climate strike

Roadtest: "I washed my hair with zero-waste shampoo bars for a week to see if they're any good."


Sometimes trying to do your bit for the environment can feel like an overwhelming task.

There’s so much talk about composting, going vegan and a transition to living a plastic-free life, when most of us still struggle to remember our bags for life at the supermarket or bring our keep cup to the coffee shop.

Yes, we’re being told that the world is going to end. The polar ice caps are still melting, small cities will disappear into the ocean and the Great Barrier Reef is metaphorically on fire. At the same time, we’re also spending more money on skincare and beauty products, which means lots of useless packaging and bottles going into landfill.

It’s all very alarming, but it’s all about the small changes and this very much includes your beauty regime.

Well, we have two words for you: shampoo bars.


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Shampoo (and conditioner) bars are made from exactly the same stuff that’s in your natural shampoo and conditioner bottles, only packed into one plastic-free, zero-waste bar of soap.

They tick all the boxes we’re supposed to be ticking. Eco-friendly, plastic-free, natural, good for the planet

I roadtested some shampoo and conditioner bars from the popular ethical beauty brand Ethique for a week to find out if they’re any good.

Before we get into it, here are five ways to life hack your hair routine in the video below. Post continues after video.

Video by MWN

What are shampoo bars?

The whole idea of shampoo and conditioner bars is to provide the same hair care, without the plastic bottles.

They’re just like a bar of soap, and mostly use natural oils, rather than water, to hold their shape as a solid form of the liquid or gel hair care consistencies we’re used to. As well as being great for the environment, shampoo bars are also economical because they’re efficient. One shampoo bar will last you at least twice as long as traditional 250ml shampoo bottles because they’re packed with concentrated ingredients.


Shampoo bars in Australia are becoming more popular – you can buy shampoo bars from brands like Lush, Christophe Robin, Shea Moisture, Biome, The Australian Natural Soap Company, and Ethique.

You can learn more about all the “evil” things in your hair care (sulfates, parabens and silicone) in the episode of You Beauty below. Post continues after audio.

All about Ethique shampoo bars.

Ethique (which is French for ethical) is a brand made by our mates over in New Zealand. Specifically, by the brand’s founder Brianne West after she started making beauty bars in her science degree lab back in 2012.

Now, Ethique is exported and shipped internationally, and you can buy the range at Nourished Life.

The brand has developed eight shampoo bars for normal hair, normal-dry hair, dry-frizzy hair, dandruff-prone scalps, and oily hair, as well as a volumising bar, a shampoo and shaving bar, and one made from oats for kids. There are also two conditioner bars – one for dry and frizzy hair, and another for normal to oily hair. All of the shampoo and conditioner bars are $24.99.

Look, there are dog shampoo bars too. Thought you should know.



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Moving on, here are couple of important things to know about Ethique bars:

  • Each bar lasts two to five times longer than bottled beauty products because they’re super concentrated.
  • Every Ethique bar is made with 100 per cent naturally derived ingredients – you could pretty much plant these in the ground if you wanted to.
  • The brand is cruelty-free, organic, fair trade, plastic-free, plant-based and vegan.
  • The little packaging that does come with Ethique products is compostable.
  • You can check out the function of every single ingredient in every product on the Ethique website.
  • So far, Ethique have stopped over 3.3 million plastic bottles from being made and disposed of into landfills.

That’s all wonderful, but are the products any good? Here’s what I thought.

Ethique shampoo and conditioner bars review.

Firstly, some housekeeping.

You’ll need something to store the shampoo and conditioner bars in – Ethique make In-Shower Containers for $20 made from eco-friendly bamboo fibres with drainage holes in the bottom to keep the bars from wasting away in the shower. They come in six chic muted colours so you can match it to your bathroom decor. A soap travel container from the supermarket will also do the job – just don’t store the bars in the shower where water will dissolve them into nothingness.


For best results, choose your shampoo and conditioner bars based on your hair/scalp concerns. I used the Pinkalicious Shampoo Bar for Normal Hair and The Guardian Conditioner Bar for Normal to Dry Hair.

Here's my Ethique shampoo and conditioner bars. Image: Supplied/Amy Clark.
This bigger one is the shampoo. Image: Supplied/Amy Clark.
It blows my mind that the conditioner bar is so small! Image: Supplied/Amy Clark.
Here's the little in-shower caddy (please excuse the grout in my tiles). Image: Supplied/Amy Clark.

Let's start with shampoo: the bar is pink, is about the size of your palm and smells like pink grapefruit. Excellent start.


The instructions say to wet the bar and your hair, and then swipe the wet bar several times down your hair from root to tip, so I did.

To be honest, whether or not these shampoo bars would lather and foam up was my biggest concern. And probably the deciding factor in whether I'd buy them again. For me, that foamy lather is one of the best parts of washing my hair. But a lot of surfactants (the ingredient that makes shampoos foam up) aren't great for the environment because they're made with palm oil, so it can be hard to get some natural shampoos to lather.

I shouldn't have worried, because my Ethique shampoo went all foamy and creamy as soon as I started working it into my scalp with my fingers (the bar contains Sodium cocoyl isethionate, which is a natural surfactant).

It took a bit of extra massaging to really get the product through all my hair, which isn't thick but is long and I have a lot of it. I decided to shampoo twice as I normally do anyway, and by the end, my hair felt clean, almost that squeaky clean feeling.

The Guardian Conditioner Bar for Normal to Dry Hair was a little harder to use, and also smaller than the shampoo bar, which I found odd. If you're used to coating your ends with a big dollop of creamy conditioner, sliding the wet bar down your wet hair four or five times will feel weird. I wondered if I was going to be able to get enough product through the mid lengths and ends of my hair to properly hydrate it, but again, my sceptical mind was proven wrong.

I didn't get that hair mask silkiness after rinsing the conditioner out (because the products don't contain silicone, which coats the hair strands and makes them feel silky), but after blow drying, my hair really didn't feel any different to when I use my regular conditioner.


Throughout the week, I used the shampoo and conditioner bars in place of my regular shampoo and conditioner products, and I hardly noticed the difference - other than the feeling of using a soap-like bar instead of squeezy bottles. I wash my hair every second day or so, and I didn't feel like my roots were greasier than usual.

I did notice my hair smelt really bloody good, though.

Truly, my hair felt just as clean and soft using the shampoo bars as it does with my regular shampoo. Image: Supplied/Amy Clark.

Would I swap my shampoo bottles for a shampoo bar?

Short answer: yes. But switching to sustainable, eco-friendly beauty products isn't always that simple.

The thing about sustainability is: on a personal level, it only works if you can commit to the changes you want to make. For example, it's great to swap to an organic foundation, but if you don't like the way it looks on your skin, you'll probably go back to the one you were using before and put the half-empty bottle of organic foundation in the bin.

I really enjoyed how the Ethique shampoo and conditioner bars made my hair feel, but using them will take some getting used to because it's a different way of washing your hair, and different to the way I've been washing my hair for decades.

But is washing my hair a part of my beauty routine that I feel I could commit to making a bit better for the planet? Absolutely.

If you're looking for ways to lessen the impact your beauty routine has on the environment, you could definitely start with a shampoo bar.

Have you tried the Ethique shampoo and conditioner bars? What did you think? Tell us in the comments below or come join in the chat in the You Beauty Facebook group!

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