5 things that make a beauty bar better for our planet

Person holds Ethique beauty bar between hands while in shower

Beauty bars are definitely having a moment. This is fantastic – when I started  Ethique back in 2012, almost no one was making shampoo bars, and solid skincare was certainly not a thing. Now, I can name at least 20 companies in NZ alone that are making solid shampoo bars. People ask me if it worries me now that there are more competitors, but I am delighted. I started Ethique not only to rid the world of plastic bottles, but to inspire other businesses to do the same and change the industry. Now they are, and that is an enormous success because we cannot do this alone.

Shampoo bars are now found in supermarkets, as well as health food chains, pharmacies, gift stores, and everything in between. There are varying price points; from $45 all the way down to $12 - and of course with that variance, there are a lot of different factors. You might have to look a bit harder for bars outside of  hair care in mainstream retailers, but we are working on it...

So why are beauty bars better for the planet? 

1. Free from plastic packaging 

Plastic requires extraction of natural gas and oil, processing and of course, at the end of its useful life, statistically speaking it will not be recycled (only 9% of all plastic ever made has ever been recycled). Shampoo bars by virtue should of course be plastic-free and ideally packaged in home-compostable cardboard. Check the packaging on your choice of bar to make sure that’s the case.

2. Reduced carbon footprint 

Bars have a smaller carbon footprint than liquid products. There are two major reasons – the first is the lack of plastic, as plastic has a hefty production process which results in emissions. The second though, is arguably more impactful. Liquid products weigh a lot more, per use. Speaking about an  Ethique bar, one of our shampoo bars weighs 110g and is equivalent to three 350ml bottles of liquid shampoo. The equivalent liquid shampoo weighs 1.1L - thus 10 times the amount of energy is required to transport the same number of washes, meaning 10 x the emissions related to washing your hair.

3. Away with wasted water 

Not a topic we think about too much in Aotearoa, but a huge issue for billions around the world. We need to treat our water carefully. Solid bars contain little to no water, so much less is used in the production of the product. A lot of water is used in the production of plastic, so no plastic = less water. Be careful though, some paper and cardboard production can be massively water intensive and polluting, so make sure you ask your brand how much water they use in making their packaging.

Our packaging is made with certified PEFC - certified home compostable stock, which captures water used and reuses it, so the total water used is much lower than conventional plants. Paper making is much more efficient than it used to be, but it always pays to ask your brand. At this stage, there’s no evidence showing that we use more water using solid bars in the shower than we do using liquids.

4. Compost-friendly material 

Composting is phenomenally good for the planet – it’s quite literally the nutrient cycle and ensures life continues. So anything that encourages more composting is great. Many beauty bars are packaged in compostable packaging (not all, so do check). If you already compost – woohoo go you! Just pop them in your heap and watch them break down. If you don’t compost, it gives you an excuse to give it a whirl.

If you do not have council compost collection, nor the room to create your own heap, you can bury them in an indoor plant pot. It’ll be a bit slower, but they will eventually break down into components which are useful for plant, microbial and fungal life. And if all else fails, you can recycle them.

5. Kind to the planet and those in it 

Generally speaking, bar manufacturers are more aware of their environmental footprint, so they make better choices. This is definitely not true across the board, but typically they’re cruelty-free, vegan, made with biodegradable ingredients and so on. But you do need to read the packaging and ask your brand if you have any questions.

You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned ingredients. That’s because shampoo bars and liquid shampoo are largely made out of the same stuff - unless they’re soap-based shampoo bars, which due to their high pH, can be harmful to our hair cuticles. Shampoo bars can be made of natural or synthetic ingredients. 

Just because they’re in bar form, doesn’t mean the ingredients will be hugely different to liquids. And that’s exactly the point. Giving up the bottle and picking up the bar is just as easy. We want our bars to be just as good, if not better than your liquid products. So as a result, we use the best, salon-quality, naturally derived and sustainably sourced ingredients than we would if we were to make liquid products.

Brianne's 5 favourite beauty bars for every beauty routine:

Ethique Pinkalicious

For shampoo: Ethique Pinkalicious

My go-to shampoo is Ethique’s  Pinkalicious. It’s deliciously sweet and citrusy, it suits my fairly well-behaved hair, and I get at least 3 months out of the bar – and yes, I wash my hair every day. Just because I want to.

Shop Ethique Pinkalicious →

For conditioner: Ethique Guardian and Ethique Wonderbar

Occasionally I will condition, in which case I switch between the  Guardian and Wonderbar. Guardian is a global bestseller, but you can’t beat the delicious creamy smell of Wonderbar.

Shop Ethique Guardian →    Shop Ethique Wonderbar →

Ethique Lime and Lemongrass

For bodywash: Ethique Lime and Lemongrass

For bodywash, I ADORE our cream body cleanser – Lime and Lemongrass. It’s the best smelling thing ever, and if you pop it in a soap bag, it lasts a long time, produces creamy lather and thanks to being soap free, doesn’t dry my skin out either. If you don’t mind soap, my favourite is the MatchaLemongrass & Lime bodywash – just for the smell and the bubbles.

Shop Ethique Lime and Lemongrass →

Ethique Deep Green

For facial cleanser: Ethique Deep Green

My face cleanser is Deep Green – it's aimed at oilier-balanced skin types, but I am lucky to (again) have fairly well-behaved skin, so I just use it because it smells delicious and I love the light lather.

Shop Ethique Deep Green →

For facial moisturiser: Ethique Perfector and Ethique Saving Face

For my face, I switch between The Perfector in the morning and Saving Face (on damp skin) in the evening. I do use a retinol though that isn’t in bar form (yet...).

Shop Ethique Perfector →    Shop Ethique Saving Face →

I also moisturise my body with a new product I’m currently trialing – which isn’t on the market yet... so more details on that soon. Beauty bars are, without question, a lighter load on our planet. But within the massive range now available, there are a lot of variances. So be sure to check packaging, ask the brand and more importantly - don’t fall for greenwashing. Almost any bar is better than a product packaged in plastic.

Shop all Ethique →

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