Tried & tested: Shampoo bars

We test out three shampoo bars designed to cleanse your hair as well as being good to the planet with less plastic wastage.

Hair & Beauty

I’ve been using liquid shampoo my whole life, and I must admit, it has served me well. But with so much information surfacing about the negative impact of sulfates and other chemicals on the hair and scalp, it leaves me wondering, is there a better alternative? Depending on the brand, of course, most shampoo bars only contain a handful of ingredients and often exclude bulking agents for a more concentrated product. This should mean that you get better efficiency with each use, and because you only need a little bit of product per wash, it should last you just as long.

On top of this is the environmental aspect. Again, depending on the brand, shampoo bars usually come with sustainable packaging, which means one less shampoo bottle to throw away at the end of its use. But most shampoo bottles are recyclable, aren’t they? Yes, however most plastic can only be downgraded, which means that, eventually, it will end up in landfill, one way or another. 

I tried out several shampoo bars to find out whether I could be converted.

Gleam shampoo bars, £6

Gleam Shampoo Bar

Gleam offers a small range of plastic-free, vegan and SLS-free shampoo bars - if you didn’t know, ‘SLS’ refers to sodium lauryl sulphate which is an irritant found in some shampoos. SLS can strip away natural oils and hair proteins, which is why it's wise to look for a shampoo that excludes this ingredient - bar form or not!

These bars come in metal tins which are fully recyclable. Additionally, the manufacturer plants trees for each tin produced, which means that the carbon footprint is offset - and to go one further, the tins are smaller than most shampoo bottles, which means that they produce less carbon to transport.

I like the screw top lids and much prefer these to pop-off lids that I’ve seen on similar products. The screw top feels more premium, and is less likely to slip out of your hand while you’re opening it in the shower - we all know how frustrating dropped soap can be!

One gripe I have with tins is that the water collects in the packaging after use, making the product feel gooey during the next use. I would love to see small drainage holes for the water to drain out in future versions!

Gleam’s products have a strong and very clean smell upon opening the container; however, when in use, the scent is nowhere near as strong. Although I love my hair to have a fragrance after washing, I know that other people might prefer to use natural and unscented formulas out of preference or to prevent irritation - I think these bars would be ideal for that.

I used the ‘Classic Shine’ and ‘Enhance’ shampoo bars, while my partner used the ‘Man Bar 5 in 1’. All products produced an intense lather with just a few rubs, and our hair felt clean after just one use (I usually shampoo twice with liquid formulas). My partner washes his hair every day, and found that his bar did a great job at thoroughly cleaning his hair. He appreciated the clean, gentle scent and the simple packaging, and said that the 5 uses in 1 (hair, body, face, shave, moisturise) would reduce the need for him to buy multiple products, therefore being cheaper in the long run.

I enjoyed using the ‘Classic Shine’ and ‘Enhance’ bars, although because I wash my hair every two or three days, I noticed that my hair appeared a little flatter than usual in between washes. To tweak my usage slightly, I started shampooing twice and noticed that the flatness disappeared and I had similar results to what I would achieve with a liquid shampoo. 

LUSH Angel Hair Shampoo Bar, £8

LUSH Angel Hair Shampoo Bar

LUSH is a high street heavyweight when it comes to people and planet-friendly cosmetics. Their shampoo bars have been a mainstay for years (1988, to be exact) in the hands of many LUSH customers who prefer to cut down on nasties and excess packaging. Incredibly, since their inception, the brand's bars have saved 19 million plastic shampoo bottles from going to landfill.

The Angel Hair Shampoo Bar is an adorable pink puck that would be as suitable in a teen girl's bedroom as it would on the side of your grandma's bath. A true crowd pleaser, it features an embedded dried rose on its surface - a nod to the rose water scent of the bar itself. Annoyingly this rose is difficult to dissolve and covers your shower floor in bitty matter once it eventually does. If I'm paying a bit more just for the rose, I'd rather get rid of it as it didn't seem to serve a purpose.

The bar, however, is sudsy while being scalp soothing thanks to the addition of witch hazel to the ingredients list. I have occasional problems with an itchy scalp, and this bar does wonders for it. Plus, it doesn't leave residue, so I don't have the fear of excess product build-up irritating my scalp after future use.

CENTRED. Altered State Solid Shampoo Bar, £20

CENTRED. Altered State Solid Shampoo Bar

This shampoo bar is on the very pricey side, but that's to be expected from CENTRED., a relatively new luxury hair brand that has made a literal splash with the fashion and beauty influencer set. By purchasing the shampoo bar, you do save £2 in comparison to their liquid shampoos, as well as reducing plastic. Talking about packaging, these bars come in a simple cardboard box - no case to keep the bar in after use, though it's advised that you keep it dry.

Registered with The Vegan Society, the Altered State Solid Shampoo Bar is a high performing natural cleanser made with 98.25% natural ingredients, and no sulphates or silicone. Despite this, it has a delicious citrus fragrance which fills the shower as you're using it. This was a real delight, as I adore citrus scents - however, if you prefer it without, CENTRED. have covered all their bases by releasing a fragrance-free version of the same bar.

You may have read all of this thought - well, that's great, but I would rather not spend £20 on a shampoo bar. However, it's important for me to mention that the price tag isn't just representative of the name the minimalist, high-fashion aesthetic! This is a highly concentrated formula that lasts up to 60 washes. Having tried it out myself four or five times, I can still see the logo imprinted on the bar. In fact, it looks as if it has barely been touched.

My advice is to get this bar and use it in tandem with the CENTRED. Squishy Scalp Massager for a fully cleansed and massaged scalp. You'll definitely feel the difference.

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