When I first heard about Ethique I was really intrigued. How could you use lotion that comes in a solid bar format? Or deodorant for that matter? Ethique makes shampoos, conditioners, lotions and other bath and body items that come in solid bars. Other than soap bars, which aren’t as popular as body wash, almost everything we buy for our bath and body comes in plastic bottles. Thanks Carrie for the recommendation!
ABOUT THE PRODUCT
Ethique offers a variety of products for hair (shampoos, conditioners), face (washes, scrubs, moisturizers), body (soap, deodorant, lotion), feet (scrub, lotion), self-tanning, baby (shampoo, lotion) and even a shampoo for pets! And a little more removed is a stain stick for laundry. These are all sold in solid bar format in compostable packaging. No plastic.
The products are palm-free, vegan, cruelty-free, paraben-free, petrochemical-free, and sustainably produced. They contain all natural ingredients such as cocoa butter, coconut oil, jasmine oil, lavender, and shea butter.
I ordered two sampler packs: a body pack and a hair pack. Each pack comes with five little sample bars a little less than 0.5 ounce each.
The hair sampler pack comes with three shampoos and two conditioners. My hair is dry, curly, thin and I often look like I got electrocuted on bad days. I also have a dry itchy scalp and get dandruff. For those of you who know me and never knew such intimate details about my hair, you’re welcome. Two of the three shampoos were potentials for me: Frizz Wrangler and Heali Kiwi, which is meant to help with itchy scalp and dandruff. The third, Saint Clements, I tried anyways just to check the box but it’s meant for oily hair. The shampoo bars were very easy to use. The instructions say to rub the bar down from the top of your head to the roots. I would do that, but found to get more of a lather I also rubbed it in a circular motion against my scalp in a few places. The shampoo left my hair feeling very clean with no residue; maybe even more clean than my normal shampoo. I took a picture showing the lather you get from Heali Kiwi and Selsun Blue (my dandruff go-to). You can see how they’re very comparable, if not even getting a bit more lather from the Ethique shampoo. As with anything, the more you use the more you use up so just play around with how much, or how little, you need to get the job done so you’re not wasting it.
The pack came with two conditioning bars: The Guardian and Wonderbar. Wonderbar is meant for oily hair so I tried it but my focus was The Guardian bar. It works great! I followed the same instructions as the shampoo bar, but didn’t start at my roots. It left my hair nicely conditioned but not too soft.
The body sampler pack came with three bodywash bars: Sweet Orange and Vanilla Creme bodywash bar, Lime and Ginger Body Polish, and Pumice, Teatree and Spearmint bodywash; a deodorant bar and a lotion bar. I was a bit surprised, mainly because I didn’t fully read the descriptions and just jumped into it, that they all have a bit of exfoliation to them. Not ideal on more sensitive areas, so this won’t fully replace my current Dove soap bars. Not as lathery as my Dove bar either and I was not able to make them last very long at all. But for exfoliation they were very nice. I use St. Ives Apricot Scrub on my body when I remember and I would say the Pumice bodywash is in the ballpark for the level of exfoliation you get but without all of the leftover stuff you have to wash off your body from the Apricot Scrub. The others are more mild. They sell more basic bars of soap on their site so I’m thinking of trying one of those out in the future.
They sell a container you can use in the shower to keep your bars in but it wasn’t available when I purchased mine. I would definitely recommend that. I used some plastic container which was fine but made from plastic, which I guess defeats the purpose of this exercise.
After the shower, I moved on to the Coconut & Lime Butter Block body lotion. I was probably most excited to try this because I’m used to runny lotion and I use it every day, all over. This was a bit thicker and harder to apply than I anticipated. To get it all over it took me a long time, 30 seconds on just one arm. The sample also didn’t last long – less than five uses. So, to give it another go I watched their video about how to apply it and decided to buy a full size bar to try again. I purchased the Jasmine & Ylang Ylang Butter Block Body Lotion. It’s definitely easier to manage a bigger bar and I kept the paper on the part I hold so my hands don’t get lotiony. At this point my technique is to run it under the water briefly which seems to help it spread a bit more. However, I’m not convinced this will be a keeper for me. Putting that aside, this soap bar’s scent is the strongest from everything else but still passes the smell test in my house so I don’t really mind it. I don’t use perfume so it’s been nice having that added scent after I shower.
Lastly, I tried the Glow Solid Deodorant – Lavender and Vanilla. I’m totally diggin’ this item. When the sample was bigger it sweat a little, but that stops as it gets smaller. My normal deodorant is Kiss My Face Sport roll on, which sometimes I feel the need to let dry before putting on clothes. The Glow deodorant bar works great. I reapply it as needed, like if I’ve worked out, but otherwise it lasts me all day. In fact, I’m convinced it works better than my roll on. I’m sold.
As with many organic, sustainable, eco-friendly products, they cost more than the drug store options. The ingredients and the process are more costly and less efficient; and as far as I can tell not as easy to mass produce on the scale that large CPG companies can and do. Plastic bottles end up being a cheaper option because they store better and therefore the product life-cycle can accommodate bigger production runs and longer shelf lives. Same goes with many of the synthetic ingredients used. Ethique is a small company who makes products sourced responsibly by hand. The more success there is, and demand from consumers for these types of executions, the larger CPG companies will see that and invest in ways to make mass market bath and body products sustainably. It’s possible. And that’s when the real needle gets moved.
But to be specific… without taking into account how long each item lasts the best deal for the items I tried, as compared with the drug store alternatives, seems to be the deodorant and shampoo (compared to Redkin, not Selsun Blue!). For me the exfoliating bars have the largest cost difference from what I use. But their basic soap bars (which I didn’t try) are more affordable. A straight up comparison based on price per ounce isn’t accurate because, as research suggests, we use 7 times more liquid soap than bar soap. I wasn’t able to fully compare my normal products in terms of how long it takes me to use them versus the Ethique products to get an accurate price comparison. I would like to run the experiment however, so if you are interested, stay tuned and I will post my findings later in the year.
BUT DO THEY LOOK GOOD?
The bars are nice, kind of what you’d expect I suppose from soap bars. No logo embedded into the mold or fancy dyes to make them colorful – just solid square/rectangular bars.
Smell: I really appreciate their smell – in that they are very subtle and low-key. It’s nice but not overwhelming. In fact, I have some sensitive noses in my household and I never heard a comment about my new products. I imagine it’s like sugar – in that once you give it up you really notice when you consume something with sugar, and find most things overly sweet (and by imagine I mean I have no idea because I am high on the sugar train). Once you start using naturally scented products I think you really notice when something has added fragrance. I have wondered sometimes why there is so much added fragrance in products – compensating for something are we?
Touchy Feely: To use bars you have to get your hands dirty. And by dirty I guess I mean clean. Whereas with deodorant in a bottle you don’t touch the actual deodorant, with this one you are touching it with your hands since you rub it on. It took me a few times to get used to that as I don’t like stuff on my hands. With that said, the deodorant bar is dryish to the touch so it doesn’t really leave residue on your hands. And although I normally use my hands to apply my liquid lotion, I am more inclined to use the wrapper to hold the Ethique bar while I put it on.
Transparency: When I use a new full bottle of a product, I notice that I tend to be more liberal with how much I use. While I think this might be true even with bars, it’s more transparent how much you’re using and how much you have left. Additionally, you use the bar in its entirety. With a bottle, there is extra that no matter how long you leave it upside down you are just not getting out. And I don’t know about you, but I am always at the last end of something before I’ve realized I ran out.
On-the-Go: If you wanted to break the bar into smaller parts you could easily do that and designate some for the gym, travel or other purposes and some for home. Speaking of flying, you also don’t have a TSA concern with liquid using these. Bonus! I would also love to see some sort of on-the-go container from them that you can take on a trip or to the gym. I needed to reapply my deodorant on-the-go one day and resorted to my old deodorant rather than plastic baggy this one up.
Another suggestion: a customizable gift pack. So you can take their handy-dandy packaging with you that has the items you use most and/or you could create the ideal gift set for a friend or relative. Their sampler packs could offer nice retailer exclusives and/or promotional items if they’re so inclined.
Identification: When jumping right in with the sampler pack, I had a moment of – wait, which one is for which? I stood in the shower looking at three identically sized hearts in various shades of white and green, and had to get out of the shower and refer back to the packaging (more than once I’m embarrassed to admit). I suppose I could’ve just brought that whole thing in with me but I didn’t want a potentially big wet box of soap bars. So it would be helpful to have distinguishing marks on sample bars to help tell them apart – such as S, C or P (soap?), or something along those lines. I suppose that once you are a repeat customer you will quickly know which one you use for what so this would be most helpful for their samplers.
WHAT PROBLEM IS IT HELPING TO SOLVE?
The primary benefit of their product format and packaging is eliminating plastic bottles.
“With a presumed life span of over 500 years, it’s safe to say that every plastic bottle you have used exists somewhere on this planet, in some form or another.” Debra Winter
Some bath and body products use HDPE (#2) plastics, some PET and some can’t be recycled at all. I was surprised to read on my Apricot Scrub bottle that only the lid is maybe recyclable – depending on my local recycling center. PET and HDPE can be used over and over, but the problem with it is it’s expensive and depending on oil prices sometimes more costly than virgin plastic. They are the most commonly accepted plastics to be recycled, but reported rates are around 34%. Plastic does have many great benefits but industries need to use the plastic that already exists rather than making new plastic if we’re going to dig our way out of this plastic hole.
Strong secondary benefits of Ethique’s products are with the ingredients they use. Palm oil is a major contributing factor in climate change, created by mass deforestation when farmers burn forests down to plant the trees. It displaces wildlife who depend on those forests such as the orangutans who are now listed as endangered because of it. If you look at many of our bath and beauty products, most contain palm oil. In fact about half of the products we consume contain palm oil, which includes food items as well. Despite the downsides, it happens to be a better and more efficiently produced source of vegetable oil than the rest and therefore, a sustainable option with full transparency is ideal. Organizations like WWF are working on solving this problem. Ethique is not currently using palm oil because they can’t find an acceptable source. You can look for the Rainforest Alliance Certified logo on products, which indicate they only use ingredients sustainably sourced, or the RSPO certified logo which focuses specifically on palm oil.
To find out what other products contain palm oil, check here.
Yes, I recommend these. Even if your primary concern isn’t environmental, they can still hold their own. For me the keepers will be the Heali Kiwi shampoo, The Guardian conditioner and the Glow Solid deodorant. Although I enjoyed the exfoliating soaps they are a bit expensive for me and I’m looking for a more spreadable lotion. But I will be trying their other soap bar and will keep my eyes on them for future products and executions. And don’t be surprised if these end up as holiday gifts :).