Whether you’re looking to reduce the amount of plastic you use, switch to something with fewer chemicals or perhaps want something that’s a bit kinder to sensitive skin, a natural bar of solid shampoo can be a great solution.
However, if you haven’t yet made the switch to natural shampoo then there are a few things you need to know before doing so.
There are a few factors that can affect whether the transition to natural shampoo is simple or not. Hard water and the condition of your hair, as well as the products you use on it, are going to have the biggest impact on whether natural shampoo works for you or not.
The thing to keep in mind is that, although it may take a few goes before your hair adjusts to natural shampoo, it’s worth persevering with for the longterm benefits of something that will be kinder to your skin, hair and the environment.
Don’t be put off if your hair doesn’t instantly take to natural shampoo, most people get through the transition period and never look back!
What to expect when switching to natural shampoo bars
If you are using natural shampoo for the first time, it is very common that you will experience what is known as a ‘transition period’. This period can last anything from a few days to a few weeks (depending on how often you wash your hair, what the water is like in your area and what other products you may be using on your hair).
During your transition time, your hair will likely feel different after washing than it did when you were using the regular bottled stuff; this feeling can be anything from dry and itchy to oily, waxy or like there is still a residue or product build-up in your hair, even immediately after washing it. Although this can be frustrating, it’s perfectly normal to experience this whilst your hair adjusts to natural shampoo.
We’ve got plenty of tips to get you through the transition to natural shampoo, which we’ll cover later in the post, but first, it’s probably useful to understand why there is a transition period in the first place.
Why is there a transition period when switching to natural shampoo bars?
The adjustment period that occurs when you switch from regular shampoo to a natural bar is most likely due to the ingredients of the regular shampoo and conditioner you were likely to be using beforehand.
Regular shampoos often contain synthetic ingredients such as detergents and surfactants which will work in pretty much any water conditions (hard or soft) to strip your hair of dirt and product build-up. However, these synthetic ingredients will also most likely strip your hair of the natural oils that your scalp produces to clean and condition itself. This would leave your hair feeling very dry and brittle if it weren’t for conditioners.
Regular conditioner adds back in the oils that your hair has been stripped of, they also often contain some form of silicone which smooths and coats the hair shaft, giving it the impression of being soft and healthy.
It’s partially the build-up of these ingredients, as well as the condition they can leave your hair in, that will impact how long it takes for your hair to adjust to natural shampoo (remember, any other styling products you may be using will also contribute to this too).
Tips for weaning your hair off synthetic shampoos and conditioners:
If you’re not 100% ready to switch to using a natural shampoo bar (but want to work towards that in the future) you can try swapping to shampoos and conditioners that have fewer synthetic ingredients, and more natural ones!
Something like Beauty Kubes shampoo (which contains a more natural cleansing agent) and a solid conditioner bar will hopefully get your hair to a better place for transitioning to the natural good stuff. Spacing out hair washes, allowing your hair and scalp to adjust to their natural oils again, will also help.
Natural shampoo and hard water
Hard water is perhaps one of the trickiest factors to navigate during the transition to natural shampoo. For some people, it might mean that you never really get on with natural shampoo bars.
The problem with hard water is that it can be a bit hard to work with! The high mineral content that is typical of hard water affects how soaps and shampoos work, making them more difficult to lather and distribute through your hair, as well as to fully wash out again. It’s this that can lead to the waxy residue-like feeling in your hair.
If you typically use styling products on your hair, you may find that you need to reduce, or even completely cut out, the use of them whilst transitioning to natural solid shampoo as these can add to that feeling of residue in your hair after washing.
It’s also important to remember that if you’re looking to change what you’re washing your hair with because of the ingredients or packaging, it may be worth making a change in any other products you put on your hair too.
How to use a shampoo bar in hard water
Two things are crucial when you wash your hair with natural shampoo in hard water; technique and the addition of a vinegar rinse.
Shampoo bars need to be worked in and out of the hair more thoroughly than anything containing a detergent would need to be. Make sure you rinse your hair thoroughly, using your hands to massage any residue out of your scalp and hair. Using a vinegar rinse after you have washed the shampoo lather out of your hair helps to smooth the scales of your hair, making it easier to wash any final residue out.
You can purchase a vinegar rinse but they are easily made at home; we recommend simply mixing apple cider vinegar with water in a bottle. You may need to experiment with how much vinegar is required for your hair, it could be anything from 1 part vinegar to 4 parts water up to a 50/50 water to vinegar ratio. Yes, it will remind you of fish and chips when you pour it into your hair but as long as you rinse thoroughly after, the smell should disappear.
How to wash your hair with a natural shampoo bar
We’ve found the following steps to work well when starting out with natural shampoo bars, this is something you should be able to adapt as your hair adjusts to the natural shampoo:
- Brush your hair before you get in the shower to detangle it and make it more manageable.
- Part your hair into two sections (more if it’s really thick)
- Use half of your vinegar rinse now, taking care to distribute it in areas like the temples, crown and base of your hairline.
- Try to work the vinegar rinse through your hair and into your scalp before washing it out.
- Work your shampoo bar into a lather in your hands and distribute it into the different areas of your hair as you did with the vinegar rinse.
- Once you have worked the shampoo lather carefully through your hair, use your hands to massage it into your scalp and through your hair.
- Next, rinse your hair and rinse it well! Use your hands to massage the shampoo out of your hair in the same way that you worked it in.
- Repeat the vinegar rinse process again, you can leave it to sit in your hair whilst you wash the rest of your body. Rinse out thoroughly when done.
- You may wish to work a solid conditioner bar through your hair if it’s particularly dry or frizzy (although some people may find a vinegar rinse is enough to smoothe their hair).
This may initially feel more labour (and water) intensive than your hair washing routine was before but hopefully the more you do it, the easier it will become.
Once you’re through the transition period and your hair has become used to your natural shampoo bar, you’ll probably find you need to use a vinegar rinse less frequently too. Some people may find they don’t need to use a vinegar rinse any longer, for others, you may want to continue using a vinegar rinse once a week – this will once again be dependant on the needs of your individual hair type and what the water is like where you live.
Which bar is best when switching to natural shampoo?
It may take a little experimenting to find the perfect bar for you and your hair type but we really love the lavender and tea tree shampoo bar from Friendly Soap. The bar is really nourishing thanks to the castor oil and the essential oils make it smell great too. The other great thing about Friendly Soap shampoo bars is that they’re pretty affordable, which is a bit of a relief if you’re trying to get to grips with something new.
Explore our range of plastic free toiletries for more low waste, vegan and eco friendly products.