The biggest problem I’ve faced in my zero waste journey is spending money on shampoo bars that ultimately just don’t work for me or my hair. It can be really discouraging to buy a shampoo bar with over a thousand 4 and 5 star reviews to just have it not work for you.
Over this past year, I’ve tried a good amount of shampoo bars, and sadly, most of the time it is hit or miss, but that is because I buy them with the intention of reviewing them for you, so that you can get a bit of an idea of what they are like before you buy them yourself. But just because it doesn’t work for me doesn’t mean it can’t work for you. It’s a vicious cycle of will they, won’t they, that can get really stressful and disheartening, so I’ve tried to make a guide that can help you try to evaluate a shampoo bar before you buy it.
Research, research, research.
Sadly, not all shampoo bars are created equal, and like with many other zero waste products, a bit of research is needed before you can really get into the nitty gritty of each bar. Here are a few things that I think are important to find out before you even look at shampoo bars:
Your hair type and scalp health
Your water type
1. Your hair type and scalp health
Believe it or not, your hair type says a lot about what kind of products and ingredients are good for your hair. A great quiz for figuring out your hair type is HairCode. HairCode’s quiz ask you questions about you and your hair and then can give you a detailed description of your hair and why it does what it does, and then they take that information to recommend you the best products for your hair. For example, here are my results below:
Now that you have the information of your hair type, you can look up what natural ingredients work best. For me, matcha, apple, kale, and other greens are good for my hair texture, and tea tree is great for my scalp.
2. Your water type
Now when I say water type, I’m not talking about Pokémon (though I do love the squirtle squad with all my heart). I’m talking about whether or not your shower uses hard water or soft water. This could be something as simple as asking your landlord or dad, or a simple search on the internet of “how do I know if I have hard or soft water.”
Whether you have hard or soft water is important because different shampoo bars work differently in hard and soft water. I’ve found that it’s really best if you have soft water, since most shampoo bars are meant to be used with soft water and don’t properly rinse out with hard water. I’ve come across this problem myself too many times.
Back at home with my parents, we have soft water, so my shampoo bars works so well there, but once I move back to college where their is hard water, I find that there are not a ton of bars that work great in hard water as well, but there are definitely some. This has caused me to take a deep dive into reviews to see if anyone really talks about how the bar works and what water they have. I’ve even gone so far as to email the companies themselves and ask them.
3. Look at the ingredients
The next step is finding out what the ingredients are in the bar that you are looking at. A lot of bars that you can find online are oil based, and so it is important to know your hair type and what ingredients work best for your hair. For example, I try not to get bars that have a ton of coconut oil, because I know personally that coconut oil just doesn’t do good things for my hair. I also look compare ingredients of the bar with other products that work great for my hair in order to find similar effects.
4. Look at reviews
This step seems like a no brainer, but when I say look at reviews, I more or less mean to take a deep dive into them, especially the reviews that are 3 stars or less. People who had a bad experience with a product are much more likely to go into detail about what they don’t like about a product, and that is where you can find a ton of your information.
In these reviews, the reviewer is more likely to talk about their hair type, and a bunch of other characteristics that you might have in common with them, giving you a better idea on whether or not this is the shampoo bar for you.
5. Buy the sample size first
The last step that is probably the most important to take if possible is to buy a sample size of the shampoo bar that you are looking to buy. Luckily, lots of companies and shops on Etsy have sample sizes of their products, so you don’t have to worry about buying too much of a product that could potentially not even work for you.