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Being eco-friendly with your hair

A review of Lush’s shampoo & conditioner bars and why the changeis worth doing so

by Kendra Clark

Image courtesy of Unsplash user freestocks

Making the change from bottled hair products to solid bar shampoo and conditioner may seem like a meaningless and pointless change to undergo. However, by making this small change, you are using one more zero-waste and sustainable product than what you were using beforehand and you will influence people around you to do the same. Although this may seem like a futile difference, the bottles that you use build up very quickly. In August 2020, Daily Mail posted an article with the title “Average British household uses 216 plastic haircare bottles a year - and one in ten say they ‘can’t be bothered’ to be more eco-friendly”. These numbers are so ridiculously high for something that can be changed so easily which costs the same amount, if not less and does the same job.

I switched to bar shampoo and conditioner in October 2020 and I know this article would really help anyone who is thinking of changing but isn’t sure where to start or simply anyone who wants to use more sustainable products and make a difference. I made the change as my flatmate had recently done so and she found them super easy to use and even said that her hair felt a lot smoother and silkier than what it did with liquid shampoo and conditioner. Her individual actions had an impact to influence mine and so you can easily do the same and impact your household, friends’ and family’s decisions to live more sustainably. At the time of switching, I was in the process of really trying to grow out my hair as I really wanted longer hair and so I was using special shampoo and conditioner which would help stimulate roots and growth. This made the decision a little difficult for me as it was my personal appearance goals up against my personal environmental goals, but in the end I decided that the sacrifice I thought I would have to make, was worth it and I would at least try to use them.

In the end, I never did have to give up the goal of growing my hair out to use less plastic, and I was really surprised that the stimulating growth shampoo bars worked just as well as the liquid bottled shampoo. Like myself who focused on stimulating roots, I know many people buy their shampoo and conditioner with a specific goal in mind that it must do such as repairing ends or protecting colour. Because I wanted my shampoo to achieve certain things I never really thought that bars would work the same and I also didn’t really think that switching would be worth the hassle. However, I was definitely proved wrong as Lush’s fifteen different types of bar shampoos and four different conditioners have the same limitless goals as liquid bottled hair products from stimulating roots to protecting coloured hair and any small change that you can do to live a more sustainable life is definitely worth doing, and really there wasn’t much hassle at all.

Where to buy

The shampoo and conditioner bars I have personally used will be the ones I review, but the market is endless for them and it is easy to find the perfect ones for you, whatever your hair desires are. After a quick google on where to get them in Aberdeen, I went to Lush on Union Street one day and picked up my first shampoo bar and my first conditioner bar, along with a bath bomb because it seemed like a good excuse to get one. As I was still looking for shampoo that stimulated roots and growth, I was glad to see that one of their bestsellers did exactly that. I picked up both of the current bestsellers at the time which was the red Boost, Shine and Stimulate shampoo bar and the pink American Cream conditioner bar. Because of a storage issue which I mention in more detail later, I had to buy a second shampoo bar only a month later and I chose the purple Jumping Juniper bar because it smelled amazing and I wanted to try as many as possible. On the Lush website, you can find all these bars with instructions on how to use them, a detailed description of each ingredient in them and what they do, and you can also have a look at the other hundreds of reviews if you still aren’t sold. Finally, as well as the product being zero-waste, all of Lush’s bars come in recycled paper packaging. Both my shampoo bars were £8 each and my conditioner bar was £9 but they range from £8 to £15. You can also get them a lot cheaper for around £3 from beauty stores like Boots or even try to support small business at the same time and have a look on Etsy as they have endless sustainable products on their website. Most brands including Lush that are producing zero-waste hair care products are interested in protecting the oceans, wildlife and eco-systems so they tend to be vegan and animal cruelty free.

How well do the shampoo bars really work?

The shampoo bars are almost identical to the shampoo liquid you get from bottles, except that they aren’t wasting plastic. For me and my flatmate, they work just as well and are so easy to use. After running them under the shower water for around 5 seconds and scrubbing them between your hands, they soap up immediately and are ready to be used just as quickly as it would take you to grab your shampoo bottle, open it and pour it out. Shampoo bars are just as easy to use and they work just as well as liquid shampoo, in particular my Jumping Juniper lavender scented bar left my hair smelling amazing and I definitely preferred this one to the first one I used, purely because of the strong smell it left afterwards. A lot of the reviews on this bar also say that their hair took longer to get greasy again, something that I haven’t personally experienced but as we know, all hair types are different and react differently. The only issue I had with my shampoo bar was storage, but this was completely my fault and can be easily fixed which I talk about later.

How well do the conditioner bars really work?

The conditioner bars definitely do not work as well as shampoo bars and require a lot more patience. Unlike shampoo bars, you rub these directly into your hair, but I find that the liquid is a lot harder to get out than the shampoo bars and you can be sat rubbing them for a while. I have medium length hair and so it’s not the end of the world if my conditioning isn’t perfect, but my flatmate who has long waist-length hair says this is really frustrating for her. She did find manage to find a kind-of resolution to this problem though. We both keep bottles of shampoo and conditioner in our shower anyway just incase we are in a rush and don’t have time to use the bars, although I’ve used my bottles once since I got my bars. She squirts a little bit of the liquid conditioner onto her conditioner bar and rubs that in, this helps to get more liquid out of it and ultimately gets you more conditioner onto your hair. Conditioner bars are harder to use and take longer, but there are ways of getting around their challenges. Even if you give conditioner bars a shot and they just aren’t working out for you, you can still stick with a shampoo bar and a conditioner bottle which cuts down half of what you were using before which is still definitely worth doing. The reviews of the American Cream bar on the Lush website reflect what I’ve said. A lot of people think they do work really well when they do use them and their hair is a lot softer afterwards, but they take too long to do lather up which is a disappointment considering how amazing and easy their shampoo bars are to use.

How to store shampoo and conditioner bars

Storing your bars properly is important for ensuring that they last long and not really something you can get away with, thankfully I’ve made the mistake of not investing in storage container for you so you don’t have to. Starting positively, one major point for the conditioner bar is that it does not need a storage container. I’ve had my one since October and it has held together fine and a container for it would be pretty useless as it really just doesn’t need it. The shampoo bar however, definitely needs some sort of storage container. The first one I bought I thought I could get away without using a container, but the dampness from the shower really impacted my bar and it quickly got smaller and smaller and began to break apart only just after a month. When buying my second shampoo bar to replace my first, I went to Lush with the plan to get the round tin that was only £2.50, but unfortunately, they were all sold out. So I ended up leaving Lush with the £7.50 cork pot which is good as its 100% natural, reusable and biodegradable, but given the choice I would’ve just chosen the tin as it was much cheaper and does the same job. However, my cork pot did not let me down and two months in my shampoo bar isn’t even a quarter finished, whereas without my cork pot, two months in my shampoo bar was completely all used up. As for my conditioner bar, it sits on top of my cork pot and is about a quarter way through now. Because the conditioner bar is a lot harder than the shampoo bar, it makes it harder to get the liquid out but a lot more durable at the same time. The cork pot also makes packing and travelling a lot easier to do so with these shampoo and conditioner bars. When I moved home for Christmas, I ensured the conditioner bar was safely in a tupperware and my shampoo bar in its cork pot and they both arrived home safely with me undamaged. If you’re travelling by plane, these bars are also really good for making sure you stay within your allowed liquid limits as they don’t contribute to this.

Changing from bottled hair products to zero-waste products is a small difference but it is also affordable and a good place to start as it doesn’t make that much difference to your life. If you’re like me and struggle with making the bigger but more impactful decisions to help reduce climate change like avoiding air travel or becoming a vegetarian, reducing your plastic waste by switching to bar shampoo and conditioner is a much easier and attainable goal that you can start today. The sacrifice of your hair products taking a few seconds longer to work with just a little bit more effort is definitely worth doing so. The beauty industry is currently responsible for 120 billion units of plastic packaging that end up in a landfill each year which is ridiculous when we have more sustainable options like this to choose from. From shampoo bottles to disposable razors to makeup packaging, we can all be held accountable for contributing something to this massive waste and this is why even switching to one more sustainable and eco-friendly product is worth doing so.


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