If saving the earth is your jam, then shampoo bars are for you. It’s no secret that plastic waste is a serious environmental problem. In our oceans, there are enormous, floating garbage patches made up of mostly microplastics. Plastic debris of all sizes, including bags and bottles, clog our shorelines. Marine wildlife often mistake deadly bits of plastic for food. Recently, a whale trying to beach itself off the coast of Norway was found to have more than 30 plastic bags in its stomach. It didn’t survive.
Plastic, while a huge convenience in many ways, is also non-biodegradable, which means it never goes away. We can recycle some types of plastic, but a lot of it ends up making a big mess and endangering wildlife of all kinds. In 2010, about 5-12 million tons of plastic trash ended up in the ocean, according to recent research. Approximately 91 percent of all plastics are not recycled.
We, as custodians of this earth, need to do better. And guess what? We can. Approximately 552 million plastic bottles end up in landfills annually and a good chunk of those end up in the ocean, strewn across beaches and generally littering the planet. One genius way to eliminate a few plastic bottles from your life: use a shampoo bar.
A shampoo bar is exactly what it sounds like: a solid version of shampoo that doesn’t live in a plastic container. Mind blown, right? Not only do you get rid of the plastic bottle, but also the chemicals usually found in traditional liquid shampoos. That’s because shampoo bars are often made with a mix of natural ingredients like essential oils, herbs and botanicals.
While shampoo bars have been around for a few decades, after LUSH released a viral video on Facebook detailing the upside of using bars instead of bottled liquid to wash our hair, they’ve been flying off the shelves.
The benefits of using a shampoo bar are many. First of all, it’s eco-friendly. Secondly, it’s perfect for travel. No more fretting over how you’ll possibly get by on only 3.4 ounces of shampoo during your vacation. Depending on which bar you choose you could get between 60 and 80 washes out of it. Finally, shampoo bars are better for your body. Think about it: if there aren’t any chemicals going down the drain, there aren’t any chemicals touching your skin either.
So what are the cons? Well, you have to be diligent about looking at ingredients. Not all shampoo bars are created equally. Yes, you’re ditching the plastic bottle, which is awesome, but you also want to make sure your bar is as chemical-free as possible. Avoid potentially environmentally-damaging additives like artificial fragrances and dyes. You’ll also want to stay away from sodium lauryl sulfate or SLS if you can. This is the chemical found in most shampoos that makes them lather, and it’s bad for the environment.
At this point you’re probably pretty excited about using a shampoo bar to help save the planet, except for one small but very important concern: Do shampoo bars really do as good a job as my favorite bottled version? Luckily, the answer is yes, but you need to choose the right one for your hair type.
Basically there are three categories of shampoo bars. Cold-pressed, glycerin-based, and surfactant. Cold-pressed bars are rich in natural oils, which means you might need a clarifying rinse to make sure it’s all out. Glycerin-based bars are generally close in pH to your hair, but might not lather up very well. Surfactant bars lather up well, but might be too harsh in the cleansing department.
Choosing the best one is really trial and error. If you have a specific hair type or hair color, you can narrow it down. For example, bars containing chamomile can brighten blond hair while bars with more essential oils work well for curly hair. If your hair needs a little extra TLC, may brands also offer solid conditioners. Here are a few bars to check out:
LUSH’s long-standing history of using natural ingredients, eco-friendly products and absolutely no animal testing makes it a trusty place to look for your first shampoo bar. Different ingredients cater to different needs, like andiroba oil for curly hair and citrus for shine. One word of warning: these bars do contain SLS.
These bars have been around for 30 years and are totally vegan. In addition to the original formula, Liggett’s offers bars for itchy scalps, dry damaged hair, and shine.
With the hastag #giveupthebottle, Ethique is clearly committed to reducing plastic waste. Their eight bars include a super gentle formula for little ones.
Honestly, you can get completely sucked in by all the scented, oiled, and flowered variations of shampoo bars out there. Just make sure you read the label and choose a formula that’s right for your hair type. When your hair is cleansed and baby-soft, go ahead and give yourself a pat on the back because you’ve just made sure one less plastic bottle ends up polluting our world.