say that a shampoo bar ruined my hair. I guarantee you that if your hair has been 'damaged' in any way by a product that was claimed to be a 'shampoo' bar, under closer examination of the ingredients it will fall into the category of not being 'a real shampoo bar' - in which case the article below on fake shampoo bars is a must-read for you!

So, to make this clear, it would not be the fact that you are using a shampoo bar that is causing any hair loss it would be because it is probably not a real shampoo bar!

As explained above and in more detail here "5 Ways Fake 'Shampoo' Bars Damage Hair!" there are a lot of poor cheap products slipping under the radar.

As always, check the provenance of the bar - by that I mean who makes it, where do they make it and then, most importantly, what is in it? Are there fully declared ingredients listing for you to read and check? 

We make genuine salon-quality natural shampoo bars and declare the full listing of the finest available natural ingredients that we include - they are safe!  

4 - What You Do Want To See In Your Shampoo Bar?

In our salon standard shampoo bars, we have mild surfactants to which we also added other high-quality ingredients to the bars. 

These include cationic emulsions to act as softeners and detanglers, nourishing protein to strengthen the hair and pro-vitamin B5 for hair growth and general scalp health as well as for gloss and shine. 

Another vital ingredient is the one per cent plant-based alternative that we use in place of silicon oil, Lexfeel N350, which provides incredible slip to the hair. We have tested this extensively and find it to be effective as well as being a more eco-friendly alternative.  

Overall our moisturizing shampoo bars for fine hair, curly hair, dry hair, oily hair and colored hair are far more eco-friendly and sustainable products than a salon shampoo in a plastic bottle. They are some of the best vegan, which means 100% naturally plant-based, shampoo bars available in the USA.

When you examine the ingredient details closely in liquid salon shampoos served up in plastic bottles, despite the basic and essential high-grade ingredients, they are still diluted with 80%-90% water which will reduce the shelf life of the product as well as bulking it out to give the appearance of you receiving a larger quantity, and thus value, for your money when in fact the opposite is the case. 

So remember, if you want to experience the best natural shampoo bars to ensure that your hair looks at its best, then always check the ingredients. 


5 - How Do You Use Vegan Shampoo Bars?


Our real shampoo bar is a new concept for the market and one that takes a little getting used to. 

If you are still unsure how easy a solid shampoo bar is to use, then just watch this short video.

Also, when you use an eco-product, it needs to do a good job; our shampoo bar does a great job.  It may look like a bar of soap and lather in your hand like a bar of soap but that is where the similarities end!

Taking the traditional liquid form and then creating a solid shampoo bar has huge benefits for both the environment and you the customer.

We have eliminated the need for plastic bottles to store or distribute.

We've reduced the environmental impact enormously by saving tons of plastic from ever being produced or entering landfills.

Our super lush shampoo bars may look small, but they’ve got an impressive lathering ability that makes them incredibly long-lasting.

Most people only need two to three strokes across their wet hair to produce a rich lather, so each bar lasts about 60 washes - that’s the equivalent of two or three 8 fl oz bottles of liquid shampoo!

Do our solid shampoo bars work on colored and/or treated hair?  The answer is an emphatic yes - there is no problem with using our best vegan shampoo bars if you have either colored hair or treated hair. 

A quick final tip here is to make your shampoo and conditioner bars last longer. You can store them as you would any other bar soap, so in the shower out of the direct line of the shower spray is fine. But to help increase the longevity, try putting it on a soap dish that has some ventilation on the bottom, so that air can circulate it and it doesn’t get gunky underneath!

So what makes a shampoo bar a solid choice for you?

Well, besides all the above, natural spill-proof shampoo bars are convenient for taking to the gym or throwing in your carry-on bag for great hair!

They are also 100% vegan, cruelty-free, sulfate-free, paraben and SLS free shampoo bars that work wonderfully whatever your hair type. They are great for thick hair, thin hair, curly hair, straight hair, frizzy hair and colored hair.

Notably, there is no adjustment period when you start using our hair care bars and they won’t leave any residue either.

Why is that? This is because ours are created as correct pH balanced shampoos and conditioners - of a similar high quality to the shampoos and conditioners used in professional hair salons, just without the plastic or water!

Most shampoo bars on the market are, unfortunately, made of soap ingredients. This is far too harsh and alkaline for your scalp and hair - although fine for your body - and over time will cause friction and damage it.

Also, soap tends to leave a residue, particularly in hard water areas. That is why these soap companies talk about an adjustment period for their product and often offer or suggest an after-vinegar rinse as a solution because it’s acidic. Vinegar is not a ‘cationic ingredient so won’t condition the hair at all.

Our conditioner bars are not only ‘cationic’ with proteins and keratin, they also contain cetrimonium chloride to reduce ‘build up’ from hair care products.

If you want the best vegan shampoo bar and the best vegan conditioner bar then look no further!

Woman on mountain celebrating finding the right shampoo bar for her hair!

These shampoo bars and conditioner bars are created in Herbal’, ‘Botanical’, 'Orange' and 'Woodland' naturally scented blends for normal/dry or oily hair. 

They are great shampoo and conditioner bars for colored hair, for frizzy hair - pretty much for all types of hair - you will notice a change from day one.

If you want your solid shampoo to last, it’s best to keep it out of the direct flow of the shower and let the bar dry out between uses, ideally on a dish with holes or a ladder drying rack so that it can dry in a well-ventilated space, out of direct sunlight.


Don't Forget To Use The Right Conditioner Bar Too!

Check out our free guide on what you should be looking for in a complementary hair conditioner bar or hair conditioner that you use, and what should not be in the ingredients - make sure you are using the right type for your hair to avoid damaging it.

For the best effect and to care for your hair, be sure to follow each shampoo with our detangling conditioner bars which as a bonus can also be used as shaving bars for both men and women!

Our conditioner bars are dual-use! They can be used on your hair as either the best leave-in hair conditioner bar on the market or you can wash this great conditioner bar out if you wish (and still get the same detangling, lustrous full effect and scent) - but also it can be used as a shaving bar for either men or women! They are some of the best conditioner bars in the USA.

Finally, did you know that the carbon footprint of liquid soaps and shampoos is about 25% greater than that of their solid counterparts, solid shampoo bars, and solid soap bars?

Why? Primarily because for a typical wash you use almost 7 times more liquid soap and shampoo than bar soap and shampoo. To make that extra soap or shampoo requires more chemical feedstocks and more processing and thus more energy and carbon emissions.

And, let's not forget, the liquid alternatives also require more energy for packaging production and disposal.

Best wishes and happy shampooing from creators of some of the best plastic-free shampoo and conditioner bars in the USA.

The Solid Bar Company Team!

PS. And while you are here why not check out this essential read on "5 Ways Fake 'Shampoo' Bars Damage Hair!"

PPS. Don't forget to read how to look after your shampoo bar and make it last longer too!


(This article was updated in April 2022)