Lets start at the beginning. Proper washing is the first step to great hair and the process begins with the water you use. What comes out of your tap isn't always the best. I recommend using only naturally soft or softened water on your hair. Water that is hard will leave mineral deposits behind that will coat each hair and dull its appearance. Hair needs to be clean and free of these deposits to be shiny.
Each hair follicle has its own oil gland that keeps it lubricated and healthy. Unfortunately, this natural oil can cause dirt to stick to your hair. It will take some type of soap or detergent product to wash away this oil and dirt build-up.
Not very long ago, everyone always used soap. A drawback to soap is that it may leave behind calcium and magnesium residue. We often call that soap scum. Besides the left over residue, soap solutions are alkaline in ph, which cause the outer layer of the hair to swell, lift, feel rough and appear dull. This is why Grandma always followed her hair washing with an acidic lemon or vinegar rinse. The acid in the rinse dissolved and removed the soap scum. It also caused the structure of the hair to lie flat making her hair shiny and smooth.
(The outer layer of the hair is called the cuticle. It serves to protect the inside of the hair. It is made up of tiny scales that are similar to the shingles on a roof with each shingle overlapping the next. Those scales should lie flat so that they offer protection and reflect the light.)
The first ingredient in almost any shampoo is now detergent. Using detergent may sound like harsh treatment for your delicate hair, but it tends to be a good choice for cleansing.
Ingredients that increase lather are often included in new shampoos. These are for appearance rather than effectiveness. Sudsing isn’t necessary for cleansing but it does make us feel better about the cleansing ability of the shampoo.
There may be many other ingredients in your bottle of shampoo. You may find vitamins or herbs or other additives with long strange sounding names.
Read the ingredient list on your bottle of shampoo. While a long list of ingredients does not always create product of higher (or lesser) quality, there are some interesting ingredients such as herbal extracts that you may want to try. I have included a list of common and not so common ingredients along with their purpose to help you make an informed shampoo choice. You will find a link to this list at the bottom of the page. Take the list along with you on your next trip to shop for a new shampoo.
You will find shampoos that make claims to cause your hair to be fuller, thicker, smoother or straighter. Each claim requires its own special ingredient list in order to accomplish the purpose.
Shampoo for fuller hair contains ingredients that will plump up the hair shaft slightly and will increase the volume.
Thickening shampoo usually coats the hair shaft to cause each hair to feel thicker making you feel like you have more hair.
Smoothing shampoo contains moisturizers and emollients that keep it from frizzing and cause the hair to relax and appear smoother.
Clarifying shampoos remove build up, such as from styling products. They include special cleansing agents and can be used about once a week to remove any build-up that dulls and weighs your hair down. They should not be used at every shampoo.
You may find shampoos that claim to shorten drying time. These are great for those of us who have thick hair or hair that retains water. The rapid dry shampoo sometimes coats the hair with polymers that cause the water to drip off and evaporate faster than with other products. Or - they may contain ingredients that cause the hair’s outer layer to lock down flat, minimizing water absorption. Using these shampoos can cause the hair to dry up to twice as fast as with other shampoo.
Lynne Chapman served as Hair Site Editor of BellaOnline.com for fifteen years. She is a professional stylist and colorist of more than forty years.