Product Review: Ethique’s Concentrates

Last updated on July 8, 2024.

Ethique products lined up in color hues, transitioning from magenta on the left to red, orange, then yellow on the right.
Ethique products.

I have struggled to find a good, plastic-free conditioner for my hair. But I think I’ve discovered one, by a company called Ethique.

Ethique, a New Zealand company, sells plastic-free shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, lotion, body wash, soap, etc. The company also uses non-toxic and sustainably sourced ingredients. Even more exciting is that their products are rated in the low to moderate range of the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database.1 Further, the company uses compostable packaging, cruelty-free and vegan ingredients, no palm oil, and is a Certified B Corporation!

Over the last few months, I’ve tried several of their products and now I’m reviewing them!

Conditioner Bar

Ethique conditioner bar packaging with green bar on top, next to a half lime and shredded coconut on a green background.

When I searched Ethique’s site for a conditioner bar, I noticed they also sell conditioner concentrates. The concentrates are bars dissolvable in water to make a liquid conditioner. I bought both a conditioner bar and a conditioner concentrate to try out.

The bar I bought was The Guardian, which is for dry hair. The bar was fine overall, but I have long, thick hair and always have trouble getting thorough conditioning with any conditioner bar I’ve ever tried. Next, I tried the conditioner concentrate.

 

UPDATE, July 8, 2024: Since writing this article in May 2024, Ethique discontinued its concentrated products, which is super disappointing. I emailed the company to confirm, and they were quick to respond and very nice:

“Unfortunately, we had to make the tough decision to discontinue our concentrates. When certain products don’t sell enough, we’re unable to continue making them in a sustainable cost-effective way. In saying this, like you, we love the concentrate format and offering alternative plastic-free options, so the Product Team are working hard to improve the formula so you may see concentrates again in the future!”

In any case, I’ll have to either use their conditioner bars or switch to another type of conditioner. What are you using?

Turning The Bar Into Liquid Conditioner

Ethique conditioner concentrate package next to a blue ball jar, on a white counter with an aqua-toned wall.
Photo by Marie Cullis.

Though the instructions didn’t quite work as well as they should, I figured it out. The instructions were to break up the bars into triangles from the forms, pour boiling water over the pieces, and stir them until they dissolved. However, I had to heat the mixture on the stove to melt it completely. Then I had a lovely, creamy conditioner! The second time I made it, I put the triangles from the bars into the boiling water and immediately removed the pan from the stove. This worked better than my first try.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It did make slightly less than the package indicated, but I think that might have been my fault, as I likely lost some of the water to evaporation when I put it on the stove.

Overall, the conditioner is thick and creamy and I enjoy using it in my hair. Though I still have to use a detangler. The one downfall is that because it is thick, it is difficult to transfer to a pump bottle. And it doesn’t pump well either. I could use a pump attachment with a ball jar, but I don’t feel safe keeping a glass jar in the shower. I have to keep it in a container we open and close each shower. Not everyone in my household is happy with this.

Ethique purple and white conditioner concentrate packaging, next to a pink flower and glass beakers with liquids.
This is the appearance of the updated Ethique Conditioner concentrate packaging.

The Shampoo Concentrate

I placed another order and purchased the shampoo concentrate and the lotion concentrate (see the next section). Two bars are supposed to make about 12 ounces of liquid shampoo.

I followed the instructions but instead of using a bowl, I boiled the water in a pan on the stove, turned off the eye, and then put the triangles into the water. This worked well, but I again must have lost some of the shampoo to evaporation as I ended up with about 10 ounces instead of 12. I used a funnel (plastic, because it’s a holdover from years ago) to put the shampoo into a reused pump bottle. It made a great liquid shampoo.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Lotion Concentrate

Ethique lotion concentrate, lavendar and white packaging. Oil and coconut in background.

Last, I made the lotion concentrate – but I forgot to take photos while I dissolved it! It takes a little while to thicken. So here’s what it looks like in a reused container:

Dark blue container with cream colored lotion in it.
Ethique lotion from concentrate. Photo by Marie Cullis.

I like the lotion so far, though it is not super scented, which is probably a good thing. It absorbs into the skin very well.

Overall Satisfaction

Though I will return to using my favorite shampoo bar – because it is far easier to buy and use – overall, I am pleased with Ethique’s products. I will continue using the conditioner and lotion concentrates because I love that they are plastic-free. It does take a few minutes to turn the concentrates to liquid, but I find the effort worth it. I hope this review helps and encourages you to try any plastic-free products! Thanks for reading, please share and subscribe!

 

This article does not contain affiliate links nor was I paid to promote the products in this post. This is an honest review.

 

Footnote:

Shampoo Bars & Conditioner Bars Eliminate the Need for Plastic Packaging

Last updated on March 9, 2024.

Photo of man with his head under shower water.
Image by Olya Adamovich from Pixabay.

Most shampoo and conditioner brands are sold in plastic bottles. Since we know that 91% of plastic isn’t actually recycled, many of us are trying to find ways to not purchase products in plastic.1 Recently, a colleague asked me what to do about shampoo and its plastic packaging.

Did you know you can buy shampoo as a bar?

No way, you say! Or, maybe you’re thinking ugh, what? Either way, stick with me for a bit.

Last fall, I wrote an article on the benefits of bar soap and how it can be purchased practically packaging-free. I use bar soap for showering out of personal preference. I always found that most body wash and liquid soaps washed down the drain rather than cleansed my body. Once I switched to bar soap, I felt like I got a better lather and a better cleanse, and found that I wasted less soap overall. A bonus is that there are no travel restrictions on bar shampoo, so no need for little plastic travel bottles!

I first discovered shampoo bars on Beth Terry’s site, My Plastic-Free Life.2 I was excited to learn about shampoo bars and switched to them right away. But there have been some issues with various bars, so I’m reviewing those here.

Image of lavender bar soap, light lavender towel, violet vase, and fresh lavender.
Image by joe137 from Pixabay.

“Up to 80 percent of shampoo and 95 percent of conditioner is made of water.” -Brigette Allen and Christine Wong, Living Without Plastic3

How to use a Shampoo Bar

This part is easy! You just rub the bar between your hands like you would with regular bar soap, or directly on your hair and scalp as long as you are gentle. It’s only strange the first time. The lather of a bar is satisfying, and I’ve come to prefer shampoo bars.

Plastic-Free often also means Toxin-Free

Most shampoo bars do not contain the perfumes, chemicals, and harsh detergents that are in major brands of bottled shampoo. This means you will not be exposing your body to toxic ingredients that will strip your hair, disrupt your hormones, or cause cancer. Yes, you read that right – many major brands of shampoo and conditioner contain one or more toxic ingredients. Under Additional Resources, I’ve included a link to a list of ingredients you should avoid, and also a link to review brands on the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep site.

I will say that this type of shampoo does take getting used to. Most of us are accustomed to shampoos that strip our hair and scalp of their natural oils, so it will take a few shampoos for your scalp to adjust and not feel greasy. But this is normal and once you adjust, you’ll start to feel and see the benefits of shampoo that is not full of harsh ingredients.

Photo of the shampoo aisle at the grocery store. Many plastic shampoo bottles in many colors.
Most grocery and department stores carry shampoo and conditioner exclusively in plastic bottles. Photo by Marie Cullis.

“The number of shampoo bottles thrown out in the United States every year could fill 1,164 football fields.”-authors Brigette Allen and Christine Wong, Living Without Plastic4

The Shampoo Bars

Here is a review of the brands I’ve tried, in order of preference:

J.R. Liggett’s shampoo bar

J.R. Liggett's shampoo bar

This is the first one I ever tried, mainly because I was able to find this locally at Earthfare (also sold at Whole Foods and Amazon). It is packaged in a recyclable paper wrapper. I’ve switched back to it several times after trying many others, and have decided this is my favorite. It lathers well, the bar does not fall apart over time, and my hair is soft and clean.

There is a bar for every hair type: Original; Moisturizing (for dry, colored or damaged hair); Tea Tree & Hemp (fragrance-free and good for “itchy-flaky scalp”); and several others depending on personal scalp preference.

Sappo Hill

Cream colored Sappo Hill shampoo bars, next to lavender sprigs.

I like Sappo Hill and it is my husband’s preferred bar soap. I discovered their bar soap when I used to shop at Earthfare, and I love that the bars were package-free except for a bar code sticker. After Earthfare closed all of its stores, I went online and discovered that they sell many more scents and that they also make shampoo bars! Their shampoo bars are mild and cleansing. They run a close second to my favorite (above) and are very well-priced. I recommend this brand if you don’t like other shampoo bars.

Aquarian Bath

Pink Shampoo bar in a blue glazed dish from Aquarian Bath on Etsy.

My third favorite is one that I discovered through the website My Plastic-Free Life, called Aquarian Bath.5 This shampoo bar doesn’t break apart and lathers well. These are handmade, vegan, palm oil-free, SLS-free, fragrance-free, dye-free, and not tested on animals.

They will ship their products naked, meaning zero waste or no packaging, which is super! There are many scents and bars with ingredients for each hair type, including one for dandruff, so read each description to find the right one for you. They also sell other types of products with the same qualities.

Nourish Natural Bath Products

Black Shampoo bar from Nourish

Nourish is where I buy the majority of my bar soap for body washing. But in recent years, they’ve come out with shampoo and conditioner bars. I was thrilled about this because I love most of their products! However, while I like the scents and the clean feeling these bars leave in my hair, they have the flaw of crumbling about halfway through the bar’s life. This leaves several small pieces of shampoo bar, and those pieces get smaller and smaller, creating frustration. I’ve tried 3 of these and each bar had this problem. I’m hoping they can improve their binding process.

Lush Cosmetics

Image of Lush shampoo bar, white with pink edges.

I tried a shampoo bar from Lush Cosmetics and it crumbled halfway through its life as well. I did not enjoy the scent either but I highly respect Lush Cosmetics because of their naked packaging. Their products are handmade, vegan, and cruelty-free. This particular bar just didn’t work for me. However, I like and respect the company so much that I plan to try additional shampoo bars. Here’s why:

“Since 2005, we’ve sold more than 41 million shampoo bars, saving 124 million plastic bottles from ever being produced. That’s approximately 3417 tons of plastic saved, or about the weight of 30 blue whales. Imagine if everyone ditched the bottle in favor of the bar!” -Lush Cosmetics6

The Right To Shower Shampoo Bar & Bar Soap

The Right To Shower Shampoo bar packaging with a yellow and orange bar inside, visible through the package window.

I found this brand at Whole Foods, and they claim to help bring mobile showers to people living on the streets, which is pretty cool! It’s a large bar for the price and can be used on both the hair and body, which is an added benefit. These bars are vegan, sulfate-free, are made in the US, use Rainforest Alliance Certified palm oil, are cruelty-free, and are packaged in 100% recycled carton paper. I love the promise of this product! But it does not keep my hair as cleansed as I’d like – I noticed some build-up on my scalp.

Photo of a woman running her hands through her light brown hair, wearing a white sweater, pink background.
Photo by Element5 Digital from Pexels.

What about Conditioner?

When I first started going plastic-free, I made my own conditioner and continued doing so for about 2 years. There are many recipes on Pinterest and I’ve tried a bunch. Most did not work for me – they were either too greasy (coconut oil-based) or left my hair tangly (shea butter-based). The one I settled on uses a combination of oils and aloe vera gel with guar gum as a thickening agent. Unfortunately, the ingredients are not all available plastic-free in the area where I live. Since the beginning of my journey, some companies have developed conditioner bars. Below are the ones I’ve tried.

by Humankind

White conditioner bar, peach background.

This company sells all plastic-free/packaging-free products and orders are carbon neutral (meaning the company contributes to forest preservation to offset the carbon created from shipping their product). I tried their grapefruit-scented conditioner bar and it is my favorite though most expensive. The bars are vegan and made of all-natural ingredients. Unfortunately, it broke into pieces toward the end of its life. I found it very difficult to use 4 tiny pieces to conditioner my long hair, so this was disappointing. But it left my hair soft, manageable, and shiny! I plan to give it another try, and they also sell shampoo bars that I haven’t yet tried.

Nourish

Nourish conditioner bar, pink

I tried Nourish’s conditioner bars in addition to their shampoo bars. They have great scents and they conditioned my thick mane well, leaving it shiny and manageable. However, they crumbled about halfway through the life of the bar. Even so, this one is my second favorite and they are much more affordable than others. They are vegan and made with natural ingredients. They offer a choice of packaging when you order, either compostable plastic or tissue paper wrapping.

HiBar

HiBar conditioner bar packaging and blue bar.

I am still on the fence about this one. It is also a little costly and I don’t like the scent of the blue moisturize bar. But the shape is unique as you can see. The bar is made to hold in your hand while you rub the angled flat part of the bar directly onto your hair. This creates no friction or tugging and allows me to condition my hair much more thoroughly. The same goes for washing my son’s hair – I can conditioner it quicker without tugging, which of course makes hair washing better for him! So I do like the shape but I may need to try a different scent. If I do, I’ll update this article. HiBar Conditioner bars are free of sulfates, phthalates, silicones, or parabens. They also sell shampoo bars. These are sold only in cardboard packaging, no plastic packaging.

Person washing hair in shower, lathering brown hair, angle shows back of head and hands in hair, and bare shoulders.
Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels.

Let Go of Guilt

I’m not perfect. I’m still figuring it all out too. I got very frustrated once with conditioner bars breaking into small pieces that became unusable and purchased conditioner in a plastic bottle! I did at least buy Pacifica Beauty brand because their products are vegan and cruelty-free, as well as toxin-free. But I’m not giving up! 

Remember, the fact that you’re willing to try another method to avoid plastic means a lot. So if your attempts at switching fail, just don’t give up. You will find something that works eventually!

You can do this, and hopefully, this post helps! Thank you for reading, and please subscribe!

 

This post does not contain any affiliate links nor did I get paid to promote or receive free items for any of the product reviews in this post.

 

Additional Resources:

Article, 15 Harmful Ingredients In Shampoos And Conditioners That You Should Avoid, Starting Today!” Skinkraft Laboratories, April 21, 2020.

Website, EWG’s Skin Deep, accessed February 16, 2021.

Footnotes: