How to Transition to Using Natural Shampoo Bars

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.

Solid shampoo bars by Bain & Savon | Available at Sage Folk

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.

We’ve also created an in-depth guide on how to use a natural shampoo bar in hard water, to help you get the most from your solid shampoo once you’re through the transition period.


How to wash your hair with a natural shampoo bar

How you wash your hair with natural shampoo is actually more crucial than you might think when it comes to getting the results you want.

Because natural shampoo bars don’t contain surfactants and foaming agents, technique is really important to help work the shampoo into and out of your hair (especially whilst your hair is adjusting during the transition period).

You may find that your hair could benefit from a little extra help during the transition period too. Many people find that adding a vinegar rinse or cleansing their hair with baking soda as part of their hair washing routine helps with the adjustment period. We’ve covered the best washing technique and how to use rinses and cleanses below.

Solid shampoo bar and apple cider vinegar for shampoo bar transition period.

Washing technique

Making sure you wash your hair, extra thoroughly is going to help you succeed with shampoo bars. We’ve found the following steps to work well when starting out with 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)
  • Work the shampoo bar into a rich lather in your hands before working it through your hair (you may want to avoid using the shampoo bar directly on your hair during the transition and adjustment period)
  • Work the lather you’ve created in your hands, into your hair, focusing on your roots and scalp first before working it through the lengths (make sure to distribute it in areas like the temples, crown and base of your hairline too)
  • Once you’re happy you’ve worked the shampoo suds into all of your hair, 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. Pay particular attention to the hair at the base of your scalp and the areas where it is thickest as these are the trickier parts to work the suds out of.

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. If you are showering and are water conscious, you may wish to turn the shower off whilst you work the shampoo into your hair, to conserve water.

Vinegar rinses and baking soda cleanses

Whilst your hair is adjusting to natural shampoo, you may find it needs a little extra help to rid it of that strange residue/ build up feeling that can occur. Adding in a vinegar rinses or bicarbonate of soda (sodium bicarbonate) cleanse into your washing routine may help to combat the unwanted results that can occur during your transition to natural shampoo.

Vinegar rinse

Natural shampoo can react to the minerals that naturally occur in your water (especially if you live in a hard water area), forming insoluble compounds in your hair that are difficult to wash out. The minerals in your water can also effect the texture of your hair as they can make the scales of the hair stand up, making it feel more rough and tangly (once again, making it more difficult to work the shampoo residue out of your hair).

A vinegar rinse can help to smooth the scales of your hair and make it easier to get the shampoo suds out of your hair, reducing the residue feeling that can occur after washing. You may find that you need to use a vinegar rinse every time you wash your hair, reducing the frequency as your hair adjusts to natural shampoo, or it may be that every other wash, or adding it in once a week will be enough. You may also find that you need to experiment with the strength of the vinegar rinse you are using.

It’s important to note that vinegar can dry out your hair. Oily hair will most likely tolerate more/ stronger vinegar rinses, whilst dry hair will tolerate less/ weaker rinses (or not using a vinegar rinse at all).

You can buy vinegar rinses or easily make them at home.

DIY vinegar rinse

  • vinegar (raw ACV or white vinegar)
  • water
  • essential oils (optional, if you want to mask the smell of the vinegar a little).

To make your own vinegar rinse simply mix 1 part vinegar to 4 parts water in a bottle (you can add in essential oils to mask the vinegar smell if you wish). Increase the ratio of vinegar to water if necessary. Use after shampooing, ensuring the thickest parts of your hair are properly soaked, to help lift any lingering shampoo residue. If you really can’t stand the smell of vinegar, you could equally try using lemon juice instead.

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.

Baking soda cleanse

Incorporating baking soda into your washing technique can also help to cleanse your hair of the build up that natural shampoo can cause whilst your hair is adjusting to it. A baking soda cleanse can also help to cleanse your hair of build up if you have been using a lot of synthetic products prior to switching to natural shampoo.

You can also make a rinse with baking soda by adding a pinch of bicarbonate of soda to a litre of warm water and soak your hair with it before you wash it. Leave the mixture in your hair whilst you are shampooing it and wash it all out together, this way the baking soda can really help to lift out that unwanted soap residue.

Alternatively you could try sprinkling the baking soda onto your hair once you have lathered it up with your natural shampoo and working it in this way.

Be aware that baking soda can make your hair more prone to tangling, you may wish to try a vinegar rinse to help smooth your hair or you can use a conditioner bar to help tease out those tangles. We don’t recommend using regular conditioner alongside natural shampoo as this will most likely prevent your hair from transitioning and prolong the adjustment period.

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 think the shampoo bars that we offer either by Bain & Savon (available in orange, rosemary or chamomile) or Authentic House (available in mint & matcha, citrus & ylang ylang or rosemary & lavender) . Although they’re nourishing for your hair, we don’t find these shampoo bars as rich as some of the other ones we stock, making them lighter and easier to get used to during your transition period.

If you’re interested in making the swap to other plastic free toiletries and natural products, why not read our guide to switching to natural deodorant.