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Shampoo Bars: Can You Actually Wash Your Hair With A Solid Shampoo Bar?

You’ve probably already heard of shampoo bars, maybe from friends who backpack or travel a lot. They might sound like a quirky idea. Do they actually work? Can you really wash your hair with a solid shampoo bar? 

What are solid shampoo bars?

In general, shampoo bars are solid soap bars used to wash your hair. If you look at the ingredients list on your shampoo bottle, the first, and by far most plentiful, ingredient is water. Solid shampoo bars get rid of all that and leave you with just the active components. Plus, they don't need preservatives. There are three kinds of shampoo bars.

Cold processed

Cold processed shampoo bars are usually made by home crafters and natural product companies. They use saponified oils such as sweet almond, coconut, castor and grapeseed, along with essential oils for scent and therapeutic properties. These bars typically don’t contain sodium lauryl sulphate and the like, just pure natural ingredients.

Glycerine based

Glycerine based shampoo bars tend to be gentler on your hair, but might have ingredients derived from palm oil, so make sure to check the label. They probably won’t lather up like the other bars and don’t have much clarifying action.

Solid surfactant bars

These quite often contain sodium lauryl sulphate, just in solid form. They can be very harsh on the hair and I don’t recommend them.

What’s so good about shampoo bars?

One really fantastic thing about solid shampoo bars is the lack of packaging. In 2017 one million plastic bottles were purchased every minute worldwide. By 2021 this number is expected to increase by 20%. The oceans and landfills are choking with them. Shampoo bars are usually packaged in paper and cardboard, so they’re perfect if you’re getting into the waste free lifestyle. Shampoo bars are light, compact and incredibly easy to travel with. Whether you’re going to the gym, backpacking or getting on an airplane, a shampoo bar is so much easier to pack than a bottle of shampoo. You don’t have to worry about spillage, liquid limits or overweight luggage fees.

Transition to shampoo bars

Like any other time you change your hair care habits, your hair might need a little while to get used to the change. Experiment with your new shampoo bar. You can try lathering it up in your hands before applying, rubbing the bar on your scalp or cutting it into small pieces so it’s easier to work with.


It won’t give you a great mountain of lather like traditional shampoos. But I've been testing out The Australian Natural Soap Company shampoo bars, and I find that they lather up just fine. Because of their composition, cold processed solid shampoo bars might leave your hair with a slight waxy coating. I find that they leave my hair squeaky clean, and hard to pull a comb through. Depending on your hairstyle, you might like the extra body and texture.

How to use shampoo bars

I don't like the texture by itself, but I've found how to make it work. Use a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and a couple of drops of essential oil. I've been using rosemary oil because it's good for hair and I love the smell, but you can add any oil you like. I put them in the bottom of a jug, then fill the jug with about a cup of warm water while I'm in the shower. I just pour it over my hair, and leave it for a minute or so, then give it a quick rinse. It's enough to condition and add shine without smelling ACV every time you turn your head. If your hair feels dry, you could also apply a leave in conditioner and comb through.

How to choose the best solid shampoo bar for you

Find a shampoo bar that works for your hair type. If you have dry hair look for a bar with conditioning ingredients such as macadamia or argan oil. Someone with oily hair might like a bar made with lighter oils such as grapeseed, and clarifying essential oils such as tea tree and lemon. Proper cold pressed bars are the best. Read the label and look for all natural ingredients – avoid anything containing sulphates, palm oil and artificial fragrances.

Looking for a shampoo bar that will fit your hair type? See our range of shampoo bars here

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