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Shampoo Bars: road testing a shampoo bar. Are they better than liquid shampoo?

It’s tough being an Eco Warrior. There’s a lot of research to do, pros and cons to weigh up, decisions to make, products to choose.  But we do it, those of us who do, because it makes a difference, doesn’t it? We do it because we believe that our small changes, our token efforts, they all add up, don’t they?

Not all of our changes will be a success. But that’s ok, because we’re on the right road. We’re doing our best. Our achievable best.

Last week, I followed in a wave of people I’d encountered on line, and took a stand against liquid shampoo. I was led by the masses to the world of the shampoo bar; a solid block containing natural and cleansing ingredients.

It seemed that Lush was the go to brand for shampoo bars. Their website boasted an overwhelming array of them, all highly recommended by friends and strangers alike. I lost hours of my life studying the descriptions.

One promised to create an aroma in my hair which would transport my troubles away. I was rather tempted by that one. Another would regulate the sebum production of my scalp, while a different bar offered my hair cuticles an opportunity to lie flat.

Which was the one that would sort out my blond, wavy hair; remove the grease from the top and make it less dry at the ends?

Lush shop shampoo bar range

I settled on one called Jason and the Argan Oil which would apparently would set my fair hair ‘ablaze with brightness and strength’. I was quite excited!

Mr W was working close to the shop a few days later, so I armed him with a Post It note detailing my choice, and gave him some instructions for dealing with the experience of being in Lush. Renowned for its intense fragrances and hordes of teenage girls, I had images of him standing outside the shop, paralysed in the grip of sensory overload.

He returned in the evening, the poor poppet, having had the time of his life. Not a teenage girl in sight apparently, he found a display of soaps and scent based products that lent themselves nicely to the keen amateur photographer. He hadn’t been able to get anything on my list as they have different stock in stores, but he had ably described my blond, greasy hair and been furnished with an appealing looking bar, called Montalbano, filled with olive oil and other delightful things, and garnished with a slice of lemon nestled in the top.

Montalbano shampoo bar

After the first few washes, my hair seemed to be enjoying the change and looked a little bit fresher.
I think most of us probably use more shampoo than we need, but it’s easier to use what seems to be the right amount when you have to work a bit harder to get extract it. I liked using it, and for a while at least, my hair felt better.

After a few weeks my hair adjusted to the change, and the fresh look vanished. I went from needing to wash my hair every other day, to feeling like it needed it after a day and a half. And the bar that was supposed to last three times as long as a 250ml bottle of shampoo, had started going mushy in the shower. Mr W, ever supportive of my venture, adapted a soap dish to make it work a bit better, but it didn’t make much difference.

I started alternating between my regular shampoo and the shampoo bar, until finally, without really consciously intending to, I had abandoned the thing altogether.

There are numerous other brands, with ingredients and the like, and maybe one of those would have worked better for me. But the main thing I’ve learned about saving the planet so far on my journey, is that it is not so much about the products we choose to buy that will make an impact, as it is about the overwhelming volume of them. We need to just stop buying stuff.

Shampoo bars may cut down on plastic consumption and might, in some cases, be better for the aquatic life that ends up swimming with them. What about the carbon footprint of shipping all those oils and ‘natural ingredients’ around the world? And how would I be helping the planet, or my pocket, if I keep buying product after product hoping to stumble over the right one?

I came to a drastic conclusion. I would stop using shampoo altogether. I hate feeling like a slave to the practice of hair washing. I’m not a particularly girly girl, and the idea of saving twenty minutes in the morning by not washing, drying and generally taming my hair was showing significant appeal. And I’d be saving the planet, of course.

I am currently on day eleven of ‘no poo’! My scalp hasn’t fallen apart and I’ve been genuinely alarmed by the number of people who have told me my hair looks pretty much the same as normal. It’s made me question just how bad it normally looks. I’ll give you all the gory details of my ‘no poo’ journey in a future blog.

In other news, my delivery from Who Gives a Crap arrived, and our household is now proudly using 100% recycled loo roll. So far, we are all liking it. It’s not quite the same as the cushiony soft velvet that our decadent bottoms were used to dealing with, and I have yet to establish whether the double length rolls actually last twice as long, but it’s one of the few changes we’ve made that I feel genuinely makes a difference. If anyone is thinking of trying it, get in touch and I’ll give you a referral code for your first order!

Who gives a crap

We’ve also managed to almost completely ditch the use of disposable plastic water bottles at home. We host foreign school children for much of the year, two teenagers ensconced in our spare room for a week at a time, giving us a small insight into what life will be like for us in years to come. They needed to come on our eco journey with us!

They take a packed lunch on their adventures every day, including a drink which until recently had been a bottle of water. When they head off in the morning with one bottle each, it doesn’t seem that bad. Then when they leave at the end of the week, and I venture into a room filled with 14 plastic bottles, it looks entirely different.

I invested in some reusable bottles, not very hopeful that they wouldn’t get left on a bus, or meet some other tragic end. We’re on our fourth set of students this week, and the original plastic bottles are still going strong. A definite success.

Next on the agenda is to find a way of wrapping their sandwiches. I looked into the beeswax wraps that are becoming increasingly popular, but they are expensive, and I don’t yet trust the teenagers not to lose them. I might yet resort to a plastic lunch box rather than cling film, but there are logistics involved with getting them back in time to re-fill. Ideas on a postcard please!

And finally, my top tip. If you’re not already using a food bin, now is the perfect time to start. Food waste doesn’t just harmlessly decompose as people often think. It releases methane, which is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Many councils now offer a food recycling collection service. If you live in an area which offers this service and you’re not making use of it, give it a try. It’s one of the simplest ways that our actions can directly help the environment.

Recycle Now offer lots more information on whether food can be recycled in your area, and why it’s important that we all give it a go.#


Next time, I’ll be sharing my experiences of Edinburgh Community Food; a fantastic organisation committed to enabling more people to access healthy food. I’ve been getting most of our fresh food from them for the past couple of months, and am loving it. Sign up for the next blog to find out why!




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