There seems to be much confusion and conflicting views regarding shampoo and its purpose. Many Shampoos’ seem to offer numerous functions such as conditioning, thickening, itchy scalp relief, dandruff control, and so on.
So which do you choose? To answer this, first you need to understand the ability and purpose of shampoo.
The purpose of a shampoo is to:
Although shampoos are good cleansing agents their abilities are limited, despite the many claims made on the products. For example, they are not particularly good at maintaining the best possible hair appearance and they are not particularly good as an aid to hair manageability. This is when the need for other hair products, such as conditioners, comes in.
The primary ingredients in a shampoo are the cleansing agents known as surfactants. Shampoos contain many different types of surfactants; often more than one. It is important to note that not all shampoos are formulated the same. Generaly, shampoos are formulated according to the various hair types to which they are to be applied; such as for normal hair, fine hair, dry hair, greasy or damaged hair. They are also formulated relating to their required performance; such as being medicated for dandruff control, the moisterising of a dry scalp and so on. These surfactants vary in their effectiveness as cleansing agents, which is why differing formualtions are created. In turn, shampoos differ in the condition in which they leave the hair. Often, some shampoos can be too effective at the removal of the natural oils found on the hair, this oil in termed sebum. Conditioning agents are then designed to be used to replace this lost sebum, although they only acheive this to a degree by leaving various of their ingredients on the hair after rinsing.
As shampoos are made for various hair types, such as normal hair, fine hair, dry hair, oily hair and damaged hair. Or for various functions, such as dandruff control, using an inappropriate shampoo will ultimately affect hair manageability. For example, if you have dry hair, using a shampoo for greasy hair will leave the hair even drier and therefore less able to comb and style. In turn, if you have oily hair, using a shampoo for dry hair will have insufficient cleansing ability and the hair may appear limp or even feel the need for washing again soon after. Therefore, shampoo selection should be dictated by how much cleansing your hair requires. You will also need to consider if your hair is chemically treated or subjected to external influences such as dryers or tongs, etc. If in doubt, see ‘hair type guide’. Your hairdresser may also be able to advise you on deciding which type of shampoo is best for you.
When consumers select which shampoo to use, the choice is often made by considering the bottle or container, the colour, shape or smell. Manufacturers know this and obviously design their products accordingly in order to attempt to be the most attractive product on the shelf. From a consumer’s point of view, this may not always provide the optimum hair care or manageability. A good lather is also seen by some consumers as an indication of the shampoos ability.
But, in fact, some shampoos can often contain substances specifically used inorder to stabilise the lather. Therefore, a good lather is not always a good indicator.
The formulation of a shampoo is, to a degree, somewhat uncomplicated, although the list of numerous ingredients would suggest otherwise. The main constituent of shampoo is always water. After that, the main ingredients are the surfactants. Shampoos nearly always contain two surfactants for cleansing purposes and possibly a separate stabiliser. Another function of the shampoo will be to attract moisture to the hair and in order to do this ingredients are added. Also added will be perfume and preservatives. In modern day shampoo there are often substances included with the main function of providing a ‘coating’ to the hair in order to make the hair smooth and shiny and, in some cases, to provide the ‘moisture lock in’ ability. The most commonly known ingredients used for this purpose have been silicones. These blends, such as dimethicone, have become very important for this purpose, particularly in the ‘two in one’ products but, they have also caused the most controversy in that there is a belief they coat the hair too much and cause a build up.
This refers to such shampoos as medicated shampoo, anti-dandruff, and so on.
In general, these products are available alongside ordinary shampoos and contain mild ingredients such as anti-bacterial or anti-fungal preparations. The more medicated products are generally only available from the pharmacist and the purpose of these shampoos really is that they act merely as a way of applying the ingredients, rather than the shampoo itself being the treatment. In mild cases of dry scalp, or dandruff this maybe of benefit, but for more complex scalp problems little benefit is achieved. These scalp problems need to be treated specifically. (See scalp problems).
Conditioning is also an area which causes much debate. Again, conditions offer numerous functions, such as; control, moisturising, shine and repair, the list seems endless! To simplify the subject and help select the right conditioner for your hair, as with shampoo, an understanding of the ability and purpose of conditioner is the key.
The purpose of a conditioner is to
The need for a conditioner is all about the hair and not the scalp, as it is when using a shampoo. If your hair needs one or all of the above then a conditioner is necessary to maintain optimum hair manageability. For example if your hair gets very tangled after being washed, a conditioner will make detangling the hair much easier. If you have dry hair then the need for a moisturising conditioner is greater than if you do not. Managing ‘fly away hair’ is done by using a conditioner specifically designed to do just that.
There are numerous types of ingredients formulated for hair conditioning and each differs in composition and functionality. The functions they are expected to provide include moisturising, reconstructing, detangling, thermal protection, lubrication, anti static and, of course, adding shine. The composition can include items, such as hydrolysed protein, polymers, silicones, oils, fatty acids, panthenol and humectants.
Specialist conditioners are also available for deep conditioning problem hair, such as hair that has been chemically damaged or is excessively dry. Generally they provide much more intensive conditioning and therefore contain more moisture giving and retaining ingredients; in many of these intense conditioners extra oils and proteins are added.
Some conditioners and even shampoos have additives which may include vitamins or even herbs. Many Claims are made regarding the abilities of these additives as it is thought they can impart into the hair and scalp as if to ‘feed’ or ‘nourish’ the hair. As explained in the section ‘structure of hair’, the hair itself is dead matter, which means the structure cannot re-renew or rebuild itself. Neither is it able to take on nutrients and metabolise them. By adding chemicals such as dyes to the hair its structure can be altered but as its protein breaks down it cannot be rebuilt, the best that can be achieved is that the hair can be ‘plumped up’ with moisture or coated with protective layers to prevent further deterioration. The skin, however, is able to absorb these additives and perhaps metabolise them, although it is debatable whether the quantities present in shampoos or conditioners is adequate to have any affect.
Correct washing of the hair can make a bigger difference than perhaps you might think. The information here is to provide you with the advice you need to wash your hair to achieve optimum appearance, manageability and avoid problems.
How often hair should be washed is a matter of much debate. It really has to be of personal preferance. If your hair gets dirty daily from perspiration, physical actively or your working environment you will obviously wish to wash your hair frequently. Hair cannot be washed too often (it really is up to you) and shampoos certainly do not cause hair loss. You will often notice lost hairs when shampooing but these are simply natural losses which would occur anyway. It’s often thought too much washing will dry out the natural oils. Shampoo does rid the hair of oils but it contains, as with conditioners ingredients to leave the hair moisturised and by adding a conditioner, you will be replacing the oils with more superior alternatives. If the hair feels drier after washing and conditioning then an alternative product choice is needed.
How the hair is washed is almost as important as what products you use. Particularly for longer hair, hair that is dry, chemically processed or hair that tangles easily. It is far better to wash the hair by ‘smoothing’ the shampoo along the hair in the direction of growth, ‘scrubbing’ the hair can cause friction and tangling. So don’t pile it on the top of your head! A gentle massage of the shampoo into the scalp is all that is necessary to work the product in. If the hair is particularly dirty oily, or contains a lot of styling products; a second shampoo can be applied rather that a hard scrub. Most modern style shampoos do a good job of cleansing the hair without much effort. A good rinse with clean water is then essential. Dunking the hair in the bath is not good practice! The best technique is under running water; running in the downward direction as to the way the hair grows. After rinsing, shake out or gently squeeze the excess water from the hair before applying the conditioner as saturated hair may dilute the product and it will drip out of the hair and be wasted. Its good practice to always use a conditioner after washing, especially if you intend to apply heat to the hair such as blow drying and styling as this will help to protect it. The conditioner will also help to retain much of the moisture contained in the hair from the washing. Application of the conditioner is similar to the way the shampoo is applied except that it’s not necessary to be massaged into the scalp this is because its use is primarily for the hair. Using a wide toothed comb to gently ease through any tangles is also useful for longer hair or fine hair that tends to tangle easily.
Start at the tips of the hair farthest from the scalp, working your way up in sections, as the tangles ease, as opposed to starting from the top and wrenching the comb through when it gets caught in the hair. Once the tangles are free you can then glide the comb through from roots to tips to smooth the hair down in the direction of growth. Leaving the conditioner on for 5 minutes will also achieve softer hair; and, if you have shorter hair, leaving on the conditoner maybe more preferable to combing it through. To minimise the length of drying time allow the moisture to be absorbed by a towel or turban. Don’t rub with the towel as tangles and friction will occur. Leaving the towel on the head for a few minutes will absorb most of the water anyway. Comb the hair gently by using a wide toothed comb and, starting at the bottom of the hair, work your way upwards in small sections. Use two hands one to hold the hair, the other to comb.
Remember ‘tips to roots’.