The 6 Best Shampoo Bars

By Marissa DeSantis

If you focus on using clean ingredients in your beauty products, you've probably considered how you can make better choices for the environment, too. After all, DoSomething.org claims that 50% of Americans aren't recycling their personal care products. Enter shampoo bars. The teeny tiny squares of soap lather just like traditional liquid shampoos, but minus any plastic packaging (or TSA restrictions). Environmental benefits aside, many of the best shampoo bars also get credit for being gentler on hair.

Similar to bottled shampoos, bar versions contain all of the same cleansing and moisturizing ingredients, but in a more concentrated formula. But don't let their mini size fool you. According to Lush, one bar lasts the equivalent of three liquid bottles.

And what exactly is in this concentrated formula? Usually shampoo bars are made of saponified oils and butters (which is just a fancy way of saying they've been turned into soap). Popular ingredients you'll find include coconut oil, sunflower oil, shea butter, and cocoa butter, which all help to moisturize hair and leave it feeling soft. But the real beauty is in the ingredients shampoo bars don't contain. In addition to reducing your plastic use, most shampoo bars are free of harsh cleansing ingredients like sulfates, because they focus on using more natural ingredients. Because of their good-for-the-environment stance, many shampoo bars are also cruelty-free and vegan.

Whether you're trying to reduce your carbon footprint or you're simply hoping to save some space in your toiletry kit, here are six of the best shampoo bars to try.

1. The Best Shampoo Bar, According To Amazon Reviewers

One of the most popular shampoo bars on the market, Ethique's bar shampoo formula has over 1,000 five-star reviews on Amazon. The brand makes eight different varieties of its bar shampoo for almost every hair type and hair concern, whether you're after something that fights frizz or helps quell dandruff. (They also each have their own unique scent.) Like Lush, Ethique claims that their bars are the equivalent of three bottles of liquid shampoo. In addition to being vegan and completely plastic-free thanks to its compostable packaging, these New Zealand-made shampoo bars really work, according to fans.

"It lathers better than any traditional shampoo I've used, [and] my hair is left feeling very clean, fast, and it doesn't dry out," raved one reviewer. Another advised storing the bar in a container so it lasts longer, "It is important to keep the bar in a dry place when you aren't using it and allow it to dry completely," the customer noted, adding, "If it stays wet, it will dissolve quickly."

2. The Best Shampoo Bar For Oily Hair

If you have fine hair that gets oily fast, you need a cleansing shampoo that works to remove excess oil and product buildup. The Beauty and the Bees Voodoo Black Bamboo Shampoo Bar uses black bamboo activated charcoal to do just that by gently detoxifying your hair and scalp. But that doesn't mean this shampoo is going to dry your hair out: Thanks to ingredients like coconut oil, castor oil, and seaweed extract, the sulfate-free formula works to leave your hair moisturized, shiny, and full of body. This gentle bar also helps address scalp concerns like dandruff, psoriasis, and eczema, and you can even buy its corresponding black bamboo bar conditioner.

Australian brand, Beauty and the Bees Tasmania, only uses the highest-quality natural ingredients in their formulas, opting for organic whenever possible. They also note that each 4-ounce bar is the equivalent of two 27-fluid ounce shampoo bottles.

3. The Best Shampoo Bar For Curly Hair

Curly hair tends to need more moisturizing ingredients than most hair types, which is why SheaMoisture developed its classic Coconut & Hibiscus Curl Shampoo into a solid bar formula. The SheaMoisture shampoo bar uses rhassoul clay to remove product buildup on the scalp so your curls stay healthy, bouncy, and defined. Fair-trade shea butter and coconut oil provide moisture and nourishment, while neem oil and silk proteins enhance softness and shine. The bar is made without sulfates and most other common synthetic ingredients found in shampoos, and it's cruelty-free to boot. Plus, it has a delicious coconut, floral scent.

4. The Best Shampoo Bar For Itchy, Sensitive Scalps

For scalp issues like dandruff, psoriasis, and dermatitis, it's important to look for shampoo bars with ingredients that are gentle on (and even healing to) the scalp. The Chagrin Valley Neem & Tea Tree Soap & Shampoo does just that with its soothing formula that's certified-organic by the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association. Neem oil and tea tree oil, the star ingredients in this formula, contain antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties which can help treat scalp conditions, like dandruff, by removing dead skin buildup. Though both of these oils are gentle to the scalp as they treat the skin, Chagrin Valley added organic elderflower and calendula to the formula, which are both known soothing ingredients.

"[I] bought this for my son who had a flaky, irritated scalp for years," shared one reviewer. "This soap helped clear up the condition when prescription shampoos weren't even helpful."

5. The Best Shampoo Bar Made For Men

Though anyone can use any of the bar shampoos on this list, men might take a particular interest in the Grown Ass Man Co. Mint Condition Shampoo Bar, thanks to its cheeky name and herbal, woodsy scents. Each bar is loaded with conditioning ingredients like sunflower oil, coconut oil, and vitamins to avoid dry-feeling hair as well as a dry scalp (one of the key causes of dandruff). These bars are not only designed to clean the hair on your head, but they can be used to cleanse and condition beards, too.

Mint Condition uses a refreshing combination of peppermint, rosemary, and eucalyptus oils to invigorate both the body and mind, but the brand makes a few different bar shampoos. Amazon reviewers are also particular fans of the variety pack, which is a great splurge to make if you're not quite sure about your preferred scent yet. One customer commented, "I love all of the scents, especially the Chill Out bar. They smell great, make my hair feel smooth and clean without a ton of chemicals.

Another reviewer wrote, "As a first time [shampoo bar] user, I don’t know how I could use anything else going forward. The bars create so much foamy soap. Like, a lot. I feel like I’m walking through an automated car wash [...] Suds and soap and foam, everywhere. Plus it smells good."

6. Another Great Shampoo Bar To Consider

If you're looking for a shampoo bar with some history behind it, J.R. Liggett's Old-Fashioned Bar Shampoo was first created over 35 years ago for an "all-natural" hair cleansing option. This Jojoba & Peppermint formula is made with a simple blend of just eight ingredients including saponified olive oil, coconut oil, castor oil, organic jojoba oil, almond oil, and peppermint essential oil (the latter of which gives it a refreshing, minty fragrance). But the short ingredient list works hard, thanks to each oil's multitasking abilities. Jojoba oil helps moisturize and balance the scalp, while the other oils, like coconut and almond, soften and condition hair even further. Since this formula is so simple — obviously, it's sulfate- and artificial fragrance-free — this is a great bar shampoo for people with sensitive skin and scalps.

Reviewers rave about this bar shampoo, noting that it lasts a long time (at least four months, according to one customer), provides a deep clean ("Very clean hair. Borderline clarifying," as one reviewer put it), and forms into an extremely foamy lather ("This soap literally ERUPTED into suds. It produced enough lather for me to wash my face, my beard, and a good portion of my body," reported another fan). Other reviewers say it has helped with dandruff when no other product would. "After using this shampoo for less than a week, it has completely eliminated my severe dandruff and dry scalp itching," commented one satisfied customer.

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Studies referenced: Daud, F. S., Pande, G., Joshi, M., & Wankhede, S. (2013, January). A Study of Antibacterial Effect of Some Selected Essential Oils and Medicinal Herbs Against Acne Causing Bacteria. Retrieved from http://www.ijpsi.org/VOl(2)1/Version_1/H212734.pdf.