Are all shampoos equal?
There are so many products on the market, it’s hard for clients to know where to begin when choosing shampoo and conditioner for their hair, with many opting to select their hair care products from the same place as the groceries. I think most hairstylists find this a strange concept, especially when you see people confused in that supermarket aisle trying to figure out which one is best for their hair, from hundreds of products. Why wouldn’t you ask a professional whilst your sat in their chair having your hair done, which products are best to maintain your hair, so that you get tailored advice based on your specific needs?
Also it can actually be quite frustrating as a stylist when you’ve just spent several hours creating a colour for example, and counter productive for the client that has just invested good money in that colour, when they use a shampoo at home that strips the colour and shine in no time.
Most of my clients know that I try to educate them about products, equipment and styling techniques whilst they are having their hair done, and I’m always rabbiting on about what course I’ve just done etc. Most hairdressers are the same, our job is ever changing so we are constantly educating ourselves to give you the best service. With all of that knowledge we seek out the best professional products to use in the salon, that help us achieve our goals, wether that’s to remove product build up, reduce frizz, add, volume, moisture or preserve colour.
So hair and skin are both slightly acidic, with a PH of between 4.5-5.5, if we disturb the balance of the acid mantle in the skin, we can create all sorts of problems like dryness, flakiness or a scalp that produces too much oil. With that in mind shampoo should be acid balanced between 4.5-5.5, beware of the wording you may see on advertisements for store bought products, like: it’s PH balanced (all products will have a ph balance, but this statement isn’t telling you WHAT the PH is), or that it has a PH of neutral which is 7 ( well that product is still not acid balanced).
Whilst on this subject be particularly careful of certain baby/children’s shampoo with a ‘no more tears formula’, did you know that unlike our skin, our eyeballs are slightly alkaline? So guess what the PH of these formulas are? Yes you’ve guessed it, it doesn’t sting the eyes because these products are alkaline the same as the eyes, which is great news if your intending on rinsing the shampoo all over your child’s face, but not quite so good for their hair or scalp. I swear that most cases of cradle cap are caused by these products as they dry the skin so much, at college we tested lots of products and baby shampoo had the same PH as a well known floor cleaner, and I doubt you would wash your hair with that! Clever marketing however makes us think it must be a gentle product if it can be used on infants........in fact that couldn’t be further from the case.
Continuing the theme, a lot of children’s shampoos, like some adult time saving brands that eliminate the use of conditioner may seem like a great idea for those on the go, but these products tend to utilise silicones in order to do this. The silicone wraps the hair in a plastic substance that makes each strand feel quite soft, unfortunately as this layer builds up on the hair shaft it can become quite dulling, and can cause problems for services such as colouring or perming, as the silicone creates a barrier that is difficult for the chemicals to penetrate. Beware of products that claim they can do two completely different jobs in one process.
Sulphates are an ingredient people are becoming far more aware of now, these ingredients are responsible for creating all the bubbles, and we’ve been preconditioned to think the more bubbles the more luxiourious the product must be, when in actual fact it just means it contains more detergent. Detergent is an effective way to remove dirt and debris from the hair, but it also strips the natural oils from the scalp, which not only can have a drying effect on the hair and scalp, but also strips out that colour you invested in.
Parabens are often used in products as a preservative, to extend the shelf life. These are quite a complex ingredient as they are divided into two groups: long chain(bad) and short chain (safe). Apart from causing skin irritation, Scientific studies suggest that Parabens can disrupt hormones in the body, harm fertility, reproductive organs, affect birth outcomes, and increase the risk of cancer. Whilst these connections haven’t been proven conclusively, it’s probably wisest to avoid using them when there are alternative ingredients that are in use.
So now you know the main ingredients that are harmful in shampoo, the next time your in the supermarket start checking out the ingredients on the back of the packaging. Most of the non professional products will contain these ingredients because it makes them cheaper to produce, the other ingredient they fill the product out with is water, which dilutes the product so you need to use more.
Professional shampoos predominantly are manufactured by companies within the hair industry, who will have invested huge budgets into research and development, to help stylist achieve the best outcomes, unlike the companies that produce mainstream shampoo along with half of the other cleaning products under your kitchen sink.
Salon shampoos will have high quality alternatives to the harmful list above, so you can cleanse your freshly done colour or extensions in sulphate free shampoos, without fear of stripping the colour. They are also safe to use daily as the PH level will be aligned with your hair and skin, and the absence of Parabens will make scalp Irritation less likely.
Then there will be an array of additional ingredients which allow us to tailor the product to your specific needs, such as moisture and softening agents for dry hair, or high quality protein for damaged hair, to name a couple. Also it’s important to remember that your hair changes, so I might have new client with really damaged hair, and recommend a program to strengthen and restructure the hair, but that doesn’t mean that you would use that shampoo for ever. Once the hair quality improves, alongside careful chemical services and hair cuts it may be that another shampoo would then be more suitable, which your stylist can advice you on, whereas people tend to either grab the same shampoo from the shelf in the supermarket, or just buy whatever is on offer.
So let’s look at price, as this seems to be the biggest reason people avoid buying shampoo at the salon, because it is perceived as too expensive. Hopefully by now you have some insight into what makes these products so different, the saying goes ‘you get what you pay for’ is so true, apart from higher quality ingredients, professional shampoo is so much more concentrated, meaning you only use a very small amount. Most people are surprised how long the products last when used in correct amounts, so in fact are more cost effective. ( if you’ve spent £20 on a shampoo and it’s lasted 12 weeks, it’s cost approx £1.60 per week, how does that compare to your supermarket shop? Plus how much better is your hair?)
Other considerations that are hot topics at the moment are sustainability, cruelty free, vegan friendly which is why one of my preferred shampoo brands now Is L’ANZA as they factor in all of these considerations into their products.
Hopefully this has been useful, and I think we can draw the conclusion that all shampoo is definitely NOT equal.