Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Heading to the Bar

I've been trying over the last little while to stop using some of the corporate products I have come to rely upon. Sometimes I am trying to avoid the big companies. Other times I am trying to opt for healthier alternatives for my body. And often, I am trying to learn to cut down on the waste stream I produce (including all the things I throw in the recycling bucket).

One of the things that used to fill up our recycling container was all those plastic shampoo containers. In my effort to break the shampoo-bottle addiction, I tried out a number of alternatives, starting with a couple of choices easily available in many mainstream stores.


1. Burt's Bees used to be a tiny company in Maine. Then it was a small company in North Carolina. Well, now it is part of Clorox. Nevertheless, I still love some of their products so I first tried their Rosemary Mint Shampoo Bar.
After using it for a couple of days, I almost gave up on the idea of using a shampoo bar at all. My hair felt sticky and I looked like there were sticks coming straight out of my head. My comb got covered in white waxy mess.

I had heard that the transition from commercial liquid shampoos to bars might take a little while--so after things had gotten better with other products, I went back to this bar. It was still awful.

What a shame. It is certainly pleasant smelling.


2. I thought my very fine and relatively dry long hair might have hated the Rosemary Mint because it was drying, so I tried their baby shampoo. The scent is subtle and extremely appealing--just a bit of apricot for a smooth scent with a fresh kick.
My hair responded much better to this bar, although it left a sticky residue that even a vinegar rinse did not remove. Although the residue was dulling, it did give my bone-straight hair a bit more body...

David's experience with the bar has been much better. His short curly hair looks great these days--and he is on his second baby shampoo bar now.

I was a little disconcerted to discover that the Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database did not give it a great score, mostly because of the product's use of tocopheryl acetate, panthenol, and unidentified fragrance. There are certainly more dangerous chemicals in a lot of American cosmetics--but given that I think of Burt's Bees as a "natural" company, and that this particular product is designed for babies, I was quite surprised.

3. After hearing more and more about the potential dangers of various products commonly used in the beauty industry, I decided to start reading my labels more carefully. While picking up a prescription in a mainstream pharmacy, I ran across Skin Free Extra Moisturizing Soap, which advertises that it makes a great shampoo. Its Skin Deep rating is much better: a perfect zero.

I love this bar. It is clear and scent-free, lathers beautifully, and feels great in the hand with its ever-s0-slight bevel shape. But if I use it for several shampoos in a row, my hair takes on the quality of hay. Not particularly pleasing. So I alternate using this bar with other options.

4. My absolute favorite shampoo bar so far: J. R. Liggett!

This bar, a much squarer bar than the others, lasts a long time, doesn't leave much residue in my hair, is almost scentless, and makes my scalp feel more honestly clean than any of the other bars have. This one is a keeper.

5. I have another favorite: baking soda and vinegar. I put a tablespoon or two of baking soda into a bottle, fill it with a cup or two of water from the shower, and shake until it is clear. I pour it over my hair and rub it in. There is really no real lather and it takes a while to get used to this feeling--but my hair feels deep-down clean after a BS wash.

For conditioner, pour a tablespoon or two of apple cider vinegar into cool water and rinse your hair with it. Then rinse again with clear water. The first time I tried it, I was utterly amazed at the softness that resulted. Whether you use baking soda, a shampoo bar, or even traditional shampoo, this is a great find!

6. The other thing I do? I now wash my hair every other day, or every third day. Although it took a little while for my hair to adjust, it is pretty happy with this routine now. I never would have believed that I could make this transition!

* * *

What have you found that works for you?

18 comments:

Chile said...

The baking soda wash with vinegar rinse works well for me. I seem to need to use more baking soda, though, than what I've seen some other folks mention. 1 tablespoon in water won't clean my oily hair. I use 3-4 tbs stirred in 1/2 cup of water. I gently work it in and let it sit while I wash the rest of me. Then I rinse well and use the vinegar rinse (1 tbs per cup of water). After rinsing that, my hair feels pretty clean.

I'm only washing my hair twice a week now. If it gets really dirty, say if I've sweat a lot, I might squirt a couple of drops of my sweetie's diluted shampoo in with the baking soda and water. Using such a tiny amount costs very little and seems to help when used on an occasional basis.

Good luck!

THe Tell-Tale Heart said...

Great post. Thanks for sharing your story. So that's what I'm putting on my scalp? Maybe I'll join you at the DYI bar.

The Purloined Letter said...

Tell-tale: DYI?

Laura said...

Thanks for the reviews. My burts bees bottle is almost empty and I was going to try their bar. Instead now I'll try the JR Liggett.

I've got super short hair (1.5") so trying to go multiple days isn't an option (I've tried). But then again I don't have to worry as much about texture or conditioning. Hopefully this will be just perfect!

Mouse said...

I use Dr. Bronners Peppermint soap watered down on my hair.. it looked terrible for a week or two but its very soft (the undreaded parts anyway) and my scalp isn't a mess anymore. I have a lot of allergy issues and this is the first 'shampoo' that I haven't gotten allergic to after a month of use.. so I'm sticking with it.

Shanti said...

I use Lush's Shampoo Bar. They're a Canadian company, but it's natural products, small company. I have been lucky enough to either line in or travel to cities with actual stores in them (there's one in Georgetown), but they can be ordered online, too. Squeeky Green is my favorite, but the Hybrid is nice, too

cici said...

I hadn't thought of bars before.. What a great idea for less waste. I want to check out Ligget.I do use the Skin Free soap and like it a lot. I think you could start a whole new thing with reviews, I love hearing recomendations of different products that are safe to the environment. Question? Have you found a insect repellent that works and isn't harmful, I have used in the past Skin So Soft(Avon), but have run out of it, and not sure if it's still available. :D

The Purloined Letter said...

Mouse: Dr. Bronner's is great! I should have added that one, but didn't think about it since it is on the top rack with the old shampoo bottles. Definitely recommended.

Shanti: I had been avoiding Lush because of their use of sodium lauryl sulphate--but I see they have many non-SLS shampoo bars now, including Squeaky Green. I'll have to try them out! Thanks for the tip.

Cici: Good question! I'll think about this a bit and try to post next week.

Red said...

Wow! And I thought I was going green in the chemical world. Just goes to show you, that you can learn something new everyday.

Thanks for this information.

Sue said...

I like Chagrin Valley products.
http://www.chagrinvalleysoapandcraft.com/shambar.htm

They're all-natural and handmade. It does take some getting used to when you start with shampoo bars, especially if you're used to chemical products, but the results are worth it.

I shampoo once a week, and don't use conditioner. If I feel the need I use a tiny dab of straight-up coconut oil, on damp hair, as a detangler/conditioner. It only takes a tiny, tiny bit spread throughout my hair. I have long hair, too, but it's medium-textured and thick. Fine hair needs to go easy on the oil-as-conditioner, but it does WONDERS for dry hair.

I like coconut oil, but others I know have good luck with jojoba, olive, apricot kernel, grapeseed, and lots of other oils.

I do rinse my hair if I get sweaty, but I only shampoo once a week. I've been doing this for almost two years, and my hair and scalp have never felt better.

Danielle said...

You might try this local Maryland based company: Terressentials.

It doesn't eliminate the bottle issue, unless she's willing to do refills. I keep meaning to switch over to her and am in the process of using up all my old products. In the meantime, I've just shifted to ivory soap for face washing.

I tried going no shampoo, but didn't have any luck. My dh, who also has short, thick, curly hair, does really well with only a once a week washing, though.

kale for sale said...

I've recently switched to the Liggett bar shampoo after four months of using vinegar and homemade herbal rinses. Were my hair not highlighted I'd still be on that program but until I give up the color I've come to the realization that I have to use shampoo and a conditioner or I'm scary. My hair had nearly turned to hay. At least the shampoo bar minimizes the plastic containers. All of that said I couldn't believe how clean my hair was without using products during the time I didn't.

beadlizard said...

Clarified chicken fat (skimmed from soup making), a bit of lye and, after a bit of shelf age, a grating of lemon rind. A few drops of tea tree oil if you have scalp issues. That's what I made in Montana anyway. Chicken fat makes a really nice liquid soap.

All the bar soap in the house at present is from Aubrey at Goodies Unlimited. We've been friends for decades and her products are excellent. I'd email her with a query about using a bar soap as shampoo. My favorite of hers is Skin Soother, second favorite is Cocoa Butter.

For moisturizing? I use clarified chicken fat for my skin, avocado for my hair (bottled avo oil if they're out of season).

I've never washed my hair every day. It takes half a day to dry!

Another way to conserve -- wash your hair by dunking in a half bucket of water. Use the other half to rinse. [I used to just stick my head in the creek, but the ice cream headache was intense.]

Carrie K said...

I'd forgotten washing my hair in the creek. Good times. My hair is fine, thin and short anyway, so I....just use some nice cheap shampoo and and let it air dry, but I think I'll check for a more bio friendly shampoo.

Amy said...

:-) I don't know if I could give up bottle shampoo--my hair is so flat anyway, that the idea of leaving a sticky residue in it is really unappealing. However, I've been washing my hair only twice a week nearly my whole life, so that's 30 years of shampoo conservation :-)))

NeedleDancer said...

My fave shampoo these days is from Shikai. It's in the natural things section...

it works wonderfully with my fine, curly, dry hair.

bibliotecaria said...

I would be interested in trying the Liggett shampoo bar, but where do you get it? I would prefer to avoid shipping, if possible.

The Purloined Letter said...

You can find it at places like local co-ops and Whole Foods and the like. I gather it is in a lot of drugstores, too, so you might want to ask there if it is more convenient for you.

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