Making my own soaps is on my list of skills I want to acquire to lead a more self sufficient life, but until then, I have a favourite local soap maker I visit at the farmers market. A little while ago I was stocking up on the best lavender and charcoal bars, when I noticed she now carried a shampoo bar. Of course, I had to try it out!
Shampoo bars are increasingly popular lately, with good reason! My top choice for making the switch was that they’re essentially package free, often with just a minimal paper sleeve, so you aren’t left with more plastic to recycle when the product is gone. With the growing amount of plastics floating around in our oceans, as well as microplastics in our drinking water (you can read more about that HERE), reducing plastic packaging is something I’ve become very conscious of.
If that’s not enough to sell you on them, they’re also great for traveling (no bottled liquid!), free of toxins and chemicals, and last a long time because they’re quite concentrated.
My usual shampoo routine was a wash every day, or on the rare occasion, every other day. In the evening, I would shampoo and condition, followed by a leave in spray conditioner, then brush out my wet hair and go to bed (I gave up the blow dry routine a while back, in the midst of newborn baby sleep deprivation, and opted for a more natural “why would I spend so much time on my HAIR when I could be sleeping” approach). In the morning all I needed was a quick brush through to get some kinks out, and if it was exceptionally frizzy I would use my straightener to smooth it out.
I figured I could just do the same with my new shampoo bar.
Using the bar was super easy, I just lathered it up in my hands, washed my hair, then rinsed it out. No different than liquid shampoo, yet. I skipped my normal conditioner like my lovely soap maker advised (as the bar is formulated oils), used just used my leave in spray, and went to bed.
In the morning, I was actually so shocked to see my hair looked like I hadn’t washed it in a month. Honestly. It was so greasy!! I was so disappointed, because I had wanted to like it so much! I searched online to see what others said about shampoo bars, and quickly learned what was happening.
It turns out that traditional shampoos totally strip your hair of all it’s natural, awesome protective oils, which is that “squeaky clean” sound you hear when you rub a wet strand of hair. In doing that, your scalp goes into panic mode and produces more oils… and then looks greasy, and you shampoo it again, creating this never ending cycle: strip the hair of oil, scalp over produces oil, strip it again, over produce again, etc etc. Not only is this shampoo cycle expensive and unnecessary, it’s also damaging to your hair! Stripping hair of all of it’s natural moisture leaves hair initially dry, brittle, frizzy and extra prone to breakage… which is why most of us rely on conditioner to make it smooth and manageable again.
When I used the shampoo bar for the first time, my hair turned out greasy because these bars aren’t meant to strip your hair of all of its natural oils. However, my scalp was used to decades of normal shampoo, so in turn it was used to decades of over producing oils.
I also used way too much, trying to produce as much lather as I was used to getting before. All this did was load my hair up with even more oils, on top of my over-producing scalp. A little goes a long way with shampoo bars, I’ve learned!
It can often take anywhere from weeks to months for your scalp to balance out after the switch to a natural shampoo bar, and you simply have to trudge through the greasy hair days while your scalp adjusts to only producing as much oil as it really needs.
In the meantime, there are some things you can do to help remove the buildup of traditional shampoo residue that can slow the adjustment process.
1. Baking soda rinse – ah, baking soda. Is there anything it can’t do? For this one, mix about 2-3 tablespoons of baking soda with a cup of warm water, and pour over your hair in the shower. Let it work it’s magic for a few minutes, then rinse out. You can also just sprinkle some baking soda over your sudsy hair when shampooing, work it in, then rinse it out after a few minutes.
2. Apple cider vinegar rinse – Again, a multi-purpose powerhouse. Mix anywhere from 1-5 tablespoons (less if your hair tends to be dry, more if it’s oily) in warm water and pour over wet hair. Wait a few minutes, then rinse out.
For me, it's been about a month now, and I'm still in the adjustment phase. I use my shampoo bar about once or twice a week, with a baking soda or vinegar rinse in between.
My new routine is even simpler (and less frequent) than my old one: shampoo bar or rinse, comb out hair in the shower, lightly squeeze dry with a towel, and go to bed. DONE. No conditioner or leave ins needed. I wake up with a natural wave, that barely ever needs a brush, and on days when it’s looking too oily, I toss it up into a high pony or a messy bun. SUPER LOW MAINTENANCE HAIR. I don’t think I’ll be going back to traditional shampoo or conditioner at all, and that’s a win in my books!