The Best Zero Waste Shampoos & Conditioners

Written by Moss Lane Staff

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The best way to reduce waste is—not surprisingly—to avoid generating it to begin with. Still, as anyone who has made the shift to a more sustainable lifestyle already knows, there are certain areas where producing zero waste is easier said than done. While you might have quickly figured out how to purchase fruit or grains without adding to a landfill, other products—such as those on your beauty counter—can be harder to swap. 

The Environmental Working Group lists hundreds of personal care products that are free of toxins and carcinogens banned across the globe, but in this instance, the bottle itself is just as important as the ingredients inside. That’s because according to Johnson & Johnson, as many as 552 million 15-ounce shampoo bottles make their way to U.S. landfills each year.

Fortunately, zero waste shampoos and conditioners are becoming increasingly popular on the market. Below is a list of our favorite zero waste shampoos and zero waste conditioners. Just remember: Hair care is deeply personal—the genetics that influence your hair type, scalp sensitivity, and more will all impact how effective a certain shampoo or conditioner is for you. Always read the reviews, and if you try one of these products and don’t love it right away, a brand not mentioned here might be the perfect zero waste shampoo bar for you.

The Best Zero Waste Shampoo Bar

If you’re looking to reduce waste, shampoo and conditioner bars are a nearly foolproof solution. Like with hand soap bars, your shampoo is puck-shaped, and you rub it on your scalp (or, if you prefer, your hands and then into your scalp). When not in use, you rest the bar on a soap dish in your shower to dry out until you’re ready for another wash. 

Most companies who make shampoo bars sell them in minimal paper packaging that is recyclable or even compostable. When purchased in-store, this means you can get several months worth of washes without purchasing more waste than fits in the palm of your hand.

Ethique Shampoo Bars from Ethique Beauty

Some hair care brands approach their product lines with a “one size fits all” mentality, offering a single shampoo bar for all individual hair types. But your hair is as unique as the rest of you! That’s why our top choice for a zero waste shampoo bar is Ethique. 

We love Ethique’s zero waste bars and concentrates because the brand offers a varied product line that includes options for straight hair, curly or kinky hair, dry hair, sensitive scalps, and color treated hair. It even offers a zero waste shampoo bar for kids! As a bonus, Ethique sells sampler kits in their shop, so you can purchase small bars of multiple formulas to test the perfect hair care routine for your unique needs.

Better still, Ethique cares about more than simply reducing waste. The company’s product line is 100% plastic-free, palm oil-free, cruelty-free, and vegan. Plus, Ethique offsets 120% of its carbon emissions, meaning the brand is more than carbon neutral; it’s carbon positive. The company takes advantage of direct trade practices, which ensures that local growers receive stable prices, reliable income and good working conditions. Finally, Ethique donates 2% of sales to hundreds of charitable organizations focused on conservation, animal welfare and the environment.

What Customers Love

  • Customers report this product line feels nourishing and doesn’t leave them with a squeaky-clean, stripped-of-all-oils feeling.
  • It both lathers well and rinses well. 
  • Many curly-haired customers prefer it to other lines. They report that the products are nourishing in a way that enhances curl rather than causes too much weight or frizz. 
  • The all-natural scents are mild while still smelling good.
  • The products are effective in both hard and soft water environments.

What Customers Don’t Love

  • Some purchasers with extra thick or long hair report that the bars don’t last for as many washes as Ethique claims.
  • Users who have sensitive skin or hair prone to dryness sometimes reported these lines weren’t gentle or moisturizing enough to their hair or scalp.
  • Reviews suggest it is best to purchase directly from the site, as users shopping through Amazon occasionally report damaged or expired products.

The Best Zero Waste Shampoo Bar for Coily, Kinky Hair

BEST FOR COILY HAIR

SheaMoisture Shampoo Bars

SheaMoisture has been a popular hair care brand for the Black community (and anyone with coily or kinky hair) for decades. All their products are free of sulfates, parabens, phthalates, mineral oil, animal testing, and petrolatum. SheaMoisture is a certified B Corp, and the company says that with every purchase is a choice to reinvest in Black communities, through programs like its Next Black Millionaire Fund that provides innovation seed funding. 

SheaMoisture now makes three different shampoo bar formulas, including one specifically for chemically processed or heat styled hair.

What Customers Love

  • The formulas provide gorgeous, natural scents (with ingredients like coconut and hibiscus, of course they do!)
  • Most users report that it lathers and rinses well.
  • It manages frizz so well that some users say they can ditch conditioner entirely with these bars.
  • Some users report less shedding from their hair once they switched from traditional shampoo to SheaMoisture’s shampoo bars.
  • SheaMoisture provides increased volume and shine compared to other products.

What Customers Don’t Love

  • Some users say these products are a challenge to rinse cleanly from their hair, leaving behind a waxy build-up or a greasy feeling.
  • Some users found this product irritates their scalp if they have particularly sensitive skin.
  • The packaging itself these bars come in isn’t completely recyclable, which offsets the ability to make a truly zero-waste choice.

The Best Option If You Prefer Liquid Shampoo

BEST REFILLABLE

Plaine Products Environmentally Friendly Shampoos

Not everyone who wants to reduce waste is ready to make the switch to bar soaps. That’s okay! For a change in lifestyle to work, it has to work for you. So if you just can’t give up liquid shampoo or conditioner, we recommend Plaine Products, whose slogan is “refill, reuse, rejoice.”

Plaine Products offers a lineup of refillable personal items that are vegan, cruelty free, and free of palm oils. How it works: The first time you order, you purchase an aluminum bottle, plus a pump. In the future, you purchase aluminum refills with a free return shipping label. Pop your empty aluminum in the mail with your printed shipping label (keep your pump!) and a newly refilled bottle will arrive on your doorstep.

It’s not a perfect zero-waste system, but it still significantly reduces waste compared to traditional hair care systems. Plaine Products also takes steps to reduce the carbon footprint brought on by its shipping practices and remains a carbon neutral company. Plus, it’s a certified B-Corp, comes recommended by Think Dirty, and is a member of the Plastic Pollution Coalition. 

What Customers Love

  • Reviewers claim the shampoo is so nourishing you can skip the conditioner entirely!
  • The formula is so soft and light that some people (depending on hair type!) have been able to stop using combs and brushes.
  • Hair dries quickly after use and the shampoo manages frizz well.

What Customers Don’t Love

  • The company doesn’t offer many formulas, but multiple reviewers report that the products work well for every hair type in their household anyway.
  • While Plaine Products goes out of its way to make the refilling process as simple as possible, it is still a bit of a hassle compared to other options in this article.

Other Zero Waste Shampoos We Love

Lush

lush

Lush

Shampoo Bars

Lush is a bit of an innovator in the cosmetics industry—the company even created the bath bomb! Considered one of the earliest big brands to sell shampoo and conditioner bars, Lush offers quite a few formulas with thousands of 5-star reviews. If you happen to have a Lush store in your area, you can truly make your hair care process waste-free by purchasing a bar in person sans any packaging at all. 

Many people love Lush’s fragrances, especially if you’re someone who wants to continue to smell like shampoo after your hair dries. People say it leaves hair super soft and limits the number of washes a person needs in a week, even if they have oily hair. Some of Lush’s products do include sulfates, however, which can irritate the scalp if you have particularly sensitive skin.

Bestowed Essentials

bestowed-essentials

Bestowed Essentials

Shampoo Bar

We love Bestowed Essentials, not only because the shampoos were reviewed highly across many websites, but because Bestowed Essentials is a neurodivergent-female-veteran-owned American small business that provides jobs to people who face systemic barriers to employment. The company started in a kitchen in 2016, but in just a few short years, it has racked up an impressive number of fans.

Its vegan and cruelty-free formula is so simple you’ll be tempted to try to replicate it yourself with ingredients from home: aloe vera juice, olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, sunflower oil, sodium hydroxide, shea butter, castor oil, tea tree essential oil. That’s it!

Because the company is so small, these bars can be tricky to get your hands on, but the company is looking to expand into major retailer markets in 2022.

HiBar

hibar-volumize

HiBar

Volumize Shampoo Bar

Looking at the reviews, HiBar is a bit of a polarizing brand. Some reviewers consider it to be far-and-away the best zero waste shampoo and conditioning bar brand on the market (with hundreds of 5-star reviews on the HiBar website); others found it to be not worth the hype. That being said, HiBar’s Volumize formula is the top choice for shampoo and conditioner bar for our Moss Lane editors (and we’ve written about it before as a favorite for natural and organic shampoos), so we feel it warrants a mention on the list!

HiBar’s bars are free of soaps, sulfates, phthalates, silicons, and parabens. It’s also Leaping Bunny certified cruelty free. Like Ethique, the company sells a sample pack with multiple products included so you can test and choose the best fragrance and formula for you.

Our Research Process

We started our search for the best zero waste shampoo by first digging into how the packaging from traditional hair care companies impacts the environment. We learned that not only do plastic shampoo and conditioner bottles contribute a mind-boggling amount of waste to landfills, they are devastating ocean environments as well.

So, we then considered how best to reduce that plastic. We learned that when you purchase shampoos or conditioners from a salon or store, the first ingredient is nearly always water. In fact, as much as 80 percent of liquid shampoo by volume is water. What a waste! Shampoo bars cut out the aquatic middle man, selling bars of compact dry ingredients in order to reduce unnecessary packaging waste. Once we understood this, zero waste shampoo bars and conditioners became our primary (though not exclusive) area of focus. We also paid attention to their packaging and whether or not products could be purchased in-store, to prevent shipping waste as well.

Next, we considered the shampoo and conditioning ingredients and formulas. Was a product cruelty-free? Vegan? Did it contain palm oil? Did it contain sulfates or harmful environmental ingredients like microplastics?

With that, we began to scour the customer reviews of some of the most popular and readily-mentioned zero-waste shampoo companies, paying special attention to reviewers with a variety of hair types. Even though no hair product can solve every problem for every person, we did our best to zero in on companies trying to meet as many hair care needs as possible. Finally, we considered which products we use ourselves and why, as well as which brands promote ethical and sustainable practices.

In the end we considered the following brands:

  1. Bar None 
  2. Bestowed Essentials
  3. Butter Me Up Organics
  4. Chagrin Valley
  5. EcoRoots
  6. Ethique
  7. Faith in Nature
  8. Hibar
  9. J.R. Liggett’s
  10. Kitsch
  11. Love, Beauty, & Planet 
  12. Lush Cosmetics
  13. Meow Meow Tweet 
  14. Plaine Products
  15. SheaMoisture
  16. Superzero
  17. Vunella

Check out more of our favorite sustainable and zero-waste products with our guides to the best zero waste toilet paper, best eco-friendly gifts, best sustainable cleaning products, and best organic shampoo.

Our Sources

  1. https://www.epa.gov/recycle/reducing-and-reusing-basics
  2. https://www.greenmatters.com/p/shampoo-effects-environment
  3. https://gizmodo.com/what-the-ingredients-on-your-shampoo-bottle-actually-me-1656939094
  4. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/article/shampoo-bar-sustainable-toiletries-plastic-free
  5. https://www.ewg.org/ewgverified/
  6. Where are your shampoo bottles going? – Animation
  7. https://bcorporation.net/

Moss Lane Staff

The Moss Lane Staff is comprised of seasoned content professionals who specialize in synthesizing large amounts of information and making it accessible to every day readers. This article was written and edited by multiple members of our staff to ensure comprehensive coverage of the topic.