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Shampoo bar not lathering? Here's why

Shampoo bar not lathering? Here's why

Ever had one of those moments where you’re in the shower, ready to lather up with your shampoo bar, or shampoo concentrate, and it just isn’t foaming like you’d hoped? If your shampoo bar isn't lathering, it should be. There's probably a simple reason why it isn't. But firstly, a bit about lather itself.

Is it bad if shampoo doesn't lather?

It's worth mentioning that it's not a bad thing, or a waste of time, if your shampoo doesn't lather. Lots of lather doesn't equal maximum cleansing. A shampoo will still work well without any lather. The job of a shampoo is to remove excess oil and dirt, and it can do so without the addition of any bubbles. As long as your hair "squeaks" after rinsing, the shampoo has cleaned the hair sufficiently.

Understanding lather and shampoo bars

Firstly it's good to know what lather actually is. Lather is the frothy foam that forms when you mix shampoo with water and add friction. With shampoo bars (and our Shampoo Concentrate) it’s the same concept as liquid shampoo, but without as much water added to the formulation. The water is added in the shower.

So sometimes it takes a little extra water and friction to get the lather going. The ingredients in shampoo bars are more concentrated and usually packed with natural goodies (ours definitely are!) so they might behave a bit differently to a traditional liquid shampoo. Check out our "Ultimate guide to shampoo bars and how to use them" for all of our shampoo bar advice. 

Lather is fun and feels good when you shampoo your hair, so let’s look at 5 reasons why it might not be happening – and how you can get the bubbly goodness that you want.

5 reasons why your shampoo might not be lathering

1. Hard water can affect shampoo lather

A common reason for your shampoo not lathering as much as you're used to, is a change in water – especially hard water. Hard water is full of minerals like calcium and magnesium, which can interfere with the lathering process.

If you suspect hard water is to blame, and would like to test the theory, try this. Use a different water source (bottled water for instance) to give your hair a wash. If your shampoo bar works it's magic you'll have the answer you’re looking for. In cases of hard water areas, a water softening filter in your shower will help with lather (as well as give you lovely feeling skin!)

Hard water doesn't always affect shampoo later though – we make and use our sulphate free shampoo bars and concentrates here in Bristol, a hard water area, and they work a treat.

2. Product buildup on your hair, or too much dirt, can prevent lather

Product buildup and very dirty or oily hair can also prevent your shampoo bar from lathering. Styling products, conditioners and hair oils can leave residues in the hair that make it hard for a shampoo bar to foam up. Sometimes your hair might just be going through a particularly oily phase due to stress or hormones.

Our recommendation for product buildup or overly dirty hair is the double shampoo technique. Do a quick "rough" shampoo first. This first shampoo will do a good job at removing a majority of the buildup and dirt. After rinsing, using a lot less shampoo product for a second shampoo. The second one will lather up very well and feel more satisfying.

3. The ingredients in your shampoo bar matter

Sometimes, the issue lies in the shampoo bar itself. If your shampoo bar has been purchased from a soap maker, it might actually be a soap bar disguised as a shampoo bar. If Sodium Olivate and Sodium Cocoate are some of the first ingredients on the label, it's a soap bar and is probably not the right pH level for your hair.

Most shampoo bars now are sulphate-free and made with shampoo ingredients but in solid form (like ours). Sulphate-free shampoos are great for your hair and scalp but might result in less lather than you're used to. Sulphates do create lots of foam very easily, but they are harsher on your hair and scalp. If you have sulphate-free shampoo bar that's not lathering as much as you're used to, don’t worry! It’s still cleaning your hair effectively – and it's much gentler on your scalp.

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4. Your lathering technique will make a difference

How you use your shampoo bar, or shampoo concentrate, can also affect the lather. Make sure your hair is thoroughly wet before rubbing the shampoo bar between your hands or directly onto your scalp. The more friction you can create with the shampoo, the bigger the lather. So we recommend starting at the hair line as the hair strands are perfect for this.

Rub a few times in your fringe area to get the lather going. Then rub on the crown (top of the head) and nape (hairline near the neck). Create more friction in these areas with your finger tips and then work the shampoo around the whole scalp.

Add more water as needed to help create foam. Sometimes, it’s not about using more product, but about how you use it. Rub the bar in your hands to create lather before applying it to your hair, or try sectioning your hair and working the bar through each section.

5. Add more water for more bubbles

Your shampoo bar is very concentrated, so it might need more water adding to lather up. Always wet the bar and your hair thoroughly before rubbing the bar either between your hands or onto your hair. The water can help distribute the product more evenly and it works with the friction to create more lather.

Wrapping it up

Just remember this when it comes to shampooing – water plus friction equals good lather. And that lather isn’t the only sign of clean hair. Even if your sulphate free shampoo bar is not lathering as much as you’d like, it will still be doing a great job at cleansing as long as you're distributing shampoo over all of your scalp. Focus on how your hair feels after washing rather than the amount of foam produced. Happy hair washing!

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Still not convinced about shampoo bars? For a zero waste shampoo alternative, try our refillable oil-free and sulphate-free Shampoo Concentrate.