The Dirty Truth About Your Shampoo

When shopping for the right shampoo, It's often a much dreaded walk down the haircare isle. You look at the ingredient list on the back of the bottle and find yourself reading a different language and scratching your head. From the latest ingredient trends to the newest do's and don'ts, your quick shopping trip has suddenly turned into a nightmare... Each label more enticing than the next. Silently convincing you that their brand is the most luxurious. Lets flip that bottle over and get straight to the facts! 

Shampoo is a hair cleanser that usually contains 5-7 main ingredients making up the majority of the product. These are usually the first 5-7 ingredients on the back of your shampoo bottle. These main ingredients are usually a Solvent, Primary Surfactant, Secondary Surfactant, Conditioning Ingredients, and Preservative. What exactly do these mean and what are they doing in my hair?

Let's take a look. Well, the first ingredient you will see on the back of the shampoo is water. Nice and simple! It makes up the highest percentage of the product. Don't worry, you are NOT being scammed by watered down ingredients! Water is necessary in all shampoos because it allow the other ingredients to mix and dissolve, forming a solution. The second ingredient you will find is usually the cleaning agent in the shampoo called surfactants. The components in this ingredient are water soluble and oil soluble. The surfactants are magnetically attracted to dirt and oils that build up in the hair and are also attracted to the water in your shower that wash them away. This is where you will commonly see those nasty little sulfates such as sodium laureth sulfate or sodium lauryl sulfate. These ingredients, like many other detergents, are harsh and may cause irritation, but are extremely effective at doing their job of removing dirt and oil. So much so, that they can strip away the hair's natural moisture and even pull out your beautiful hair color that you just touched up at the salon.

A secondary surfactant is a thickener, a foam booster and an emulsifying agent which help mix all of your ingredients together. A common surfactant is Cocamidopropyl Betaine- an ingredient derived from coconut oil and though it is not inherently bad, it has been known to cause irritation or allergic reactions in some people.

Our next ingredient is a conditioning agent. A common ingredient is Silicone. You can easily spot silicone in your shampoo ingredients, because it usually ends in 'cone'. Silicone is used as a sealant and can coat your hair strand making it appear shiny and smooth, but it actually prevents moisture from penetrating the hair shaft. Over time, this will cause hair to become brittle and frizzy, and can even cause breakage. When used on the skin in cosmetic products, silicone can create a film over the skin and trap bacteria, oils, and other impurities in the skin causing acne and disrupt the body's sweat glands.

Because our shampoo is water based, it needs a preservative to keep its shelf life. A preservative's job is to prevent fungus and bacteria from growing and spreading. A common preservative found in many cosmetics including deodorants, body lotions, conditioners, makeups and toothpaste, is paraben. While individual products may contain only a small percent of parabens within them, the concern is the amount of exposure caused by several different products that may be linked to disruptions in hormone function and breast cancer.

I hope by now you have checked the shampoo bottle in your shower for any harmful ingredients. Fortunately, with the Natural- Beauty Movement in full swing, most of your shampoos and conditioners will be clearly labeled if they are sulfate silicone and paraben free. There is even the 'no poo' method which suggests using a mixture of baking soda and apple-cider vinegar or just skipping the mixture all together and using just water! There are many options out there and if you are careful about your shampoo purchase by taking the time to read the labels, you should be able to find the right shampoo for you. If the thought of shopping for a shampoo still scares you, I will always recommend buying directly from a salon!


Erin Lynn