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Silicon Shampoo & Products

Q: I'm still new to your site so if this has already been asked, pardon me. I saw the bit about PH-balanced shampoo, but now I'm confused. I've heard both sides to the story. One hair professional said to use silicon-shampoo/products to smooth your hair, while another hair professional said never to use most of the "cheaper" (OTC) products because they all have that silicon stuff that builds up in your hair, and to only buy salon-professional quality products. What do you think?
 
A: I always try to ask myself one question when I hear someone giving an “absolute opinion” on any subject (meaning that they make strong statements in favor or against something that seems to be a matter of opinion). What does this person stand to gain from this position? Many salon professionals are going to tell you that salon products are “far superior” to the OTC products available at your supermarket or pharmacy. The fact is, some salon products are much better than some of the commercial brand products. However, if a salon stylist is working in a salon that requires the recommendation of using, or pays commissions on retailing, the salon’s products, his or her opinion is not going to be unbiased.
 
      I’m not saying that all salon stylists are only interested in retailing their salon’s product regardless of what your hair specifically needs (most salons have a wide range of products for all hair types anyway). However, I do know of salons that have “retail quotas” and “product loyalty policies” that mean that failure to sell a certain amount of the salon’s products or advocating the use of another product line could result in the loss of a job. So, I always take the “you should only use salon-professional quality products” spiel with a grain of salt.
 
      There’s also the fact that in some cases, you can take an OTC (over-the-counter) product and compare its ingredient list to that of its salon-bought counterpart and find that the contents are basically the same except for perhaps coloring and fragrances. Usually, salon products are made from high-quality ingredients, and contain herbal additives and wonderful fragrances which can benefit the hair greatly and make you feel good about the way your hair smells. On the other hand, you may find a supermarket brand that costs half as much, but gives you the same results and you’ll like it just as well.
 
      The bottom line is this: What does your hair need and what product will give you the results you want and help keep your hair healthy? The answer to this question varies as widely as the number of people in the world. The product that works wonderfully to tame one person’s poofy hair and give a smooth sleek style may leave another person’s hair flat and listless. We’re all different, and what works for one person may not work as well for another.
 
      So if you’re looking for a new product, think about what you’re looking for it to provide. Ask for opinions from friends, and don’t hesitate to try something if you think it might give you the results you want. You can usually find products that will work for you to fit any budget if money is a concern.
 
      Finally, I want to say two things about the silicone vs. no-silicone debate: Products containing silicone can be great for the hair to leave it smooth and silky-feeling. Products containing silicone can be bad for the hair because the residue builds up on the hair.
 
      Both of these statements are true. Silicone-based products are great for smoothing the hair’s cuticle and leaving the hair smooth, shiny and silky. They also can leave a residue which builds up and can make the hair flat and limp. You see, the silicone works by coating the shaft of the hair and “sealing” the cuticle layer. This can lock-in moisture and smooth the cuticles to make the hair smoother and shinier. These are good things.
 
      However, if the residue builds up, the hair gets weighed down, and becomes flat and limp and may be harder to style. This may not be as big a problem for someone who has coarse, thick curly hair with lots of body, but it can mean that someone whose hair is fine and thin and straight finds their hair flat and unappealing. This can usually be combated by the occasional use of a clarifying shampoo.
 
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