Shampoo bars are a great, low waste way to wash hair. They’re convenient for travel, simple to use, & usually eco friendly.
You probably know how to wash your hair but if it’s your first time using a shampoo bar, there are a couple of things that can make the transition easier.
First, what’s the difference?
Most commercial shampoos are actually mild detergents. They strip the oils from your hair, but your hair and scalp need oil so they produce more. Shampoo bars are essentially soap, made with extra hair-nourishing oils. They cleanse without stripping and don’t usually cause the same over production of sebum.
Before we get to the how to, let’s cover the basics of what you need to know about shampoo bars to make them work for you:
- You know your hair best. These are guidelines for what to try but they are not rules. Your hair is different to mine and everyone else’s, so when trying a new routine you’ll need to adapt it for yourself.
- Be patient. Most people find that shampoo bars work right from the start but for some it takes a few washes. Your hair is used to the products you currently use, and removing any build up can take some time. Your scalp and hair may also take some time to re-balance its own sebum production, once you stop using detergent-based shampoos.
- Shampoo bars don’t lather like commercial shampoo. They clean very well, so just remind yourself that suds are not necessary for cleaning.
- How hard your water is will affect how you well you can lather and rinse. If you have hard water, the acid rinse is especially important and it might be worth rinsing with distilled water.
- Use an acid rinse. I keep a plastic squeeze bottle in the shower for this. A good general starting point is 1 tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar to 1 cup of water. The vinegar smell generally dissipates within half an hour, but if you find it doesn’t or you just hate the smell try ¼ tsp citric acid to 3 L water. That’s a massive dilution and it doesn’t seem like it would do anything but it will. Acid rinses remove any build up or shampoo residue, rebalance the ph of the scalp & lay the cuticles on your hair down to make your hair shinier & smoother.
- Like soap, shampoo bar lather will sting if it gets in your eyes, so tip your head back when washing/rinsing.
Ok that’s the general tips. Now for the actual how to:
- Wet your hair thoroughly.
- Wipe the shampoo bar over your hair, with a few extra passes at the roots for oily hair. Especially for longer hair, do not rub it around, as this can increase tangles. Just gently glide the bar over the hair in the direction of growth. If you have long hair you may need to only actively wash the hair on or near the scalp. I found the length of my hair gets clean with just the rinsing out of the shampoo on my scalp.
- An alternative method is to lather the soap well in your hands and apply the lather only to your hair.
- Gently massage the shampoo through your hair & scalp.
- Rinse with water. Rinse again. Be sure that you’ve removed as much shampoo as possible. At this point your hair may feel slightly knotty or tangled. Relax. It will be ok.
- Some people find one wash is enough. Others find washing twice gives better results. This is one of those areas that varies betweens heads, water hardness etc, so you’ll need to experiment.
- Once you’ve rinsed out the shampoo, pour your acid rinse through your hair, making sure you have enough to really rinse the scalp and all hair thoroughly.
- Rinse again with water.
To add a little luxury at this point try a herbal hair rinse, which uses herbs to strengthen, smooth, perfume, lighten or darken hair, depending on the herbs used of course.
To make your shampoo bar last longer read our guide to looking after handmade soap.
Have you used shampoo bars? What works for you? Do you have any tips or tricks for making the transition to shampoo bars easier?