Shampoo and Natural Hair
What is Shampoo?
The shampoo is a product for hair care maintenance. Shampoo cleanses the scalp and the hair using chemicals called surfactants and in the form of a viscous liquid or soap. Many shampoos contain sulfates which produce the lather that extracts oils, dirt, and unwanted product build-up. Sulfates to strip natural the oil from the scalp and hair, which can cause dryness and damage.
How does Shampoo Work?
The shampoo cleanses and removes sebum and debris from the hair and scalp. When shampoo is lathered with water, it foams which produce the cleansing effect on the hair’s cuticle.
The History of Shampoo
The word shampoo entered the English language from the Indian subcontinent during the colonial era. Shampoo dates to 1762 and is derived from the Hindi word Chāmpo meant ‘to press, knead the muscles,’ and referred to as a body massage while using oil.
Originally, soap and shampoo were alike; both have surfactants, somewhat a detergent. Surfactants strip the natural sebum (oil) from the hair’s shafts by removing dirt. However, surfactants can remove too much sebum from the hair, which leads to unwanted dryness and breakage.
The history of washing hair is at least a thousand-year-old. Today’s shampoo has made many improvements to shampoo formulas. The ingredients in shampoo have had a bad reputation for many years. Because of its drying effects on the scalp and hair.
New shampoos use various classifications of surfactants designed to remove less sebum from the hair. Today, shampoos are healthier, less drying, and easier to wash out. Now, people opt to use sulfate-free shampoos.
Sulfate-free shampoos are better. They are less drying on the scalp and hair and have minimal irritation on the eyes and skin. Many use conditioner after shampooing to moisturize and give the hair the finishing look.
The shampoo is formulated by combining a surfactant, in most instances, sodium laureth sulfate or sodium lauryl sulfate as the main cleansing ingredient. Sulfates strip natural oil called sebum from the scalp.
Shampoos contain many ingredients listed on the product label that can be intimidating. So, familiarize yourself with your product’s ingredients.
Here are the Most Common Ingredients in Shampoos:
Water is the first ingredient on the list on the product label (good hair products will always contain water as a first ingredient) and has the highest content up 80% of the formula. Hydration is the main characteristic of water and it is what allows the product to spread throughout the hair.
Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS)
Sodium Laureth Sulfate is a harsh detergent that causes the lather effect. In fact, SLS is a powerful detergent that removes dirt, sebum and product residues. SLS is harsh on the scalp and hair, which can cause dryness. Sulfate strips the hair from its natural oils, giving the hair a straw-like feel.
Sulfates to Avoid
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate
- Sodium Lauroyl Isethionate
- Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)
- Sodium Lauroyl Taurate
- Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate
- Disodium Cocoamphodipropropioanate
- Decyl Glucoside
Sodium Chloride/Potassium Chloride
Known as table salt, a cheap alternative to thicken the shampoo.
Alcohols are found in plants and used in many shampoos, conditioners and skin products. And most of our cosmetic products. Alcohol and hair? Sounds drying to the hair right? Yes, it is and leads to dryness and breakage.
Although, alcohols are not created equal. Fatty alcohols are considered as “good” because they provide slip to our conditioners, gels, etc. Alcohols act as a thickening agent that makes it easier to spread the product throughout the hair.
Common Alcohol Names:
- Stearyl alcohol
- Cetyl alcohol
- Lauryl alcohol
- Behenyl alcohol
- Myristyl alcohol
- Isostearyl alcohol
Silicone seals the hair cuticle, lockout the humidity, and leaves the hair with an amazing shine. They are the most effective ingredients in hair and skin products. Silicone is great for smoothing, strengthening, and sealing the moisture in the hair. There are different silicone ingredients ending in “cone”. After a while, silicone can lead to unwanted build-up.
Silicones are not innocent!
Non-water soluble silicones seal on the hair shaft (heavier barrier), preventing moisture from entering which causes dryness and breakage. They are not bad after all. They are ideal for protecting your hair while swimming in the sea or the pool and for those who use heat. It is fundamental to use a clarifying shampoo to remove the silicones from the hair shaft.
Non-Water Soluble Silicones
- Ceteraryl Methicone
- Pheryl Trimethicone
Water-soluble silicones, which means it dissolves in water. They allow moisturizing products to penetrate the hair shaft. Water-soluble has a thin coating, less build-up and easier to wash out of the hair with a mild-shampoos or conditioner only cleanser. Water-soluble silicones are safer for textured hair.
- Lauryl Methicone Copolyol
- Dimethicone Copolyol
- Behenoxy Dimethicone
- Stearoxy Dimethicone
- Cetyl Dimethicone
- Any silicones with PEG-X as a prefix
Parabens are preservatives used in many hair and cosmetic products. They are a class of preservatives used to hinder bacteria growth from growing in hair products. Parabens are identified by the ingredients ending with “ben,” which makes it easier to find on your product label. Parabens have a bad reputation and are said to be linked to breast cancer but there is no scientific evidence to prove that parabens have any link to cancer.
I had my share with parabens.
Mostly when I washed my hair with shampoo. Even my body wash products when I shower. I would break out with rashes on my chest and upper back. Some shampoos were not bad but most broke me out in rashes. It was getting out of hand. I had an allergy patch test and turned out I was allergic to parabens. At first, it was a hustle to find skin and hair products free of parabens. Luckily today, thank goodness, there are many products of all kinds free of paraben on the market. Yah!
Other Parabens Names:
Hair consists of a protein called keratin without protein limp, brittle and fragile, which can lead to breakage. Proteins balance the moisture in the hair to keep the hair strong. Proteins are beneficial for hair that has been chemically treated. Constant manipulation and using too much heat can weaken the hair in time. Too much protein can cause harm to the hair. Some hair types are protein sensitivity. Therefore, it is fundamental to have a protein and moisture balance.
- Hydrolyzed wheat protein
- Hydrolyzed oat flour
- Hydrolyzed keratin
- Hydrolyzed soy protein
- Hydrolyzed collagen
Panthenol acid is a vitamin B5 in shampoos and conditioners. It is a humectant and aids in absorbing and holding moisture. Panthenol Acid is effective for detangling when wet. Providing softness, adding shine, elasticity and thicken the hair.
Other Panthenol Acid Names:
- Provitamin B5 and vitamin B5
Known as a weak acid but yet effective ingredient to balance the pH down in shampoo around at pH 5.5. Citric Acid found in fruits such as limes, lemons, grapefruit, and oranges.
Zinc Pyrithione (ZPT)
Zinc Pyrithione is an antimicrobial. It slows down the production of skin cells. ZPT is an active ingredient in dandruff shampoo effective for eliminating flakes, dandruff and treat seborrheic dermatitis.
Cocamidopropyl Betaine (CAPB)
Cocamidopropyl Betaine is a synthetic surfactant found in most shampoos and as a cleansing agent, emulsifier, and foam booster.
Make it a habit of reading and familiarizing yourself with the ingredients.
There are many types of shampoos used for a variety of reasons.
- Contain fewer surfactants that cleanse the hair, not only does it cleanse the hair and the scalp but add moisture and shine to the hair.
- Clarifying shampoo has more surfactants to purify the hair’s shaft by eliminating any stubborn build-up from styling products, silicone-based products, mineral deposits from hard water, chlorine, etc.
- A perfect choice for fine hair. Designed to add body and volume to the hair by opening the hair’s cuticle and making the hair thicker.
Oily Hair Shampoo
- Oily hair shampoo assists to get rid of the excess sebum from the scalp and hair’s shaft.
Colour-Treated Hair Shampoo
- Help to seal in the colour to avoid fading, making the colour last.
- A pH-balanced shampoo balances the pH level in the hair and helps to close the hair’s cuticle. The best pH level is between five and seven.
Dry Damaged Hair Shampoo
- This shampoo is for distressed hair. Dry damaged hair mind shampoos cleanse and remove the dirt and sebum and help to restore moisture.
2-in-1 Shampoo and Conditioner
- The 2-in-1 shampoo offers both cleansing and conditioning with somewhat more conditioner. Regular shampoos are the same formulas as 2-in-1 but offer a cleansing and conditioning benefit.
- Great for hair types that are more susceptible to dryness and frizz. Sulfate-free shampoos cleanse the hair but keep the hair’s natural oil. Recommended for Afro-textured hair.
Curly Hair Shampoo
- This mind shampoo cleanses curly hair but rich with extra moisturizers. Curly hair shampoos, smooth and hydrates curly hair eliminating frizz and dryness without weighing down your curls.
- Give the hair a refreshing effect, reducing the greasiness without soap or water.
- It helps to strengthen and restore the protein structure in the hair. Protein shampoo moisturizes rebuilds and reduces breakage.
- Zinc pyrithione shampoo is an effective ingredient in antifungal shampoos. Head and Shoulders are well-known to treat dandruff.
Now, let’s talk of Afro-Textured Hair and Shampoo.
There are many misconceptions about Afro-Textured hair and shampoo. Black women often hear ‘not to wash their hair often’ to prevent their hair from drying out.
That’s not correct!
Everyone washes their hair. It’s something we practice for many years of any race or culture. The purpose of shampoo is to cleanse and re-moisturize the hair! So, why should black women do otherwise?
In fact, not cleansing Afro-textured hair regularly can lead to dryness and breakage.
Bottom line. Our hair needs moisture, including moisture from the water!
How often should Black Women Shampoo their Hair?
I recommend shampooing your natural hair at least one time a week. It depends on your lifestyle. Exercise and swimming often require you to wash your hair more than usual.
Co-washing with a moisturizing conditioner is helpful in restoring moisture. It is important to use a clarifying shampoo at least once a month or when needed to remove unwanted product build-up. There are different ways yet effective at cleansing natural hair.
Different Alternatives to Cleanse your Natural Hair
Water Only Washing
Back in the islands. I remembered when I went to the river to wash my hair. Sometimes, I used nothing else, but the water from the river. The water washing method has been around for many years and various parts of the world.
Before you start the water washing method, you must first clarify your hair using a clarifying shampoo, ACV rinse, or clay wash.
The method allows the sebaceous glands in your scalp to promote and produce sebum that will cover the hair from the root too ends which protect, nourish and moisturize your strands.
You need to practice this technique for two weeks for your hair to adjust and to get the full effect.
Many people consider aloe vera plant the miracle plant. Aloe vera is used in several cultures for many years and has various vitamin minerals. Aloe vera is excellent for cleansing your natural hair while moisturizing the hair’s shaft.
Slice an aloe vera leaf straight down the middle. Extract the gel using a teaspoon and place it in a small container. Apply on wet hair in the shower the same way you would apply your shampoo. Allow it to sit for one hour, then rinse out.
Most people in the islands had an aloe vera plant in their backyard. I recommend having an aloe vera plant at home.
People did not name aloe vera the miracle plant for nothing!
Raw Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar clarifies and exfoliates the scalp by removing dirt, dead skin cells and product build-up. Apple cider vinegar is packed with several nutrients and has many benefits.
This method balances the pH level in the hair and scalp. It is an antibacterial. ACV is very effective for dandruff and dry scalp and makes the hair smoother, shinier, and easier to detangle.
I mix one cup of water with 1/2 of ACV in a spray bottle. Spray the mixture to your wet hair and scalp. Let the mixture set in your hair for 10-15 minutes and rinse. Use a moisturizing conditioner if needed.
I recommend doing the ACV rinse once or twice a month.
Bentonite clay wash, also known as the Aztec Indian healing clay. I am a big fan of bentonite clay. Bentonite clay detoxifies not only my hair but also my skin. It invites moisture to the hair’s cuticle. This clay works wonders, defining my curls and adding shine.
I suggest water washing your hair first for this method for easier application.
Mix 1/2 cup of clay in a glass or plastic container with one cup of water and or 1/2 of apple cider vinegar. Mix everything until it forms and turns into a creamy paste. Use wood or plastic tools.
Section your hair in four. Apply the clay paste on damp hair. Let it sit for 15 minutes or until the clay is dry, following up with a moisturizing conditioner if needed.
Conditioner-only washing (skipping shampoo) is an excellent method for cleansing your hair with a moisturizing conditioner only. Co-washing your natural hair with a conditioner is great to cleanse and keep moisture without stripping the natural oils.
Co-washing has many benefits: It keeps the hair, and the scalp moisturized making detangling and styling. I recommend co-washing once to twice a week depending on your lifestyle. This method is great for people who exercise, swim, etc.
- Figure the best shampoo or cleansing method for your natural hair.
- Section your hair in four for easier application.
- Massage the shampoo into your scalp with your fingertips. For at least five minutes.
- Follow up with a moisturizing conditioner/deep conditioner.
- Keep in mind. Not every cleansing method might work for everyone.
- Pay attention to how your hair reacts to products. Listen to your hair!
We have come a long way, caring for natural hair. There are many companies specializing in natural hair care products. Here are my top recommendation brands and products for cleansing.
Brands for Natural Hair Products
- Alikay Naturals
- Camile Rose Naturals
- Shea Moisture
- Karen’s Body Beautiful
- Kinky Curly
- Mielle Organics
- Tree Naturals
Top Moisturizing Shampoos for Natural Hair
- Camile Rose Sweet Ginger Cleansing Rinse
- Shea Moisture Manuka Honey & Mafura Oil Intensive Hydration Shampoo
- Alikay Naturals Moisturizing Black Soap Shampoo
- TGIN Moisture Rich sulphate-free Shampoo
Top Co-Washing Conditioners
- As I Am Coconut Cleansing Co-Wash Conditioner
- Palmer’s Olive Oil Formula Co-Wash Cleansing Conditioner
- Alikay Naturals CoWash Me Cleansing Conditioner
- SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Co-Wash Conditioning Cleanser
Shampooing on a regular is fundamental for the health of our scalp and hair. Knowing your ingredients will allow you to make better choices. Understanding what your hair needs and works best for you is the key to healthy hair. Avoid disappointments and setbacks.
To embrace your natural hair is to seek knowledge and understanding.
What cleansing products, sulfate-free products have you tried and worked for you?
If you have a question, please leave me a message below.