Not many of us actually think too much about what’s exactly inside the shampoo that we use so frequently. All shampoos contain a cleansing agent that helps remove the oil, dirt, excessive sebum (an oily substance secreted from the sebaceous glands in the skin), and odor from our scalp. Some of the functional ingredients in shampoos include:
* Surfactants – Also called surface-active agents. These are a group of ingredients that, when added to a liquid, reduces its surface tension. They basically make shampoos foam, and their main purpose is to remove oil and wash hair.
* Sequestering agents – These organic compounds, like polyphosphates and ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid, help prevent scum from forming on hair.
* Foaming agents – These materials help enable the formation of foam in shampoos.
* Preservatives – They are used in all water-based shampoos to prevent bacteria and fungus formation in the scalp. Some common preservatives include sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, dehydroacetic acid, and benzyl alcohol.
Apart from these, most shampoos also tend to include thickeners, opacifiers, special additives, and fragrance.
Most of these ingredients are commonly found in shampoos on the market and are not considered harmful. However, before buying your shampoo, make sure they don’t contain any parabens. These chemical preservatives have long been used in beauty products to increase their shelf life. Studies have shown that parabens can be easily absorbed in the human body in the intact form through the skin and can cause allergic contact dermatitis and skin issues like redness, irritation, itchy skin, and flaking.
See Also: Are Sulfates in Shampoo and Skincare Products Dangerous?
What does shampoo actually do?
Shampoos basically work the same way a bar of soap does – it gets rid of oils with the help of detergents. Interestingly, shampoos were introduced to the world only in the 1930s; before that people relied on a bar of soap to wash their hair. You can perhaps imagine that most people then were likely to have been left with dry or rough hair. Shampoos helped change that.
Dermatologists say that shampoos are primarily meant to eliminate the natural oil that accumulates in the hair and the dirt from the environment. To elaborate, they work as a liquid cleanser and clean the scalp of sweat, dead skin cells, and extra sebum, and help prevent bacterial contamination. This allows our hair to remain clean and grease-free.
Does frequent shampooing really damage your hair?
This is a very common misconception that continues to confuse people. According to experts, there’s no single answer to how often people should shampoo. Yes, it’s fine to go a few days without shampooing. But, ideally, doing it twice a week is perfectly fine. After all, removing oils and dirt from your hair is a good thing. If your work makes you remain outside for long periods, or if you have a very oily scalp, then experts recommend using a sulfate-free shampoo to wash your hair every alternate day.
Back when shampoos were first invented, they were formulated with harsh detergents and did indeed damage the hair when used too frequently. Moreover, they were also highly alkaline and would dry out strands. Modern-day shampoos, however, include very mild detergents and are made with moisturizing ingredients. So, shampooing every three to four days, regardless of hair texture, is good for the average person with healthy, untreated hair.
Hair Type Matters
How often you shampoo depends a lot on the type of hair you have. For example, people with dry or damaged hair don’t need to shampoo daily as the scalp’s natural oil will get more time to make its way through the hair. People with naturally oily hair should shampoo every alternative day. Don’t worry about excessive moisture loss from daily shampooing. The sebum oil in your scalp will easily make up for it.
Normal to dry hair types and people with wavy hair can shampoo every 2 to 3 days. If you have highlighted or color-treated your hair, then your hair may be at risk of getting damaged from frequent washings because it is already more porous. For people with thin hair, experts suggest shampooing three to four times a week since oil can build up quickly on their scalp and become more visible.
Shampooing can help keep your scalp healthy
The health of your hair depends a lot on the health of your scalp. And if you don’t wash your scalp regularly, the accumulation of dead skin scales on it is likely to become pretty noticeable. Moreover, studies have shown that hair cortisol (the stress hormone) levels can be significantly reduced by washing or shampooing. This hormone has also been associated with increased hair thinning in women and shampooing frequently has been shown to drain it from the hair. Some studies have also shown that using well-formulated, mild shampoos may actually help fragile hair by decreasing grooming force.
Cutting back on shampoos is certainly possible
If you want to stop using shampoo completely, it’s certainly doable. However, if you have a history of skin or scalp issues, you must consult your dermatologist before trying this. Also, cutting back on shampoos completely might be difficult if you have fine or thin hair as your hair will get oilier faster. The trick is to ease into it and try and slowly stretch the time between washes for a few weeks at first.
Next, you can replace your shampoo with apple cider vinegar. This is because apple cider vinegar acts as a natural conditioner or clarifier. It can also get rid of product buildup and help clear up dandruff.
To try it:
- Take 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar in one cup of water and apply the solution to your scalp when you are in the shower.
- Massage gently before rinsing it off.
- Be warned, though, that this rinse will make your hair smell like vinegar.
Alternatively, you can also try out some natural shampoos from the market that don’t contain any synthetic ingredients. Do check the labels properly before buying them to make sure the shampoo is truly natural.
But think twice before ditching shampoos completely
While you can certainly try cutting back on shampooing if you want, the reality is that it won’t be comfortable or pleasant for most people. People dealing with dandruff, particularly, should not go for it. Science has shown that using a professionally formulated anti-dandruff shampoo regularly is the best way to stop dandruff. A good shampoo is indeed crucial to eliminate flakes and itching in people with dandruff.
Also, just because a shampoo has chemicals, it doesn’t automatically mean that it's something unnatural or unhealthy. And just because a remedy is supposed to be natural, it doesn’t mean its ingredients are safe or effective for your scalp. The right shampoo – particularly one with resveratrol and antioxidants – can keep your hair healthy and strong. So, don’t go the no-shampoo route just because everyone says it’s beneficial for your hair. As we have already mentioned, regular shampooing has many benefits. Get an appointment with your dermatologist and find the shampoo that’s ideal for your tresses.
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