Tag: shampoo

Let’s Talk Shampoo …


Here are a few answers to questions from a recent #Prevention.com article that I contributed to (Article link below) … But I’d like to hear from you! Post your questions in the comments section below.

1. Can you please explain why choosing the right shampoo is so important for your scalp and hair?

Shampoos are one of the most frequently used and important hair care products. They are the foundation of scalp health and can be very helpful or harmful to the condition and aesthetic appearance of your hair fibers (locks). At the most basic level, shampoos are designed to cleanse the scalp and hair, removing all the dirt, oil and hair products that have built up since the last shampoo. If not performed frequently enough, one could be much more likely to develop seborrheic dermatitis, an inflammatory scalp condition that could lead to hair loss and excessive shedding. If performed too frequently, the surfactants (soaps) could strip the hair fiber of its natural moisturizing/protection layer and cause cuticular damage – which typically leads to a condition called “trichorrhexis nodosa”, the medical term for hair breakage.  

2. Can you please provide 3 tips for what to look for when you’re looking at different shampoos in the drugstore? When it comes to ingredients (what to look for, what to avoid), etc.?

Tip 1:pH is one of the most important attributes of a shampoo. Unfortunately, it is often difficult information to find. If it is not printed on the label, one should assume it is around 6.5-7, which is much higher than what our hair prefers, closer to 5.5. The acidic (lower number) pH helps seal the cuticle, which leads to softer, shiny and less damaged hair. Think of shingles on a roof. The higher the pH, the more open the cuticle is, so the shingles can easily break off. If the pH is lower (more acidic) the roof shingles are more closed, which makes the hair fiber stronger, less susceptible to damage and more able to reflect light (shinier). But don’t worry, if not listed, a capful of apple cider vinegar to the bottle of shampoo, should help lower the pH to a better level. Aloe vera juice tends to lower pH as well.

Tip 2:Find out your surfactant. The surfactant is the main ingredient that does the work of cleansing and often foaming; it is usually the second ingredient, preceded only by water. It also has the ability to be the most damaging. This is key for “sulfate-free” shampoos. Often “sulfate free” shampoos still have sulfate, they just are free of sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), which for some with sensitive skin, could be an irritant. In a recent article published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, surfactants were described as having the potential to remove natural skin oil, leading to disrupted skin proteins, skin dehydration, increased skin permeability, all of which contributes to scalp irritation and rashes. An irritated or inflamed scalp can affect the quality and appearance of the hair.

microtip. Do not focus on foaming – a shampoo’s foam is like your favorite car color – we all have preferences, but it does not translate to how well it works. Interestingly, foaming does not directly translate to cleansing ability, so the more foamy a product is, does not mean that it is truly higher quality or gets your hair more clean. But if you must have foaming, “cocamidopropyl betaine” is a commonly used foaming booster; however, use caution with sensitive skin, as this chemical is often also irritating.

Tip 3: There is no “standardized hair”. 23 and me and other personal genomic testing companies have well established how diversified and blended we truly are as a global race. Thus, hair types enjoy that same level of diversity. A one-size fits all modality of thinking should be avoided. Embrace your natural hair texture and choose a product that supports it to enjoy optimal hair health.

3. Now, on to the shampoos! Can you please give us 5 different shampoos for the different ‘hair types’ below? And why you think they’re great picks?

– best shampoo for ‘normal’ hair – See Tip 3 above. Embrace your natural texture and nurture it! It is far healthier to enhance what you naturally have then reverse what your body wants to do (e.g. celebrate those thick curls, let them bounce!)

best shampoo for fine hair. For fine hair, you may want to stay away from the sulfate-free shampoo trends, especially if your hair is more on the oily side. If volume is what you are seeking, volumizing shampoos tend to use small particles called siloxanes to move through the hair fiber to the center and stick there, plumping it up from the inside out. Humectants, such as glycerin and honey could be useful. A more neutral pH, closer to 6.5 will also open the cuticle and allow more water to end individual fibers, thus, giving a more full appearance.  It is important to note that these products product a temporary effect, so the effect usually lasts only 24-48 hrs after shampooing. 

– best shampoo for curly hair. Because of the natural bend of the hair fiber, curlier hair tends to be drier as it becomes increasingly difficult for scalp oil to distribute along the individual curly hair strands. As such, milder surfactants (such as sulfate-free shampoos) are usually needed to avoid overdying hair strands. More acidic pH’s will smoothen the cuticle, reducing frizz and cetyl alcohol is a popularly used, but unknown additive that helps maintain and even restore the nature oil barrier. It is a quite tricky balance, and at some point, if too many hair products are regularly used, a sulfate-free shampoo will not be effective at removing the product buildup, which could lead to problems in the long run.  

– best shampoo for oily hair. If your hair is oilier, or you tend to have a lot of product buildup, a shampoo with sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is likely your best option. SLS has been well established as the most effective ingredient for sebum (natural scalp oil) removal. You should also avoid shampoos that contain silicones (i.e. dimethicone), as these ingredients tend to coat the hair fiber and resist removal, which could aggravate the oil problem.

– best shampoo for dry hair. Hair that feels dry would be best served with a lower pH and silicone-based shampoo. While pH closes the cuticle, silicones form a protective layer over the hair fiber that will smooth the texture (less rough feeling). Cetyl alcohol is a currently popular ingredient that helps with detangling and lends to a smoother feel when dried due to restoring the natural lipid content of hair fibers.

– best shampoo for colored hair. The goal is to keep the cuticle as closed and tight as possible to prevent leakage of hair color out the fiber. Thus, the lower the pH the better the shampoo – closed roof shingles. Also, the more coated the hair fiber, the better protected the color, so ceramides, cetyl alcohol and silicones could be helpful here as well. Sulfate-free is likely less irritating, which could help stabilize the fiber, preserving the barrier function; however, sulfate-free is not required as long as the pH is low. 

– best shampoo for damaged hair, lower pH works well for damaged hair and also products with silicones. Also look for products with ceramides. These molecules tend to work like glue, coating the damaged areas of hair fiber to improve strength, fragility and texture. Occasionally, protein-based amino acid ingredients are helpful, but it is best to leave these to a licensed salon professional, as overdoing this can lead to increased brittleness and further damage.  

– best shampoo for thinning hair. Be cautious that you are getting a product with a claim for increased hair density at the scalp level and not just reduced breakage. Several additives have been reported to help stimulate new hair growth including: caffeine, niacinamide, zinc, wheat protein and green tea (EGCG). Look for ingredients that also contain natural DHT blockers, saw palmetto being the most established in the medical literature data. 


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