The best shampoos contain:
• Sulfate-free cleansers to prevent excessive dryness and scalp irritation
• Cationic ingredients to condition your hair while you cleanse
• pH adjusters to balance the pH of the shampoo and prevent unnecessary cuticle damage to your hair
Have you noticed all the “sulfate-free” shampoos popping up? It sounds like classic marketing hype, but there are a few good reasons to avoid sulfate-based cleansers. Every cleansing product, whether it’s shampoo, dish soap or laundry detergent, contains surfactants. Surfactants are the ingredients that allow oil to be dissolved from a dirty surface. If you put dish soap on a pot and leave it to soak, you’re waiting for the surfactants in your dish soap to break up the grease left from your food. Sulfate-based surfactants like sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate have been used in shampoo for many years, but current scientific research has found them to be significantly irritating for the scalp and drying to the hair.
Does that mean your hair will drastically change if you use a “sulfate-free shampoo”? Probably not. Most women are using sulfate-based shampoos because that’s the majority of what’s on the market. Even if a shampoo contains sulfates it can still be formulated to work well for your hair. However, I want you to have the most up to date information and the reality is there are better options for cleansing our naturally dry strands. To find the gentlest shampoos, look for products that contain at least one of the surfactants listed below in the top 5.
Gentle surfactants to look for:
• Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate
• Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate
• Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate
• Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate
Harsh/Drying surfactants to skip:
• Sodium Laureth Sulfate
• Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
• Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate
• Ammonium Laureth Sulfate
• Sodium Myreth Sulfate
• Saponified Oils
You should condition your hair at every step of your routine…during cleansing, after cleansing, and before styling. It probably seems like shampoo can’t cleanse and condition at the same time, but cosmetic chemistry makes it possible. You know how clothes get stuck together in the dryer and they make a popping sound when you pull them apart? That happens because of something called static charge. Curls and coils naturally have a negative charge that causes constant frizz and fly aways. You can make your hair smoother and easier to comb by choosing a shampoo that contains positively charged conditioning ingredients called “cationics”. The ingredients listed below spread over your hair while you lather the shampoo and they stay locked to your strands while dirt and product residue rinse away. The cationic ingredients in your shampoo will increase the effects of your conditioner.
Cationics to look for in your shampoo (the more the better):
• Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride
Is your shampoo pH-balanced? Chances are it is, but does that really matter? The answer is actually yes! The pH value of a liquid tells you whether it’s an acid (like orange juice) or a base (like baking soda mixed with water). pH values below 7 are acids, values above 7 are bases. Skin and hair are made of keratin proteins and all types of protein are sensitive to pH. Our skin and hair can better maintain their natural strength when they are kept at acidic pH values between 4.5 and 6.5. Manufacturers don’t make shampoos with pH values below 4.5, but there are a few shampoos out there that are above 7. When the shampoo is basic instead of acidic, the outer cuticle of your hair will swell excessively when you lather up. When your hair dries later, you’ll be left with the kind of volume you don’t like…stubborn frizz and tangles. Shampoos that are pH balanced help the cuticle resist unnecessary swelling.
Most shampoos sold at drugstores and beauty supplies will be pH balanced. It’s standard practice for manufacturers to add pH adjusters to shampoo. If you’d like to test the pH of your product at home, I recommend Micro Essentials pHydrion plastic pH indicator strips.
Shampoo Dos and Don’ts
Do start by rinsing your hair with warm water for about 3 minutes. The extra rinsing time will loosen up product residue so you can use less shampoo.
Don’t comb your hair while you shampoo. Stretching and pulling creates unnecessary stress on your strands. Save detangling for when the conditioner is in.
Do choose a sulfate-free shampoo if you prefer to wash your hair multiple times per week due to frequent exercise or an oily scalp.
Don’t pile hair on top of your head. Apply the shampoo by smoothing it in a downward motion.Don’t underestimate the power of a high-quality shampoo. You don’t have to spend a lot to get a great product.
Do shampoo your hair at least once a week. The health of your scalp determines how fast your hair grows. A healthy scalp is clean, flake-free and not itchy. Just like your face.