The concept of bar cleansers certainly isn’t new, but as brands become more mindful of packaging waste and water consumption (hello, plastic bottles), formulas that use less water are increasing in popularity. Many beauty enthusiasts probably have given dry shampoos a whirl at some point, but a shampoo bar is a completely different format that cleans hair more like traditional shampoo. And much like a bar body cleanser, a shampoo bar is activated by water but contains ingredients that are suited for removing oil and product build-up while meeting the needs of different hair textures.
As explained by cosmetic chemist Ni’Kita Wilson in an episode of Allure‘s The Science of Beauty podcast, your typical shampoo formula — both liquid and bars — contain surfactants to emulsify oil and dirt on the hair and scalp. What you’re also getting from many of these bar cleansers are ingredients like coconut oil and shea butter to leave moisture and shine behind.
Instead of pouring a liquid shampoo into your hair, you can either work the bar into a lather in the palm of your hands and then work the foam through from roots to ends; or, for lower-lather formulas, rub the bar directly onto roots while water runs over your hair. Once your strands are coated in the cleanser, massage the shampoo into your roots and through the ends of hair to loosen debris and dirt, and then rinse thoroughly.
You should shop for a shampoo bar just like you would a traditional hair cleanser — based on what your texture needs. Some of these solid soaps help eliminate an extra step in your washday routine by combining both a cleanser and conditioner into one product. Others are laced with oils, butters, and soothing aloe vera, which target scalp concerns like dryness and flaking. There are even sulfate-free options if that’s your preference.
With a growing list of sustainability-oriented brands to choose from, we gathered up the best shampoo bars to suit a range of textures and specific hair needs. Keep scrolling to see our picks.
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