How shampoos work


14 Dec

Anyone who knows me well knows that I don't believe in co-washing, i.e. washing only with conditioner, and I want to tell you why.  

Shampoos from their very foundations have been specifically designed to clean our hair. They are mainly made up of detergents much like what you would find in your shower gel or bubble bath. It is within the detergent that we find cleansing agents called surfactants.

Each surfactant molecule has a hydrophilic (water-loving) 'head' and a lipophilic (oil-loving) 'tail'. When we wash our hair with shampoo and water, this generates a lather. The hydrophilic head of the molecule is drawn to the water, while the lipophilic tail is drawn to the oil and grease on the hair, which contains skin cells and dirt.

Washing your hair creates a push-and-pull effect on the oil and grease, lifting it from your hair shaft and allowing it to come away from your hair when rinsed, resulting in clean hair. However, this can leave your hair feeling dry, which only adds to the common problem of dryness in Afro hair textures.

Although you may not like your hair feeling dry after washing, a good shampoo should leave your hair feeling clean, which means it will also feel a bit dry. This means that the shampoo has achieved its purpose. Just imagine if your hair still felt slimy or unclean after shampooing; it would cause you to question whether the shampoo had done its job. 

The wash cycle

It's important to understand that washing your hair is a continuous cycle of removing all the dirt from your hair so you are left with a blank canvas, putting the moisture back in using a conditioner and then maintaining moisture in between shampoos. The whole process begins again when you wash your hair. So shampoos, in essence, were designed to 'take away'.

Conditioners

Conditioners are not the best products to wash your hair with because they were designed to 'give back' the moisture which was taken away from your hair during shampooing. This means that they don't contain cleaning agents to remove the dirt from your hair.

When we use conditioners to wash our hair we are actually sloshing nice-smelling conditioner around on dirty hair. The hair isn’t actually being cleaned. This can cause the hair to smell as well as creating product build-up from the conditioner. In extreme cases where conditioners have been left on the hair for long periods of time, scalp infections may occur.

Co-washing

I completely respect and understand that we all have a preferred way of looking after our hair. If you still prefer to co-wash your hair, I recommend following with a small amount of shampoo, preferably a gentle one, to remove any product build-up and to maintain scalp and hair health. 

2-in-1 shampoos

Another option is to use a 2-in-1 shampoo; they tend to have a creamy texture and contain both a shampoo and a conditioner. They will clean your hair effectively whilst maintaining moisture, which won’t leave your hair feeling so dry.

Tips on maintaining scalp and hair health

To maintain scalp and hair health I recommend:

· Moisturising your hair regularly in between shampoos. You will find that your hair doesn't feel so dry after shampooing.

· Washing your hair using a good moisturising shampoo.

· Using a good conditioner to put the moisture back into your hair after shampooing.

A good way to remember the purpose of shampoos and conditioners is as follows: shampoos are designed to 'take away' from your hair, while conditioners are designed to 'give back' to your hair.

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