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Forget what you know about washing your hair, Ethique’s shampoo bars are the way of the future

Photography By ETHIQUE
Published 10.06.21

Brianne West’s idea to start making solid shampoo bars and launch Ethique came while she was studying biology at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand.

“I taught myself cosmetic chemistry and began to learn more about the beauty industry’s waste and unethical supply chains,” she explains. “I learnt that 75-90 per cent of shampoo and conditioners are made from water which is ridiculous.

“The whole concept of having that much water in a product which is packaged in plastic, shipped all over the world and then used in a room full of water is absurd.”

Instead of researching shampoo formulas available online, West spent time learning about the properties of each ingredient and taught herself how to build products from the ground up. “I was interested in what happened if you simply combined the ingredients without water,” West says. “Shampoo bars aren’t particularly unusual, but the majority of them are soap, which has a very high pH, leaves a residue, and roughs up the hair cuticle, leaving some people with a less than desired result. I wanted to create something much closer to a typical salon quality shampoo, but solid of course!”

Eight years on, Ethique is now an award-winning, international beauty brand that has proudly saved over ten million plastic bottles from being made and disposed of in landfill. They’ve also expanded their product offering from haircare, launching face and body bars as well as a ‘Concentrates’ range of household essentials last year. This initiative is perhaps their most exciting innovation yet: dishwashing liquid, cleaning sprays and laundry detergent sold as a solid bar but able to be converted into liquids or sprays from home.

“We know that not everyone likes using bars and that the majority of the population is still used to liquid products,” West says, explaining the rationale behind Ethique’s Concentrates. “We are rethinking refillables with our world-first, patent-pending range of Concentrates that has been two years in the making.”


Ethique founder Brianne West

The first time an Ethique product entered my household – in the form of a solid shampoo bar – I counted no less than 15 plastic bottles in the shower. Shampoos, conditioners, body wash, face cleansers, exfoliants and hair treatments, shared between three adults. The single shampoo bar that fit neatly in the palm of my hand had the potential to eliminate at least six of those plastic bottles – but I was apprehensive about whether this imposter bar of soap would actually work.

Since my introduction to the shampoo bar a few months ago, I have (for the most part) converted. Aside from the benefits of decluttering shower space, I don’t need to purchase a new bottle of shampoo and conditioner every few weeks and add to a damning global statistic that estimates 80 billion plastic shampoo and conditioner bottles are thrown out each year.

“Consumers are definitely educating themselves on the issue of plastic consumption and the volume of waste piling up around the world, and the pace of change in that awareness is growing exponentially,” West says. “We get a lot of great questions from customers, not only checking that we are what we say we are, but also looking for advice on the best products to buy.”

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