What to Expect When Using Shampoo Bars

by Lee Ann Hopkins June 23, 2019

attribution - socialbutterflyMMG on Pixabay

You're onboard with living plastic-free and using healthy products, but shampoo bars are unknown. What is it like to use them?  What can one expect from a shampoo bar after using liquid detergent shampoos forever?  It's a reasonable question and concern.

Let me tell you what I've learned as I've begun using solid bars myself and researching shampoos in general.

I jumped into the idea of shampoo bars with an over-the-top enthusiasm when I started soap-making long before I actually fell in love with using these solid bars. My excitement was easy to understand.  No more plastic shampoo bottles! Hooray! All natural ingredients that I could pronounce! Double hooray! No preservatives, no detergents, no chemicals, yada yada yada.

Then I made my first batch using a hot-process method. These bars were butt-ass ugly and kind of fussy as they cured. Stubborn as I am, I thought, "Well, I made these, I'm going to use them and not waste them. They might be okay. Just try them out." (Since that first batch, I've moved to a cold-process recipe for shampoo bars, which is much better...and far prettier!)

I read up on shampooing with no-poo shampoos and solids, so I knew about the possible difficulties and also that I'd need to make a hair rinse. I made an apple cider vinegar hair rinse and was able to give up another plastic bottle of chemicals and preservatives in my shower. Yippee!  Two bottles of plastic--GONE!

Now for the true test. I had to actually try it. 

In the shower it was a bit awkward to use at first since I'm not accustomed to rubbing a bar on my head and through my long hair. Once I got the handle of using the bar to create all the suds for real cleaning, I kind of liked it. I wasn't too clumsy--I didn't drop the bar, after all. I didn't get it all tangled up in my hair and I liked the smell of it. My hair felt squeaky clean in my hands as I rinsed out the shampoo. I used the lavender-infused apple cider vinegar that I had diluted for my hair rinse and found that the rinse wasn't overly pungent and vinegary. I had enough lavender infused in the rinse so that my nose didn't react. After washing  the rinse from my hair which was the last part of my shower routine, I got out and toweled my hair off.

This is when things went south.  I tried to put a brush through my hair...

I had to go slowly with the brush using small, careful strokes. (My first "oh crap, I'm not going to like this...") It wasn't all tangled, but I had to take it easy--hold my hair close to my head and cajole the brush through my hair to the ends.  It still felt good and clean, which is the whole point of shampooing, right? So I felt good about having really clean hair. But the next part of my hair care routine was the hair dryer. (My second, "oh crap, I'm not going to like this...") It wasn't difficult to style because I have long, straight hair, but...It just felt...flat. It didn't bounce or feel light.  It was a tad bit waxy. Sure, I could put my hands through it and know that it was all nice and clean. Yet it kind of felt stuck to my head--you know, FLAT! Since I have thick hair that's simply not okay!

I wasn't happy...but still determined because I heard that it takes some adjustment time for one's hair as a new product is introduced. This is particularly true of products that are all-natural with no preservatives and icky, bad-for-you détergents and chemicals.

I waited to wash my hair for three days for a couple of reasons. First of all, I don't wash my hair daily. Second of all, I wanted my hair to go through whatever it was going to go through with oils and pH and all the rest.  Luckily, it was the weekend so I wore a baseball cap, my weekend go-to style, so no one knew I was experimenting with shampoo bars.

Day three.  Day seven.  Two weeks.  Three weeks. (I probably shampooed between 9 and 12 times in that three week period.)

Every shampoo experience got better.  My hair adjusted to the new regimen.  The "flat" and slightly oily feelings stopped after two weeks. The tangles permanently ended about four washes into this new schedule.  By week four, my hair was marvelous to the touch and shinier than it's probably ever been.  (And this is from someone who is post-menopausal when there are all kinds of changes in one's hair, particularly texture, color and strength.) Now I must tell you that I'm a natural redhead and very fussy about my hair...Okay, I'm actually incredibly vain about my mane.  So there. I confess my vanity. Here's the really great part.  My hair now looks and feels pretty dad-gum wonderful if I do say so myself. Others have commented as well, so I am not lying to you. I promise. (I really suck at lying.) Anyway, I digress...The point is...

I won't go back to all the salon shampoos ever again.  Really, NEVER. My wallet is happy about that.  No more $100 for all the extra products after a simple hair trim!

So what will your experience be like?

Short answer is that I'm not certain how your hair will respond. There are some things however that I do know.

People with close-cropped hair generally have an easier time with the transition to shampoo bars.

For the rest of us, however, there is a transition period. This could last between one day and six weeks. It just depends on your body chemistry. As with any new good habit or routine, it takes some adjusting. (When was the last time you went on a diet, did a fast or started back at the gym? How did your body react to these changes? Did your stomach and digestion throw a mini-fit or a big one? Did your muscles scream at you?) You will have some kind of transition as you take up the cause for shampoo bars, but you will be rewarded.

The adjustment period is as varied as there are people. What will determine your transition depends on your hair chemistry, pH factors, the amount of sweat you create, the number of times you shampoo your hair in a given day or week, the shampoo that you used previously and your commitment to this new change.

Your "commitment to change" is probably the biggest factor because change can be inconvenient. Those bottles of liquid detergent shampoo and conditioner are so easy to use. SO EASY!  As you know though, easy is how we get into trouble.  Easy is how we end up spending fortunes on products we don't need and that are bad for us. Easy is how we end up in an environmental crisis with plastics filling up our oceans and draining our resources.

I never thought I would be such a fan of shampoo bars (and apple cider vinegar hair rinses), but here I am a big ol' advocate for them because they work and they move us closer to a plastic-free world. I love these shampoo bars and rinses that I've created and hope you will too.  Give them a try.  (For those interested in a more scientific explanation of this transition process, I'll be writing a future blog about hair, follicles, shampoo and pH factors...so stay tuned.)  Until then, choose a shampoo bar and hair rinse and get started with your experiment!




Lee Ann Hopkins
Lee Ann Hopkins


Chief soapologist and lover of all-things-Do-Good, especially those souls who cherish the earth and do their best to protect it.

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