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Solid Shampoo Bars

What’s the deal?

I have tried so many solid shampoo bars because I was determined to ditch the unnecessary plastic bottle and eventually went about making my own Kelpie Shampoo Bars that I now make for my customers. Solid shampoo bars are more convenient, great for traveling, and plastic packaging is not required. 

These are some of the questions people ask me about solid shampoo and why shampoo bars are better than liquid. I hope this will help you make informed decisions about how you care for your hair.

How do I use a solid shampoo bar?

Rub the bar directly on your hair or you can lather it in your hands and use the lather to wash your hair. Try washing your roots first, rinse, then do another wash all over to thoroughly wash your hair. To keep the bar nice and firm make sure you leave it somewhere it can dry out. 

How long does a solid shampoo bar last?

It depends on many things but as a simple reference guide, a 50g bar as shown in the image below will last as long as two standard size (300ml) bottles of shampoo. It depends on how much hair you have and how often you wash your hair. If you make sure you dry the bar between uses it will not get so gooey. When the bar gets gooey it is very easy to use too much product for each wash.

I used a solid shampoo before but it left a build-up. Why?

This build-up is caused by using a solid shampoo that has a high pH (more information on pH coming soon). This pH level disrupts the natural state of your hair and scalp and can cause your hair to feel limp, heavy, flyaway, tangled, and even fragile. 

The guidance for people trying these bars is to just keep using them until your hair gets used to it (transition phase – coming soon) or rinse the hair with an acidic solution after washing. This acidic solution (apple cider vinegar, for example) has a low pH and balances out the high pH of the product. High pH shampoos are made by mixing natural oils with lye called a cold process method.

Another problem many people have with Solid Shampoo bars is the high content of sulfate. Why is sulfate bad for my hair? What is the transition phase? What is pH? How do I know what is in my shampoo bar? Answers all coming in the next blog post.

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Solid Shampoo Bar Problems

My solid shampoo is not working. Why?

If your solid shampoo is leaving with build-up it is likely your bar has a high pH (more information on pH below). More information about this was in my previous blog post.

pH – What is it and why does it matter in shampoos?

PH Is the measure of how acidic or alkali something is. It is a scale that indicates the concentration of hydrogen ions in a solution. Hydrogen ions are atoms with a charge – this will become important later. 

Neutral is pH7 and your happy scalp is pH5.5 (slightly acidic). Shampoo should be the same pH as your scalp, if it isn’t then the shaft of your hair may become static due to the unbalanced charge (hydrogen ions) and you will notice build-up and frizziness.

Materials that attract or repel other materials are said to be charged. If one strand of hair is covered in positive charge ions and so is another, these strands will try to repel each other. The strands will happily slide over each other if the charge is balanced. A more extreme example of this is static electricity as shown in the pic below.

Transition Phase

The transition phase is the time it takes for your hair to get used to the high pH of cold process soap. You may have hair and scalp that does get used to this pH. In which case – go for it. It’s a cheaper option and will most certainly lift dirt and leave your hair super shiny.

Many people I have spoken to have tried a shampoo bar and had a similar experience to me then wrote off shampoo bars thinking they were all the same and that they didn’t get on with them at all. However, there is a VAST range on the market now and bottled shampoo is not necessary. A bar is more convenient, there is no plastic packaging and I am confident you will find one that works for you.

Why do people go on about sulphate free shampoo?

Sulphates may irritate your scalp. Sulphate is most commonly found in SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulphate). SLS is a surfactant that lifts dirt/oils and lathers up. 

A surfactant, also called surface-active agent, is a substance such as a detergent that, when added to a liquid, reduces its surface tension. This means things like dirt, oils, microbes and bacteria are lifted and more easily washed away with the surfactant. There are harsh ones like in dish soap or gentle ones like in shampoo. 

Sulphate molecules are teeny tiny, so tiny in fact that they can irritate the skin, follicles and cuticles. It irritates these cells because it is just the right size and shape to get in there and be annoying. If you’re a gook like me – the shape is below.

Annoying SLS

Healthy hair requires happy, healthy hair follicles and cuticles. There are other surfactants that do just as great a job of lathering up and lifting dirt. SLSa (Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate), for example, foams up well and has a larger Sulph-molecule and is less likely to irritate your scalp. The name may be similar but is a much nicer molecule to have at your shampoo party. The geeky shape is shown below.

Happy SLSA

How do I know what is in a solid shampoo bar I am buying?

Check the ingredients label. All ingredients should be labelled clearly on any product that goes on your skin in the UK. 

High pH cold process soaps/shampoo will contain ingredients like Sodium Olivate, Sodium Cocoate, Sodium Palmate, Sodium Castorate.

A pH-balanced product will contain SCI/SLSA/SLS/Glucoside along with other scents, binders and conditioning additives.