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Survey of Shampoos

By Karina | July 21, 2008

shampoogirl.jpgOK, Tiny Choosers – I’ve been doing an informal survey of shampoos over the last few weeks and I’m ready to report back to you with my findings.

I am pretty adventurous with my hair. It’s just hair, after all! I did write about my baking soda/vinegar hair care regime here, and how even though it worked really well I quit because it just took too darn long. I think I kept it up for about 5 months.

In general, I’m looking for easy – my hair is full (at times kind of wild) and has a tendency towards big and can get frizzy if I’m not careful. I’ve been learning that I need to keep it moisturized carefully to keep it a little smaller and tamer. Plus, Jenn and I have been really getting into this few-ingredient lifestyle. What’s simpler than that?

After I gave up on the baking soda/vinegar regime, I switched to a Lush shampoo bar and Burt’s Bee’s deep conditioner. I found that I had to use an intensive conditioner because the shampoo bar was leaving my hair extra frizzy. Jenn talked about SLS in her post on toothpaste, and that’s one of the things that makes me question if the reason I’m unhappy with my Lush Shampoo Bar is the SLS. Maybe I’m getting lazy, but it just really seems like a lot of work to be making up for a failing of shampoo by piling more conditioner on my head. Long story long, I’m nearly out of the Burt’s Bee’s conditioner (which, by the way, comes in a plastic container, which is just about the only reason why I’m hesitant to buy another one) so I think it’s the perfect time to find another shampoo bar to use that doesn’t dry me out.

[[There is some hope, though - it turns out that Lush has quit using SLS in many of their solid shampoo bars! So if I ever get around to making another trip to Lush, I'll pick up a SLS-free bar and give it a whirl. Maybe without the SLS my hair would be happier?]]

During this investigation I’ve really started to question something very basic: what is my hair supposed to feel like? I have a theory that conventional shampoos strip your hair of natural oil and then you have to load them back on in the form of conditioner, which is not necessarily oils, but might also be silicone or weird plastics. Of course this is all surmise on my part. No science or investigation.

So this is what I’ve been experimenting with in the last couple of weeks. I wanted to stick to shampoo bars because I love the minimalist packaging. I found a couple that looked promising:

And? So far so good with the Dress Green shampoo bar. I haven’t had to condition my hair at all, and actually, I have to be really careful to wash the top back of my head because the shampoo bar is kind of direct, and doesn’t leave a lot of room for error – so you can’t really miss any spots because then they won’t be clean. I am pretty happy with how my hair feels after shampooing my hair 3 times with it, and I’m going to keep going with it to see how it works out.

What shampoo do you use? How do you think your hair is supposed to feel?

Photo from flickr user lucepotabile via creative commons license.

Topics: Health | 34 Comments »

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Comment by Jenn S.
2008-07-21 08:23:31

I’m a big fan of the Lush shampoo bars myself, though my favorite is a discontinued solid shampoo called Gentle Lentil, which is VERY moisturizing. (I’ve got a stockpile in my fridge to tide me over until they do another “retro” batch of discontinued items)

For conditioner, I use Lush’s Jungle – which is also a solid conditioner, and smells good enough to eat! Give it a whirl if you decide you need a little extra conditioner at some point!

Comment by Karina
2008-07-21 12:22:49

I’d never seen Jungle, I’ll have to take a look!

Comment by Jen
2008-07-28 15:05:41

I strongly recommend buying Jungle in person. The smell is very strong and you might not like it.

Comment by Soli
2008-07-21 09:15:08

I’m still on the bottle stuff–a brand called Shikai. I need to check the ingredient list when I am home since I couldn’t find it on their web site. I have yet to try any shampoo bars. My hair has a natural wave but also can frizz fast in drier weather.

Comment by Brandy
2008-07-21 09:17:07

yay, shampoo bars! glad you find one you liked. i’m still digging the one i got from J. R. Liggett.

Comment by stacey
2008-07-21 11:19:54

I like to use this one too, when I use shampoo.
But, I have curly hair and usually just use conditioner.

Comment by Karina
2008-07-21 12:23:19

I’ve heard a lot of good things about this one on the internets too – I mean to pick one up when I come across it.

Comment by Amanda
2008-07-21 10:37:35

I still use shampoo from a bottle, but I’m careful to use as little as I can and always recycle the bottle. I have used bars in the past when travelling. I will have to check these out.
hey… so I have a kind of related question about lotion! I hope you don’t mind the distraction , but it’s the same topic of body care stuff. Have you noticed how hard it is to find a lotion that is in a regular squeeze bottle or a tub anymore? Everything is packaged in those pump bottles at my regular drugstore. I have to go out of my way to avoid these! I hate those big plastic pumps- product goes to waste & it’s a big piece of unnecessary plastic!

Comment by Karina
2008-07-21 12:27:26

when in doubt for lotion I either use straight jojoba oil or shea butter from a big tub, like Jenn does. it leaves you a little greasy at the beginning but absorbs just as good as store-bought lotion, and it allows you to add your own favorite fragrance!

Comment by Wroth
2008-07-21 10:38:39

I’ve used Lush bars for 4+ years now, but I’m almost out, and trying Liggetts for the first time, because I’d like to NOT use conditioner, which I def. need to do w/ Lush. If I don’t like Liggett’s, I’ll wander on over to Dress Green and see how that works.

You might like Jungle, mentioned by Jenn S. It takes a little getting used to, but I used to use it (now my hair is too long) and I liked it quite a bit. Of course, I have stick-straight hair, so YMMV.

Comment by Jenn S.
2008-07-21 11:06:22

I’ve got coarse, thick wavy hair, and the Lush stuff works well for me. My current fave ‘poo bar of choice right now is their “Soak n’ Float” – its blue and has seaweed sticking out of it, but it doesn’t dry my hair out at all. Godiva is another one that works well, and that’s a combo ‘poo/conditioner bar.

I don’t do bottled lotions most of the time, either – I use Lush massage bars, or I make my own lotion bars out of a combo of various oils & butters (which admittedly ship to me in plastic tubs, but of course I recycle, and making your own stuff is good for gifting!)

Comment by Andrea
2008-07-21 11:59:29

I have mid-back length hair and stopped using shampoo altogether several months ago with pretty good results. I do use a vinegar/tea rinse that I make in batches every couple of weeks. I put it in glass bottles and just rinse my hair with it in the shower after scrubbing my hair with my fingers, (as IF I was using shampoo, but I’m not). I also started brushing my hair a 2 times a day which seems to help distribute the natural oils throughout the length of my hair and keeps it from drying out. After about 3 months of this regime, I did feel like my hair needed some kind of cleanser so I used a dime size spot of shampoo and rubbed it into the scalp ends of my hair one day which was great- it took 3 months for me to notice any oil build up but I did feel at that point like perhaps there was a little building up. I think if I do that every 3 months or so, I’ll be using this method of cleansing my hair for a very long time.

The very best part is that when I used to use regular shampoos and conditioners, I would spend about 20 minutes when I got out of the shower trying to comb through all the knots in my hair. I no longer have ANY knots. Which is totally amazing and I would not have believed it if someone had told me that would be the result. I fully expected to have MORE knots and had committed to cutting my hair really short if that happened b/c I just can’t stomach plastic bottles anymore and didn’t think the bars would work for me, so I thought I would just cut my hair really short so I could use the bars but now I don’t need to.

I’m still getting used to the new ‘feel’ of my hair- which is much less drier than before and slightly less fluffy you might say, but I met up with some friends that I hadn’t seen in a while the other day and they asked me what I had done to my hair. A little worried, I first asked- why? Is something wrong with it? They replied that it looked great and they wanted to know what I had done. Not being wannabe greenies like me, they were horrified when I told them, but at least I know it’s working.

If anyone’s looking for an economical, plastic free hair cleansing method, I would recommend this as a possibility. It wasn’t my idea- I read about it on another blog (but can’t remember which one).

Comment by Karina
2008-07-21 12:28:07

I love this! thanks so much for your comment. I say I’m adventurous with my hair, but man, I am not sure if I am quite THAT adventurous. ;)

Comment by Morgan
2008-07-21 12:20:01

Ahk, I’m SO jealous of you not being able to use shampoo, Andrea! I stopped for two months, but my hair just never got to looking good. The first month I only used water, then I tried the baking soda and AC vinegar solutions, but they just did not work at all. My hair always looked icky. But I think it’s a great point in the original post- what is our hair supposed to feel like?! Probably not squeaky clean like it does after shampooing. I want to try a shampoo bar, so thanks for the recommendations! Right now I’m using either Burt’s Bees shampoo & conditioner, or J.A.S.O.N shampoo, and a deep conditioner by some other company. Joico, maybe? It’s not environmentally friendly, but the Burt’s Bees & J.A.S.O.N. don’t contain SLS. I miss the lather, and it seems like I have to use more to get it all through my hair, but it works just as well.

Comment by Morgan
2008-07-21 12:20:40

& that picture at the top is really cute!! I love the expression!

Comment by Miss Grace
2008-07-21 13:31:05

The new Lush bars work pretty well.
I was at your breakfast table Friday morning at Blogher, and am checking out everyone I met on this long, great weekend, and loving all the new blogs I’m discovering. Your concept is EXACTLY what I try to do with my life; I think it’s really wonderful.

Comment by Jenn
2008-07-27 01:03:29

Hey Miss Grace! Great meeting you at BlogHer, and so glad you’re here– the tiny choices keep us all positive and moving forward, together!

Comment by Jennifer
2008-07-21 14:52:08

I’m still using shampoo and conditioner from a bottle. I have really long, thin straight hair and VERY oily skin and scalp. I use a tea tree oil product from Giovanni. The birth of my second baby necessitated less frequent showering, which is growing on me. I only shower every other day, unless I’ve gotten really icky doing something. I’m noticing that my hair is adjusting to this and not getting as oily as it did. I may switch to washing it only every third day to see what happens. I use the smallest amount of each product I can and I buy it in the largest size I can. They carried it at Costco for a while.

I’m really curious about the baking soda/vinegar wash, but I don’t have the time to try it right now. And my hubby HATES the smell of vinegar…

Comment by Karina
2008-07-21 17:12:16

the vinegar smell does linger for a little bit, but it dissipates pretty quickly. I also found that my hair reacts well to stretching out the frequency of washes!

2008-07-21 16:22:26

I quit using shampoo about 7 years ago. For the frist few months I occassionally rubbed salt through my hair, which I was told was what people in china did 100 years ago. Don’t know if that’s true but then i switched to using absolutely nothing for about 5 years, No one had a clue, my hair really didn’t look strange, rarely got greasy once it adjusted, and kind of gave it volume. Now i use lemons – just squeezed straight up- it works good to get out build up. Another thing that works and smells yummy is I boil lavender ginger and lemon and rinse with that. I only do that if i am going on a date though ;)

Comment by Karina
2008-07-21 17:22:12

I love this too! angry chicken wrote in this post that she quit using shampoo in her daughter’s hair a couple of years ago and it’s just fine too.

Comment by Clare
2008-07-21 19:08:12

“I have a theory that conventional shampoos strip your hair of natural oil and then you have to load them back on in the form of conditioner, which is not necessarily oils, but might also be silicone or weird plastics.”

Actually, that’s a pretty darn widespread theory–corroborated by lots of people who don’t use shampoo at all! Since you’re interested in this stuff, I highly recommend you visit The Long Hair Community. Just reading the articles and the popular threads in the hair areas will give you a lot of information on hair care! A lot of the members there are really focused on natural hair care, too.

I use and recommend Chagrin Valley shampoo (and soap) bars. My personal favorite is the Rosemary Lavender Aloe shampoo bar. One of the things to keep in mind when using soap-based shampoos, whether they’re in bar form or not, is that a diluted vinegar rinse (pretty much like the one you use with baking soda) makes a big difference. It smooths down the follicles, balances your hair and scalp’s pH, clears away any stubborn remaining soap, and makes your hair shiny! I don’t know how long your hair is, and it might not make as much of a difference on short hair, but I have tailbone-length wavy hair and the vinegar rinse is absolutely vital. I like to add EOs to it for a nicer smell, but I use apple cider vinegar which doesn’t smell as strongly anyway.

Comment by johanna
2008-07-21 23:07:01

I adore Prairieland Herbs’ shampoo bars. They work great on my hair–right now I have super-short hair, but when I first tried them a couple of years ago I had shoulder-length hair, & they made my hair so soft that I was constantly petting my own head like a freak. :) Plus they are a small family-farm-based business in Iowa… all points in their favor over Lush.

Comment by ophiesay
2008-07-22 00:11:40

Thanks for the great blog! btw, did you test any SLS, paraben-free liquid shampoos? Any formulas for kids (meaning tear-free, etc?)

Comment by Karina
2008-07-22 08:45:14

Hi ophiesay – I haven’t looked at any liquid shampoos at all – sorry! I like the minimal packaging of the solid shampoos.

Comment by Harper
2008-07-22 14:49:35

I am slowly finishing bottles of shampoo and conditioner — I’ve only wash my thick wavy, sometimes frizzy long hair twice/week — from Trader Joe’s. However, waiting in the wings is a Yucca soap that does it all (per the website) – it washes and conditions your hair, it cleans and deodorizes your body, it’s all cool and asymetrical looking! Found it here http://www.awildsoapbar.com/product.asp?productid=402043 Looking forward to using it but sounds like I may still need to use a vinegar rinse per previous comments. I want to get away from the plastic bottles so here’s hoping.

Comment by Clare
2008-07-23 20:31:52

My two preferred brands of ACV (Bragg’s and Spectrum–I think Spectrum must be cheaper because that’s what my dad usually buys) both come in glass bottles. Plastic caps, but still a lot better than plastic bottles.

Comment by Allie
2008-07-24 11:20:59

I’ve been using Burt’s Bees Super Shiny Shampoo and Conditioner. I have hair that tends to go frizzy, and I’ve been really happy with it. I’ve tried so many other brands, but a lot of times feel like they leave my hair too greasy or too dry.

Comment by Mrs Green
2008-07-26 10:17:22

I did the bicarb / cider vinegar one for about 3 years – it was great. Then I experimented with clay – excellent but messy. Then soapwort; fab, but time consuming and it only flowers for half the year!. Then eggs – surprisingly good, but now expensive to buy. I tried cheap pineapple juice and that was incredible – one of the best ‘shampoos’ I’ve used!

I’m now thinking about trying LUSH bar myself, but not if it contains SLS.

If you’re in the US, you can check out the Terressentials site for very natural shampoos based on clay. Alas postage to the UK is prohibitive.

Comment by k*m
2008-07-26 21:45:10

i’ve been bouncing between shampoo in bottles (for when my hair is big/long) and dr. bronners peppermint soap (for when it’s super low maintenance and super short). Having super curly kinky textured hair means that it is super frizzy all the time, even during the winters! i keep it short to avoid the hassle that comes with having big fluffy hair, but i wonder about the best way to keep it feeling nice. if i don’t moisturize at all it gets really brittle and rough, so i usually drench it with coconut oil or olive oil while its still wet and let it air dry. i guess hair is supposed to feel soft and tangle free, but sometimes getting to feel that way is more trouble (time and environmental wise) than it’s worth…

2008-07-27 06:00:29

[...] Survey of Shampoos [...]

Comment by dianna
2008-12-14 14:27:16

i really love shampoo bars. my favorite right now is j. r. liggetts but i also have used grandpa’s pine tar soap and even chandrika. both work really well but i suspect (after trying them for dishes) that the 2 soaps remove much more oil than the shampoo bar.
chandrika contains lime/orange oil and that makes it not as necessary to use the vinegar rinse – as it is already astringent a bit. when i use the j. r. liggetts i only have to use an acidic rinse occasionally, now that my hair is used to natural soap instead of shampoo.
oh – and i received a gift of phyto jojoba shampoo recently – this shampoo does contain SLS and i tried it and could totally tell it removed ALL the oil from my hair!
actually it felt like each strand was totally clean and not connected to the others – not a good feeling to me. also i am sensitive to SLS and was only able to use this shampoo 3 times before i started getting the slight stinging and red ears that i used to get with shampoo….
very glad to have found out about shampoo bars after trying CO washing, WO washing, herbs, vinegar, lime juice, etc.
my hair much prefers soap or shampoo bars over anything else
weird how long it took me to figure this out!!!!

2009-03-25 06:01:23

[...] entirely before they get think and slippery and you lose them down the drain. Plus, I’ve got a few tail ends of shampoo bars lying around, and a couple of bars that just didn’t work out for me – and as I clean out my [...]

2012-02-13 06:01:46

[...] written before about my love of solid shampoos – since writing that post, I’ve started to use JR Liggett’s shampoo bars almost [...]


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