This is part of our ongoing series, Real Talk, where we feature real folks and real convos that are important, inspiring and true to us. Today, our founder dishes on her shampoo and conditioner bar journey— from absolutely not to an essential part of her self-care routine.
I have always had long hair. There were a few mistakes I made in middle school, where my parents still had some sort of dominion over how I looked, where I cut my hair to shoulder length, and perhaps a few moments in my twenties where a stylist sheared off a few more inches than I'd liked, leaving me with armpit length hair. But for the most part, some things stay constant, and for me, long, incredibly thick, always-shedding, rope-like hair has always been the constant.
With hair as long and dense and curtain-like as mine, I was going through a bottle of conditioner what felt like every 3 uses. I tended to air dry, and rarely put product in my hair, and relied on heavily moisturizing conditioners to keep from split ends and to keep my salon visits to once every 6 months (kinda bad, I know.) I tried a bar shampoo and conditioner once, and didn't like the experience very much— it didn't lather the way I was used to, and even my sulfate-free and natural shampoos in bottles gave me more foam than the bar. With hair as thick and heavy as mine, it was a full arm workout trying to work the bar shampoo and its residue on my hands deep into my scalp. When it came to conditioner, I tried once and could never do it again. It felt like trying to put out a fire with a single drop of water. As much as I wanted to go through less plastic with my hair care, I couldn't get there.
I tried to make that switch a few years ago, and boy, have things come a long way since then. When I met NOAP founder Kate Assaraf, and learned all about her approach to plastic-free, salon-quality hair care, my whole perception of shampoo and conditioner bars changed. I even went so far as to order the conditioner bar myself, despite my horrible past experiences. I'm still using it, and not only does it smell amazing, my hair has never been softer. To use it, you wet the conditioner bar under the shower stream, and "paint" your hair with it. It doesn't foam, and it doesn't look as thick and creamy and body butter-like as other conditioners, but it does just as good a job, and lasts way, way longer. I haven't even made a dent in my bar, and it's been months.
I'm even more optimistic now that brands like Abhati Suisse have gotten in the shampoo bar game as well. To me, the innovations in formulation and packaging have helped make shampoo and conditioner bars feel less granola or like camping or travel products, and more like a luxury hair care experience. Don't get me wrong— there's nothing wrong with using bar haircare staunchly out of principle. If that's you, I admire you! In my mind, for plastic-free or zero waste products to have widespread impact, they have to appeal to more folks, and making something beautiful, functional and enticing certainly scratches that itch.
If you're new to the bar world, welcome. It's worth trying, and we're officially at the point where hair care in bar form can rival what you're buying in a bottle, obvious environmental benefits aside. For folks with super long, thick, or dry hair, I'd really recommend this rose conditioner, which was my entry point into bar hair care. You can't go wrong with any of our other choices, and there's a scent (or an unscented option!) for everyone.