When it comes to shampooing your hair, it’s as simple as lather, rinse, repeat. Or is it? By now we all know there’s no need to repeat––the instruction is just a clever ploy to get consumers to use up the product more quickly. But that’s not all. We talked to the pros for insider information on everything from how to keep color from fading to the right way to wash your hair. Read on to get the lowdown on what you need to know to start having a good hair day, every day.
1. Shampoo is not the most important part of washing. You can buy the most expensive shampoo on the market, but if you aren’t using it correctly you won’t see results. “The massaging of the scalp and hair as well as the rinsing are the most important parts of washing your hair,” says celebrity stylist Riccardo Maggiore. Curl expert Ouidad recommends using the cushions of your fingers to massage the scalp while you shampoo in order to get rid of the secretion of sebum (an oily, waxy substance) so hair follicles can grow healthily from the scalp. And always be sure to rinse the shampoo completely out of your hair to prevent buildup.
2. Natural home remedies aren’t necessarily better. Just because a shampoo contains a natural ingredient doesn’t mean that ingredient is good for you on its own. “Lemon, for example, can irritate the scalp and hair follicle,” says Maggiore. “And mint and menthol—which, when used in salon products can create a soothing effect—can actually cause severe allergic reactions when used in home remedies.” So don’t use shampoos as guides to what to use on your hair—they’ve all been formulated and balanced by professionals.
3. Don’t expect the same results as in shampoo commercials. “I know firsthand that all the volume in those beautiful flowing full-headed hair ads comes from setting the hair in hot rollers,” says Terrence Renk, a television and film hair stylist. “While you do need a good foundation product to create the swelling of the cuticle that creates volume, those luxurious locks of hair are the result of very patient and talented hair artists.”
4. Less is more. According to Maggiore, using too much shampoo—more than a quarter-sized amount––to create a lot of foam is actually counterproductive. “Foam can help you effectively work the shampoo into the hair and scalp, but too much foam actually prevents you from massaging the shampoo in properly.”
5. Even though a shampoo boasts a fancy-sounding ingredient, it might not do any good. “I’ve seen some shampoos that contain olive oil or caviar,” says celebrity stylist Philip Pelusi, owner of New York City’s Tela Design Studio. “But for it to make a difference, the shampoo needs to contain anywhere from one to five percent of that ingredient.” Similarly, Pelusi advises being wary of bold claims. “When companies make a big promise, they have to deliver results right away. So if you use a conditioning shampoo, it may work well the first few times, but you might notice it over-delivering—creating a buildup––by the third or fourth wash.”
6. You can buy salon shampoo brands in a drugstore. Though in the past you may have heard you shouldn’t buy salon brand hair products at the drugstore or big-box store because they might be diluted or low-quality, that isn’t necessarily the case anymore. “With the economy as it is, companies are finding different ways of getting their products out to the market,” says Ouidad. “So some brands are simply extending the places where they sell their products.”
7. Blondes need to use clarifying shampoo more often. If you have chemically treated light hair, you need to use a clarifying shampoo more consistently. “Dyed or highlighted hair—particularly bleached hair—becomes very porous,” says Renk. “So it can easily absorb unwanted yellowish tones from the outside environment, like from hairspray, perspiration, city smog and even minerals from your shower water.” Using a clarifying shampoo weekly will help dissolve product and natural buildup, neutralizing those unwanted tones.
8. Your hair doesn’t get used to shampoo over time. If you notice your shampoo isn’t working quite as well as it used to, don’t toss the bottle. “You hair changes with the seasons, so that might account for a difference in texture,” says Ouidad. “Or, if you aren’t rinsing thoroughly enough, there might be a buildup of product on your scalp. It has nothing to do with the shampoo not working for you anymore. You don’t change your face cleanser, so why would you change your shampoo?”
9. Even the fanciest shampoo can’t permanently change your hair. “Washing your hair with the right shampoo is like a great exercise program: As long as you do it you’ll look good, but if you quit, three months later you’re back to where you started,” says Pelusi.
10. Not all ingredients are created equally. “Many shampoos contain foaming agents like ammonium lauryl sulfate, ammonium laureth sulfate or sodium lauryl sulfate, which are harsh and drying to the scalp,” Maggiore says. “So you should stay away from those shampoos.” Instead, sodium laureth sulfate is a gentler agent, as well as TEA lauryl or laureth sulfates, which are also good picks.