It very easy to be tainted by a shampoo bar you've tried and not liked. You've tried a shampoo bar once and then you feel they will all be the same, right? You feel:
They become goopy and melt in the shower, making a mess.
They make your hair frizzy.
They're hard to use.
It takes too long to wash using a shampoo bar.
So... Let's dissect this issue a bit because if there is something that drives me cRaZy when I ask someone if they've every tried a shampoo bar, is their reaction when it goes something like: "Oh no thanks, I don't like shampoo bars".
First off, let's put it out there: There are shampoo bars, and there are shampoo bars.
They may all seem the same, but trust me, they're not.
As a Certified Haircare Formulator (I studied this stuff, and it ain't DIY "look it up on YouTube recipes") I can see why you would think they're all the same, but they're not. I can look at the ingredients of some of these shampoo bars and test them, and see why your hair may hate you after using some shampoo bars!
Here's the problem with many shampoo bars and why you don't like them:
Bad pH for hair.
This MUST be mentioned first because it's the biggest issue I see with shampoo bars: Wrong pH for the hair. Very damaging to both hair and scalp! (insert 'alert' siren sound!)
What is pH you ask? We wrote a whole article on this [HERE] but in short, pH (potential of Hydrogen) is a scale that tells you whether something is acidic or alkaline. If a shampoo is too alkaline (high pH) then it will friggin' dry your hair like mad, sucking all the moisture out of it and leaving it knotted and frizzy. This is the same reason why you cannot wash your hair with soap bars or liquid soap – high pH. It's also verrrrry irritating on the scalp, disrupting your scalp microbiome (or that "gut flora" we naturally have on the scalp) (more on that [HERE]).
It's very important for a Haircare formulator to know all about pH and what the pH for the hair should be, how to adjust the pH of their formulation (or 'recipe' as DIY-ers like to call it), and what will happen to the pH when their shampoo bar is combined with tap water, sink water, lake water, ocean water.
When the pH is too low, your shampoo bar will strip the melanin of your hair (the colour) and a lot of the colour you've applied at the hairdresser. Kind of what happens when you put an acid on your face for a peel. Ouchie. Bad.
pH knowledge is A MUST! And if you buy a shampoo bar from a crafter's market and you ask them what the pH is of their bars and they cannot truthfully answer, DON'T BUY IT.
BAD INGREDIENTS = BAD SHAMPOO BAR.
There are many ingredients in a shampoo bar that can be drying or ineffective. If some of the ingredients are too stripping on the hair, they will be drying as well – regardless of the pH that has kept in mind by the formulator (the "recipe maker").
Some of the more conventional ingredients will typically be used because they make big bubbles and can give you the sensation of 'deep cleaning' or satisfaction because you like that sort of thing, but this is old-fashioned thinking people! Get with the times!
Many of the more bubbly ingredients in a shampoo bar are also the ones used in dish or laundry detergent. The list is too long to add. But the key is also finding the right balance of ingredients, and using the ingredients below the recommended usage rate. So some of these ingredients may be good ones, but too often they're used too high!
A shampoo bar ingredient balance should include both cleansing and conditioning ingredients. They're not easy to design! But when made properly, you will have clean hair that isn't stripped and 'squeaky clean' (ooh how that squeaky clean sound drives me nuts!).
the vinegar dilemma
Another thing you may have been told is that in order to work properly on your hair, you need to do a "vinegar rinse" after washing your hair with a shampoo bar. This is bad news in many ways:
Vinegar is very acidic (low pH) and it helps to close the cuticle of the hair (a whole new topic that deserves its own blog post!) helping it to feel smoother and more protected, less dry. Sound good maybe? But this low pH can have the same stripping effects on the hair that a low pH shampoo bar will, with the added 'discolouration' factor. Long term = bad.
Vinegar is often recommended when a shampoo bar's pH is high, as a quick-fix for the formulator not adjusting their shampoo bar pH. It's often also recommended in shampoo bars that are created using soap methods: By reacting lye with water and combinig this with oils. The result is a very high pH bar that is stripping on the hair and VERY drying.
Vinegar's low pH will cause damage to the scalp and its microbiome. And as we already know, a healthy scalp means healthy hair.
Long story short: If a shampoo bar manufacturer suggests you rinse your hair with vinegar after, don't buy it – or at least question the pH of their shampoo bar! There should be absolutely no reason for you to need a vinegar rinse after using a properly-made shampoo bar.
SHAMPOO BARS ARE CONCENTRATED.
It's true: Shampoo bars are concentrated shampoos that may contain exactly the same ingredients as a bottled shampoo, but in concentrated from. They need to be properly diluted with water – whichever water you use, hard or soft water, lake or river water, kitchen sink or shower water, dilute them properly.
When shampoo bars are scrubbed directly onto the scalp, they are being applied in a concentrated way, so too much concentrated product may be going on your scalp, drying it out and making knots in the process. If you're doing this, you're using the little amount of water that is on your hair after you wet it – and it's not enough!
The proper way to use a shampoo bar goes something like this:
Wet the bar and scrub between your hands until it's activated and begins to foam a bit. Not big bubbles and WHOOSSSHHH they're everywhere, just foaming a bit.
Then you can glide onto your wet hair (not damp, but WET), vertically first to coat the hair, before scrubbing more.
Then wet the bar and scrub. Repeat (wet the bar and scrub, wet the bar and scrub) until you can feel it all over your scalp.
The length of your hair really doesn't need to be scrubbed with the wet foamy bar, and believe me, when you go to rinse the hair out, it will get all the way to your scalp! So don't feel you need to create massive bubbles of shampoo or you will be using a lot of the bar up, wasting it faster and making knots... oh messy do!
Then rinse out completely.
In the case of our Bi-Phase Shampoo Bar, then you'd flip it around and apply the conditioner side of the bar and rinse out. See? Easy!
You can also watch our 'how to' video [HERE]
you think it takes too long?
naaah, it doesn't.
Washing your hair with a shampoo bar this way, it shouldn't take you more than 1 to 2 minutes max. That's not long at all, is it?
if your shampoo bar turns into a melty blob
As long as you let your shampoo bar dry in between washes, it should not melt or get mildewy gross. If it does, then it has not been properly designed and formulated.
The same goes for any product that you leave in the bathroom: Shampoo bars need to be designed in such a way that they are stable and will withstand water, without falling apart. I remember my daughter buying her first shampoo bar: It was BRIGHT RED, and after one use it melted into a blob of goop and the whole bathroom was stained red! It looked like a murder scene had just happened! (Plus the synthetic colourants are highly unnecessary!)
We have a whole blog post [HERE] on how to store shampoo bars properly so they stay fresh, clean, for a long time as they should. Give it a peek! You will understand why we chose to supply every first shampoo bar order with our Loofah Pad (which is biodegradable, by the way! wink wink!).
shampoo bars are not for everyone
Finally, it's true: Shampoo bars may not be for everyone. Whether it's because you have a hard time holding one (as some people do) or because you truly prefer a liquid shampoo (hey, try our Concentrated Powdered Shampoo for that, and add your own water to it!).
But please, don't dismiss shampoo bars altogether because you may have tried one and didn't like it. Shampoo bars can be an amazing, sustainable choice for using an eco-friendly, packaging-free option that uses gorgeous ingredients that are good for your hair and the earth as well.
There are some of us who have done a ton of research and created gorgeous products for the hair. Give us a chance! Maybe next time you travel or camp, or just hang around the house and feel like trying something new, you'll consider using a shampoo bar. And we'll be here when you're ready!
Do you have any questions about using shampoo bars that we may have not covered? We love questions! Ask and you shall receive answers!
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