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Beauty

7 shampoo bars that won’t make you miss your plastic bottles

Plus everything you need to know before you make the switch.

Shampoo bars in the shower. Credit: By Humankind/Ethique

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One of the best sustainable swaps I’ve made is switching to a shampoo bar. Though I was hesitant to kick my liquid shampoo to the curb, I'm here to report that I love the feel of lathering the shampoo bar in my hair and how clean and soft my hair is after showering.

You may have seen shampoo bars pop up on the shelves of your local health store or grocer, and the plastic-free options have gained momentum among shoppers looking to reduce their output of plastic bottles. With a handful of benefits, including portability, ease of use, and minimal packaging, shampoo bars are worth considering the next time you’re running low on your go-to cleanser. Here’s what you need to know before you add one to your hair care routine.

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What is a shampoo bar?

Shampoo bars in white, pink, orange, blue, purple, and gray stacked on top of each other in a line going across a table.
Credit: The Earthling Co.

Shampoo bars come in different sizes and shapes.

Shampoo bars are plastic bottle-free alternatives intended to replace a 12- or 16-ounce liquid shampoo, depending on how much formula you use. A shampoo bar looks like a bar of soap—it's often rectangular or round, brightly colored, and may have some texture, like small honeycomb shapes or visible ingredients (think biodegradable, scalp-exfoliating beads). Shampoo bars are popping up on people’s radars more and more, thanks to efforts to reduce household waste, especially during Plastic Free July. Many brands make corresponding bar conditioners, too, so you could even eliminate two plastic bottles from your life. They're also great for traveling because they are small and solid, offering no concerns about leakage or exceeding your liquid allowance.

Though they promise the same outcome of clean hair, shampoo bars are different from liquid shampoos in composition and ingredients. They are highly concentrated—consider what would happen if you evaporated the water from your liquid shampoo—so you only need to use a small amount at a time, which helps them to last as long as their liquid counterparts. And in addition to being sold in plastic-free packaging (usually recyclable or compostable cardboard boxes), shampoo bars tend to tout "cleaner" formulas free of controversial ingredients, such as parabens, palm oil, and artificial fragrances.

How do you store a shampoo bar?

Five HiBar solid shampoo and conditioner bars sitting in dishes on a bathroom shelf.
Credit: HiBar

Make sure to store your bar in a dry place so it will last.

To help your shampoo bar last, you’ll want to make accommodations for it. First, store your bar in a dry corner of your shower when you’re not using it. Also, consider purchasing a self-draining soap dish, as it will prevent the bar from sitting in pooled water and breaking down.

How do you use a shampoo bar?

A person holding a HiBar shampoo bar to their brown hair in the shower.
Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

Lather the shampoo bar in your hands or directly on your head.

Using a shampoo bar is like using bar soap—you wet it and lather it until it gets sudsy either in the hands or directly on the scalp. As a shampoo bar enthusiast, I can offer advice here: I’ve tried both methods to successfully create a sudsy lather. However, I prefer to rub the bar directly on the top of my head because it’s easier to tell how much lather I’m getting and this keeps me from using more than I need. From there, I work the lather into my scalp and roots and let it sit for a minute or two while I shower before rinsing out.

What shampoo bar is worth it?

Like liquid shampoos, you can find bars geared toward certain hair types or desired results, such as for curly hair or added volume. To maximize your results, choose a bar that aligns with your hair type or goals.

1. For added volume or moisture: HiBar

On the left: A person puckers their lips and holds up HiBar's solid shampoo and conditioner bars in front of their eyes. On the right: A hand holds up a solid bar from HiBar.
Credit: HiBar

HiBar shampoo bars have an angled top for easier sudsing.

If you’re hoping to add volume to your hair, snag the HiBar Volumize Shampoo Bar, which claims to combat frizz and add definition to waves and curls with ingredients including African dates and vitamin B5. Our tester loves this bar for the fullness and refreshing feel it gives her hair. The bar has an ergonomic design with a round bottom and slanted top that makes it easy to glide through the hair. All HiBar shampoo bars are color-safe and claim to last as long as a 16-ounce bottle of shampoo, though many reviewers report that they last longer.

On my dry hair, I use and love the Moisturize Bar. My hair feels clean and soft before I even condition it, thanks to ingredients like coconut oil and cocoa seed butter. If you’re skeptical about shampoo bars, this no-frills one could be your gateway to a plastic-free hair care routine.

* Get the HiBar Volumize Shampoo Bar from Amazon for $13.95
* Get the HiBar Moisturize Shampoo Bar from Amazon for $11.69

2. For tantalizing scents: Lush

On the left: A hand holding a cream colored shampoo bar from Lush with the paper packaging behind it. On the right: Two different blue colored Lush bar shampoos sitting in metal Lush tins.
Credit: Lush

If you've ever walked by a Lush store, you know the scents are vibrant.

Who doesn’t love a great-smelling shampoo? Citrus and minty scents help wake me up, and Lush is well-known for its fresh scents and ingredients. The Seanik Shampoo Bar is made with sea salt, lemon oil, and seaweed that claim to add shine and volume with each use.

Another option from the brand, the Jason And The Argan Oil shampoo bar, is made with sweet rose oil and argan oil that moisturize your hair and leave a calming fragrance even after you rinse it out.

Not all Lush shampoo bars are color-safe, so be sure to make sure the bar you purchase meets your needs. Lush shampoo bars claim to last for about 80 uses, which is equal to several eight-ounce bottles of liquid shampoos.

3. For treating dryness and frizziness: Ethique

On the left: A person holding a shampoo bar up to their wet hair in the shower. On the right: Three boxes of Ethique shampoo bars stacked on a green box. There are two square shaped shampoo bars and two heart-shaped ones.
Credit: Ethique

Ethique shampoo bars are some of the most sustainable.

Ethique shampoo bars come highly rated by thousands of Amazon reviewers. The brand has a variety of shampoo bars for various hair types and textures, but two of the most loved bars are the Heali Kiwi bar that treats dandruff with karanja and neem oils from tree seeds, and the Frizz Wrangler that tames flyaways and frizz with creamed coconut and coconut oil.

Most of Ethique's bars are safe for dyed hair. Ethique bars should last about three bottles-worth of washes.

4. For that squeaky-clean feeling: By Humankind

Three neutral colored By Humankind shampoo bars stacks on top of each other with an orange one standing to the left of the stack.
Credit: by Humankind

By Humankind bars are citrusy and plastic-free.

I tested By Humankind’s shampoo bar for Reviewed and enjoyed the vibrant citrus scent. The bar lathered easily and left my hair feeling clean and fresh, although I always followed up with a liquid, creamy conditioner for smoothness, as I didn't love the brand's conditioning bar. If you’re looking for a shampoo bar that will cut through sweat, dirt, and product buildup, this is a wonderful option. The bar is made without sulfates (a cleansing agent responsible for suds), but the site recommends asking your stylist before using it on color-treated hair. When I tested it, the bar lasted me about 60 washes.

Get the Shampoo Bar from By Humankind for $15

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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.

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