Zero waste shampoo bars help reduce plastic waste, last longer, and most often come naturally chemical-free for a toxin-free hair routine. Here’s our list of some of the best zero waste shampoo choices out there for naturally healthy hair, waste-free. We hope you enjoy it.
The more hard facts we learn about the environment—and, specifically, how we human beings are wreaking havoc upon it—the more alarmed we rightfully become. By now, we have all heard of the Texas-sized mass of floating plastic waste that has accumulated in the Pacific Ocean. We know that scientists regularly sound new alarms about melting permafrost in the Arctic and the Antarctic sheet loss. And we also hear that human intrusion into the animal habitat is the indirect reason for the pandemics that threaten our existence.
We may not be so much in touch with the environmental chaos we may innocently be perpetuating from our shower stalls’ sanctity. It has to do that lovely scented shampoo in a plastic bottle we pick up at the department store or pharmacy and toss into the waste bin when it’s empty without giving it a second thought. A couple of really bad things happen when we buy that bottle of shampoo—and the conditioner, of course—and then throw them away. In this article, we’ll define zero waste shampoo, explain why it’s so important, and offer a dozen alternatives to that highly advertised stuff sitting on the shelf in the bathroom.
On the surface, “zero waste shampoo” seems to be an oxymoron. There can’t be any waste with shampoo, can there? You lather your hair in it, rinse it out, and it’s gone. Nothing is wasted, is it?
Let’s talk about shampoo waste in two ways. First, there’s the bottle. We all know that single-use plastic water bottles are a hazard to the environment. Around the world, every minute, we purchase 1,000,000 plastic water bottles. In 2016, the most recent year for which we have a realistic count, approximately 480 billion water bottles were purchased, used, and discarded. Of that amount, researchers estimate that 93% ended up in landfills, waterways, or the environment. When we hear those figures, we shake our heads (and hair) in dismay. Discarded shampoo bottles don’t cause near as much trouble as water bottles, do they?
Consider this: more than half a billion empty shampoo bottles every year end up in American landfills. If we just spread shampoo bottle out side-to-side, end-to-end, it would be enough to fill 1164 football fields. Now consider that the United States represents only 4% of the total population of the world. Granted, we probably use more hair conditioner than other countries. However, conservatively, if everyone used shampoo the way Americans do, washing our hair most days, the world would throw away more than 13 billion empty shampoo bottles in one year. Our wasteful approach to clean hair is not sustainable. It is a huge problem. Since we recycle less than 10% of all plastics, recycling is only part of the answer. The best thing we can do is reduce the amount of single-use plastic bottles made and used in the first place.
Still, when most people say “zero waste shampoo,” they aren’t just talking about the containers, but what’s in them. Cosmetic products, including those for hair, are the last unregulated bastion of industrial chemicals. We are allowed to know all the chemicals that go into our food supply. Yet, there are scant few regulations about what manufacturers can use in the grooming products we put on our skin and hair.
While this may seem a moot point, it’s worth knowing that some baby hair shampoos have been found to contain formaldehyde—the primary chemical undertakers use to preserve the deceased; the same chemical attributed to those working with it having a higher rate of cancer. This is just one of the problematic chemical compounds found in our best-selling commercial shampoos.
The hair shampoo we buy without a second thought can also contain drugs like parabens (that mimic estrogen and increase the risk of breast cancer), sulfates (that are hormone disruptors), phthalates (endocrine disruptors that reduce sperm counts and cause early-onset puberty in girls), retinyl palmitate (a cancer-causing agent that is toxic to our organs), synthetic fragrances (cancer causers that also create reproductive issues and asthma), toluene (can cause birth defects and impair the immune system), resorcinol (a thyroid disrupter), and many more harmful chemicals as well.
Thus, when we talk about zero waste shampoo, we’re talking about the environment (not wasting single-use packaging) but also about your health. We don’t want to waste that either. Not only zero waste but also zero toxins for healthier hair.
It’s worth noting that any scrupulous shampoo manufacturer will have tested their products as safe for human use. And many have taken steps to reduce harmful chemicals in their hair care products. While at the same time, opinions can vary, and we can do more. For more information, check out the campaign for safe cosmetics and their red list of harmful chemicals to avoid in your choice of natural hair care.
For our purposes, we’re not going to discuss alternative packaging for shampoo—although there are some out there. We’re also not going to spend a lot of time on conditioners and other hair care products. Instead, we’re going to focus on a dozen zero waste shampoos that are good for your hair and less harmful to the environment or your health.
Most reviewers and influencers involved in the issue of zero waste shampoo rate Ethique products as the best alternative to commercial shampoos. We list this sampler as our choice for you because it will allow you to sample four different Ethique hair products: Frizz Wrangler, Heali Kiwi, Saint Clements, the Guardian, and the Wonderbar. You might well love them all or find the one perfect for your hair type. Ethique makes all of their shampoo products, which they package in compostable materials, from sustainable, biodegradable ingredients.
Ethique, as a company, has taken Amazon’s Climate Pledge. This means they have committed to designing their products in such a way as to reduce waste and diminish their carbon footprint. This really wasn’t all that difficult since Ethique was already doing these things before Amazon ever came up with a pledge. Based in New Zealand, Ethique is the nation’s highest-rated company in reducing its carbon footprint.
The company prides itself on eliminating as many plastic dispensers as possible. Their products’ sales estimate that they have eliminated five million plastic shampoo bottles to date. Their goal is to eliminate 50 million plastic bottles by 2025. They also contribute 20% of their net profit each year to charities that protect the environment.
Another highly-regarded zero waste producer of shampoos, conditioners, and hair care products is Superfly Soap of Kincardine, Scotland. Products ordered from Superfly arrive in one to two weeks. While we singled out the mango shampoo, there are many other luscious choices available to you: coconut, lemongrass, Turkish delight, banana, orange spice, kiwi, and lime, and so on.
Apart from the wonderful smelling main ingredient, Superfly shampoos contain several organic compounds designed to deep clean your hair while cleansing and soothing your scalp. These include macadamia nut oil, cocoa butter, rice bran oil, and coconut oil. They rate each of their shampoos as to what hair types it is best suited to clean. The bars are 100-110 grams and, as concentrates, last much longer than a liquid shampoo of the same weight. The shampoo comes wrapped in vegan-friendly paper inscribed with eco inks, though you may order it unwrapped if you wish.
Superfly also sells eco-friendly face soaps, hand soaps, exfoliants, and products such as wooden soap dishes. Scented, environmentally friendly lip balms of various types are also available—and not just for humans but dogs as well. If you find yourself sold on the quality, you can order samples of several products to give as zero waste gifts.
Back on the American side of the pond and in the heart of the nation in Muldrow, Oklahoma is a wonderful eco-friendly, zero waste product provider called Andreas Organic Market. Like the zero waste shampoo choices listed above, Andreas Organic Market has a full range of environmentally sound and physically safe hair products. In particular, their shampoo bars are produced using distilled water, cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, unrefined extra virgin coconut oil, cold-pressed grape seed oil, raw avocado butter, and raw avocado, raw shea butter, lye, and cold-pressed castor oil. It’s important to note that no lye or castor oil ends up in the finished product. Their shampoo products are eco-friendly, vegan, and organic. When they arrive, you’ll find them packed in eco-friendly packaging materials, including the packing peanuts and shipping tape.
You’ll also find that Andreas Organic Market products all non-toxic, ethically sourced, cruelty-free, and palm oil-free. Like many of the other zero-waste shampoo options, we’ve listed. As a result, they’re great for hair and the environment. The shampoo bar that we have focused on here, Avocado Unscented Natural Shampoo, is only one of the company’s 50 different hair and skincare products made available. There are options for all hair types. Not only does the firm send out its orders in sustainable packaging, but it has an on-site composting bin. It uses this bin to dispose of packaging from the supplies it orders in to make its zero waste shampoos for naturally healthy hair and other goods.
Friendly Soap is right upfront about the ingredients it purposely omits from its bar shampoo for a natural hair clean: palm oil, parabens, sulfates, triclosan, and phthalates. They state quickly that their shampoo bars are cruelty-free products made from natural oils and ingredients. To be specific, here are the substances that go into their lavender scented bar shampoo: sodium cocoate, sodium olivate, aqua, sodium castorate, lavender essential oil with linalool, limonene, geraniol, and tea tree essential oil.
Friendly Soap products are also Climate Pledge Friendly. When they ship to you, you’ll find them in plastic-free recycled and recyclable packaging. Therefore they make for a great zero waste purchase. The company is registered with the Vegan Society, Cruelty Free International, and has a Best rating from the Ethical Consumer.
The company estimates that one of their shampoo bars will outlast three bottles of liquid shampoo. That’s a lot more eco-friendly hair washing mornings. The ingredients are intended not just to clean but also to nourish the hair and scalp. They accomplish this using castor oil, a natural ingredient used as a hair conditioner and scalp treatment for centuries. They include olive oil and tea tree oil in their shampoo because of their antimicrobial properties and the fact that they promote healthy hair growth. Like Superfly, Friendly Soap is based in the UK, though you can obtain their soap bar products stateside from Amazon.
Sea and Clean’s Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo has managed to accumulate 34 pages of reviews that are all 5-stars. The Palmetto, Florida, company has a reputation that is as good as its products.
Part of the reason we focused on Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo bars is that apple cider vinegar has the reputation of being an outstanding organic hair conditioning treatment. The Sea and Clean folks are quick to point out that using this toxin-free shampoo will not make your hair smell like vinegar.
Indeed, they scent the bar with a blend of essential oils, including lemon, sweet orange, basil, rosemary, and spearmint: the results, great smelling hair with each wash when using their waste-free shampoo bars. Additionally, the shampoo includes canola oil, organic apple cider vinegar, coconut oil, olive oil, sodium hydroxide, castor oil, organic mango butter, and rice bran oil. The makers are also quick to say that the shampoo does not contain any synthetic colors or fragrances, no filler oils or shortening, no premade bases (this is all home-cooking, made from scratch), and no sulfates.
Sea and Clean points out that, unlike commercial hair shampoo that may have a “shelf life,” Sea and Clean’s bars actually improve with age. They create more lather when you shampoo your hair as they get older. Since they use no preservatives to create their shampoo bars, the company suggests using it within a year of its purchase.
Sea and Clean wraps each of their shampoo bars in paper, which you can, of course, recycle, plastic-free, and zero waste. They make their labels from recycled paper where possible. Your hair and the environment will thank you.
Okay, we said we would stick to shampoo bars across our selection of eco-friendly hair cleansers. Still, we thought we’d work in at least one alternative in our list of zero waste shampoo options if there were no other reasons than demonstrating that there are sustainable packaging and processes developed and available out there. Plaine Products rosemary, mint, and vanilla hair shampoo comes in a 16-ounce aluminum bottle. For near-perfect zero waste credentials, the bottle is refillable. Purchasers can return it for refills.
What ingredients are in the mix for great hair? Plaine is a shampoo brand that combines many natural oils and natural ingredients in their products—some familiar ones used in other zero-waste formulations. And others that are unique to Plaine Products. However, the company is quite plain concerning the substances it does not use in its hair products. These include no parabens and no sulfates. Their no waste shampoos for naturally healthy hair are vegan, cruelty-free, biodegradable, and non-GMO.
So how does the whole refilling process work to achieve your zero waste hair routine? The pumps come separately from the zero waste aluminum bottles. The customer recycles the original lid and the shipping box. As the product is about to run out, the customer orders a refill switches the pump to the new bottle, and returns the refillable bottle in the box the new order arrived in. They process returns without a cost to the customer with an enclosed shipping label. We're fans of this approach to zero waste hair care, buy once, and reuse.
Dirty Hippie is a legendary Australian company that makes a great variety of eco-friendly products, everything from sunscreen to tooth powder. And, of course, an excellent line for your eco-friendly and naturally clean hair routine. Yes, they’re in Canberra. Still, even with the pandemic, they can get your shampoo orders shipped within three to five days.
Their zero-waste hair growth shampoo bars contain neem, tea tree oil, citrus, and sage. Also included are naturally extracted vitamin B5 and citric acid to offer pH balancing to the hair and bamboo powder as a silica source. This helps their bars provide your hair with a natural healthy shine. By the way, should your kids come home from school with head lice, the neem oil they include in their shampoo bars is excellent for combatting them. They say that the formula works great for itchy, dandruff prone scalps. And that it both thickens and cleanses the hair with no artificial chemicals at all. The expected shelf life of these recommended hair bars is about 12 months.
The makers recommend using the apple cider vinegar rinse we discussed above to nourish and protect your hair over time. To incorporate Dirty Hippie shampoo, lather the bars soap onto the scalp, then rinse your hair and repeat as necessary. The company also has a refillable, reusable program for liquid and powder hair shampoos to reduce waste, which it sells in glass bottles.
It’s up from Australia to another part of the British Empire as we check in with Battle Green, based in Caernarfon in the UK. Their bar shampoo comes in a zero-waste recyclable, screw lid tin and is one of a great many personal care items and toiletries available from this highly rated company. Orders are placed the day after they are received, shipped within 3-5 days, and delivered within a week or two. All their outgoing packages are sent in biodegradable, plastic-free packaging to minimize packaging waste.
Their shampoo contains coconut oil, grapeseed oil, olive oil, aqua, glycerin, lavender essential oil, tea tree essential oil, and some other organic byproducts. The bars are PETA-certified, vegan friendly, and cruelty-free. They are free from SLS, SLES, palm oil, and parabens. The colors in the bars are vegan friendly and safe for aquatic life.
The Battle Green folks point out that getting used to shampoo bars after using commercially bottled shampoo for your hair may take some getting used to. They recommend rinsing the hair very well after lathering up and perhaps using the famous apple cider vinegar rinse. If you live in an area with hard water, you may find that the shampoo may tend to leave a residue, requiring additional rinsing.
From New York state comes this handmade zero-waste shampoo bar boasts manufacture from Tasmanian hair care ingredients. Ingredients include organic Australian gourmet dietary items, including unpasteurized Leatherwood honey, certified organic olive oil, organic, and biodynamic Tasmanian herbs. As with most other zero waste shampoo producers, Beauty and the Bees lists the chemicals they absolutely do not use in their pair products: parabens, SLS, SLES, artificial colors, synthetic fragrances, and palm oil. Additionally, their shampoo bars do not contain synthetic antioxidants, optical brighteners, maturing stabilizers, hardeners, sodium lauryl sulfate, or animal products.
Beauty and the Bees describe their shampoo as ideal for daily use on all hair types, even those that have been chemically treated or very fine. According to Beauty and the Bees, those who will benefit the most are people with oily hair, dandruff, or, conversely, those with thin hair or less hair who want to avoid harsh chemicals.
The company is 25 years old, and, from the outset, they have been entirely plastic-free. By their estimation, they have spared our planet’s landfills over 1,000,000 pieces of plastic waste. Even when they ship products worldwide, they use recyclable, biodegradable packaging materials to reduce waste. With years of experience promoting zero waste hair care and with a fine line too in beard care, give them a look in your search for that perfect zero waste shampoo.
Also, working from the Northeast—from Assonet, Massachusetts, is the Better Soap Company, which offers a round plastic-free shampoo bar. The ingredients are unique in some respects, including a range of natural oils: coconut oil, shea butter, jojoba oil, babassu oil, castor oil, and olive oil infused with homegrown herbs. Those herbs include stinging nettle, lemon balm, lavender, sage, and peppermint.
This zero-waste shampoo bar lathers up fully and easily with full, gentle suds that work well in all types of hair. The four-ounce shampoo bar should last longer than a 24-ounce bottle of liquid shampoo. You can also use it in the bath or shower as a body soap.
The Better Soap Company acknowledges cruelty-free, vegan, palm oil-free, ethically sourced production through Fair-Trade protocols. And packages goods in recyclable materials that are biodegradable or reusable. All the products are handmade personally by the devoted founder, Sheri Fernandes—who also teaches music on the side.
The Better Soap Company has managed to rack up 412 Etsy reviews for its round zero waste shampoo bar—all 5-stars. Additionally, the company sells 23 other zero-waste products. These range from beard soap to facial cleansing bath to solid coconut dish soap bars. The company also sells soap decks and tie-dyed carrying bags to avoid carrying one’s groceries out of the store in plastic bags. You can cut down on plastic shampoo bottles and do your bit to go plastic-free during the supermarket shop by ditching plastic bags.
Our second Florida shampoo bar producer is in Melbourne. While the company offers eight different zero waste soaps, the Argan Natural Bar is the only shampoo bar. The shampoo ingredients include water, coconut oil, olive oil, castor oil, essential oils, avocado oil, sunflower oil, argan oil, cocoa butter, shea butter jojoba, sodium lactate, sodium citrate, panthenol, dry malt extract, and cruelty-free silk. The particular essential oils used include lemongrass, peppermint, litsea, cubeba, peppermint, eucalyptus, tangerine, and geranium. The firm acknowledges its hair shampoo bar is 100% natural, with no artificial ingredients or fragrances.
As with so many of our selected zero waste shampoo sources, they clearly post their list of proudly excluded practices and ingredients: cruelty-free and palm oil-free hair cleansing. Each of their zero waste shampoo bars is handmade for made with love hair care. Emerson ethically sources all-natural ingredients and produces these bars with natural, plant-based colors. Interestingly, you can’t consider the shampoo vegan since they use cruelty-free silk, creating it.
You can anticipate the shampoo bar lasting up to four months. The bar’s makers point out that they last longer if allowed to dry thoroughly between uses. Emerson Soaps offers a cedar soap dish that will facilitate your shampoo bar’s drying in a non-plastic environment to further that intent. Perfect for your environmentally friendly personal care routine.
Katie Mae produces our final zero waste shampoo Ohio. She makes this shampoo bar from natural oils including castor oil, organic unrefined coconut oil, sunflower oil, organic unrefined cocoa butter, hibiscus flower powder, rosemary essential oil, and peppermint essential oils. Katie Mae also points out the metaphysical aspects of the shampoo bars: rosemary is a symbol of transformation, purification, and cleansing.
Like our other producers, Katie Mae stresses that some substances are never allowed in the soap. These include artificial fragrance or coloring, palm oil, tallow, lard, premade bases, fillers, detergents, preservatives, parabens, phthalates, or chemical preservatives.
While each of their zero-waste shampoo bars is measured to be four ounces, the actual shape and color do vary because all bars are handmade. You should allow Katie Mae’s shampoo bars to dry fully between uses to preserve the bar’s useful life. When it comes to using this zero waste shampoo bar, Katie Mae—like several others—recommends utilizing an apple cider vinegar or citric acid rinse.
They create all of the products on a 100-acre farm where the owners reside. As a result, they typically use their own homegrown plants to formulate the shampoo bars and other products. Katie Mae Naturals began as a crusade after the founder realized that we subject ourselves each day to more than 160 industrial chemicals through cosmetics and cleaning compounds.
It may be when you go to the grocery store or pharmacy next to pick up a bottle of shampoo; you intentionally search for a low waste shampoo bar for your eco-friendly hair routine. Chances are you will not find it. That doesn’t mean these products are unavailable. Rather, no sizeable commercial shampoo producer has yet decided to wholly step up and do its part to save our environment while providing all-natural products for your hair.
Each time we choose to go with zero-waste shampoo bars, we send a message to those who make liquid, plastic-bottled shampoos. - Now is the time to take a step toward cleaning our environment, saving our planet, and enriching our lives by going with waste-free shampoo. For why would you not choose naturally clean and healthy hair and zero waste. There’s an abundance of ways you can take steps to reduce waste. Before the advent of shampoo bars, those plastic bottles continued to take priority in the bathroom.
Now, with our list of the best zero waste shampoo choices complete, you’ve got a range of fantastic options to choose from. Many handmade and ethically sourced, complete with essential oils, eco-creds, and plastic-free. Time to ditch the liquid shampoo in plastic bottles for environmentally sound personal care for your hair.