Zero waste shampoo and conditioner bars have been around for a hot minute. In fact, they were invented in the late 80s by the co-founder of Lush: Mo Constantine.
But zero waste hair care has been growing in popularity due to the state of the planet and the need to do our part to cut down on waste and live more sustainably.
Since most shampoos are up to 80% water, contain harmful chemicals that can harm you and the planet or make your hair fall out, and they come in plastic bottles, it’s hard to imagine why any responsible consumer would want to continue supporting that.
In this blog post, we’ll look at the top plastic-free shampoo and conditioner bars and examine the best ones based on hair type (long, short, curly, straight, dry, oily, etc.).
And I’ll tell you my personal faves.
I’ll also include tips on how to make your own eco-friendly, zero waste shampoo if you’re feeling creative. And don’t forget to scroll down to the FAQs to learn why commercial shampoos are so bad.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means I might get a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you choose to make a purchase through any of these links. Please read the full disclosure for more information.
What are the best zero waste shampoo and conditioner bars?
Best overall shampoo & conditioner bar
This Pinkalicious Uplifting Shampoo bar comes in as the top-rated zero waste shampoo bar.
As a brand, Ethique is a highly rated eco-friendly and sustainable company for so many reasons.
They offset 120% of their carbon emissons and use plastic-free as well as compostable packaging and shipping.
All products are vegan and cruelty-free, their offices are powered by 100% renewable energy, and they now have warehouses in Australia, USA, and the UK to help cut down on overseas travel and shipping emissions.
To follow up with a conditioner, try their Guardian Nourishing Solid Conditioning Bar (for frizzy or dry hair) or the Wonderbar Lightweight Solid Bar (for regular to oily hair) which I personally use and can highly recommend.
Best vegan shampoo & Conditioner bar
- Vegan and cruelty free
- Wide variety of scents
- Perfect for all hair types
- Plastic free shipping & packaging
- Made in the USA
- Last through 50+ shampoos
- Paraben, phthalate, & silicone free
- Dry shampoo available too
If you’re looking for a vegan shampoo bar, you’re in luck. With EcoRoots, there are many to choose from, but I like EcoRoots the best because of their incredible variety of scents and the fact that they are a US-based company.
Some other Pros about EcoRoots is that their shampoo and conditioner bars are great for all hair types, and customers love the fact that they feel and smell great and they don’t crumble like some others do.
Best all-in-one shampoo bar
Surf Soap Company
- Ocean Safe
- Lasts 60 washes
- Comes as 3-pack
- Includes aluminum travel tin
- Packaged in biodegradable box
- Shampoo, conditioner, body wash in one
- Organic and sustainably sourced ingredients
From start to finish, Surf Soap Company makes earth-friendly products, but let’s look at their all-in-one shampoo, conditioner, and body wash bars.
Scented with lemongrass oil and other organic essential oils, they are ocean safe, free from all known toxic ingredients, and they have partnered with RIPL Ocean Safe Signature while they await certification with COSMOS.
I believe in this company and what they provide in the way of quality, so I recommend them as a great all-in-one.
I recommend fully browsing their website because they have a lot of great eco-friendly and sustainable products.
Their all-in-one bars are free from SLS, sulfates, silicones, phthalates, parabens, behentrimonium methosulfate, mineral oils, butelyne glycol, and cocomidopropyl betaine.
Customers love the smell, claim that it’s not irritating to their skin, lathers with minimal effort, and leaves their hair feeling soft, untangled, and shiny.
This was the very first shampoo bar I ever tried several years ago, and I honestly was torn about rating this as the best overall shampoo bar, but given the fact that you can only buy it at Trader Joe’s, it may be a little challenging for a lot of people to find.
However, it’s priced quite affordably at around $4 a bar, so if you live near a Trader Joe’s, or happen to be vacationing near one, you should grab a handful of these things.
They are so clean, and have a natural conditioning feel to them. But I still need to use a conditioner afterwards on my naturally curly hair.
Best shampoo and conditioner for curly hair
Chagrin Valley Butter Bar Shampoo
- Made in the USA
- Vegan; Leaping Bunny Certified
- Contains all organic ingredients
- Plastic-free packaging with biodegradable boxes
- Moisturizes and helps tame curly and frizzy hair
- Certified Organic By OEFFA
- USDA Accredited Organic Certifying Agent
Chagrin Valley Soap & Salve is an American company that produces natural handmade soaps, shampoos, and other personal care products. They have a TON of stuff for women, men, children, pets, and even bug repellant.
Their Butter Bar shampoo–also referred to as a “conditioner” bar–is a moisturizing shampoo bar specifically tailored for those with curly, frizzy, or heat-damaged hair.
It’s made of all organic and sustainably sourced ingredients, including babassu and coconut oil, to help moisturize and nourish the scalp without stripping away any natural oils.
This shampoo bar is free from artificial fragrances, color, preservatives, detergents, foam boosters, sodium lauryl sulfate SLS, DEA, or propylene glycol.
Best shampoo and conditioner for oily hair
HiBAR is an American company that strives to bring consumers “salon quality” ingredients without all the plastic packaging.
This particular Maintain Shampoo Bar is good for those with oily hair, or for those who don’t wash as frequently.
While their ingredients are not organic, they are vegan and cruelty free, so that puts them ahead of the game as far as I’m concerned.
Their shampoo and conditioner is free of parabens, sulfates, dyes, keratin, silicone, and saponified oils (for those who are sensitive to that).
Best shampoo and conditioner for dry/itchy scalp & hair
Free of parabens, phthalates, sulfates, silicone, and artificial fragrances (all fragrances are plant-based). They are also Leaping Bunny Certified.
This shampoo bar by Kitsch contains castor oil, which is shown to help moisturize dry, itchy scalps by improving blood flow. Castor oil additionally has antimicrobial and antifungal properties, so that could be why it’s beneficial for those with dandruff.
The Kitsch shampoo bar also has ricinoleic acid, which may improve scalp circulation. Some consumers noted that the bars last for up to 100 washes, which is pretty impressive!
Some cons for this brand are that they include plastic in some of their packaging, and their ingredients, while mostly sourced from plant ingredients, may cause a reaction in some people. Also, the conditioner bar does contain some known allergens, so be aware of that.
Best zero waste shampoo and conditioner for natural hair
Beauty and the Bees Moroccan Mud & Honey
- Good for all hair types but designed for natural or curly, dry hair
- Contains all-natural ingredients
- Made with Rhassous mud & French Red clay
- Palm oil free
- Not tested on animals
- Made in Australia
The Moroccan Mud & Honey Shampoo bar by Beauty and the Bees both cleanses and conditions natural hair.
Moroccan mud, also known as Rhassoul clay, is a type of clay mined from the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. It’s rich in minerals like silica, iron, magnesium, and potassium, which boost overall hair health as well as cleanses and detoxifies the hair and skin. The essential oils present give it a nice orange and coriander scent.
Honey is a 100% natural humectant, so it helps hair retain moisture, making it a great treatment for dry, damaged hair. It also has antibacterial properties that can help keep the scalp healthy.
Combined together, Moroccan mud and honey might make a great shampoo bar for those with dry, damaged hair, as it can cleanse, moisturize, and nourish the hair and scalp.
Best zero waste shampoo and conditioner for Thinning/aging hair
Superzero Shampoo and Conditioner
- Palm oil free
- Shampoo bars made in the USA
- Plastic-free packaging in recycled/recyclable cardboard boxes
- 1 bar = 24 oz. shampoo
- Vegan, plant-based ingredients
- Certified Microplastic Free
- Certified Climate Neutral by Climate Partners
If your hair is thinning due to age or other reasons, Superzero is a great product to try.
It appears they use caffeine and other natural ingredients to stimulate the hair follicles and enhance hair growth to allow for thicker, fuller hair.
Does it actually work? Reviewers seem to think so, as this product got great feedback among aging customers as well as those with thinning hair.
It’s free of sulfates, parabens, silicone, synthetic fragrances, palm oil, and phthalates.
**NOTE: Some conditioner bars do contain sustainably sourced palm oil**
While the shampoo bars are made in N.Y., the conditioner bars are made in Great Britain.
Pros and cons of zero waste shampoo and conditioner bars
Frequently asked questions about zero waste shampoo and conditioner bars
Why are most commercial shampoos and conditioners so bad?
Traditional shampoos can be bad for your hair and the environment for a few reasons.
First, most commercial shampoos contain harsh chemicals and non-naturally derived ingredients that can strip the hair of its natural oils and cause damage.
They’re basically chemical-laden bottles of toxins, watered down to give them volume so it looks like you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck.
We are definitely getting a lot of “bang,” but not the kind we want.
Additionally, traditional shampoo often contains synthetic fragrances and preservatives which irritate the scalp and can cause allergic reactions.
Regarding environmental impact, well, this probably goes without saying, but a LOT of companies put microplastics in their products, which ultimately end up in oceans and harm marine life.
And let’s not forget all the plastic waste that winds up in our landfills. So much of that waste comes from not having a zero waste bathroom.
Lastly, the manufacturing process of these chemical-based shampoos can no longer be ignored. They harm the environment and ALL life–both plant and animal–by releasing harmful pollutants into the air and water.
Most shampoo bars are free of the most harmful ingredients, but not always.
How do you use a shampoo bar?
There is a slight learning curve when using a waste free shampoo bar for the first time, but they aren’t difficult by any means. It’s more a matter of getting used to them.
Since they are like a bar of soap for your body, you simply rub them along your scalp, or in your hands, until a lather forms. I find them easier to rub into my hair and along the shaft, but every bar is different in how long they take to lather, or how much they do overall.
After you’ve tried a few different brands, you’ll figure out which ones you prefer. I personally think the Trader Joe’s shampoo bars have the best lather of all the ones I’ve tried, but like I mentioned, I do need a separate conditioner bar afterward.
What are most zero waste shampoo bars made of?
A quality shampoo or conditioner bar is free from harmful and synthetic chemicals and made of natural ingredients like olive oil, coconut oil, clays, muds, and natural essential oils.
You’ll want to look for ingredients that are organic or, at a minimum, ethically and sustainably sourced.
Check for certifications, yes, but if you’re in a pinch, you’re doing a world of good if you can at least omit the plastic.
What ingredients should I avoid when looking for zero waste shampoo or conditioner?
- Sulfates: A type of surfactant that makes shampoo “lather up.” When used in shampoo bars, they can strip the hair of its natural oils, causing dryness and damage. Examples of sulfates include sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES).
- Parabens: A preservative that extends the shelf life of shampoo; have been linked to hormone disruption and cancer.
- Phthalates: Plasticizers that make shampoo more flexible and easier to pump; have been linked to hormone disruption and birth defects.
- Synthetic Fragrances: Added for scent; can cause skin irritation, allergic reactions, and headaches.
- Formaldehyde and Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives: Prevent bacteria and mold from growing in shampoo bottles; can cause skin irritation and allergic reactions.
- Propylene Glycol: A humectant that helps hair retain moisture; can cause skin irritation and allergic reactions.
- Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate (ALS) & Ammonium Laureth Sulfate (ALES): Similar to SLS and SLES; can be just as harsh on the hair and skin.
- Non-sustainable palm oil: sourcing of it leads to deforestation, increased carbon emissions, negatively impacts indigenous communities, and contributes to pollution when growing palm trees. When buying products that claim to have sustainably sourced palm oil, ensure they are truly adhering to that claim.
How can I make my own zero waste shampoo or conditioner?
There are many recipes available online for making your own sustainable shampoo or conditioner at home, some of them with simple ingredients like apple cider vinegar and even baking soda mixed with essential oil if you have a preference..
And hey, I did just so happen to stumble upon a cool recipe for zero waste shampoo over at the Ground Zero Waste blog that I am anxious to try out and will post my results here soon.
But because everyone’s hair type is different, and some are looking to avoid certain ingredients while incorporating others, I recommend heading over here and finding one that meets your needs.
The great thing about those recipes is that all of them can be made sustainably and in an eco-friendly, non-toxic way.
Final Thoughts on Zero Waste Shampoo and Conditioner Bars
If you’re sick of tossing plastic bottles in the trash, then it’s time to try some of these shampoo bars. Most of them are widely available at local stores or can be ordered online.
You can also use a “less” waste liquid shampoo, like something that comes in bulk and is concentrated, but I much prefer the bars.
Since I made the switch, I can’t imagine going back to plastic. And with so many of them being affordable, and with the plethora of options for making your own at home, there really aren’t any reasons to.