Zero-waste shampoos: How to care for your hair and the environment


Shampoo bar

To mark World Earth Day, we’ve put together our favourite zero-waste shampoo bars which both care for your hair and the environment. We all need to do our bit to reduce waste and minimise pollution. If you’re new to the world of shampoo bars, here’s our quick guide to help you get started.


Why go plastic free?

The UN Environment Agency estimates that of the 7 billion tonnes of plastic waste produced so far, less than 10% has ever been recycled.

Plastic waste from hair care packaging is a contributor to the problem. Many producers of shampoo will use a type of thick plastic called high-density polyethylene (HDPE). This is made from petroleum which comes from fossil fuels. The majority of our plastic waste ends up lost to our oceans, rivers and seas, or to landfill sites or burnt. This negatively impacts the environment, including human health and wildlife.


Are shampoo bars any good?


You might be thinking, are shampoo bars any good? You'll need to test them out to find the right shampoo bar for your hair. However, there are a number of benefits to using zero-waste shampoos. These brands are often eco-friendly and carry less harsh chemicals than some mainstream liquid-based brands. These include sulfates (Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)), silicones, and parabens. Sulfates can strip away natural oils from our hair, which can leave the scalp feeling excessively dry and hair feeling brittle. Silicones give a glossy look to our hair strands; however, the chemical build up on our scalp can lead to clogging of pours, which can impact the growth of hair follicles. Finally, parabens, which lengthen the shelf-life of a product, can irritate the scalp.


It’s important to note whilst the above ingredients aren’t scientifically proven to cause hair loss, there is a growing body of evidence and debate around it. There will be some people who are unaffected by these ingredients. For those experiencing hair loss, a shampoo without these harsh chemicals can be one of the options to explore, giving a gentler wash to your hair. As with all hair loss, speaking to a medical professional first is an important step in finding the root cause of your specific hair loss.


Another benefit to shampoo bars are that they can last a long time and are portable for travel. They do require lathering up with water but will produce enough soapiness to wash your hair. We recommend doing this by hand rather than directly scrubbing the bar on your hair to avoid tugging at your hair follicles. As many eco-friendly soap bars carry fewer harsh chemicals, it will mean a gentler wash for your hair resulting in it feeling softer than with traditional mainstream shampoos. However, some may find a waxy build up occurs if used with hard water. If this happens, we recommend using soft water to rinse the hair and giving your hair a bit of time to get used to the new product.


Eco-friendly shampoo bars to try


1. Ethique Shampoo Bar for itchy or dry scalps

Ethique Shampoo Bar

Ethique have a range of shampoo bars suited to different hair types and scents. They pride themselves on being plastic-free and vegan friendly. Around 80 hair washes can come from a single bar. This bar, called Heali Kiwi, which smells of both lime and kiwi, is great for sensitive scalps. It is also safe to use for coloured or treated hair. In addition to minimising packaging waste, the ingredients are safe for the environment too. The bars are paraben, preservatives, silicon, wax, and synthetic fragrance-free (as well as a long list of other benefits).


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2. HiBAR Bar for dry hair

HiBAR Bar

HiBAR is committed to be plastic-free from its packaging, including how it is delivered to your door. This volumizing shampoo bar is made for fine or thinning hair. Its ingredients include dates and vitamin B5, which gives body to the hair with a weightless feel. All the bars in its range are sulfate and paraben-free. You can pair this shampoo bar with a conditioning bar too to help give a smoother finish.


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3. J·R·LIGGETT'S All-Natural Shampoo Bar for sensitive scalps

J·R·LIGGETT'S All-Natural Shampoo Bar

J·R·LIGGETT'S All-Natural Shampoo Bar, made from virgin coconut and argon oil, is a firm favourite by many users. It contains moisturizing ingredients often associated with strong hair, including castor, hemp, tea tree and olive oil. This shampoo bar is suitable for those with allergens or a sensitive scalp; it is mildly scented with peppermint which has soothing qualities. The bar is sulfate-free and cleans hair without taking out all the natural oils. Some say they’ve not needed a conditioner as a result.


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References


1. UN Environment Programme (2022). Visual Feature | Beat Plastic Pollution. [online] www.unep.org. Available at: https://www.unep.org/interactives/beat-plastic-pollution/.


2. Monselise, A., Cohen, D.E., Wanser, R. and Shapiro, J. (2015). What ages hair? International Journal of Women’s Dermatology, [online] 1(4), pp.161–166. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5419772/.


3. Gavazzoni Dias, M.F. (2015). Hair cosmetics: An overview. International Journal of Trichology, [online] 7(1), p.2. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4387693/.

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