The 11 Best Shampoo Bars for Every Hair Type and Routine

Say bye-bye to bottles.

Shampoo bars
(Image credit: Getty)

As much as we all love our favorite shampoos and conditioners, it's time to face the facts: The waste that those bottles generate often end up in landfills or in the ocean, contributing to climate change and to the issue of plastic pollution that plagues worldwide health. For that reason, a number of beauty brands have begun to step up, creating waste-free products that work just as well—if not better—than the ones we're used to and that don't poison our water, soil, or bodies in the process. An example of these waste-free products is the shampoo bar, which has gained incredible popularity in recent years.

"One shampoo bar can replace up to three 200ml bottles of liquid shampoo,"  trained trichologist and Lush co-founder Mark Constantine tells us. "Since 2005, Lush has sold just over 59 million shampoo bars, potentially saving 180 million plastic bottles from becoming waste. Though Lush was the first to invent shampoo bars, with its wide adoption in the market, we estimate that this saves the world at least 1100 tons of plastic a year from everyone else selling them too."

But because most people are used to bottled shampoo, customers are often nervous about trying shampoo bars for the first time. Are they easy to use? Effective? Affordable? The reality is, so long as you can work up a good lather and use great styling products (I'm loving the Living Proof Full Texturizing Foam right now), your hair will feel and look just as clean. 

To answer all this and more, I spoke to Constantine, who sold me on waste-free beauty and the ease of the shampoo bar. After this run-down, you'll never go back to bottled again.

How to Use a Shampoo Bar

Although shampoo bars work just as well as bottled shampoos, the process of applying the product is different.

"With a traditional liquid shampoo, you put the shampoo straight on the damp hair, while with the shampoo bar, you only put the lather on," explains Constantine, who feels that "shampoo bars are easier to use than liquid shampoo" for this reason. In other words, lather the shampoo bar onto your hands, then "take the lather off and put it through your hair using your fingers." 

In following this routine, you'll have a gentler shampoo process because, he says, "you’re not putting the neat surfactant straight on the hair." Thus, he concludes, "that means less split ends, less abrasion, and less wear and tear."

Worried that lathering the formula into your hands will make for a less effective wash? Don't be. Constantine reassures, "The essential oils—all the things that are making a difference to your hair—are carried in the lather. You can lather as many times as needed, but it will be a lot less than if you use liquid."

And because shampoo bars are so potent and don't require as much lather-rinse-repeat, they'll have a longer shelf life, saving you money in the long run. In fact, Constantine says that high-quality shampoo bars such as the ones at Lush last for around 60 washes.

What to Look for in a Shampoo Bar

Like any other beauty product, not all shampoo bars are built the same. When looking for the right formula for your hair, Constantine says it's important to look at the ingredients. 

"The pH is important, as you want your shampoo to be slightly acidic," he advises. "Essential oils are good because they transfer across in the lather, which some herbs do as well. Coconut oil works quite well."  

In terms of what to avoid, he says, "I wouldn’t buy a shampoo bar that’s based on soap, as that can disrupt the pH balance of your hair. I’d also avoid ingredients like zinc pyrithione. "

The Best Shampoo Bars

Meet the Expert

Lush co-founder and CEO Mark Constantine
Mark Constantine

Mark Constantine is a trained trichologist and entrepreneur who, along with his wife, Mo, co-founded Lush in 1995. Originally from the United Kingdom, he is committed to fighting pollution and animal testing, particularly in the cosmetics industry.

Gabrielle Ulubay
Beauty Writer

Gabrielle Ulubay is a Beauty Writer at Marie Claire. She has also written about sexual wellness, fashion, culture, and politics both at Marie Claire and for publications like The New York Times, Bustle, and HuffPost Personal. She has worked extensively in the e-commerce and sales spaces since 2020, including two years at Drizly, where she developed an expertise in finding the best, highest quality goods and experiences money can buy. As a film school graduate, she loves all things media and can be found making art when she's not busy writing.