News Environment Learn the Secrets Behind Superzero's Popular Shampoo Bars They're plastic-free, zero-waste, and made with top-notch ingredients. By Katherine Martinko Katherine Martinko Twitter Senior Editor University of Toronto Katherine Martinko is an expert in sustainable living. She holds a degree in English Literature and History from the University of Toronto. Learn about our editorial process Updated April 16, 2021 06:33PM EDT Fact checked by Haley Mast Fact checked by Haley Mast LinkedIn Harvard University Extension School Haley Mast is a freelance writer, fact-checker, and small organic farmer in the Columbia River Gorge. She enjoys gardening, reporting on environmental topics, and spending her time outside snowboarding or foraging. Topics of expertise and interest include agriculture, conservation, ecology, and climate science. Learn about our fact checking process A collection of superzero shampoo and conditioner bars. superzero Share Twitter Pinterest Email News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices News Archive Shampoo bars are one of those things that, once you've tried them and found a good one, make you wonder why you ever wasted money on bottles of liquid shampoo. When a bar is properly formulated, it works even better than conventional shampoo. Plus, it has the added benefits of being plastic-free, zero-waste, and free from a slew of nasty ingredients that are often added to other formulas. Superzero is one such brand that makes excellent shampoo and conditioner bars. Treehugger was familiar with the efficacy of its products but didn't understand the intricacies of bar-making until having a chat with the company's co-founder, Conny Wittke. She explains what makes superzero's bars so effective and why her company stands out in a sector of the beauty industry that's seeing rapid growth. Dr. Conny Wittke. superzero Wittke explained the difference between soap and shampoo, and why some people might be having problems with shampoo bars they've purchased from other companies. "Some brands take shortcuts and sell soaps as shampoo," she says. "Soap has a very high pH which makes it damaging to your hair cuticles, making hair dull and rough over time. It can also create a residue in your hair that builds up over time." "Our shampoo bars, in contrast, are formulated with sulfate-free, gentle surfactants combined with conditioning agents and other actives tailored to your hair type that qualify them as a stylist-recommended, salon-quality shampoo," adds Wittke. "Some tell-tale ingredients for soap labeled as shampoo bars that you should watch out for are sodium stearate, sodium olivate, or sodium cocoate. Make sure to stay clear of any products that contain those ingredients when picking a shampoo." Superzero is diligent about avoiding plastic, not only in its packaging but also in its formulations. Microplastics can exist in liquid forms, such as dimethicone, which Wittke explains is "very prevalent in hair care products (even in some that call themselves sustainable) and has been found to be poorly biodegradable, expected to persist in the environment, and expected to be toxic to aquatic organisms." The company's rigorous requirements mean that the brand is now certified as microplastic-free by the Plastic Soup Foundation. Another interesting initiative is superzero's effort to incorporate food waste into products and packaging, thus turning it into a valuable resource. Wittke gave the example of blueberry seed oil used in new Hand Balm Bars. "[It is] made from blueberries left over from the juicing industry that are cold-pressed into a highly potent active with moisturizing, anti-aging, and blue light defense properties," she says. "Another example is our bio-wrappers that we use to wrap our hand balm and anti-frizz bars. They are made by feeding leftovers from the beer industry to specialized (and safe) bacteria that then bio-fabricate cellulose which is then washed and dried." Wittke described the zero-waste, plastic-free beauty industry as an exciting place to be right now: "Beauty has been lagging behind when it comes to combining performance and sustainability, and we aim to change that." Shoppers are waking up to the negative environmental and health impacts of plastic, but still require convenience. Superzero strives to make its products "easy and seamless to use" and to help people realize that just because a shampoo bar looks small doesn't mean it's not effective. "The beauty industry has formulated with water for decades because water is cheap, it’s very profitable to ship bottled water, and plastic bottles create a nice big footprint at the shelf, which helps because consumers have been educated for a long time that 'bigger is better' – which we obviously do not agree with," she says. "As a result, it takes a lot of expertise to blend ... water-less or water-free formulations that perform as well as or better than salon-grade shampoos. It took us many, many months to perfect our bars and to create customized formulations for different hair types within our system, and we are very proud of [them]." superzero All the products are vegan, cruelty-free, and plant-derived. Nothing is used that is persistent, bioaccumulative, toxic, or not readily biodegradable across all possible environments. The company promises deep scientific rigor, total transparency, and an obsession with detail. Wittke emphasizes the importance of measuring everything. "You have to be very truthful and look honestly at the carbon and waste footprint of everything you do," she says. "We look at every component, from ingredients to the packaging (including materials, printing colors, and adhesives used), the size of our products, and how that impacts their carbon footprint during shipping, etc. We manufacture with green power in our facility and source our shipping materials from the US with the highest sustainability standards." "And of course, we attack the beauty industry’s plastic problem both in our formulations by staying clear of microplastics that are still very prevalent in beauty formulations and by not using plastic packaging," she adds. "You have to be inventive and at the forefront of innovation because what you are looking for is not readily available." You can see all of superzero's top-rated hair care products here. It recently launched a new Hand Balm bar that comes with a case made from wood chips and bio-binder if you're looking for an alternative to traditional lotion.