Do shampoo bars work for curly hair?
If you follow the curly girl method, you may think shampoo is the enemy of curls. You may have already banished your shampoo and conditioner bottles from the bathroom and regularly skip the shampoo aisle at the store. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
In fact, I’m here to tell you (nearly) the opposite.
Shampoo and conditioner bars for curly hair could actually be the perfect addition to your routine.
That doesn’t mean that ALL shampoo bars work for curly hair. Most certainly not.
They need to be the right shampoo and conditioner bars, with the right ingredients.
You already know that hair care products are not created equal - especially when it comes to curly hair. Many are chalk full of unknown ingredients that either weigh down your beautiful curls, dry them out, or leave residue on them - or some undesirable combination of all three.
But with some very careful research, and the right clean beauty ingredients, shampoo bars can be the best shampoo for curls.
To help you better understand if shampoo bars do work for curly hair, let’s examine the curly girl method at a glance, and then go over some ingredients to look for and avoid when choosing the best shampoo bars and best conditioner bars for curly hair.
What is the curly girl method?
The curly girl method (or CG method) was originally created by Lorraine Massey who wrote “The Curly Girl Handbook” in 2010. It has since taken off with bloggers and beauty gurus giving their own tips on the best CG hair routines.
The CG method is designed to maximize the health and hydration of natural curls and cut out harmful products that lead to drying and damage.
The ethos of the method is this: you do not use any products with sulfates, silicones, mineral oil, waxes, or drying alcohols.
This means seeking out special shampoo products, like “low poos,” or switching to conditioner-only washing (called “No Poo” or “Co-Washing). But while some CG gurus would convince you to co-wash and do away with shampoo altogether, this isn’t always the answer for curly hair.
For example, if your curls have started to feel limp and heavy, it might be time for a good shampooing! Even if you only shampoo once a week - or once a month - that careful clarifying can help remove buildup from your curls without stripping them of their natural oils.
But what shampoo bar should you use, and do shampoo bars work for curly hair?
Do shampoo bars work for curly hair?
Yes, shampoo bars do work for curly hair.
In fact, they often work better than traditional liquid shampoos because most shampoo bars are made from natural ingredients. And they work extremely well with conditioner bars to cleanse and moisturize curly hair.
That being said, to understand if particular shampoo bars do work for curly hair, you need to know which ingredients to look for - and which to omit.
We’ll go into more detail in this article, but you should immediately pass on any shampoo or conditioner that contains sulfate, soap, or chemical perfumes.
Instead look for shea butter and natural oils as bases and ingredients such as keratin, which is a protein that provides your hair with strength. Essential oils can add a natural smell while also contributing to your overall scalp and hair health. For example, cedar wood oil enhances scalp circulation, strengthens follicles, and promotes hair growth. Meanwhile, geranium essential oil has been shown to reduce dryness, and help cut back excess oil production. Studies also show it’s a great way to naturally promote hair growth.
Do conditioner bars work for curly hair?
Absolutely. You can use both shampoo and conditioner bars for curly hair.
The best conditioner bars for curly hair - just like the best shampoo bars for curly hair - are made with natural ingredients that don’t dry out your curls. A good conditioner bar may even have several of the shampoo ingredients I mentioned above.
And my Curl Defining Conditioner Bar can even be used as a leave-in that won’t add weight!
Let’s discuss what ingredients to keep an eye out for when deciding which conditioner and shampoo bars will work for your curly hair.
Ingredients to avoid in shampoo and conditioner bars for curly hair
Conditioner and shampoo bars for curly hair are rapidly gaining popularity. That’s because beauty bars tend to be natural, clean beauty products that are free from harmful chemicals. This means you are more likely to find conditioner bars and shampoo bars do work for curly hair.
Of course, you should always read the ingredient labels of your products, and watch out for these harmful ingredients.
While a foamy lather feels luxurious on your hands, it’s torture for your curls. Lather is often created by sulfates, which strip your hair of its natural oils and make it more prone to breakage and frizz. That doesn't mean my bars won't lather :) I use another ingredient for that!
Sulfates to avoid include:
- Alkyl Benzene Sulfonate
- Ammonium Laureth or Lauryl Sulfate
- Ammonium Xylenesulfonate
- Dioctyl Sodium Sulfosuccinate
- Ethyl PEG-15 Cocamine Sulfate
- Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate
- Sodium Cocoyl Sarcosinate
- Sodium Laureth, Myreth, or Lauryl Sulfate
- Sodium Xylenesulfonate
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate
Silicones are man-made polymers that give the illusion of shiny, lustrous hair.
The reality? Your hair is coated in PLASTIC.
Most silicones don’t dissolve in water, and you will need sulfates or other drying chemicals in order to remove them. This could end up making your hair more dull and damaged than before your supposed “moisturizing” products.
Silicones to avoid include:
- Behenoxy Dimethicone
- Bis-aminopropyl dimethicone
- Cetearyl Methicone
- Cetyl Dimethicone
- Phenyl trimethicone
- Stearyl Dimethicone
Mineral oils and waxes
Just like silicones, some waxes and mineral oils require sulfates to remove. And, if you don’t remove them, they can seriously weigh down your curls!
Waxes and oils to avoid include:
- Candelilla wax
- Paraffinum Liquidum (mineral oil)
Instead, look for shea butter and/or natural oils, like pracaxi oil and buriti oil.
Some alcohols are extremely drying for your hair, which you know is a big no-no for curls. If you want to keep your luscious locks moisturized, it’s best to steer clear of these alcohols.
Drying alcohols to avoid include:
- Denatured alcohol
- Isopropyl alcohol (IPA)
- Propyl alcohol
- SD alcohol 40
Soap is actually harsher on your hair than sulfates. It is also a main component of many shampoo bars. You simply want to stay away from any shampoo bar with soap as a base.
Not only do soaps contain waxes and oils that aren’t curly girl approved, they are also alkaline. Soap has a pH around 8 or 9, and the natural pH of your hair is around 4.5 to 5.5. Using a shampoo bar with a high pH can lead to frizz, cuticle damage, and breakage.
So you can see, answering “do shampoo bars work for curly hair” is a bit more complex than you might have originally thought. If the shampoo bars contain any of the ingredients on these lists, the answer is probably a resounding NO.
But, many shampoo bars do work for curly hair, and they work exceedingly well. This goes for conditioner bars too! So what are the best shampoo and best conditioner bars for curly hair?
Now that you know which ingredients to avoid, let’s explain exactly what you should be looking for so your conditioner and shampoo bars do work for curly hair.
The best shampoo and conditioner bars for curly hair - and how to use them
When trying to make sure conditioner and shampoo bars do work for curly hair, look for beauty bars with natural ingredients and plant-derived oils. You also want to be sure to look for a pH-balanced bar.
This doesn’t mean you can’t use any chemicals at all. Some are mild, moisturizing, and water soluble.
Curly girl approved cleansers include:
- Cocamidopropyl Betaine
- Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine
- Coco Betaine
- Lauryl Hydroxysultaine
- Sodium Cocoamphoacetate
- Sodium Lauroamphoacetate
Curly girl approved alcohols include:
- Behenyl alcohol
- Cetearyl alcohol
- Cetyl alcohol
- Lauryl alcohol
- Myristyl alcohol
- Stearyl alcohol
When in doubt, you can use Curlsbot to check whether the ingredients in your products are approved for curly hair.
How to use solid beauty bars
How to use conditioner bars and shampoo bars works a little differently for curly girls. I recommend spending extra time wetting your hair down before attempting to use a solid beauty bar.
As you know, friction is the enemy of curls. So you’ll want to spend some time working the shampoo and conditioner through your hair with your fingers, portioning and twisting your hair as needed to coat all sides of your curls.
It may also take a few tries for your curls to adjust to the new products, just as it does when you switch to a low poo or co-wash routine.
That being said, it’s definitely worth the effort to learn how to use conditioner and shampoo bars for curly hair. After all, solid beauty bars are not only great for your curls - they are great for the environment. And, as long as you know what ingredients to look for, conditioner and shampoo bars do work for curly hair.
It’s time to B.O.B your head!
Say goodbye to plastic packaging and hello to stunning curls.
My natural shampoo and conditioner bars from Bars Over Bottles offer the perfect solution for curly hair. They are vegan, cruelty-free, plastic-free, and 100% approved for curls. (Just pop the ingredients in on Curlsbot if you don’t believe me!)
My Moisturizing Shampoo Bar for curly hair has coconut oil, buriti oil, and phyto keratin to clean your curls while leaving them silky, shiny, and strong. And, my 2-in-1 Curl Definer & Leave-In Conditioner Bar is just the thing for locking in moisture, taming frizz, and leaving you with beautiful, defined, bouncy curls.
Want to branch out and explore my other beauty bars?
Every single one of my shampoo and conditioner bars are pH balanced with the health of your hair in mind - so you can rest assured, your purchase will help protect the planet AND your precious curls.