Copyright (c) 2010 Melissa Hill
We all want healthy, shiny, more manageable hair. The question is which magic ingredients in your shampoo or conditioner will deliver the results?
The hair care industry know you want more for your hair and each company works hard to convince you that their unique added ingredient is the only one to solve your problem.
So how can you sort hype from reality? Following are just a few home truths about shampoo ingredients that do pretty much nothing for your hair:
Hype: Proteins that feed your hair.
Reality: The premise is that because hair is constructed from protein, we need to rub protein or amino acids (the building blocks that make proteins) on our hair to 'rebuild' or 'feed' it. Protein cannot penetrate your hair. Clinging in a very thin film to your hair, it only serves as a light conditioner.
This means that the protein molecules deposit themselves along the length of the hair and form a temporary protective film around it. Proteins that are included in shampoos do not bind effectively to the cuticle and just get washed away as soon as you rinse out the shampoo.
There is a reduction in your hair tangling while the shampoo is actually in your hair, which might help if you have long hair and you pile it onto the top of your head while you scrub away building up a big lather.
Hype: An "advanced formula" to hydrate dry, lifeless hair.
Reality: The fact is most women's hair is dry because the shampoo they use and the way they use it is lifting all the oil out of the core of their hair. One technique to experiment with is to try using less shampoo, less often.
Most women do not need to wash their hair to the ends - unless your hair fell into your plate at lunchtime - merely the hair closest to their scalp. If you have dry or damaged hair, these "advanced formula" shampoos will not give you any benefit. None. They will not solve your problem in the slightest.
By shampooing only where and when you need it, your hair is able to hold onto it's natural oil and preserve its moisture levels more effectively.
Regular conditioning can also improve the feel of dry hair. Any normal conditioner - even a bargain one - left on your hair for about 5 to 10 minutes will do much more for you than any advanced formula shampoo.
Hype: Plant and vegetable extracts to improve your hair in any way.
Reality: There are plant extracts that do have medical benefits, but generally you have to apply them to your skin or eat them. In a shampoo or conditioner they are washed away and they will have very little chance to do their magic. Shampoo companies know this, so they include the legal minimum amount in their formula that still allows them to brag about it on the label.
Plant extracts don't tend to cling very well to the hair cuticle so they don't even stay on your hair very long if they do manage to survive washing and styling, plus many are unstable when exposed to li fashion coats ght so they break down and stop working.
There are fancy hair care products on the market that make a big show of how they use lots of "botanicals" in their formulas. The plain truth is that these added ingredients are not improving your hair in the slightest.
Hype: Vitamins increasing thickness, strength and shine.
Reality: Your hair, once it leaves the follicle in your scalp, is dead material. No amount of vitamins in a shampoo or conditioner or styling gel is going to do the slightest bit of good.
Panthenol and biotin, which are B vitamins, provide a conditioning benefit that is similar to how proteins coat the hair. But there is absolutely no nutritional benefit to vitamins in your hair styling products. Again, companies include these ingredients in the smallest legally allowed quantities that still let them promote their presence on the packaging.
Vitamin E oil also makes its appearance on shampoo and conditioner labels from time to time. While Vitamin E can benefit your skin by being applied directly to your skin, it cannot work at all when included in a hair care product, certainly not in the volume present in a shampoo or conditioner. Vitamin E also cannot help change how your follicles grow hair, whether you are rubbing it on your skin or eating it.
Hype: UV Protection to prevent sun damage.
Reality: Yes, the sun fades and can cause damage to the structure of your hair. Unfortunately the sun block put into shampoos and styling products offer little to no protection because, like most other additives, these ingredients do not bond well to the cuticle and just fall or wash out of your hair.
If you have curly or very long hair, the best way to protect your hair from intense sun (so this is really only if you are a tennis player, spend a lot of time on sunbeds, or live in a very sunny place) is to wear a hat. The next best alternative is to wear your hair up in a chignon, pleat or twist style so that the ends of your hair are protected.
Hype: Clarifying shampoos to deep clean your hair.
Reality: A clarifying shampoo is one that just cleans your hair and hasn't been mucked up with silicone, plant extracts, exotic proteins, waxes or any other useless additive that probably doesn't need to be in there anyway.
In theory, you need to switch between your clarifying shampoo and your shine-enhancing, moisturising, volume-boosting one to get the best out of your hair. The crazy thing, of course, is that if you just use a normal value priced shampoo in a very dilute form very occasionally in the first place, you don't need to be clarified. It's a genius way to get you to buy two bottles of shampoo to keep in your shower rather than just the one.
How to Have Truly Healthy Hair
It is easy to hope that some scientist somewhere has made a discovery that will cut short your recovery process. If only there was a shampoo you could wash in, wash out and have beautiful hair as a result!
The hair care industry continually works to uncover new ingredients that they can incorporate into their products that might convince you that at last there is a solution to your hair problem.
The best strategy for improving the health and manageability of your hair is to work hard to protect it from damage. Once the damage is done, the only cure is to have a haircut and start again, taking better care of your hair this time as you grow it out.