This Is My Favorite Shampoo Bar & Conditioner—& I’ve Tried Them All

Photo: Courtesy of Jinnie Lee.
Deal alert: Use promo code REFINERY for 20% off all full-priced items at until August 31, 2022 in the US and Canada. Offer excludes gift cards, sale items, and bundles.
I made the switch to shampoo bars over 10 years ago — and, sure, while I occasionally dip my tresses into liquid shampoos and conditioners for on-the-job testing purposes, I always return to the solid format because it's the more economical, eco-conscious, and efficient way to go.
Shampoo bars are money-savers because you are essentially using as much product as your head really needs to get your scalp and hair clean. With liquid shampoos, you're surrendering to the wasteful ways of the pump or pour. Depending on the size of the shampoo bar, one bar will typically last me two to three times as many washes as I'd normally get from a liquid formula. Shampoo bars are also better and easier to pack for travel — sometimes I'll simply knife off a small chunk if I'm headed on a short trip and pack that into my toiletry pouch.

Ethique Shampoo Bar, $15 (Use promo code REFINERY for 20% off)

Shampoo bars are far more earth-friendly as well — because, what's that about plastic packaging? Oh right, there isn't any. Often when you purchase shampoo bars, they'll come wrapped in recyclable paper materials or even raw (as what happens if you were to buy shampoo bars IRL at a bath and body shop like Lush). As for efficiency, shampoo bars allow you to get right into your scalp and roots, which I've learned is the proper way to wash your head. While my shower is running, I section off parts of my hair and rub the bar directly onto my scalp. Once I've done that to a few places on my scalp, I'll put the bar down and use my fingertips to then lather and massage. It's a sudsy good time.
And, while shampoo bars are nothing new, more and more people are getting hip to their eco-friendly, cost-effective ways. Both established and newer brands are rushing in to capture curious new consumers, which can make picking the right one intimidating — especially since they last so long (see above). Which is why I want to tell you about my favorite shampoo bar and conditioner to date — and, as I mentioned earlier, I've been using shampoo bars for more than a decade so I've tried them all, from my longtime go-to Lush to the luxe hair brand Davines and everything in between. For me, the latest and greatest comes from Ethique, the makers of vegan and plastic-free hair, skin, and body products. (I previously reviewed Ethique's fantastic line of biodegradable lipsticks if you're interested in the brand's cruelty-free makeup offerings.) In my opinion, a good shampoo bar should be the following: It should have a solid and smooth texture meaning no funky chunks, no leafy herbs, no ground-up seeds — basically nothing that will make the bar crumble prematurely because of random stuff lurking within. A good shampoo bar should be a little oily but not so much that the texture is slick between your fingers (the idea is that the bar stays solid) and those oils should nourish strands to balance out the sometimes stripping nature of soap. I also prefer bars that aren't overdyed so the colors aren't bleeding in the shower. And, when it comes to pricing, I believe that shampoo bars, given their minimal and lightweight packaging, should be less than $20 a pop. And I'm pleased to say that Ethique, for me, checks all the boxes.

Ethique Conditioner Bar, $17 (Use promo code REFINERY for 20% off)

As it turns out, Ethique shampoo and conditioner bars are the brand's bread-and-butter product — according to a brand rep, they sell every nine seconds and boast more than 30,000 five-star reviews. There are 20 shampoo bars and 15 conditioner bars to choose from, each one made for a specific hair or scalp type (and even a gentle shampoo bar made for babies!). The standard Ethique shampoo bars are $15 each — they're larger than other shampoo bars I'm used to (which means more cost-saving washes) but still sized to comfortably fit in the palm of a hand. The one that I've become infatuated with, the Heali Kiwi formulated for a "touchy scalp," is the brand's top seller for its soothing blend of natural oils, oatmeal, and cocoa butter. It leaves my wavy bob feeling bouncy, light, and clean, but not in a squeaky-clean, your-oils-are-stripped kind of way.
The Ethique conditioner bars are smaller and are $17 each — which to me, it's a genius move because I despise how other beauty brands sell shampoo and conditioner products in similar-sized packaging (honestly, you're always using less conditioner than you are shampoo). For as many years I've used shampoo bars, I've never found a conditioner bar I love...until now. My holy grail conditioner, The Guardian, is the best conditioner bar I've ever encountered. Formulated for dry and frizzy hair, it delivers all it promises, which can be especially rare for conditioners in bar form. Normally, they aren't conditioning enough because they're too solid or they're too mushy — my theory is that, because conditioners don't lather as shampoos do, getting the right amount of conditioner to your hair can be a challenge if you're barring it. But it seems like Ethique has gotten the consistency, firmness, and oil levels right. After I rinse off the shampoo, I'll take the wet conditioner bar and stroke the ends of my strands with it a few times. With very little effort, the conditioner grips onto and nourishes my locks with its mix of cocoa butter, coconut oil, and lime-scented goodness. (These conditioner bars are also apparently great as shaving bars, though I've yet to try it.) What it begets, after a natural, air dry is a lightweight and wave-tastic bob.
If you haven't yet given shampoo and conditioner bars a try, I implore you to give Ethique a chance (ICYMI, the brand is offering 20% off sitewide with the promo code REFINERY till August 31, 2022). Using these solid wonders is a small but effective way to make you feel like you're doing your part by making eco-conscious beauty choices. Like they did for me, I am confident they'll leave your hair and scalp feeling fresh. Plus, using these bars is a fabulous way to help you cut down on the number of plastic products that take up your shower space. The only additional purchase I recommend is a self-draining soap dish or a shower caddy where your precious bars can dry out so they're not deteriorating and sticking onto a wet surface. With that, I hope you hit the bar(s) soon.
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