Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Question: Is shampooing necessary for our hair?

ged asks...Did your research on hair structure convince you that we do actually need to use shampoo for our hair?

I think shampoo is necessary for most hair types - especially mine, which is very oily - to remove the sebum from our hair. If you look at the way the sebum can cement stuff to our hair and the mechanisms by which shampoos remove those soils, I think it's a very effective and can be very gentle if we do it properly.

I think there are three problems with hair washing - we wash too often, we wash with strong surfactant mixes too often, and we wash all our hair too often.

I know we use all kinds of styling products that necessitate removal, but I think washing every single day is too harsh for most - if not all - hair types. If you do want to wash every day, you'll want to choose a very mild shampoo intended for daily washing with low levels of surfactants with nice emollients and conditioners - a daily use shampoo type product. Sebum is good for our hair, and going a day with slightly oily hair isn't a bad thing both visually and biologically. I think we're really too obsessed with squeaky clean hair.

When you consider that one of the main causes of dry skin is over-cleansing and when you consider how much water we waste with showering, I think skipping a day here or there might not be a bad thing. I know for some people not showering twice a day is an abomination, but unless you're a mud wrestler, how dirty are your arms getting at work every day? 

We don't need to wash every single strand of hair on our heads every time we wash our hair. What I've found works well is to wash my scalp well the first time, rinse, then wash my scalp well again. I only wash the rest of my hair very lightly before rinsing the second time. I don't use styling products - well, I use an anti-frizz spray and a leave in conditioner - so I don't have a ton of build-up to remove, but I think this would work well for most hair types. (And I realize that anecdotes don't constitute data, but I've read about this enough times to feel comfortable suggesting it for most hair types.)

Really dry hair can benefit from avoiding shampoo altogether, but most hair types need to remove that sebum regularly. I know some people say that it takes time for our hair to get used to using conditioner only, but I can assure you that an oily haired girl like me would never get used to it. The awful smell of oily hair alone would drive me to the nearest shampoo bottle in a few days!


DuhBe said...

I've been reading your blog with the utmost fascination and I have so much to learn, but I wanted to ask a question about the shampoo issue...

"People" say if you stop using detergents, your skin/scalp will eventually acclimate in 2-6 weeks. Any thoughts on that? I have oily skin and hair and I can't imagine the suffering of waiting 6 weeks with greasy hair, nor can I imagine what my face would look like if I only cleansed with water. (well, I can imagine, it would be inflamed with acne) And that is assuming I acclimate at all - which I think is questionable in the first place.

So from your view, what is the worst case scenario if an oily haired gal stops shampooing cold turkey?

April said...

Why do you use DLS Mild in the oily version of the shampoo? Isn't it, well, mild?? I want to order ingredients to make a shampoo and conditioner for myself (dry) and my sister (very oily-oily hours after washing hair). Want to order from the Herberie or Personal Formulator. Is DLS Mild best for oily hair? keeping in mind that I am not ordering from a Canadian company. . .
Thank you so much.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi April. We don't want to use harsh, stripping surfactants in shampoo for oily hair. We can use mild or even gentle surfactants for oily hair if we use the right ones in the right proportions. C14-16 olefin sulfonate and DLS mild are both good choices for oily hair. They are both mild cleansers that help remove oil without stripping it too much. If you strip your hair too much, you'll just see the oils come back quicker, which kinda defeats the purpose.

I have pretty oily hair - with commercial shampoo, my hair would be oily about halfway through the second day - and my husband has really oily hair - his hair can be oily the next morning - and both of us use shampoo with DLS mild or C14-16 olefin sulfonate combined with cocamidopropyl betaine and SCI (no stearic acid) and I can get almost four days out of my hair, and he's getting about halfway through day three.

I've written extensively about both C14-16 olefin sulfonate and DLS mild (sulfosuccinate) on the surfactant page on the right hand side of the blog if you want to learn more about them. Have you read my posts on making shampoo for various hair types? This will give you a little more information on making shampoo for dry and oily hair types.

The Herbarie has probably the best selection of surfactants I've ever seen, and The Personal Formulator has a great selection. You can't get DLS mild at the Personal Formulator, though. But they do have the natural surfactant blend which is great for dry hair. And they are the only place I know of to get cetrimonium chloride if you are seeking that.