Shampoo Bars That Are Actually Great for Your Hair

Shampoo Bars That Are Actually Great for Your Hair

I was sitting at my laptop working on a blog post about Goat Milk Soap for Dry Skin when an email came through with a five-star review for our shampoo bars. Better than anything, it captures why I love our shampoo bars.

Excellent Shampoo

“I purchased the shampoo in order to reduce our use of plastic bottles and liquid soaps. I was surprised to find that the Grapefruit Bergamot Shampoo Bar is better than the liquid shampoo I was using. It is really the best shampoo that I have found. I am recommending it to lots of people.”

I’ve loved the idea of reducing plastic waste ever since we moved to an 1850s mill house and cleaned up the back hill, which had a century’s worth of garbage on it, from mattress springs to plastic bottles from the eighties.

It’s what made us launch our compostable lip balm tubes and shampoo and conditioner bars. Well, it was that and being asked for them by customers who care deeply about their impact on their little section of the planet we all call home.

Compostable Beeswax Lip Balm

What’s challenging about affecting widespread change is that everyone can’t care about everything. Truth be told, I’m glad reducing waste isn’t everyone’s passion project. I have friends who are deeply committed to refugees and to public education, and I wouldn’t want them to limit those endeavors by investing elsewhere.

As small business owners, we couldn’t invest as much time as we do in reducing waste, except that it is tied to our income, so we’re able to do it during work hours while paying our mortgage and grocery bill. 

I love that our customers who are passionate about refugees, education, and their local communities can reduce waste by doing something their doing anyways – washing their hair.

And they don’t even have to do it sacrificially. Shampoo bars are super concentrated, so they can last as long as two or three bottles of liquid shampoo, and they’re only $14.00. Plus, in the last week alone we’ve heard from three different people how much better their hair feels after switching to a shampoo bar.

Grapefruit Shampoo Bar

That’s the kind of change that spreads, and it’s why I loved getting Janet’s review. I don’t usually ask people to do something that’s hard, because my friends are already dedicated to hard things. But it’s easy to tell your friends about something that is better for them, cheaper for them, and gives the satisfaction of making a difference.

With that as a very long introduction, let’s talk about shampoo bars.

Some Shampoo Bars Have a Bad Reputation (and it’s earned)

Even big box stores carry shampoo bars that are just cold processed soap relabeled as shampoo bars. I’m going to give soap companies the benefit of the doubt and say they either don’t know the science of hair care or believe the washing your hair with soap is worth it for the environment. 

Cold process soap, especially goat milk soap, is fabulous for your skin. The problem is that soap isn’t good for your hair. Here’s why (and I’m summarizing a little from Susan Barclay Nichols over at SwiftCraftyMonkey, an excellent resource):

  • Their pH is too high, usually over 8 and as high as 10. A pH balanced shampoo is going to be 6 or under. Washing your hair with an alkaline soap instead of a pH balanced shampoo leads to mechanical damage of the hair strands.
  • Soap doesn’t dissolve as easily as shampoo surfactants in hard water, which can lead to build-up on your hair, instead of cleansing. 
  • Cold process soaps are missing many of the hair healthy conditioning ingredients that shampoos have, like Vitamin B5 and quinoa protein.

Even with the best intentions, the end result of customers using cold process soap as a shampoo is often that they miss when their hair felt better.

Cold Process Soap Shampoo Bar

How do you tell if a shampoo bar is just cold process soap?

It’s simple, just look in the ingredients for lye, which can also be written as sodium hydroxide or oils that have been saponified, i.e. saponified olive oil. If any of those terms are in the ingredients list, it’s soap, not shampoo and is best left out of your hair.

Notable Exception: When my hair is less than a couple inches and cut often, I sometimes like to use goat milk soap on my scalp, as it is excellent for reducing flakiness. and the hair is cut monthly, so I'm less concerned about the health of the hair strands. 

Now, Let’s Talk about Good Shampoo Bars.

Good shampoo bars are made out of everything you’d find in a salon quality liquid shampoo with one exception: there’s no water. Normally, shampoo ingredients are dissolved in water, which makes up the majority of liquid shampoos, and then bottled and labeled.

In a shampoo bar, those same ingredients are mixed together in a large batch of “dough” without the water, and then pressed into a solid shampoo bar puck.

Wait, you want to do a deep dive into what the ingredients are and why they’re good for your hair?

I’m glad you asked 😊

Let’s go down the list of the ingredients in Joy Lane Farm Grapefruit Bergamot Shampoo Bars and see why they're good for your hair.

Side Bar: There’s a popular notion that you shouldn’t put anything on your body you can’t pronounce… we believe it’s better not to put anything on your body you haven’t researched and to learn to pronounce more things. 😊

Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine

These three are all gentle surfactants (cleansers) derived from coconut oil.

FUN FACT: A surfactant is a chemical compound that reduces the surface tension between two liquids, a liquid and a gas, or a liquid and solid.

They’re sulfate-free, so they cleanse your hair without stripping it, and using the combination instead of just one maximizes the cleansing ability and foam stability of the shampoo bar.

We use them in place of harsh surfactants like sodium lauryl sulfate.

Behentrimonium Methosulfate (and) Cetyl Alcohol (and) Butylene Glycol

Behentrimonium Methosulfate is a fabulous conditioner that is a positively charged quaternary compound that conditions hair by adsorbing to the negatively charged hair strand. It’s derived from the natural plant oil Colza, and is boosted by the cetyl alcohol, which helps the adsorption process.

Butylene glycol is a humectant, which means it draws moisture from the environment, and hydrates our hair.

“I absolutely love your products. I’m 60, I stopped dying my hair 4 years ago, so of course it’s gray. I used gray hair shampoo products for a couple of years but always had a dull yellow color to my hair. Since using your product my hair looks great. It is shiny and soft-no coarseness at all. My hairdresser is so impressed. I’m so grateful I found Joy Lane Farm.”

Hydrolyzed Quinoa Protein

Hydrolyzed Quinoa Protein is a natural protein sourced from sustainable, non-GMO quinoa seeds. It has numerous benefits, including increased shine for healthier looking hair, increased style and body, better color retention, film forming and moisture retention benefits, and protection for the hair shaft.



Panthenol, also known as Vitamin B5, is another humectant that hydrates our hair. It also makes the cuticle (outer layer of the hair shaft) close tighter, making our hair look smooth and shiny and makes our hair stronger.

“I've been using the shampoo and conditioner bars for several months now and I love them! I feel like my hair is healthier than it was when I was using conventional shampoo and conditioner which means I've been able to grow it out longer and I don't need to have as much cut when I go to the hair stylist. Even better that this company is local and easy to buy from at farmers markets or online.

Personally my favorite sent is the grapefruit because I really like the smell of citrus.”



Citrus Paradisi (Grapefruit) Oil, Citrus Sinensis (Sweet Orange) oil, Citrus Bergamia (Bergamot Oil)

These are natural, citrusy essential oils that have a delightful scent, as well as hair-healthy vitamins and fatty acids.

Propylene Glycol (and Diazolidinyl Urea (and) Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate

Together these make up the paraben-free preservative system for our shampoo bar. Even though shampoo bars do not have water as an ingredient, they live in the shower surrounded by water, so they need protection from mold, yeast, and other microbials.

That's all!

Woman using shampoo

How do you use a shampoo bar?

Shampoo bars are super easy to use. They lather just like liquid shampoo. Here's what you do:

1) Wet your hair

2) Run shampoo bar from root to tip 3-4x

3) Set aside, lather normally, and rinse

The key to making a shampoo bar last is to keep it out water when it's not being used. Place it on a well-draining soap dish or wire shower shelf so that it can dry between uses. 

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