Raise the bar! The tried and tested shampoo and conditioner bars to add to your routine

Freaked out by the recent climate change report and desperate to live more sustainably? One way to cut plastic down in your beauty routine is hitting up the bar! Shampoo and conditioner bars are now available from some big salon brands, so we thought we’d put some to the test. Will it be bar brilliance, or all bar none? Let’s find out… 

Alison: Aveda Shampure Nurturing Shampoo Bar

“As someone with an oily scalp and hair that’s on the finer side, anything with the word nourishing on the box automatically has me thinking ‘build up’! But having recently upped the number of highlights through my lengths, leaving the bleached strands thirstier than ever before, I thought I’d give Aveda’s new colour-safe shampoo bar a whirl. 
The product itself comes in recycled cardboard packaging, boasts an impressive 94% naturally-derived and silicone-free formula, and is infused with the brand’s signature ‘pure-fume’ scent (a mix of organic lavender, ylang ylang and other plant essences). The bar is undeniably fragrant, solid and a little waxy to the touch – like a block of regular soap – but once you wet it and create a thin lather, it doesn’t feel as moisture-sapping as the initial texture suggests. 
I did feel like I had to use several handfuls of suds to even begin to work the product through my mid-length hair, but it rinsed out without any extra tangling and didn’t leave any noticeable residue. Did it leave my hair feeling as clean as my usual shampoo? Not quite, but once followed up with my regular conditioner and left to dry, my hair felt soft to the touch, without any of the added weight I’d feared. Plus, it didn’t seem to get greasier any quicker throughout the day, which was a welcome surprise. 

In terms of eco-credentials, I can’t fault it – the creation of the Shampure bar has apparently prevented two tonnes of plastic that would be needed to hold a liquid formula from ending up in landfill, and like all Aveda products, it’s vegan and cruelty-free. Aveda also donate 100% of the waste from every bar’s manufacture to Clean The World Foundation, where it’s recycled into new soap bars to be used in their WASH Education Program Hygiene Kits provided to vulnerable communities around the world.

For days where I need to wash out heavier styling products, I think I may need to reach for something with more grime-shifting heft. But thanks to its performance and planet-friendly origins, this little bar has earned an unexpected spot in my routine for the foreseeable future.”

Becky: KMS Moist Repair 

“I have thick, wiry short hair, and I’ve never used a shampoo bar before, so I didn’t know what to expect. How much lather I would see? Like with any soap, when you use it for the first few times it doesn’t feel like you get much lather, it feels thicker. Is that just me? I had to really go for it to generate enough friction to get my hands covered with it. It was hard to judge if I was using enough, so I covered hands generously.  

KMS Moist Repair Shampoo Bar

It was thicker than a liquid shampoo which was odd. I didn’t feel like it was going through my hair well initially, but before long I felt like it was as runny as a normal shampoo. I wear a soft clay in my hair and isn’t hard to wash out, so it had no problem getting all that out. Once I’d worked it through my hair, I wouldn’t have been able to tell if it was from a bottle or a bar. My hair felt clean after I’d rinsed, and later when it was dry it was no different to style. I’ve since found out you can get a KMS tin to keep it in, and the cardboard packaging is all sustainably sourced too. A bottle is a bit more convenient I guess, but I’m going to carry on using this bar, I think I might be totally converted with a bit more regular use.”

Amanda: Dolores & Rose Soothe & Shine shampoo bar and Jojoba Hair Hug conditioner bar 

“I’ll be very honest – I tried a Lush shampoo bar in 2005 and the resulting tangled mess took me ages to comb back to normal. I swore never again! But I’m desperate to reduce plastic in my home (I’m using cleansing and massage bars elsewhere). I have very long highlighted hair, so always use products that are for coloured hair, with regular use of purple shampoos and masks to keep the colour bright. 

I went in and lathered the shampoo bar three times to make sure I had enough to cover all my roots, and it felt odd as it didn’t lather like a normal shampoo when on my wet hair. I hoped I’d used enough! The conditioner bar I was really worried about as the instructions told me to “glide it down the hair” – tangles ahoy! But glide I did, and it was actually easier to comb than usual, it felt very soft and silky. Colour me impressed! 

Once all dry, I could see that I still had some root shadow spray I’d used the day before, so either I needed an extra shampoo, a bit more of the bar or perhaps something more clarifying. But my lengths felt lovely and silky. I’m looking for two new soap dishes for the shower – I’m going to stick with them, and use a purple shampoo and mask once a week. With Aveda’s new Blonde Revival range, and its takeback scheme on all empties (find a participating salon here), I feel like that’s the most sustainable option until someone makes a purple toning shampoo bar!” Ed’s note – Dolores & Rose now do a purple shampoo bar for blondes!

Deborah: weDo/ Professional Solid Shampoo Bar 

weDo/ Professional Solid Shampoo Bar

“I tried an early version of a shampoo bar a few years ago while travelling and it was… fine, but I was interested to see what a few more years of product development could do to the format. Safe to say, things have come a long way! 

I was lucky enough to try this shampoo bar when it first launched, and I can confirm that it lasts forever and a day. It probably lasted me about five months in total, I’m not kidding, and I was happy to be reunited with this satisfyingly hefty pebble. It has quite a strong floral scent which I wasn’t mad about, but it lathers quickly which I do appreciate. The lather itself is quite thin and slick, and definitely lends itself to two washes rather than one to really get in there. 

It rinses easily and quickly, which was a big bonus, and leaves my fine, greasy hair feeling very soft and clean. I normally use more of a volumising formula, so I do miss some of that lift action, but it’s nothing my styling products can’t lend a hand with. I’ll happily keep one of these stashed in my product selection, for both regular use as a pre-wash and – more importantly – when I finally make it back abroad one day…” 

weDo/ Professional shampoo bar in use

Kelsey: My.Haircare Rescue My.Hair SMOOTH Shampoo and Conditioner bars

“When it comes to shampoo and conditioner, I’m often a creature of habit once I find a product I like. With coloured strands, which are thick and unruly, it takes a lot to keep my hair clean and healthy. As such, I’ve never used solid shampoo bars before for fear of how well they would work. However, with one use of the SMOOTH duo from My.Haircare, my fears were dispelled.

My.Haircare Rescue My.Hair SMOOTH Shampoo and Conditioner bars

I was sure to give the shampoo bar a thorough lather before running my hands through my roots and lengths. As it took a little more work than my usual washing routine, I was slightly worried I wasn’t applying enough shampoo to remove any product buildup prior to washing. However, it felt incredibly gentle on my blonde hair and wasn’t stripping in the slightest. After a lot of lathering later, I used the accompanying SMOOTH conditioner bar. Obviously creamier than its partner, things did get pretty slippy in the shower. It did also take longer to work enough product through my hands for application, but definitely left my locks free of tangles post-shower.

Designed to smooth strands for frizz-free results, the pair definitely ticked that box. Two days on and my hair still feels smooth, sleek and hydrated. A great option for travelling (if armed with a case or pouch) it’s definitely converted me to using this sustainable option on the regular. Like Amanda, I do need to keep a purple toning shampoo in my stash, but on those day-to-day washes it does the job well!”

Looking for more sustainable switches to make? Click here for our ultimate guide!