Shampoo and conditioner bars are one of the mainstays of eco-friendly travel, but I wanted to know if they really work. I am all for eco-friendly, but sometimes it takes some trial and error to find the products that do the job you want while also protecting the earth.
Traveling with bottles of shampoo and conditioner can be challenging, and I’ve had my share of catastrophes from bottles leaking into my luggage. Preventing the mess requires wrapping the bottles in plastic bags to prevent leaking, but that means using even more disposable plastic, which is something I try to avoid.
Stuck at home during the pandemic seemed like the perfect time to test some shampoo and conditioner bars. While I couldn’t travel, I could at least prepare for when the world opens up again.
Environmental Benefits of Using Shampoo and Conditioner Bars
The convenient hair care system for travel has been the travel size shampoo and conditioner bottles to pack in your suitcase. The other easy alternative is to use the small bottles provided at the hotel, resort, or whatever accommodation booked. I fell for these convenient options for years. Learning that millions of tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year, I wanted to do my part to reduce the environmental impact of using convenient, travel-sized plastic bottles every time I ventured away from home.
Shampoo and conditioner bars piqued my interest because they don’t require plastic bottles that get thrown out after they’re empty, and they can’t leak in a suitcase or ruin your clothing. But I wondered if they would really work on my fine hair that tends to get oily and limp quickly. I’ve had issues with damaged hair when I’ve not used quality products, so I was also nervous that the shampoo and conditioner bars could dry out my hair.
How to Use Shampoo and Conditioner Bars and How My Hair Felt
To use the bars, simply wet your hair completely, then rub the bar down the strands of your hair in multiple places. I have fine hair strands, but a lot of them so my hair is somewhat thick, and down to my shoulders. For my hair, I rubbed the bar over the strands in 3 or 4 places, then rubbed to lather for shampoo or distribute for conditioner. If I felt like I needed more, I rubbed the bar over my hair a couple more times.
Because the bar is basically concentrated shampoo and conditioner, it is much more compact than a bottle, but it lasts just as long (or longer) than an average size bottle of shampoo or conditioner. And the best part is when the bar is gone, there is nothing to throw away!
After two months of use, I was pleasantly surprised to find my hair didn’t feel like it was getting buildup on it, and it didn’t get dried out by using the shampoo and conditioner bars. My hair was easy to comb through when wet, and the result when it was dried and styled looked just like when I used my salon shampoos and conditioners. I still used my regular styling products before blowing it dry, and I didn’t have issues with dry, frizzy, or fly-away hair.
My Hairstylists Opinion of the Shampoo and Conditioner Bars
I asked my hairstylist his opinion on the bars because I do want to protect the long-term health of my hair. Ethique was my favorite brand because of how my hair felt after using it. Upon inspection of the ingredients by my hairstylist, he indicated that the Ethique bars would likely result in waxy buildup because of the type of alcohol used in them. He suggested using Ethique for travel only, not for everyday use at home to avoid the waxy buildup. I asked if the brand would cause buildup if used for several weeks or even a couple months while traveling. He thought it would be fine to use the Ethique brand for weeks of travel without an issue, but months of continued use would likely cause buildup.
Pack & Leaf and Lush brands had the cleanest ingredients according to my stylist, and he recommended using these over the Ethique brand. For extended long-term use, he didn’t anticipate a problem with either of these brands, but couldn’t be sure that hair would be as healthy after months of use as it would with salon shampoos and conditioners specifically recommended for my hair texture. I tend to get a lot of breakage if I don’t use quality products or if I use heat too often (hairdryers and irons). His concern for me was that after more than a year of working toward restoring the health of my hair, changing to a product he did not have experience with could cause a setback. So even for these brands, he recommended I use it for travel, but not everyday use until experimenting with it for a while.
There are many different brands and types of shampoo and conditioner bars, so definitely give some a try. If you find one that you really like because your hair feels and looks great after using it, then bring it to your stylist to get an evaluation of the ingredients. After experimenting with different shampoo and conditioner bars, I have narrowed it down to the three I liked the most for my hairtype.
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Ethique Shampoo and Conditioner Bars
This was my favorite shampoo and conditioner bar for how it made my hair feel, but it was also the one my hairstylist said was the most likely to cause waxy buildup with prolonged use. But I loved the way my hair felt and looked after I used it. The shampoo lathers quickly. I just rubbed the bar over my hair a few times and then scrubbed through my hair. The conditioner worked great, too, but I had my doubts when I first used it because it didn’t feel like the conditioner was getting into my hair when I rubbed the bar over the wet strands. Even when I rinsed it, it didn’t feel like it does when I used bottled conditioner. But I was pleasantly surprised when I combed through my wet hair – the comb slid through easily! Even better than when I use my salon conditioner in a bottle. I blew my hair dry as normal and styled, and it looked as it always does. It didn’t appear or feel to be weighted down and styled as usual with no issues.
Pack & Leaf Organic Shampoo and Conditioner Bar
I really liked Pack & Leaf shampoo and conditioner bars for several reasons. It worked well for cleansing my hair and I was able to get a comb through my hair after using the conditioner. My hair felt good after using it and I had no issues with styling it. The tin containers that soaps come in are perfect for traveling because they were compact and sealed well, so even if the bars were packed while damp, they still keep everything in the luggage safe. Best of all – no plastic involved!
Lush Shampoo and Conditioner Bars
The Lush shampoo and conditioner bars appealed to me because they had the fewest ingredients, all of which were familiar and not scientific tongue-twisters. They worked well on my hair and had a wonderful aroma when using. I had no issues getting a come through my hair after using the conditioner and it styled nicely once dry. The bars are a deep purple color, and though I saw no signs of my hair turning purple after using, it did stain my shower when I placed them directly on the ledge. I suggest with these especially to use a tray to place them in to protect your shower or bath. This brand is not available on Amazon, but you can go directly to their website to order at https://www.lushusa.com/hair/shampoo-bars/.
My favorite eco-friendly websites & products – for travel and home!
I have no affiliation with the websites below, but these are where I go when I want to find environmentally friendly products made with sustainable practices.
Zero Waste Cartel – Great catalog of sustainable products, and for every order they plant a tree.
The Earthling Co. – They want to empower and inspire people to make more conscious choices, and also donate portion of proceeds to environmental organizations.
Bite Toothpaste Bits – Great alternative to plastic toothpaste tubes, plastic toothbrushes, and mouthwashes.