Product Review: Ethique Shampoo and Conditioner Bars

I tried a shampoo bar a few years ago (from some boutique soap shop, I don’t even remember where from) and I didn’t know how to use it, didn’t do it properly and ended up throwing the bar away. Note to users: you’re not supposed to lather it in your hands and apply it to your hair. Oops.

I wanted to give a shampoo and conditioner in bar-form a try again because I’m on a mission to remove plastic from our bathroom wherever possible. This time, I did my homework and I think this will be a sticking habit for me.

We’ve been down this road before

Much like I discovered in trying to remove plastic from my shaving regimen – we didn’t use to have all this plastic in our bathrooms. Shampoo bars were actually the norm (or washing your hair with other oils) up until the early 20th century when plastics became the new normal for packaging.

A shampoo bar ad from the 1920s… oh, so you mean this isn’t new?

For the last 80 years, shampoo and conditioner in plastic bottles has been ubiquitous – unless you perhaps shop from a local soapmaker or at LUSH. The product is essentially the same as one found in a plastic bottle, and you can find shampoo bars to meet any of the needs you might have had in bottled shampoo (such as for dry scalp, color protection or split end maintenance). A regular sized shampoo bar (if stored in a way to keep it from being wet constantly) can last for about 80 washes.

Photo via Amazon

I purchased Ethique’s Eco-friendly Hair Sampler ($16 on Amazon) that features 3 shampoo mini bars and 2 conditioner mini bars. I figured I wanted to try a couple different kinds before committing to full-size bars (I’ll get into pricing in a section below). The sampler includes the following products in mini form:

  • Frizz Wrangler Shampoo (for dry/frizzy hair – coconut scented)
  • Heali Kiwi Shampoo (for dry scalp – kiwi scented)
  • St. Clements Shampoo (for oily scalp – citrus scented)
  • The Guardian Conditioner (for dry/damaged – coconut scented)
  • Wonderbar Conditioner (for oily/normal hair – coconut scented)

Not sure what product to try – and don’t want to get a sampler pack? Try out Ethique’s quiz that helps match you with products.

How do you use it on your hair?

As I noted above, this is where I went wrong when I last attempted to use a shampoo bar several years ago. To be fair, I bought it from a boutique and received no instruction! The steps are as follows:

  1. Wet your hair and divide into sections
  2. Run the shampoo bar from root to end several times (I do 3-5 times for each half of my head – I have thick hair)
  3. Lather the soap starting at your scalp and work through to your ends
  4. Repeat the same with conditioner, but consider leaving conditioner on for a few minutes
  5. Rinse and style as desired

It takes barely any amount of longer time to do than my regular shampooing does, and I actually can’t believe how well bar soap on my hair lathers up.

How do you store it? (ew… soap scum!)

Hey, I feel you on this concern. It’s all about how you store your bars. Store your shampoo/conditioner bars on a rack that allows for excess moisture to drain from underneath (rather than the bar sitting in a puddle). If you can find a way to keep the bar out of a direct stream of water too, even better.

Video via Ethique

I purchased Ethique’s In-Shower Container that is designed to fit a full size shampoo and conditioner bar. The little box fits perfectly on the shelf in our shower and has a drain on the bottom to keep the bars from getting scummy. This is the coolest part: these containers are rated to last for about 5 years (with regular washing and drying), but they ARE COMPOSTABLE WHEN THEIR LIFESPAN IS OVER. Yep, you can toss them in your backyard compost pile!

What about the cost?

Full-size bars of each of these retail for about $15, so it’s a great deal to give these products a try in a smaller form. A bar is the equivalent of 3 standard sized shampoo bottles in terms of number of uses – so you can do the math on how much of a deal this shampoo is for you vs. the products you regularly buy.

I’m insanely non-committal to shampoos – the only product I’m religiously committed to is a deep conditioner that I use once a week. A jar of that lasts me more than a year. The most recent shampoo and conditioner I was using were Petal Fresh Superfoods for Hair (found at Target) which was $12 for a bottle of shampoo and conditioner. 3 bottles of each (the equivalent of one bar each of shampoo and conditioner) would already cost more than 1 bar each of Ethique. My Therapy Session deep conditioning mask costs me about $15 per container and lasts over a year. I will have to see if I can find a bar deep conditioning equivalent.

Where can I buy a shampoo bar?

Photo via Ethique

I chose Ethique because in researching their practices and ethics, they seem like a really excellent company AND their shampoo and conditioner bars come highly rated. There are so many other companies that make shampoo bars though… you can head to LUSH, as I noted above, or find plenty of other brands at a big box store in your community, like Target. (They also sell Ethique products, including the sampler I linked, at Target!).

Most importantly: How’s your hair look?

A real photo of my Day 1 hair, five hours after washing when allowed to air dry. Small amount of setting spray applied when still wet.
Day 2 hair – no product added today. It’s so soft!

I wouldn’t lie to you about this… it really isn’t too different from using a liquid based shampoo. I have been taking advantage of quarantine to let my hair air dry and I am surprised (pleasantly) by how soft (and not frizzy) it looks when using the Frizz Wrangler shampoo bar. I do spray a finishing spray onto it once it is dry, but it looks great and holds up for every other day washing.

If you’re thinking about eliminating plastic from your shower regimen, consider giving a shampoo and conditioner bar a try!

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