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What is a conditioner bar and why do I need one?

What is a conditioner bar and why do I need one?

A solid conditioner bar is a water-less or water-free conditioner in solid bar form. Liquid conditioners sold in plastic bottles consist of up to 80% water and removing that water and instead blending solid ingredients in a melt and pour process allows the creation of a plastic-free, low waste hair care bar without compromising performance and with an 80% lower carbon footprint than comparable liquid conditioners. That is, if the right ingredients and the right blend are used which is a difficult task because the best conditioner bars have to be true multi taskers. Let’s look at what a conditioner bar has to do before discussing the categories of natural and vegan ingredients that we use to perfect our superzero hair conditioner bars.

Your hair cuticle layer consists of overlapping dead cells that protect the inside of your hair (your hair cortex and medulla) like “shingles” on a roof. The flatter and more intact this layer is, the smoother, softer and shinier your hair will be. The more it is compromised, the rougher, duller, more break-prone and more lifeless your hair will look and feel. Damage to the hair cuticle layer occurs through hair coloring, bleaching, extensive heat styling (e.g., with flat or curling irons), salt water, exposure to chemicals, etc. It also occurs when you use products in your hair that have a high pH (such as soap!). If you have naturally frizzy hair, your hair surface structure is not entirely smooth either, and curly or coily hair tends to be dry because the curved follicles prevent sebum from your scalp to travel down the strands of your hair as effectively as with straight hair. 

Your hair is dead tissue so it can strictly speaking not be repaired. But it can be restored and moisturized by coating, smoothing and softening it with conditioning agents – and that is where conditioners (in bar form or as liquids) come in. The job of a conditioner bar is to deposit actives onto your hair that gently stick to your hair, polishing and smoothing it and filling in the gaps in the cuticle layer to detangle, smooth, and soften your hair, and to provide shine because light reflects much better from a smooth surface than from a rough surface.

The best conditioner bars achieve the desired smoothness, detangling and shine without weighing your hair down. For that, a sophisticated blend of active ingredients is needed that is tailored to and optimized for different hair types. E.g., dry and damaged hair will need more conditioning agents while fine and oily hair needs less and lighter conditioning to not weigh the hair down. So even if the ingredient list of our solid conditioner bars will in part look similar, the amount and blend used by hair type still varies widely. Last but not least, texture and experience matter a great deal when it comes to creating the best hair conditioner bars – and this, indeed, is very hard to get right. A solid conditioner bar has to be hard enough to avoid that it melts away in your hands or in the shower, while at the same time allowing the release of enough formula onto your hair when in contact with warm water and gliding over your hair. Avoiding plastic in creating eco-friendly conditioner bars means that bar conditioner cannot be liquid and thus it will take a little patience to apply it onto your hair in multiple glides to deposit the formula which would otherwise just squirt out of a plastic bottle.

To fulfill all of its tasks to perfection, solid hair conditioning bars need to be made from a sophisticated blend of ingredients. The main ingredient groups in our solid bar conditioners are:

  1. Conditioning agents consisting of a well-balanced blend of emollients (providing a light coating on hair), cationics (positively charged repair layer) and humectants (attract water to your hair). Getting this blend right is where the magic happens and bar conditioners vary widely in the level of sophistication and the quality of actives used for outstanding performance without the use of microplastics such as silicones (e.g., dimethicone or cyclomethicone) that are often used as a main ingredients in unsustainable conditioners despite their damaging effect on the environment.
  2. Surfactants with a water-friendly and an oil-friendly end to ensure the conditioning agents release from the bar upon contact with warm water. The best hair conditioner bars, aka our superzero conditioner bars, contain only a small amount of sulfate-free surfactants because otherwise they would counteract the benefits of the conditioning agents by transporting them right off your hair and down the drain, failing to achieve lasting results.
  3. Emulsifiers, thickeners and viscosity enhancers to ensure the solid conditioner bar doesn’t fall apart and does feel just right in your hands and on your hair.
  4. pH adjusters to ensure your conditioner bar is pH optimized at a level of around 4 to 5 which is very important because hair care products that have a high pH (such as soap) open up the protective cuticle layer on your hair shaft, thus creating damaged, dull, dry, and brittle hair strands (therefore, NEVER use bar soap as shampoo).
  5. Scent to ensure a pleasant in shower experience. Our superzero hair care bars contain only all natural, gentle essential oils to avoid synthetic fragrances.

We use only vegan, cruelty-free, natural (defined as plant-derived), microplastic-free and color-safe ingredients in our solid bar conditioners. We also carefully optimize our conditioning bars to different hair type (you can find the best conditioner bar for oily, normal, and fine hair here, the best conditioner bar for dry, damaged, color-treated and curly hair here, and the best solid conditioner for thinning, aging hair here here. We do not offer conditioners for different scalp conditions (such as flakes and itchiness) because conditioners do not belong on the scalp. They are meant for hair to perform the functions outlined above, and NOT to build up on your scalp where they can actually hurt more than help. Thus, if you are facing an itchy and flaky scalp, for example, we recommend that you combine our “blue” shampoo bar for itchy scalp and flakes while picking the right conditioner based on the condition of your hair as opposed to your scalp.