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Zero Waste Hair Care: Let's talk shampoo bars

Posted by Caitlyn Bruszewski on

Americans throw away 35 billion plastic bottles every year, with many of those being for shampoo, conditioner, and other beauty products. Shampoo bars are the perfect alternative if you’re looking to go plastic-free. These bars contain less water, producing them uses less water, and Island Blu Studio packages them all in a recycled paper bag that you can toss in your compost!

Shampoo bars are exactly what they sound like -- no bottle, all bar -- and can last up to 75 washes, meaning they can outlast three bottles of liquid shampoo. Plus they include all-natural ingredients without chemicals or scary additives that damage your hair.

We wanted to make a product that has high-quality ingredients at a lower cost. Our shampoo bars are eco-friendly and won’t break the bank!


The Pros

Aside from being travel-friendly, and seemingly longer-lasting than liquid shampoo, bars are touted as being able to get your hair back to its original, shiny, voluminous state by clearing away residue left from the chemicals found in traditional shampoo. Plus, since the shampoo bars do not strip hair in the same way as detergent-based shampoos can, you will notice a difference in the way your wet hair feels after washing.

How? Because many shampoo bars don’t include some of the icky additives used in commercial shampoos, such as sodium lauryl sulfate and ammonium lauryl sulfate.


The Cons

They can leave your hair feeling greasy if you don’t use them correctly. Application is everything! A little goes a long way with shampoo bars. If you use too much, your hair will feel pretty waxy when it is dry.

They can also take a little longer to wash out than liquid shampoo. This all comes down to, again, your application. Use a little at first and then build up to more if your hair type needs it.


How to Choose One

There are three broad categories of shampoo bars: cold-processed, glycerin-based, and solid surfactant.

We chose the solid surfactant shampoo bar route because it lathers the best and is more pH balanced than others. Our bars have a pH balance of 5.5 to be exact.

Surfactants are surface-active molecules. They’re what gives handmade soap its cleansing properties. Surfactants have a fatty end (from plant oil) that attaches to particles of oil and dirt. Their other end is water-soluble. When your hair is rinsed, the surfactants take oil and dirt down the drain!

The quality of a shampoo bar has a lot to do with the mixture of ingredients it contains. Those that use aggressive detergents (SLS, SLES, SCS) can be too harsh on your hair. The golden rule is to stay away from any product that uses sulfates as an ingredient.

The problem with soap-based shampoo is that the pH is too high for your hair. A high pH can make the hair shaft swell and the cuticle scales open, which leads to hair damage. In hard water, calcium and magnesium react with soap and get deposited on your hair. This won’t happen with our low pH bars because the surfactants used don’t react with the minerals in hard water.

The proper pH for hair products

Hair products should be anywhere from a pH of 4.5 to 6 to optimize the smoothness and manageability of hair and to protect it from breakage. Our shampoo bars are safely in the middle at a pH of 5.5! We test the pH of every batch of shampoo bars to ensure a safe and non-damaging pH level.


Our Shampoo Bar Ingredients

Our shampoo bars are sulfate-free, meaning they will get your hair clean without harsh ingredients. The cleansers gently clean your hair and scalp without stripping away natural skin oils. Let’s break them down so you can see exactly what you’re using on your hair.

Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate: Derived from the fatty acids in coconut oil, SCI is known to be very gentle on the skin and scalp. It’s a fantastic alternative for people who want to avoid detergents like SLS. It is even commonly known as ‘Baby Foam’ because it is so mild.

SLSa (Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate): Don’t confuse SLS and SLSa. They are NOT the same. SLS is a sulfate and SLSa is a sulfate-free surfactant. It is milder on the scalp and costs more than sulfates, but your hair health is worth it to us. This product helps make the lather that comes from the bar!

Argan Oil: This oil is naturally derived from the kernels of the fruit of the argan tree. It is full of fatty acids (oleic acid and linoleic acid) which are known to help maintain hair moisture. Also, it is rich in vitamin E, which can help reduce frizziness and even boost the shine in your hair.

BTMS 25: This is a natural, conditioning emulsifier. BTMS is derived from colza oil and is known for being gentle on skin and hair.

Cetyl Alcohol: This is a super common ingredient in beauty care products. Cetyl Alcohol is derived from vegetable oils like palm and coconut. Ours specifically comes from coconut oil. We just can’t get enough coconut in our products!

Cocamidopropyl Betaine: CAPB is a fatty acid made from coconut oil! It is often used as a surfactant in personal care products. This ingredient helps to thicken the lather.

Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein: This liquid is derived from wheat germ. The protein helps to thicken and add volume to your hair. It can even increase your hair’s ability to receive and retain moisture.

Panthenol: This ingredient sounds a little scary, but it is just a provitamin of B5 that is commonly blended into hair and skin products. It is most known for its ability to help thicken hair while speeding up its growth.


How to Use a Shampoo Bar

Before you get into the shower, you should start by brushing all of the knots and tangles out of your hair. Then get your hair wet and apply in one of two ways: lather the bar between your wet hands and apply the lather to your hair or wet the bar and rub it in circular motions down your wet hair.

If you have long or curly hair, you may experience tangles and frizz from rubbing the bar directly into your hair. Both application methods work, so it is all about finding the one that is best for your hair type. My hair is thick with multiple layers, so I find that lathering the bar between my hands is easier when it comes to getting down to my roots!

One of the most important things to keep in mind with shampoo bars is that they are natural! With that, your hair may go through detox if you are switching from commercial shampoo to our natural shampoo bars.

We’ve broken down the not-so-scary detox process here.

What about Conditioner?

Yes, using a conditioner after a shampoo bar can help replenish moisture and smooth down your hair. It also helps the conditioning ingredients to soak into your hair.

Some people may find that a conditioner isn’t necessary after using our shampoo bars. This is because our ingredients are moisturizing on their own! If you feel as though you could use a little extra moisturizing in your hair, you can check out our conditioner bars, which will be coming soon! Until then, our liquid conditioner will work just fine.


How to store (and dry) a shampoo bar

  • Keep the bar out of direct water flow
  • Place on a rack or dish with holes to help the bar dry completely
  • Allow it to dry in a well-ventilated space, out of direct sunlight

Don’t expect a commercial shampoo bar

You can pick up a shampoo bar at your local Target, but don’t expect the same quality. Many popular natural hair care companies use stronger detergents like sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) in their shampoo bars. It is a solid form of detergent pressed into ‘noodles’ to make it essentially the same as a typical drugstore liquid shampoo brand.

The problem with SLES and SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate) is that they are fantastic at removing oils, which means they can strip away all of your natural scalp oils, causing your scalp to produce too many oils. That is why typical drugstore shampoos need to be used every day. It’s a vicious cycle. Your scalp is dried out by the shampoo, so it produces more oils to replenish the moisture, so you need to shampoo the next day because your scalp is oily.


Just because a brand claims to be sulfate-free, doesn’t mean they are

We have seen many zero waste shampoo brands claim to be sulfate-free, but they’re using Sodium Cocoyl Sulfate (SCS). Generally, SCS is composed of about 60% SLS plus other detergents. So, if you’re using SCS-based shampoo, you may also be experiencing irritation and overly drying your hair.


We are here to break the cycle

Our shampoo bars are sulfate-free. Seriously, read our ingredients! We refuse to use strong detergents because we want to create a product that is great for the environment and you. As you transition to a gentle, natural shampoo bar, you’ll find that your scalp produces less oil, meaning you can go longer between washes. The cycle of having to shampoo daily is one that you can break.

Shop our shampoo bars!

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