Taking the poo out of shampoo

Saturday, May 2, 2009

(This was supposed to be my Friday off-topic post, but I was feeling generally blah. But at least I’m only a day late!)

I have bad hair. Really bad hair. This is due to a combination of the curse of naturally curly hair, a thyroid that refuses to work, self-coloring, daily flat-ironing and, sigh, age.

To prove it, I will share this incredibly embarrassing picture of myself, circa 1990-ish.

(Yes, it looks frightening in retrospect, but I looked exactly like everyone else on the street at the time. YES I DID!)

And, just because I want to find out what you think of my new glasses, here’s me now:

(Please ignore the “why-is-it-always-so-freaking-cold-in-this-office” sweater.)

See? Bad, bad hair. I wish you could see the back of it, where I sport a large chunk of frizz that refuses to lie down, no matter what I do with it. Looks like a duck’s butt. Attractive.

Anyway, all of this preamble was just to share with you what I’m recently discovering about what else might be contributing to my awful-hairedness. Sulfates. The “poo” in conventional shampoo. Not good for your hair.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) is pretty commonly found in all detergents – whether you use it to wash your hair, your dishes, or your car. It produces Big Foam. We like Big Foam. Makes us feel like it’s really getting something done up there on our heads.

But what it’s really doing is drying out your hair and scalp, making your hair brittle and causing breakage and all kinds of odd scalp conditions. There are those who feel the residual buildup of sulfates contribute to hair loss. They swear that when they eliminated the sulfates, they either saw a significant reduction in the amount of hair being lost or even got some new growth in previously bald areas.

So that’s the simplified version (there’s so much more, but I haven’t even gotten to the point of this post yet) and what made me decide to start searching out some sulfate-free options.

This is when I became obsessed with Shampoo Bars. Yes, like a bar of regular soap, but for your hair. Wait! Don’t freak out. I admit, it seems very strange to think of rubbing a bar of shampoo over your head. Eeeeew, right? But still, with all the positive reviews I’d been reading, I really wanted to give it a try.

So I headed over to Chagrin Valley Soaps, the maker of THE most touted shampoo bars on hair-related message boards. (Yes, I DID go around reading hair message boards. What of it?)

They have a pretty large selection of shampoo bars that you can buy in either the full size, for $6.75, or in a pretty generous sample size for either $2.50 or $2.60. And they are packaged in the cutest little Kraft bags, ever!

Overwhelmed by options and fearful that I would HATE IT after I bought it, I bought a full size of the Coconut Milk and one sample-sized bar of Carrot Milk and Honey and another of Rosemary Mint. The two products I was most interested in, the Olive Babassu and the Babassu and Marsh Mallow, were both temporarily out of stock. (I would link to the specific products here, but their website doesn’t have separate pages for each product. They also have a pain in the ass shopping cart, but I can deal with it.)

Another advantage of shampoo bars is that if you decide you don’t like it as a shampoo, it’s perfectly fine to use on your body. No waste.

I had already decided I WOULD NOT rub a bar of shampoo on my head. I would lather it up in my hands and then massage it in, like a civilized person. So, picking a day when I had no one to impress but my dentist (in case things went horribly awry), I grabbed the bar of Coconut Milk and marched bravely into the shower.

I got my hair really, really wet and picked up the bar. And I rubbed it directly on my head. I don’t know what happened! It just seemed like the natural thing to do. And I enjoyed it. It had a decent lather and it smelled really nice. And you know what? After I rinsed it out (very, very thoroughly, of course), my hair freaking SQUEAKED. Yes, it did. I don’t remember the last time my hair squeaked after shampooing.

Now, in theory, you do not have to use a conditioner with these bars. Or, if your hair is really dry, you might be able to just use a lot less conditioner. I debated doing a true experiment and not conditioning at all, but panicked at the last minute and used a small amount of conditioner on the ends. All the squeaking had frightened me.

Then, as is my custom, I let it air dry. Usually it air dries into a poofy disaster, so I was surprised that it dried like a normal person’s hair. No poof. My hair was very soft and I didn’t feel any residue. And that duck’s butt on the back of my head was gone! Seriously. A mini-version of it popped up a little later in the day after three hours in the dental chair, a nap and two hot flashes, but it stayed tame for a pretty good long time.

So, obviously, I like it! And I like that it will be so much easier to travel with than regular shampoo. And that cutting out all of those plastic shampoo bottles will be good for the environment. And that one shampoo bar lasts as long as about three bottles of conventional shampoo. And that I may someday be able to get rid of conditioner altogether. Naturally, I’ve already ordered more. It’s a sickness.

Of course, this isn’t the only company that makes shampoo bars. There are also other options for sulfate-free shampoos that don’t involve rubbing a bar on your head.

Lush Cosmetics: Their shampoo bar is smaller and pricier ($9.75), but it is VERY highly rated. Order online, or find a store near you. I’m going to check them out the next time I’m at the mall.

And here’s a way for you to try it for close to free. I found a lot of the products I was looking for at iherb.com – and if you’ve never ordered from them before, you can use my coupon code (DUP544) to get $5 off your first order. I think they will kick back 15 cents to me if you do, but that’s not why I’m giving you the code. I’m giving it to you because most of this stuff costs right around $5, so you can get it just for the cost of shipping. And they ship super-fast. I love them.

Here are some I found today. Okay, I’ll be honest and admit this is what I actually ORDERED today. Maybe you’ll find something that looks interesting to you. I think you can also find these at Whole Foods, if you’re near one:

J.R. Liggett’s Old Fashioned Bar Shampoo. I got the one for damaged hair, natch, and the Tea Tree and Hemp Oil. $4.79 each

Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps. On this one, I actually bought the 16-ounce Hemp Almond liquid to try out. You should read the reviews on this product line. Dang! $6.83

Giovanni’s Shampoo and Conditioners. Again, not a shampoo bar, but this also a very highly rated sulfate-free line. I got a leave-in conditioner, a restructuring conditioner and a couple of other things I don’t remember. $5.17 each

So that’s it. Have you ever tried a shampoo bar? Would you? Next up in my quest for more natural products: Toothpaste. (I heard my dentist telling someone to stay away from Colgate Total and Crest Pro-something because of all the additives. Interesting, no?)


Midwest Mommy said...

A shampoo bar? Really?

Lanie said...

I would try it and I am headed to check out iherbs right now. Thanks for the little heads up on Colgate Total too. We actually use that, but I may look into Tom's.

By the way, I had huge hair in the nineties and your glasses are adorable!

Camevil said...

EEEEE! It's in Chagrin Valley? That's not to far from me! How did I not know about this??? I think I may make a road trip out there and gets me some decent shampoo. And get some for my mother in law for mother's day.

Admittedly, shampoo bars cause synapses in my brain to misfire. I keep thinking of that one scene in Carrie where she comes home from the prom massacre and washes blood out of her hair with soap. Need to work through that if I'm going to give this product a shot.

I love your product reviews and trust them, especially the girlie ones.

Right now, I use Matrix sleek shampoos/conds because my stylist says so, mentioning the same bad ingredients you did. But I never got that squeaky clean thing you described.

You were very brave to post that vintage hairdo. Just to show a sista some support, I'm going to do the same. Oh god.

Camevil said...

I did it. Oh god.


Your glasses are tres chic.

Theresa said...

Love your glasses! I am game to try the bar shampoo. Thanks for all the info!

Tricia said...

I am intrigued by this. You should work in advertising, because I'm buying one.

Mrs. Jelly Belly said...

You know, I sometimes get so caught up in the world of internet shopping that I forgot to mention there are some inexpensive, mainstream shampoos that don't contain sulfates. Suave Naturals, for one. Just check the teeny tiny print on the labels.

Cyndi said...

I LOVE the new glasses. I had that same exact hair in the 80s and 90s. I'm going to drop by Whole Foods or the health food store and check out the shampoo bars. You were clearly cut out to be some kind of cult leader.

Housewife Savant said...

You and I share a healthy skepticism, but unlike me you're prone to waffle and be open-minded. Shame.

Would I try a shampoo bar? Sure, but I've already decided I'm not gonna like it, like most cooked greens, seafood, and asparagus.

Crest WHAT? Crest Pro WHAT? NOT Crest Pro Health. No way.

Mrs. Jelly Belly said...

Yes! Crest Pro Health. That was it. Sorry. :)

Jenn said...

Thanks for the coupon...I went right over to iherb.com and order a bar of shampoo to try...I've got frizzy hair even if I use a flat iron! Anyways, it ended up being free and I only had to pay the $1.68 shipping...thanks for the hook up!

Shelley said...

LOVE your glasses! Your hair looks great in that picture...but then, I can't see the "ducks butt" in the back, lol!

My hair doesn't squeak and now I'm wondering if I should try a shampoo bar...thanks for the info and the review!

Michelle said...

1st of all - LOVE the big hair. Gosh, I so miss the 90's...not. :) I am going to have to try these, my hair is so limp and dreary lately that I really need to change things up. Thanks for the tip!

WhisperingWriter said...

I saw those shampoo bars before! I was curious about them.

At this point, I'll try anything for my unruly hair. My hair only works for me after I've just been to the salon since they put those expensive creams in it. But then the day after--POOF--crazy hair!

Lisa said...

1. Love the glasses.
2. Your hair looks great! Really!
3. I, too, need to go buy a shampoo bar now. Thanks for that. :)

FranticMommy said...

wow. Shampoo bars. Whoda thunk? And they're cheap too. I may have to give them a try!

midlife mommy said...


And, don't be so hard on yourself about the hair. I used to work very hard to get that look . . .

midlife mommy said...

Forgot to add - hair message boards? Really?

Anonymous said...

hmmm, now I'm tempted to try this! I love trying new stuff like this :-) I'm so happy you stopped by my blog to say hello! I love finding new awesome blogs to follow. When I read "All the squeaking had frightened me." I laughed out loud. You are too funny! Anyway, thanks for stopping by!

kristisummer said...

I have always had horrible poker straight thin hair. I would give this a shot. Bar shampoo sounds like a lot of fun :)

BetteJo said...

Hmm. I have a bad thyroid, and at 50 now, it's thinning. My hair - not my thyroid. I actually bought some Soap Nuts - you boil them and make your own shampoo - or you put them in a little gauze bag and use them for laundry. Haven't tried them yet but ... a shampoo bar certainly doesn't sound any weirder. The soap nuts though, are supposed to help with the thinning part. I'm hoping!

Rachel said...

I wanted to thank you so much for stopping by my blog! I just read your most recent post regarding the shampoo bars and I am beyond excited to try them out! My hair is so unbelievably coarse--no thanks to regularly having it highlighted and using a flat iron! I don't remember the last time I was able to let my hair air dry--it's SUCH an ordeal for me to get ready anytime I want to go out!!! A BIG "thank you" in advance and I will most definitely be on the hunt for these bars!

By the way...your glasses are very cute!

Outsmart the Fat! said...

I've got some of the Lush shampoo bars at home - I really like them.

I too have curly hair, but I don't straighten mine. I got hip to "Curly Girl" which may have been one of the sites you checked. I don't shampoo my hair but once a week now. I do shower every day, but just use conditioner, which I need so that my hair isn't a snarled mess.

So instead of shampoo AND conditioner, I am just down to (mostly) conditioner. When I travel, or shower at the gym, I just take one of the Lush shampoo bars and use that - I can do without conditioner if I truly need to. Saves money!

Ree said...

I would try bar shampoo. But ... y'know. The whole no hair thing kinda sinks that boat. ;-)

On the other hand - love the glasses. ;-)

Tammy said...

I had never heard of a shampoo bar before. Neat. Hi from the SITStahood.

Always a Southern Girl said...

WoW didn't know that sulfates where bad for the hair. Thanks for letting us know.

Your hair looks fine to me! Thanks for stopping by my blog and welcoming to SITS.

Lisa said...

I've never heard of a shampoo bar but I would try one.
Thanks for stopping by and welcoming me! :)Lisa

Erick Calderon said...

Try Mastey Traite Shampoo - It is the original Sulfate-Free Shampoo. It was created in 1976 and is gentle enough to use as a skin cleanser. Mastey recommends you use it as a facial cleanser. I have used it for 15 years and all my kids are bathed in it daily. Go to http://www.mastey.com

Full Disclosure, my wifes dad started this company in the 70's and they have made gentle hair and skin products since. We also make a ZERO AMMONIA Professional hair color too.

Hope it helps!

Anonymous said...

YOU always have The best info!!!
I've heard before that we are obsesses with suds and just don't feel like we're getting it done unless there are lots of suds. Hmmmm....I have naturally curly hair and shampoo may be drying it out. I will definitely give it a try. And we can get the product for free!!!
Love it!
And your glasses are great!

MizFit said...

I LOVE YOUR HAIR. Thick lovely full of volume.
now ME?
I have really bad hair.
(and thats been lifelong)
fine (and not FIIIIIINE :))

and YES.
Ill give anything a hair-go--once :)

pan x 8 said...

Thanks for the welcome back in Feb! Glad to be back!

That shampoo bar sounds like something pretty cool, especially because my naturally curly hair won't let up either and after 30 min of flat iron, it better not rain and get my hair all messed up!! ;p

Whitney said...

You crack me up! I've never heard of a shampoo bar, but hey, who's to question a specialist - you have read all the message boards on the matter. And, btw, for a 1990's do, your hair was pretty hot! :) Thanks for sharing your search for shampoo adventures.

Stopping by from SITS.

Patty said...

Had to check out your blog to find out what in the world would prompt Camevil to post an eightie's prom pic! :-)

I really like you glasses, and I like your hair too!

I started using a coconut shampoo that is free from SLS, and I can tell a huge difference! I think it is made by "Organix" or soemthing like that, and they even sell it at drug stores and Wal-mart.

jenn said...

endless enchilada? oh my word...i think i gained 5 lbs. just thinking about that! thank you for commenting on my blog!!
i look forward to browsing yours...

have a great day SITSta!!

Karen Brown Letarte said...

Hmmmmmmm.... I am intrigued. I must run upstairs and look at the ingredients in my expensive Aveda Brilliant shampoo that my hair god, Drew, swore was the Best Shampoo On Earth. I have a feeling, that being liquid, it probably has the dreaded SLS in it. And, just for the record, I LOVE your 1990 hair. If I had hair that would do anything but drape itself on my head like a limp dead animal, I would rejoice. I would KILL (well,ok, maybe just maim) for hair like my friend Monica, who has gorgeous glossy black ringlets all over her head and down to her shoulders. Breathtaking. Of course, she hates her curls and straightens them most days. ??????

Roshni Mitra Chintalapati said...

Thanks! That IS useful specially since I seem to be losing hair by gobs!
There are sites where they actually have recipes for home made shampoos..not sure if you want to go thru the hassle of trying those but then you'll REALLY know what you're putting in your hair!

MaryRC said...

this is perfect timing for me. ive been on a serious shampoo hunt. how bad is this, my daughter was playing with the flakes falling from my overly dry scalp last night, i though she was playing with my hair at first and it felt good. until she exclaimed that i was snowing! i just ordered some, thanks!

Michelle said...

I've never given the shampoo bar a second thought really. I've seen them at the Lush Counter, but it just seemed kind of odd to me.

Although, I'm always willing to try something new....within reason (remember the Crisco post). LOL.

Thanks for sharing. Hope you're feeling better.

3 Bay B Chicks said...

Wow! Way to keep it green and natural with these shampoo bars, Mrs. Jelly Belly. I have to admit that I have never come across these products before, but am definitely intrigued.

Oh, and who knew about the sulfates. I swear I learn everything I need to on the Internet. :)


Brandy said...

I have never heard of shampoo bars, but I were to get one whatever would I do with the 40+ bottles of shampoo that I have? No, that's not a typo.

And I love the new glasses!

MaryRC said...

here is a trick that has been working for me with the dry scalp, tell your son. buy some non alcohol toner, I like hydra fresh by loreal, pour it in a squirt bottle and spray on your scalp. witch hazel or rose water works great too. its great for ph balance in your hair and it works. this is part of my load of tricks that I completly forgot about. and relief on the head... waiting for my soap, ill keep you posted.

The Rambler said...

Oh my...we have the same hair.

I flat iron it to death.

I'm gonna have to try this Shampoo bar thing!

Thanks for the tip!!!!

piecemeal people said...

I'm late in saying so, but thank you for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment last month!

I too am intrigued by the idea of a shampoo bar, as your description of your own hair closely matches my own. But the Suave Naturals sounds pretty good, too.