Looking to ditch your harsh shampoo for a gentler all natural cleanser? Here's our quick guide answering all of your questions about shampoo bars.

What are shampoo bars?

Shampoo bars are soaps made from a process called saponification where a fat is reacted with a base. What makes all natural soaps superior to your garden variety bar soap is the moisturizing qualities they have because of their ingredients.

Most natural shampoo bars are made with a lot of oil which helps to moisturize while cleansing to prevent your hair from feeling stripped after cleansing.

MORE: All About Shampoo Bars

How do you use one?

  1. Cut the bar into single-use pieces.
  2. Glide the bar over and through your wet hair, making sure the soap is evenly distributed.
  3. Lather until your entire head is covered with suds. Remember, a little goes a long way with shampoo bars because they lather a lot. 
  4. Massage your scalp with the pads of your fingers to lift away any dirt particles. Be gentle to avoid handling it roughly and prevent tangles. 
  5. Rinse and condition as normal. 

Is your water hard?

Soap does not work well with hard water, so it's important to know what kind of water you have in your area.

Hard water contains a lot of mineral salts like calcium and magnesium ions which react with the soap to form an invisible insoluble film on the hair that feels waxy to the touch. This film can cause frizz, an overproduction of oil and attract dust particles.

If you do have hard water, you can still get in on the action by using either bottled water to wash your hair, or by finishing off your cleansing routine with an apple cider vinegar rinse.

MORE: How to Prevent Hair Build Up from Hard Water

Deep Cleansing Bars

If you're looking for a poo bar that is great for clarifying — especially if you produce a lot of oil, use a lot of product or have hair that is easily weighed down — then you should try these bars:

Moisturizing Bars

For curls that dry out easily you should use cleansers that contain a lot of oils to act as emollients and prevent your curls from drying out whilst you cleanse. Some shampoo bars that fall into this category are:

  • Bobeam Honey and Oats Shampoo Bar — This poo bar has received a lot of rave reviews for being extremely moisturizing.
  • Cream and CocoMallow Cowash Bar — This bar has received a lot of rave reviews for its gentleness. The cocoa butter helps to moisturize as you cleanse but is washed away cleanly whilst the marshmallow root helps with detangling.
  • Chagrin Valley Butter Bar — Unrefined cocoa, shea, and mango butter help to add moisture back into the hair as you cleanse, so this feels more like a cowash than a shampoo.
  • Chagrin Valley Coconut Milk Shampoo Bar — If you are a curly who loves the richness and softness you get after a deep condition with coconut milk, then this poo bar is for you.

Don't let it go to waste

Just like a soap bar, shampoo bars will start to melt over time if left in the shower. That's why it is important to cut it up into smaller, single-use chunks before you use them.

To extend the life of a big shampoo bar, take the pieces you are not using and wrap them in plastic or place them in a Ziploc and store them in a cool dry place.

Related: Top 15 Shampoo Bars

This article was originally published in February 2013 and has been updated for grammar and clarity.