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Here’s Why You May Want to Consider a Shampoo Bar

With an increase in environmental awareness, many people are making the switch to more eco-friendly products. While once marketed strictly to women, men nowadays are also becoming increasingly conscious about their personal grooming, leading to a surge in demand for products like shampoo bars.

But are they really all that different from say a traditional shampoo or even a natural one?

We’ll discuss that along with their key benefits, how to use them, and what to consider before you make the switch.

What is a Shampoo Bar?

Shampoo bars are effectively the same as your standard bar of soap. However, unlike soap, they are formulated for scalp and hair care. They are essentially a concentrated version of liquid shampoo, often made from all-natural ingredients, and come in a solid form. Some people refer to them as “hair soap”. The main difference between a shampoo bar and a regular bar of soap is that shampoo bars are formulated with ingredients that are more suitable for hair and scalp care.

Comparing Shampoo Bars to Regular Shampoo

Besides the form factor (shampoo bars are solid while traditional shampoos are liquid), there are several notable differences between shampoo bars and traditional shampoos.

The below table gives a brief comparison between a regular shampoo and a shampoo bar.

FeatureRegular ShampooShampoo Bar
IngredientsSynthetic, parabens & sulfatesOften natural & organic
PackagingPlastic bottlePaper or cardboard, zero-waste packaging
Shelf LifeAbout 12-18 monthsCan last up to 3-6 months depending on storage & usage
Travel-FriendlyLiquid restrictions applyTSA-Approved, compact
Eco-FriendlyContributes to plastic wasteReduced waste, biodegradable

How Do Shampoo Bars Work?

While the form factor may throw off some first-timers, shampoo bars work similarly to their liquid counterparts. When the bar is rubbed onto wet hair, it lathers up, helping to clean the scalp and hair just like regular shampoo does.

Shampoo bars often contain similar ingredients to liquid shampoo such as surfactants, which facilitate the breakup of oils on the scalp and hair. So you’ll still get that great tactile feedback of a rich lather that removes dirt and excess oils. They typically also include other hair-nourishing ingredients. For instance, they may contain botanical oils like coconut, olive, or argan to hydrate hair and scalp, or proteins like keratin to strengthen hair shafts.

Benefits of Using a Shampoo Bar

Here are four key benefits of using a shampoo bar:

  1. Suitable for most hair types: Shampoo bars are filled with natural ingredients, akin to an organic shampoo, that cater to different hair conditions and needs, especially those men with normal or dry hair. This allows you to find a shampoo bar for virtually any hair type or concern, including, but not limited to, dandruff, hair loss, or oily hair.
  2. Eco-friendly: Regular shampoos usually come in single-use plastic bottles. In contrast, shampoo bars often use recyclable or compostable packaging, making them a more sustainable choice. As we recently discussed in our comparison of bar soaps and shower gels, it is estimated that plastic cosmetic bottles have a 25% larger carbon footprint than bar soaps. Additionally, the manufacturing process of shampoo bars uses less water and energy compared to liquid shampoos, further reducing their environmental footprint.
  3. Cost-efficient: While some shampoo bars are marketed to last anywhere between 80 and 100 washes, most folks will get at least 50 to 75 washes out of a single bar – making it a cost-effective choice in the long run. In comparison, a typical bottle of shampoo lasts for around 25 to 30 washes, which means you’ll be buying shampoo less frequently with a bar. This can save you a significant amount of money over time.
  4. Travel-friendly: Shampoo bars are perfect for traveling. These TSA-approved bars fulfill the requirements for carry-on items at the airport — they’re space-efficient, leak-proof, and meet the ‘no-liquids’ rule on airplanes. This notable benefit allows you to travel worry-free without the risk of spilling shampoo all over your belongings. And because shampoo bars are compact, they take up less space in your luggage, freeing up room for additional items, which is especially advantageous for those who pack light or are frequent travelers.

Notable Drawbacks

One of the biggest complaints about shampoo bars is that they can be difficult to lather and may cause a sticky feeling to hair if not rinsed out thoroughly. As we discussed on how hard water can interact negatively with certain ingredients in shampoo bars, if you live in an area with hard water, this can be a particular concern.

Another potential drawback is the transition period. Transitioning from regular liquid shampoo to a shampoo bar may take some time for your hair to adjust. This is because your hair and scalp need to get used to the different formulations. During this transition period, your hair may feel greasy or heavy. However, this usually resolves after a couple of weeks.

How to Wash Your Hair with a Shampoo Bar: Step-by-Step Guide

As you may imagine, using a shampoo bar requires a slightly different approach compared to liquid shampoo. Here’s a simple step-by-step guide to ensure you’re getting the most out of your bar:

  1. Wet your hair: Just as you would when using a liquid shampoo, make sure your hair is thoroughly wet before applying the shampoo bar. 
  2. Apply the shampoo bar: There are two methods for this. You can lather the bar between your hands and then spread the lather over your hair. Or, you can apply the bar directly to your hair, starting at the scalp and moving down to the ends. 
  3. Massage and lather: Use your fingers to massage your scalp and work the lather down to the ends of your hair.
  4. Rinse well: Rinse your hair thoroughly with warm water, making sure to remove all the shampoo. 
  5. Storage: To prolong the life of your shampoo bar, store it in a dry place after each use. You can place it on a soap dish, or hang it in a soap pouch to help it dry out.

Adam Williams

As the lead editor of Tools of Men, Adam loves men's grooming products. Particularly of interest is managing facial hair and perfecting the art of the modern man's skincare routine. His work has been featured or quoted in several publications, including New York Magazine, Vice, Sharpologist, MIC, Elite Daily, and more. When Adam isn't working, he enjoys spending time with his two little kids who keep him both on his toes and young at heart.

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