A Shampoo Bar Epiphany

I have a new and updated version of this post with even more discoveries, how-to’s, troubleshooting ideas and the most common questions that I have been asked.  Check it out here!


The journey into having my hair accept a shampoo bar has been a bit of a rocky one.  My first obstacle was finding a sulphate free shampoo bar in my city, and then searching else-where for one that wasn’t quite as stripping as the only one I had found.  Then I started searching for the right balance of ingredients for my hair: moisturizing without weighing it down.

I anticipated the adjustment phase where my hair would feel odd, waxy, heavy, greasy etc. and that I might struggle with a little bit of build-up as I worked out the right technique for my hair but I didn’t anticipate what happened in the end.

Everything was going so well until I hit one shampoo bar that was just far too heavy for my hair.  It was awful.  I tried for several days to allow my hair to adjust, switched to a clarifying shampoo bar, and then even back to the first super-drying shampoo bar that I tried but to no avail.  My hair was a big waxy, greasy, wet-looking mess.  After breaking down and not being able to put up with it any longer I used a sodium lauryl sulphate shampoo on my hair (and needed to use it three times to remove the build-up).

Starting fresh, I stuck with one shampoo bar that I knew had worked for me in my trial period so far and just used a very, very small amount of the lather which I created in my hands.  Even with a high concentration of an apple cider vinegar rinse to help remove the excess the very next day the greasy-haired-look was back.  With avengence.  It felt plastic.

I was so frustrated at this point because I really wanted this product to work for me.  All that I read on the internet was so encouraging and promising that these shampoo bars would not only be environmentally friendly (biodegradable, organic ingredients, no packaging) but also economical because they would eliminate conditioner and also be way cheaper than my previous hair care routine.  I really, really wanted to have success with these products.

One late night conversation with my boyfriend brought on an epiphany that not only fixed my hair woes but brightened my mood considerably (I hadn’t quite realized how my disgusting hair had affected my general well-being.  Sad, I know.  I’ll work on that).  Here’s what I figured out:

Because I was too impatient to try and let my hair dry naturally I was speeding up the process with my hair dryer.  This, unfortunately for me, meant that I was re-solidifying the soap, oils, and butters on my hair.  The culprit to my epic shampoo bar fail was my own impatience and the use of excess heat.

The positive side: I will now be forced to blow dry my hair a lot less than previously which will, in turn, allow my hair to stay healthier and to keep me from damaging it further.

The negative side that is also kind of a positive side: I will have to learn to style my hair so that I can sleep on it at night and not have catostrophic bed-head or uber flat hair in the morning.  I’m looking forward to learning more about ways to do this that don’t involve sleeping on velcro curlers…

One other thing I’ve come to realize is that the shampoo bars don’t lather well on the sections of my hair that are more dry than others, such as the front parts of my hair. But this is easy to deal with if I just massage the lather into my crown and rinse it off through those dry parts.

**Update** Now that I have been using shampoo bars for a while I can finally blow dry my hair. My hair just got-it-together and understood that great hair could be had with shampoo bars and didn’t require air drying all the time. I’m not exactly sure when the transition phase completely ended with shampoo bars and I was able to treat my hair as normal, but I’m just happy that it is hear. That being said, I still allow my hair to air dry as much as possible to keep it healthy and help it continue to grow long and strong.**


My current (and successful) shampoo bar routine for lots of fine, long hair:

1) brush hair prior to shower and pull up into a loose bun at my crown

2) wet hair completely

3) Lather shampoo bar very well with hands and massage into scalp and around hair bun for about 1 minute

4) Rinse as well as possible with hair still in bun

5) Repeat step three

6) Let hair down from bun and rinse, rinse, rinse allowing lather to run down length of hair

7) Create a small lather for the ends of the length and massage into ends.

8) Pour apple cider vinegar rinse over hair, sectioning off pieces to ensure it gets to every strand and allow to sit for at least 30 seconds being careful to keep it away from my roots.

9) Rinse out

10) Air dry the majority of the time, and occasionally blow dry for special occasions.


6 thoughts on “A Shampoo Bar Epiphany”

  1. Hi, I am having the same exact problems with the white, greyish, waxy buildup being left behind on my hair brush after brushing while blow drying. Is it really that with blow drying your hair, the soap begins to then re-solidify? It would make sense that that happens…I have just not been patient enough to let my hair air dry after using the shampoo bar. I have let it air-dry once, but did not like the way it looked – my hair looked flat on top and then had a wavy, kinky look towards the bottom. I have long, fine hair and noticed you do as well – so how do you style your hair to get that full, thick look when air drying?? Any tips would help since I am a newbie to all this (about 3 months into no poo – 1 month since using shampoo bars).



    1. I noticed that my hair was “steaming” more than usual when I was blowdrying it after starting with shampoo bars. And I would always, without fail have that waxy, greasy, heavy coating on my hair. As soon as I stopped blow drying and waited until my hair was dry to use styling tools everything changed drastically. Like I said, it was this complete epiphany. If I just let my hair air dry without doing anything to it, it looks awful! super flat at the top and weird at the bottom, just like you mentioned. Online there are all kinds of tutorials and things for braiding your hair before going to bed and then waking up with lovely Victoria’s Secret hair. Sadly, for me, my hair doesn’t dry when it’s all braided or pulled up in a bun or what have you. My go to everyday look is to pull it up and back in one of those claw clips that were so popular a decade ago and kind of pile it on top of my head for about 10 minutes. Then I slowly let down my hair one section at a time and let it air dry before letting down a new section. It does take a long while, but I find it works well to give me volume and control. The transition period for shampoo bars is awful, and very disheartening but I promise you it is worth it! I have never been happier with my hair! Hope that helps! Best of luck!

  2. Ok, sorry to bug you with so many questions, but you seem like you know what you’re talking about and I could use some help =) The information you provided above has already been a HUGE help so THANKS! Would you mind giving me your input on a few more questions?

    1) Do you use your ACV rinse all over your head (even at the roots)?
    – I have just been squirting my green-tea infused ACV rinse (1 tbs per 1 cup water – I use the full cup each time) at the roots of my hair and then rinsing it out with cold water afterwards. Will the ACV rinse make my hair greasy quicker if I use it on my whole head? I have noticed that when I do not use enough of my ACV mixture, my ends become extremely dry and staticy as well.

    2) Why do you put your hair in a bun while washing?

    3) Is it necessary to wash my hair twice? I had the thought that maybe washing it twice was what was causing all of the buildup in my hair and on my comb?

    4) How can you assure that you have rinsed all of the soap out? My hair gets this super squeaky clean feeling where it can be hard to run my fingers through my hair (which then makes me feel like I am not fully rinsing out the soap).

    5) Lastly, what kind of bottle do you use for your ACV rinse? Do you spray it on your hair or just pout right over your head?

    Again, thanks so much for taking the time to respond back – your comments have already helped more than you know 🙂 Sorry to overwhelm you with so many questions!

    1. Not a worry at all. Ask away. I found that the ACV rinse left my roots feeling plastic-y and greasy looking so I only applied it from the ears down. I use the same ratio that you do, and I pour it over my hair, allowing it to sit for a few minutes (usually while I wash my face) and then rinse it out. I use a little glass bottle with a stopper on it that I picked up at the dollar store. It holds a little over 1.5 cups of water and pours out slowly, which I find works very well for me. However, for me, the ACV rinse wasn’t quite enough. I still found that my hair was dry at the ends (but I have dyed it so many times I’m not sure I expected to be able to go without conditioner. I have a few conditioner reviews on my blog, if you’re interested, but basically stay with either a cheap drug store one without silicones or a natural one without silica or silicones).I put my hair up in a bun while washing because I find it easier to get at the roots that way (especially underneath). If I don’t, then the top of my hair is clean, but the roots by my ears and crown sometimes are a little greasy. I lather everything up really well with my hair pulled up , then rinse it through which is enough to clean the ends of my hair. I don’t want to strip anything from the already dry ends of my hair. I also find that by pulling it up, I can let my hair down in smaller sections to really rinse things thoroughly. My hair gets that squeaky feeling with certain shampoo bars, and usually they were the ones that didn’t work well for my hair. Which ones are your trying right now?The buildup on your hair and comb is most likely due to insufficient rinsing or not enough lathering. The shampoo bar has to be really well lathered to get everything clean. I originally thought that I was using too much of the shampoo bar and that was why it was building up. But once I figured out how to work the lather really well (and stopped blow drying) my problem disappeared. I also found that the second wash lathers significantly better than the first, so it has a higher chance of removing excess soap and oils than the first wash alone.I hope that helps! I promise it’ll be worth it if you can stick it out. I almost quit so many times I lost track. And it was super frustrating to read on some blogs, forums and just talk with my boyfriend and see that so many people were not having any problems transitioning at all. I guess as the saying goes, though, good things come to those who wait. And wait, and wait. 🙂

      1. Wow, thanks so much for all of the detailed information! The ACV does the same thing to my roots, so I think from now on I will just pour the mixture over my head and see how that goes. I also think I will go ahead and get some cone free conditioner as well – I’ve heard that V05 is cheap conditioner that is cone free and I can get that right at the dollar store so I will give that a try. Good to know about the squeaky clean feeling being related to the shampoo bars that didn’t particularly work well for you. I have only tried Chargrin Valley shampoo bars thus far. The beer, egg, and honey was the first one I tried and I absolutely loved it! It made my hair so silky and soft and no tangles! I then moved on to try the coconut milk which was just way to moisturizing for my hair – it made my hair greasy by the next day after washing. I then tried the rosemary lavender, and meh, it was okay…not to fond of it either. And lastly, I tried the neem & tea tree thinking it would help with the build-up and dandruff in my hair, but it only made it worse. I think I will just order the beer, egg, and honey and see how that goes again – maybe my hair just does not like the other shampoo bars I have tried so far? How long did your transition phase last for? It’s been a little over 3 months since I have been no poo (I did not clarify before – just went from using SLS and silicone shampoo and conditioners to BS and ACV mixtures) and I feel like I am STILL transitioning. On many of the blogs that I have read…a lot of people say that they only have to wash there hair 1 – 2 times a week. My hair is still usually getting greasy by the third day and by then I HAVE to wash it because I don’t want to be a walking greaseball haha! Thanks for the encouragement though…I am going to stick it out because I have read that it has taken some people even a year for their hair to totally transition. I’ve gone this far…there’s no turning back now!

      2. The Citrus and Soapnuts is a bar that they recommend for beginners because it rinses so cleanly. For me, I found that any bar with babassu in it didn’t work for me in the initial phase. Even now I have to be careful with babassu containing bars. Babassu made everything feel kind of sticky and stretchy, even in the shower. It was the common denominator between all of the bars that didn’t work for me. The bar that worked and is working best for me is the Lavender Spice bar. I’d definitely recommend it.
        As for my transition phase, when I started washing my hair with shampoo bars I was already down to washing it every 2-3 days. That’s a transition all it’s own, even with shampoo bars. Your scalp sebum production will eventually level out, but in the interm it may mean some heavy/greasy hair days. Speaking as someone with fine hair, I doubt that I’ll ever be able to wash my hair just once a week. But even so, since I’m not stripping my hair every time I wash it, I know that I’m still being good to my hair. The transition phase ended for me when I stopped blow drying my hair and when I stopped using bars with babassu in them.
        Keep me posted on how you’re doing with it! I’ll have my fingers crossed for you.

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