Sustainable Down to the Scalp

Everything you need to know about shampoo bars

By gunjan nanda

Chamomile and Citrus organic shampoo bar, photo courtesy of  Chagrin Valley Soap .

Chamomile and Citrus organic shampoo bar, photo courtesy of Chagrin Valley Soap.

Have you ever heard about organic shampoo bars? They are are the perfect option for anyone that wants to take care of their hair in a natural manner, without the harsh side effects of chemical concoctions. Not only is making the switch to shampoo bars beneficial for your hair health, it is also the more sustainable option for our planet. Most mainstream shampoo and soap brands are packaged in extremely wasteful, single-use plastics that are very difficult to recycle, causing massive build ups in our landfills and oceans. Recently I came across a report from Euromonitor, that provides estimates of International global packaging trends and highlights the enormity of just how many disposable bottles we are generating annually. Although the report is related to water bottle production, this is something we should all pay keen attention to.

According to the Euromonitor report, a million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute and that number is projected to jump another 20% by 2021- this equals to about 20,000 plastic bottles being bought every second.

According to the Euromonitor report, a million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute and that number is projected to jump another 20% by 2021- this equals to about 20,000 plastic bottles being bought every second. The report also states that more than 480 billion plastic drinking bottles were sold in 2016 across the world, up from about 300 billion a decade ago. If placed end to end, these bottles would extend more than halfway to the sun. Fewer than half of the bottles bought in 2016 were collected for recycling and just 7% of those collected were turned into new bottles. That means, approximately 93% of the 480 billion plastic water bottles sold in 2016 ended up in landfill or in the ocean. By 2021 annual plastic bottles sold is projected to increase to 583.3 billion.

The statistics mentioned above are restricted to plastic water bottles ONLY! In simple terms, this information doesn’t really encompass all the other packaging waste in our supply chain. This is by far the NUMBER ONE reason to make the switch to shampoo bars!


Photo Courtesy of  Turn Primal.

Photo Courtesy of Turn Primal.

We all hate what plastic bottles, and every other form of plastic, are doing to the environment. Therefore, we see the need to come up with an alternative that is beneficial for us as well as for our beautiful planet. Ever heard of sulfates? These strong chemical detergents are found in household cleaning products like kitchen soap. Guess where else they are found? Your bottled shampoos! They might give your favorite shampoo a foaming quality that creates a good lather, but trust us, these sulfates that are found in most store-bought shampoos cause scalp redness and irritation if used on a regular basis.

Other than just sulfates, these mainstream and mass-produced shampoos are made from various detergents, synthetic materials, processed chemicals and cleansers, and also stabilizers that are harsh on your hair and scalp, stripping it of its natural protective oils and moisture. To retain your scalp’s natural oils, you reach for the bottle of conditioner. These conditioners however, simply coat the hair and weigh it down. When that coating is removed, your hair has more body, but is it really assisting your hair’s health?

Photo courtesy of  Turn Primal.

Photo courtesy of Turn Primal.


There seems to be a huge demand for natural shampoo bars at the moment, as eco-conscious customers look for alternatives to buying plastic bottles of shampoo off supermarket shelves. Organic shampoo bars contain only natural ingredients that clean and nourish the hair and scalp. These bars are free of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (or SLS), which can break and damage your hair. They’re excellent for keeping hair healthy and clean, and they’re typically very inexpensive as well. Some of these bars last as long as 2-3 months, so they won’t burn a hole in your pocket. Too, organic shampoo bars are available for both men and women with a wide variety of hair types. Does that mean no more constant supermarket visits? We believe so!

Because organic shampoo bars last a long time, they can be used every day, unlike your regular shampoo. Yes, there are hair experts who would advise against daily hair washing, but shampoo bars are delicately crafted with gentle oils (like coconut and castor) that will not dry out your hair. You’re not only staying clean and saving money, but also giving your hair the added nutrients and health benefits it deserves.

Organic shampoo bars are 100% eco-friendly. They constitute of zero harsh chemicals that contaminate our water supply and are also biodegradable. Many of the synthetic chemicals that we find in our shampoo do not naturally break down. Instead, the chemicals wash down our drains and accumulate in our ecosystems. These very chemicals infiltrate our lakes, streams, rivers and public water systems.

Also, our commercial shampoos use synthetic fragrances or “nature identical” oils, colorants and other additives that are not good for our hair. Thousands of ingredients are used to create synthetic sent. These ingredients come in powder or crystalline form and need solvents in order to be dissolved. Shampoo bars, on the other hand, only use natural essential oils that keep your hair clean, healthy and free from these synthetic colorants and solvents.


These organic shampoo bars are beneficial for all people with various hair problems. Brittle, thin hair may benefit from the gentleness of a shampoo bar while thick, frizzy hair may benefit from the healthy oils. The scalp being the most sensitive area should also be taken into account for proper haircare. These bars are specifically designed for the skin of the scalp, unlike commercial shampoos and body washes which typically do not pay careful attention to scalp skin sensitivity.

Photo Courtesy of  Mamavation

Photo Courtesy of Mamavation

Photo Courtesy of  Zerovana.

Photo Courtesy of Zerovana.

DIY Recipe: Coconut Milk Shampoo Bars

For our crafty and more hands-on readers, below is a recipe to make your very own coconut milk shampoo bars. This recipe is courtesy of: Simple & Natural Soapmaking by Jan Berry. This book can serve as a great guide to those curious about the world of home soap making. Making your own shampoo or other soap bars allows you to directly engage in sustainable self-care as well as customize your bar specifically to you and your needs. Just be cautious and follow proper safety guidelines!

Servings: 7 Bars Total Time: 2 hours


  • 4.5 oz distilled water (128 g)

  • 3.85 oz sodium hydroxide (lye) (109 g)

  • 4 oz full-fat coconut milk (113 g)

  • 7.5 oz virgin coconut oil (213 g)

  • 12 oz olive oil (340 g)

  • 3.5 oz almond oil (99 g) (or sub sunflower)

  • 4 oz castor oil (113 g)

  • 1 oz jojoba oil (28 g) Substitution: If jojoba isn’t available, try substituting with more sunflower or sweet almond oil in its place. The lye amount will not need to be adjusted.


Wearing protective gloves and eyewear, carefully stir the lye into the distilled water, then set the lye solution aside in a safe place to cool for about 30 to 40 minutes or until the temperature drops to around 100 to 110°F (38 to 43°C).

Melt the coconut oil, then add to the other oils. Add the coconut milk to the warm oils and use an immersion blender for a few seconds until thoroughly combined.

Add the lye solution to the warm oils and coconut milk mixture. Using a combination of hand stirring and an immersion blender, stir the soap until it reaches a light trace.

Pour into a prepared mold. Cover lightly with a sheet of wax or freezer paper, then a towel or light blanket. Peek at the soap every so often; if it starts developing a crack, uncover and move it to a cooler location.

Keep the soap in the mold for 1 to 2 days, or until it's easy to remove, then slice it into bars when it's firm enough not to stick to your cutting tool.

To make shampoo sticks, cut each bar into thirds. Cure on coated cooling racks or sheets of wax paper about 4 weeks before using.


Once you transition to a natural shampoo bar, you’ll observe that your scalp produces less oil (because synthetic detergents are not drying out your scalp). Don’t worry! You’re not losing out on your natural oils. Less oil means you can go more days without shampooing!

On a final note, organic shampoo bars do not come in plastic cases and are usually beautifully packaged in recycled paper. This paper can be later recycled, upcyled for an entirely different purpose, or even used as water-soluble packaging. So, they offer less impact on the environment, are closer to zero-waste and the best of all, shampoo bars are plastic and chemical free! If DIY isn’t your style, purchasing organic shampoo bars has never been simpler, with your new hair care routine just a click away! Some brands to shop (that can all be found on Amazon) are The Yellow Bird, SKINNY & CO., OBIA Naturals and Ethique. For more customized care, a quick google search can help you find the best bar for you and your specific hair needs. Though it may take an adjustment, making the simple and conscious switch to shampoo bars will please your scalp and the planet.