How many bottles are currently fighting for space on your shower caddy? Are they all neatly lined up in your window’s ledge or do you have so many that you have to store half of them elsewhere because there are no more corners left in your bathroom?
What are you going to do with them once you finish the products in them? Does anyone even finish the whole thing nowadays?
What if we told you that most of what is in those bottles is water and additives that may be further damaging and ruining your hair and that there is a better, cleaner, and greener option?
In just a few years, zero waste conditioner and shampoo bars have gone from obscure niche products that were the territory of crunchy, outdoorsy types to some of the most sought after hair care products on the market.
Environmentally-conscious customers educated on which ingredients are better for their tresses and which should have been left out long ago have been driving sales of these humble-looking products that just a couple of years ago most marketing experts would’ve thought impossible to sell because of their unglamorous looks.
Zero waste conditioner and shampoo bars are now made and carried by both multinational brands and smaller independent sellers like EcoRoots. They are no longer just for the “crunchy”, backpacker types: many of them are formulated with the same premium ingredients found in their liquid counterparts such as vitamin complexes and organic plant oils. Along with bar soaps, they are some of the easiest zero waste swaps that you can make in your personal care routine and one that your tresses will thank you for as much as the planet will.
So what’s all the buzz behind solid shampoos and conditioners? You’ve probably seen them and thought to yourself they were yet another gimmicky product that doesn’t work. Maybe you heard about them from a friend that tried and did not like how their hair looked afterward. We promise that this is not the case.
As we said: solid shampoos and conditioners have come a long way. They are usually formulated with the same ingredients you will find in premium cosmetics but without any of the unnecessary additives. With the right products, you will too be a convert to a zero-waste hair routine.
Still, the benefits of making this switch go way beyond having great hair - our planet needs us to solve the plastic waste problem we’ve created and reducing the use of and demand for plastic packaging is one of the most effective ways to do this. With it’s reliance on packaging, the beauty industry is one of the main contributors to plastic waste on Earth and very little is being done to change that. There are barely any regulations on the industry when it comes to the materials used for packaging and the way that they should be disposed of. Below we discuss the beauty industry’s plastic waste problem a bit more in-depth.
The Beauty Industry’s Plastic Waste Problem
As the beauty industry exploded into a multi-billion dollar industry, so did the number of products available to consumers and the plastic, paper, chemical, and metal waste that manufacturing those products generated. It also shaped customers’ perception of what personal care is by marketing them an ever-growing variety of products that has convinced a lot of people that they need five different hair products and that their faces need 10-step routines involving a dizzying array of serums, creams, “essences” and oils in order to look “fresh” or “glowing”.
The industry has largely avoided the backlash over single-use plastic that other businesses such as fast food have faced. We’ve been waging a war against single-use plastics in items such as wrappers, shopping bags, coffee cups, and straws but we’ve somehow forgotten that our shampoo bottles and our eyeshadow palettes are also single-use plastics that are just as harmful to the planet as the cup holding our iced coffee.
There are a few places where packaging matters as much as it does when it comes to selling cosmetics. Bright colors, sleek looks, shiny finishes, and decorative gimmicks create an aura of luxury that is a key component of these companies’ marketing schemes. This means that, first of all, a lot of plastic is being used and, second, very little of it is recycled or will eventually get recycled.
Another issue is that most of this plastic is virgin, meaning that is has been made from petrochemicals instead of coming from recycled sources. Cosmetics manufacturers are leery of using recycled plastic for their packaging because post-consumer materials do not allow too much room to experiment with the flashy colors and finishes customers have come to expect from their packaging. It’s still quite difficult to find alternatives that check all of the boxes in between compatibility with cosmetic products.
And most of us aren’t even using the full amount of product that is being put into those packages. According to a survey by Poshly, 75% of women do not finish their makeup products while the average person owns around 40 skincare products but regularly uses just five of them. This means that we are investing a lot of money and resources on products that are mostly going to waste.
Why Recycling Won’t Help
Plastic packaging is a big problem regardless of the industry: according to the EPA packaging and containers are the largest contributors to plastic waste totaling at 14.5 tons of municipal waste in 2017. That year, only 1.9 tons of plastic got recycled. The rest went to landfills.
Many of us learned when we were younger the plastic, paper, glass, and metal get recycled and that the process essentially turns the old materials into new ones in a seemingly endless cycle that will continue so long as we are good about making sure that they get recycled. Recycling, however, is not as simple as it’s been made out to look nor is it the panacea for pollution that we would like to think it is.
The truth is that most plastic does not get recycled. As we mentioned earlier, only a small percentage of plastic packaging gets recycled while the rest goes into landfills. Most of it has to be shipped halfway across the world to countries like China where the actual recycling takes place adding even more pollution to our plastics’ life cycle from transportation and processing. And as of last year, it’s become even more difficult for that to happen: China used to import and recycle around 45% of the world’s plastic waste and then abruptly stopped doing so in 2019, leaving countries like the USA or the U.K. scrambling to figure out what to do with ever-growing piles of plastic waste at home.
Throwing your plastics into the recycling bin and hoping that they will be handled properly and recycled has always been a pipe dream but it’s become even more so after this.
When plastic does get recycled, producing a commercially viable batch of post-consumer material is very difficult and finding ways to use it even more so. Manufacturers will use only specific kinds of plastic and give preference to clear-colored ones as clear plastic is the type that is most often used. Any plastic that has colors - such as it is the case with so much of the packaging used by the cosmetics industry - is usually rejected as the dyes will taint the color in the batched of recycled material. Then there’s the issue of price: recycled materials can sometimes be more expensive than non-recycled ones meaning yet another deterrent from budget-conscious and earnings-focused corporations.
Moving Into Zero-Waste Beauty Routines:
Save for a few exceptions, the beauty industry is, sadly, way behind in meeting consumers’ growing interest in alternative packaging. It’s because of this that reducing the amount of waste you generate from beauty products can be incredibly difficult. It’s likely that your favorite products do not come in zero-waste, recyclable or a least partially recycled packaging. In addition, many products cannot be made into a solid form or put into different packaging simply because they need something that protects them from the elements, tampering, contaminants, light, or motion.
The single, most effective way to reduce plastic has always been to not produce it in the first place. Since packaging is such a huge contributor to our waste, choosing reduced-waste or zero waste products is, by far, the easiest way for anyone to reduce the amount of plastic waste that they’re generating and reduce demand for plastic products. This, however, can get especially difficult when it comes to personal care products for the reasons mentioned above.
The good news is that it’s becoming much easier to find greener alternatives in personal care. There is an ever-growing amount of products that come in packaging made from materials that are recycled or compostable and it looks like refillable containers such as the ones that our great-grandparents grew up with are poised to make a big comeback. Some products, such as our zero waste conditioner bars, come with no packaging at all. In addition, many brands have started to embrace glass packaging - which is recycled at a higher rate than plastic - and appeals to both environmentally-conscious customers and those who enjoy its luxurious look and feel.
The Easiest Switches For a Greener Beauty Routine
It may be a while before your favorite lengthening mascara that doesn’t leave you with raccoon eyes or that lipstick that is the perfect combo of moisturizing and long-lasting come in greener packaging but there are plenty of other products in which making the switch is easy and won’t require compromising quality or functionality.
The easiest one of these switches is perhaps choosing bar soap. Up until not that long ago, body washes were quite rare and we were all content using good old soap bars. Fast forward a couple of years later and cosmetics companies somehow managed to convince us that bars were not good enough and that what we really needed if we wanted beautiful, soft skin were body washes.
A similar thing happened with shampoo and conditioner. If you’ve been trying to reduce your waste or even just following the latest trends in beauty, you’ve probably already seen solid shampoo and conditioners. Though they’re now just regaining popularity, shampoo bars have been around since at least the 19th century. They were replaced by liquid versions in the 20th century once plastic packaging became fashionable and almost disappeared from store shelves to become niche backpacker and camping staples thanks to their versatility, long shelf life and relatively mess-free storage until they were “rediscovered” by minimalists and the zero-waste movement not too long ago.
Why Choose Zero-Waste Conditioner and Shampoo Bars:
So what’s so special about zero-waste conditioner and shampoo bars asides from being plastic-free? Below we give you the rundown on their benefits:
- Eco-friendly packaging and earth-friendly ingredients
We’ve already talked about how lack of plastic packaging makes bar shampoos and conditioners the most eco-friendly choice in haircare but the ingredients used in most shampoo and conditioner bars are another very important reason why they’re better for the environment.
As regulations for vehicle emissions and chemicals in areas like transportation have tightened, these industries have started cleaning up. They’ve cleaned up so much, in fact, that now consumer products such as soap and personal care products account for almost as much emissions of petroleum-based chemicals as those produced by motor vehicles. In addition, other ingredients commonly used in beauty products such as phthalates and dioxane linger in wastewater even after it’s been treated and harm fish, plants and other wildlife in oceans and rivers.
- Longer shelf life and more affordable than comparable liquid versions
Liquid shampoos and conditioners are mostly water and additives that are there precisely to keep them in liquid form. Bar versions forgo all the additives and include only what’s necessary, leaving you with a more concentrated product that will last you for longer and often cost a fraction of the price than a comparable liquid version. EcoRoot’s shampoo and conditioner bars last for at least 55 washes, which for some people may be up to three months’ worth of regular hair washing. And, sure, some may argue that they can get as much cheap two-dollar shampoo and conditioner as they like at a big box store but, will it make your hair as soft as our Moroccan oil zero waste conditioner bar.
- Better ingredients for you and your hair
Shampoo and conditioner bars are still a relatively niche product mostly sold by companies like ours that care about our environment and about the ingredients that go into our personal care products. Because of this, most shampoo and conditioner bars are likely to be free of harsh surfactants, parabens, phthalates, silicones, and other ingredients you may be trying to avoid for healthier hair, a healthier you and a cleaner planet. They will most likely include high-quality components such as organic oils, emulsifiers, fragrances, proteins, and other ingredients derived from natural sources.
- They travel very well
With no liquid to spill, you will never play Russian roulette again with your belongings getting soaked with shampoo or lathered in conditioner when taking a flight. And, speaking of flights: no more measuring and transferring your shampoo or conditioner into 3.4 oz containers only to have them thrown out by security staff because they’re still somehow too big - just grab your shampoo and conditioner bars and go! Also, say goodbye to crappy hotel toiletries and the endless bad hair days you’ll get to remember forever in your travel pictures.
- Safer for Children
Traditional children’s shampoos and conditioners may come in fun cute packaging but there is nothing nice about all the awful ingredients in them. It’s not rare to find carcinogens such as dioxane and formaldehyde in hygiene products marketed for children. Many of these products can trigger allergic reactions and have been shown to cause developmental and hormonal problems in humans. EcoRoots’s shampoo and conditioner bars are formulated without phthalates, parabens or sulfates and include safe, natural ingredients that you can feel comfortable using around your little ones.
- Better for color-treated or damaged hair
No harsh chemicals or sulfates make shampoo and conditioner bars the perfect choice for those with damaged or color-treated hair that needs gentle ingredients and lots of moisturizing. Our shampoos and conditioners come loaded with nourishing blends of oils such as olive, jojoba, sunflower and coconut that will restore your hairs moisture, shine and strength.
Conditioner Bars: The Easiest Zero-Waste Beauty Switch of them All
We get it, switching all of your beauty products or specific favorites for zero waste and eco-friendly alternatives may not be feasible for everyone. Some people really dislike the heavy feeling that solid shampoos can leave in their hair or may not be too happy about having to rinse with vinegar once a week. Maybe you’re just looking to start including greener products into your routine and want something that is guaranteed to work just as well as the ones that you already have. If you’re still new to zero-waste products we can’t think of a better way to start than a zero-waste conditioner bar.
Conditioner is much easier to make into solid form as it doesn’t have as much water as shampoo and it’s less likely to leave your hair feeling heavy or with the residue that some people complain shampoo bars do.
Our zero-waste conditioner and shampoo bars are vegan, cruelty-free, paraben-free, phthalate-free, and package-free. We also do not include any palm oils in them as palm oil production is a major driver for deforestation and habitat destruction in Southeast Asia. Instead, they are loaded with natural oils such as jojoba, olive oil, and sunflower oil plus vegetable butter and vitamins that all hair types will love and come in a variety of scents that range from tropical and sweet to fresh and woodsy. If you are trying to avoid fragrances, no worries, we got you covered too with our non-scented versions.
Read on to find out which one of our zero waste conditioner bars is best for your lifestyle and hair needs.
This customer-favorite blends Moroccan and coconut oil with the warm scent of vanilla in a vitamin-powered formula to add shine and strength to your hair without weighing it down.
A delicious mix of floral and woodsy notes perfumes this zero-waste conditioner bar with scents of jasmine, pine and patchouli that will linger deliciously in your hair long after your shower.
Vanilla, cherries, caramel and rose water mix with rich coconut and sunflower oil in this sweet and flirty conditioner that will have you dreaming of sunny skies and summer flings.
Get into that Italian summer mood with zingy grapefruit extract, neroli flowers, sweet apricot, and lemon peel plus quinoa protein and cocoa butter for maximum strength and moisture. Our customers love this.
If you can’t drop everything and go away on that Caribbean vacation you’ve been dreaming of, at least your hair can smell you did with this conditioner’s blend of coconut oil and the fresh scent of lime, lemon and bergamot.
Our sweetest, fruitiest scent: honeydew melon and mango with warm and spicy vanilla and sandalwood. It smells almost good enough to eat!
This no-nonsense unscented conditioner bar is here to make your hair look great with cocoa butter, olive oil, coconut oil, and jojoba oil and without any added fragrances.
Treat your scalp as well as you treat the rest of your hair with invigorating tea tree oil and peppermint to keep it clean, dandruff-free, and healthy.
This easy-to-use bar is perfect for camping and travel or just to make your everyday life a bit less complicated. It makes for a very gentle shampoo as it also doubles as a conditioner and it’s a wonderful option for children and people with color-treated hair.
A plastic-free hemp conditioner that detangles and softens your hair. Omega-rich hemp seed oil and stimulating lavender create a perfectly nourishing combo for both scalp and hair. Works wonderfully for all hair types.
How to Use and Care for your Shampoo and Conditioner Bars
Solid shampoo and conditioner are no different than solid soap: if you leave them in direct contact with water and do not place them in a soap dish, they’ll start to disintegrate and won’t last you as long.
So just as you would do with a soap bar: keep your solid shampoo and conditioner away from water and place them in a soap saver or a soap dish that has drainage. Bamboo soap dishes are a great plastic-free alternative for this. Our bamboo soap dish is designed with grooves that allow water to drain away from your bar.
Same as with any cosmetics, make sure to keep your bars away from direct sunlight and high heat. If you’re going to be traveling with your shampoo bar, there is a selection of containers available in durable, recycled, or recyclable materials such as wood or metal. Alternatively, if you already own a travel soap container you can use that to store them.
Make the Switch and Make a Difference
With the cosmetics industry generating a whopping 120 million pounds of packaging each year plus all of the pollutants that the manufacturing and use of their products release into bodies of water and our own bodies, it’s time that we as consumers take steps to reduce demand for plastic packaging and put pressure on companies to start using greener, better and safer alternatives.
We understand that making a radical switch into a beauty routine that is completely zero waste may be hard or nearly impossible for some people but just because you can only do one thing or a couple of things at a time doesn’t mean you need to give up on it. Every little bit counts, especially when dealing with the environmental emergency that plastic and toxic waste have become.
As the Zero-Waste Chef said: “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero-waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly”. Start with small changes in your life that you know will make a big difference and soon enough, changing bigger things won’t seem so hard".