9 best SLS-free shampoo bars
27 March 2020
Looking to make the switch to solid shampoo this year but not sure where to start? We've rounded up the best shampoo bars, as recommended by Mumsnet users, along with top tips on how to use them and make the transition work for your hair.
What are the benefits of using a shampoo bar?
In addition to the obvious environmental perks such as a big reduction in plastic waste, switching to solid shampoo has plenty of personal benefits too. Shampoo bars are suitable for all hair types and lengths, and most are sulfate-free, meaning they won't strip your hair of natural oils like shampoos with SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate) do.
Most people find using shampoo bars improves the health of their hair and scalp, stimulating faster growth, reducing dandruff, and making their hair more shiny and less frizzy. They also help re-balance your hair's production of natural oils, meaning that after the initial transition period you will be able to wash your hair less often (hooray). Plus, switching to solid shampoo is good for your wallet too, since one bar can last you as long as three bottles of liquid shampoo.
How to wash your hair with a shampoo bar
Washing with solid shampoo is slightly different from using traditional liquid shampoos. You may find that your new shampoo bar doesn't lather up in the same way, but this is normal. As long as you spread it all through your hair and rinse it well, it will do its job. Solid shampoo is also more concentrated, so you will find that you need less product per wash.
- Comb out your hair while still dry. This will help make it easier to apply the shampoo evenly and minimise tangles.
- Wet your hair thoroughly and run the bar under water.
- You can either gently smooth the shampoo bar directly onto your hair (going from crown to tips and covering each section), or lather the bar in your hands first and then apply it to your hair.
- Spread the lather on your scalp from front to back, and onto the strands from top to bottom, using your fingers as a comb. You want to work with the natural direction of hair growth – so try not to use circular motion on the scalp, as this will cause unnecessary tangles.
- Rinse your hair thoroughly, until there is no more residue left. The rinsing may take up more time than the lathering.
Make your own apple cider vinegar rinse
If you're new to shampoo bars, or live in a hard water area, it's recommended you use an apple cider vinegar (ACV) rinse after the shampoo wash. The ACV helps restore your hair's pH balance, detangles, and adds softness and shine to your locks. It also works as a natural remedy for dandruff, as a plus.
- To make your own ACV rinse, dilute 1-2 tablespoons into 250mL of water. You will need to experiment with the amount depending on hair length and thickness, but use less to begin with and work your way up to 4 tablespoons if needed.
- With your head tilted back, slowly pour the rinse over your scalp and allow it to run down the length of your hair. Be careful not to get any in your eyes.
- Allow it to sit for a couple of minutes before rinsing with water (preferably cool water, as this helps add shine).
- Use the ACV rinse once or twice a week. If you're washing your hair more often than that, you can just use cool water to seal the moisture in your hair after the shampoo wash.
If you're concerned your hair will smell like a chip shop, don't worry – the smell of the ACV doesn't linger after rinsing it out with water.
What to expect during the transition period
When you switch from using traditional liquid shampoos (and the chemicals they typically contain) to a natural shampoo bar, your hair will need some time to adjust and re-balance its natural production of oils. This may mean your scalp and hair become more oily or dry, or that you see an increase in frizz and tangles. Don't panic – this is just temporary.
The transition period can last from a week to several weeks, depending on how damaged your hair is and how frequently you've used chemical products. The best thing you can do for your hair during this time is not over-wash it (so definitely don't shampoo every day). Instead, allow the oils to penetrate your hair, and using a paddle brush, regularly give it a good brushing to spread the oils from the scalp all the way to the ends.
Try to be patient during the transition period, because – as Mumsnetters who've been there say below – the payoff is well worth a few bad hair days.
What Mumsnetters have to say
I rinse with diluted apple cider vinegar and my fine, straight, lank hair has changed into thicker feeling, less lank and flyaway hair, that can miss a day or two of washing. I am really happy with it. If you try soap bars, you may have to experiment before finding one that suits you – I think a lot depends on your hair type.
You need to do a vinegar rinse and persevere. It takes about three weeks for hair to adjust to bar shampoo. If you rinse with a couple of tablespoons of vinegar in a cup of water, it will help with the waxy feeling. Do this a couple of times a week till your hair adjusts then once a week and your hair will be lovely.
Like many people I had to go through the transition period but after a week or so my hair was ridiculously soft and shiny.
It took weeks for my hair to adjust, it felt oily after washing, but I was determined to stick with it and now I would never go back. I've been rinsing with bicarb in water as I live in a hard water area. I have really fine hair and shampoo bars give me more volume than I've ever had before. So many people have told me my hair looks thicker!
Best eco-friendly shampoo bars
1. Friendly Soap shampoo bar, from £4.76 (95g)
Overview: 100% biodegradable, vegan, cruelty-free, made in the UK by people paid a living wage, without using plastic, parabens, SLS phthalates, triclosan or palm oil.
Friendly Soap is a company based in West Yorkshire whose mission is to create high-quality products with all-natural ingredients, and do so in the most ethical way. On top of succeeding in those two categories – their soap is all handmade in the UK for a smaller carbon footprint – their products are also quite affordable.
Their shampoo bars are compact and long lasting, and use coconut oil, castor oil and olive oil to provide a creamy and deeply conditioning leather that cleans and nourishes your hair and scalp. Each soap also contains a combination of essential oils such as their lavender and geranium blend, which adds a subtle and relaxing scent and naturally boosts antibacterial performance.
“I use the Friendly Soap company – zero plastic packaging. I love the shampoo bar I've got, as it gives volume to my very thin, fine hair.”
“Friendly Soap is fab.”Buy it now
2. Living Naturally Soapnut shampoo bar, from £7.79 (90g)
Overview: Handmade in the UK from natural, organic, vegan, sustainable, ethical, and cruelty-free ingredients. No palm oil, uses fully recycled/recyclable and biodegradable packaging and is powered by 100% renewable energy.
Living Naturally is a family-owned business based in the UK that makes award-winning vegan skincare, haircare and laundry soap for sensitive skin created with certified organic soapnuts. Their shampoo bars gently cleanse your hair and scalp while replacing any lost moisture and nourishing your locks with vitamins, amino acids and high fat content from various plant-based oils.
Different blends serve different purposes, but their wide range of shampoo bars means you'll be able to find one to meet your individual needs and balance your hair back to health naturally.
“I used to use shampoo bars from soapnuts.co.uk when I had long hair. I really liked them – but beware, soapnut products really sting if you get it in your eyes, not ideal for young kids! It's a good range if you are vegan or want a SLS- and paraben-free product.”Buy it now
3. Ethique Beauty shampoo bar, from £12.99 (110g)
Overview: Plastic-free, vegan, cruelty-free, fair-trade and sustainable. Also free from parabens, petroleum by-products, palm oil (and its derivatives), synthetic fragrances, formaldehyde donors and other chemical ingredients.
Ethique was founded in New Zealand in 2012, and is on a mission to rid the world of plastic waste. Using only plant-based and vegan ingredients like coconut oil, cocoa butter and essential oils, their range of shampoo bars leave your hair clean, smooth and shiny. They are also 100% soap free, pH balanced and safe for colour-treated hair. One bar is equivalent to three bottles of liquid shampoo, so it will last you a while.
“Try Ethique Beauty – amazing quality shampoo and conditioner bars made in New Zealand WITHOUT nasty palm oil.”Buy it now
Best-value shampoo bars
4. Amica Soap shampoo bar, from £3.79 (90g)
Overview: 100% vegan, cruelty-free, sulfate-free, made from sustainably sourced natural ingredients, comes in plastic-free recycled wrapping and made in the UK.
Amica Soap is a small family-run business from Scotland that is committed to producing safe and soothing soap, without any harsh chemicals, so that it's good for your skin and the environment. Their shampoo bars are all SLS-free and made from a variety of plant-based oils, sustainably sourced vegetable glycerin, along with tried and tested essential oils. The result is unique blends that gently cleanse, repair and nourish the scalp and hair with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Their range of shampoo bars covers many different hair needs, so you'll be sure to find the right blend for you.
“Amica Soap sell sulfate- and plastic-free shampoo and body bars, very reasonably priced, and their bars are brilliant.”
“If you have split ends or dry hair, I'd recommend the Argan Oil one I get from Amica Soap, it's been a lifesaver for my fine hair, been using it for months with great success.”Buy it now
Related: The best hair dryers – as chosen by Mumsnetters
5. Simply Soaps shampoo bar, £4.99 (100g)
Overview: Made from 100% natural, organic and botanical ingredients (so paraben- and sulfate-free). Includes fully compostable packaging, uses solar energy to make the products and supports organic and local agriculture.
Simply Soaps was established in 1997 and is focused on running a sustainable business that uses only 100% natural ingredients. Their whole range of organic soaps and skincare is handmade in Norfolk, UK. The hemp hair and body shampoo is a handy all-in-one product that is suitable for all skin and hair types, and is ideal for short hair. The healing properties of hemp oil are especially great for damaged hair or skin, containing nutrient-rich essential fatty acids, while the tea tree and may chang essential oils tone and uplift.
“My DH has a sensitive scalp and has been using a hemp shampoo soap bar by a small company called Simply Soaps for several years. We buy it online and totally recommend it. We all use it now. Lasts ages. Recently they've made it palm oil free and it's in a compostable wrapper.”Buy it now
6. Funky Soap shampoo bar, from £7.95 (120g)
Overview: Handmade from 100% natural ingredients (so sulfate- and paraben-free), cruelty-free, mostly vegan (a small number of products are vegetarian) and uses only 100% certified sustainable palm oil. All packaging is biodegradable.
Funky Soap is a small business located in London dedicated to creating high-quality skin and hair care products that are kind to the skin and the planet. All their soaps are handmade from 100% natural ingredients, and their shampoo bars are no different. Most of them are suitable for vegans, with the exception of a few that contain milk or honey, but those are clearly labelled as vegetarian. They have many different blends that cover a wide range of hair issues and needs, including colour-enhancing shampoo for different shades.
“Funky soap are SLS- and paraben-free. I love their stuff.”
“Highly recommend Funky Soap. Their lovely all-natural shampoo bars have completely rescued my hair and scalp. Their sea kelp and rhassoul clay shampoo bar smells lovely and leaves my hair soft, clean and bouncy. I don't need conditioner anymore. The oiliness and the sore scalp have gone.”Buy it now
Best all-natural shampoo bars
7. Totally Natural Skincare shampoo bar, £7.95 (90g)
Overview: Made from 100% natural ingredients (so paraben-, sulfate- and additive free), vegan (apart from a few products that contain beeswax), cruelty-free and plastic-free. Any palm oil used is certified sustainable (not used in their shampoo bars).
Designed and handmade in the UK, Totally Natural Skincare have spent the last 16 years carefully developing high quality skincare products made with purely natural ingredients. Their shampoo bars contain rich nutrient oils that leave hair soft, silky and manageable.
You can choose from three different blends – all made with nourishing plant-based oils such as olive and apricot, and varying essential oils. Their Wonderful Shampoo is suitable for most hair types and contains rosemary essential oil that stimulates hair growth, while the Soothing Shampoo is specially formulated with neem, tea tree and lavender to calm and help with scalp problems. Lastly, their Vanilla Rose bar is made with vanilla, rose and chamomile along with nourishing oils, which sounds gorgeous, frankly.
“This is a really nice natural shampoo bar.”Buy it now
8. Wild Sage + Co shampoo bar, £6 (100g)
Overview: All hand-made, natural and cruelty-free products, containing no parabens, sulfates, artificial colours or fragrances, with plastic-free packaging.
Wild Sage + Co is a family-run business located in Wales that believes in making natural skincare products that don't harm our skin or the environment. Their Rosemary and Lavender shampoo bar is a relaxing and refreshing blend that improves scalp health, combats dandruff and promotes hair growth. It contains rapeseed oil and mango butter, which nourish and moisturise the hair, while the addition of organic apple cider vinegar works to restore your hair's natural pH and create shine.
“I use shampoo bars and soaps from Wild Sage. Palm oil, SLS- and paraben-free, and my hair and skin seem happy.”
“I bought the shampoo bar from Wild Sage and I love it! It smells incredible and keeps my hair nice and fresh between washes.”Buy it now
9. All Natural Soap Company shampoo bar, £7.95 (70g)
Overview: Handmade in the UK from all natural ingredients, 100% palm oil free, cruelty-free and vegetarian (mostly vegan) products. All packaging is recyclable and a lot is compostable.
Established in London, All Natural Soap Co is an award-winning producer of completely natural, handcrafted soap. They also take great strides to be environmentally conscious when it comes to making and packaging their products. Their Kaffir, Lime and Peppermint solid shampoo is packed in a sturdy, fully recyclable cardboard box. It's super concentrated, completely natural, with nine different base oils that promote a healthy scalp and soft, shiny hair.
“I am using one from the All Natural Soap Company. It's fantastic – hair great, loads of lather, no SLS or palm oil. They also package in paper/card only.”Buy it now
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