My Shampoo Journey

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We’ve been on a journey to find a more sustainable solution for shampoo and conditioner for a while now and I think we’ve finally found a permanent solution that all members of the family can live with!

I fully believe in progress not perfection. I believe that absolute zero waste is not attainable and so its important to find joy in the journey, so I’m here to tell you the whole story with hopes that something in my progression is useful for your shampoo habit.

A few years ago, I started experimenting with bar shampoo and conditioner as a way to avoid the plastic bottles the traditional version comes in. I started with LUSH products because they were popular and readily available… I like to shop physically at the store because I can bring my own jars and avoid any waste, plus I can avoid the carbon emissions from shipping to my home.

I have to admit that I’ve tried more natural shampoos several times before in my life and always abandoned the effort because my hair looked terrible! I’m a professional and committed to sustainability, so I need to look the part of a professional. My hair is fine and greasy. For most of my life, I’ve washed it every day. For the past several years, I’ve been slowly weaning myself to every other day, using dry shampoo on the non-shower days (I’ll share my recipe in another post soon). By the end of the second work day, my hair is starting to look greasy, so I know I can’t stretch it any further.

Robbie on the other hand has very thick hair that can handle nearly any kind of shampoo. In fact, he regularly goes for weeks or even months without using soap of any kind on his hair and it looks exactly the same (strike that, actually better) than if he washed it every day. Daily washing for him results in fluffy, dry hair.

I’m telling you all of this for several reasons:

  1. To assure you that my hair is not the kind that can handle any ol’ shampoo and still look amazing every day… meaning that if your hair isn’t “perfect” you still have options to transition away from plastic bottles; you’ll just have to experiment with a variety of products to find the right one,
  2.   to note that if you’re hair is similar to mine and/or Robbie’s then the actual products recommended below might work for you too
  3. and lastly, to reassure you that even if you have two very different hair/shampoo needs in your household, you’ll likely be able to find a solution that works for both/all of you with a bit of experimentation

It took me a little while, but I found the right shampoo and conditioner for my hair… Honey I Washed My Hair solid shampoo and Jungle conditioner in case you’re looking for options.

Shampoo, Conditioner, and Soap bars in my shower
Honey I Washed my Hair Shampoo Bar (furthest right), Jungle Conditioner Bar (middle, both from LUSH), and body soap (on the left) that was a gift from my mom so I have no idea what the brand is, but she loves to buy handmade soaps from local artisans while traveling, so its a safe bet this was an oh, so useful souvenir from one of her trips.

When we finished our last plastic bottles of liquid shampoo, I gleefully bought shampoo and conditioner bars for all of our bathrooms. I dreamed that guests will come to my house, use my bar shampoo, and be hooked for life.

BUT… My husband kept buying liquid shampoo and conditioner in single use plastic bottles. And every time I walked into the bathroom, I felt like a FAILURE! FRAUD!

Since Robbie does ALL of the grocery shopping and housework, I try not to micro-manage him… too often. I finally asked him about it and learned that he HATED the soap residue left behind in the shower by my bars (and he cleans the bathroom so he has a vested interest in this).

Solution #1: I found a white-ish colored conditioner bar (also from LUSH, but I can’t find this on their website, so I’m not sure what its called) that I’m hoped would solve the residue problem for Robbie.

plastic shampoo bottles in my shower
All of the soaps living in my shower. Shampoo bar, conditioner bar, liquid shampoo and conditioner in plastic bottles, and body soap. This is when I learned that the soap residue was driving Robbie nuts.

Solution #2: Robbie built soap holders from some scrap wood to keep the bars off the tile, drain the residue, and hopefully help our shampoo and conditioner bars last longer because they will dry out faster.

bar shampoo, conditioner, and body soap sitting on homemade wooden soap holders
Homemade custom soap holders for my bar soaps to sit on, custom made by Robbie.

We lived with this solution for months and were really happy…. for something like 9 months. During those nine months, my hair became used to the bar shampoo and I slowly stopped using the conditioner.

And then our minimalist minds turned to the shower again, wondering “why do we need three bars of soap? Could we find just one that could wash all of the different parts of our body??” Also, the LUSH bars are expensive and I believe that sustainability doesn’t need to cost more. In fact, for sustainability to be truly sustainable it must be accessible to all.

So, we went on the hunt for one bar of soap that would meet all* of our body washing needs at a more affordable price. We tried several different bars before landing on the one that works best for us. Our purchase criteria was simple: we had to be able to buy it from either 1) our local grocery store (we generally shop at a localized chain called Fresh Thyme which is somewhere between a co-op and a more mainstream grocer) or 2) through our local buyers co-op (we buy through Frontier Co-op Wholesale in bulk and then the amazing woman who organized the group splits our giant order into individual ones for us to pick up in person at her house).

And so I present you… my new shower soap! It’s called Pine Tar Bar Soap from The Grampa Soap Company (which was founded in 1878, a great reminder that the oldest technology is still often the best) and I love it! The smell is amazing and my hair looks great! I still need to wash it every other day and use dry shampoo, but the body and texture of my hair feels really nice and I’ve been getting compliments on how great my hair looks (thanks, mom!)

My shower with just one soap and my double edge safety razor
My new minimalist shower, with the Pine Tar Bar Soap, a 3-in-1 bar from The Grampa Soap Company that is meeting all of our household showering needs. Hooray! Also, in this photo is my double edge safety razor from Edwin Jagger.

And doesn’t this shelf in my shower look so neat and tidy with only one bar of soap?! That’s my double edged safety razor on top (from Edwin Jagger). I’m happy to talk more about that in another post if you’re interested in making the switch.

Have you experimented with bar shampoo or a “3-in-1” bar like this? How did it go? What’s your biggest shampoo challenge? What’s working really well for you? These brands/products work well for me, but I’m sure there are lots of great products out there. Please share your favorites in the comments!

If you haven’t tackled your plastic bottles of shampoo yet… what’s stopping you? What’s your biggest fear or challenge?

*when I say all of us, I really mean Robbie and me… the kids don’t care what kind of soap they use and to be totally transparent, they still have giant jugs of liquid shampoo and conditioner we bought forever ago. Bar soap seems to disappear very quickly because they still take baths and play with the soap underwater for hours on end.

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  1. This is cool, I’ve never even know there was bar shampoo! I have rosacea so my skin is very sensitive to soaps. Right now I use Neutragena glycerin soap so I’m not sure the single bar of soap is realistic for me. But since you all are fair skinned I’m wondering if skin sensitivity was an issue you dealt with in your shampoo journey?

    • We’ve never had a problem with skin irritation, but Robbie HATES scented soaps. I mean he hates them with a passion, so we’ve had to hunt long and hard for soaps that don’t irritate his sensitive nose. Have you ever tried castille soap? Dr Bronner’s has a pure castille soap that we’ve used on an off again over the years (including our only soap for everything… dishes, bodies, laundry… when we lived in the Alaska woods for a summer). I wonder if that would work for your skin? Here’s a link to their website if you’re interested in exploring it further.

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