Every week it seems there are new products on the market for your hair. Fortunately, it
seems that many of the companies creating these products are getting smarter. They are making the products easier to select by coding
them to specific problems. But what about choosing a product in more general terms? How do you know you need a styling gel as opposed
to mousse? When do you use shine enhancers or serums? Let’s look at the product categories, define their usage and learn how to choose hair products.
Shampoos / Hair Cleansers
The thing most people get confused over with regard to shampoo is
how often you should change your shampoo – and why. The answer is fairly simple: Shampoos are formulated to be more alkaline than hair and skin; it’s the
alkalinity that enables the shampoo to cleanse the hair. Usually, the shampoo also contains other ingredients to condition the hair
or smooth the cuticle layer and make the hair softer or shinier.
When a person has used a particular shampoo for a prolonged period of time, the hair can
become saturated with the ingredients of the particular product, reaching something of a “balance” in the level of the product in
the hair. The hair may also have its alkalinity shifted to be more like the product being used. This means that the hair seems less
affected by continued use of the shampoo. Hair that once felt remarkably soft and silky after using the shampoo may now just feel a bit cleaner.
When you change shampoos out, you introduce a different level of alkalinity, and the new
shampoo seems to work much better. In a sense, it does, but this shampoo will eventually reach a “balance” level as well. The thing
to remember is that even though your hair does develop a “tolerance” to a given shampoo, there’s no need to set yourself on a
schedule of changing shampoos. You should only worry about changing your shampoo when you stop getting the benefit you enjoyed from the shampoo.
In other words, unless the shampoo you selected because it left your hair fuller and more
voluminous ceases to do so when you use it, then you have no reason to change shampoos. However, when you feel your shampoo has
stopped giving you the benefit for which it was chosen, then you need to look for a different shampoo.
Once you’ve found an alternative, don’t toss your original shampoo, because when your hair
becomes tolerant of the new shampoo formula, you can always switch back to the one with which you started.
There’s one other shampoo issue that many people don’t fully understand – the use of a
clarifying shampoo. Clarifying shampoos are formulated to be more alkaline than regular shampoos, which enables the shampoo to strip
away product build-up and particularly problematic oils and dirt. You don’t need a clarifying shampoo unless you use a lot of
styling products – specifically super-hold or extra-strength products or layered products. In other words, if your
daily hair routine involves using styling gel, mousse, spritz, and/or hairsprays OR you use any of these products for multiple days
in a row between shampoos, you may want to consider using a clarifying shampoo every few shampoos to remove any build-up left
behind by your regular shampoo.
Conditioners / Detanglers
Some people – no matter how many times they hear it – seem to be unable to grasp the idea
that the use of “conditioner” is meant to be a part of the daily hair care routine. In some cases, the hair can be adequately cleaned
by the application of conditioner alone.
Conditioners come in three general varieties – deep conditioners, rinse-through
conditioners, and leave-in conditioners. Each of these varieties is designed to serve a specific purpose. Deep conditioners are
formulated to replenish moisture, restore strength, and soothe roughened cuticles. They are generally used as often as needed to
give the benefit desired. In the case of heavily damaged hair, the deep conditioning treatments may be used as often as every
two-to-three days, while maintenance of healthy hair can usually be achieved by monthly deep conditioning.
In this case, the term “deep conditioner” refers to a specially-formulated conditioning
agent that is designed to provide intense treatment and repair. This should not be confused with the term deep conditioning treatment
which I’ve used several times before, and can refer to a treatment that uses regular hair conditioner in such a way as to
make the conditioner penetrate more deeply. Deep conditioners include such products as hair masques, and protein packs.
Rinse-through conditioners are the standard partner products to shampoo. They are applied
to the newly shampooed hair and left in place for 2-3 minutes before being rinsed away. Their purpose is to replace any moisture lost
by the hair and to smooth the cuticle layer of the hair to leave the hair looking and feeling soft, silky and shiny. Conditioners are
generally more acidic than shampoos are although they are much more alkaline than hair. It is the alkalinity that makes the
conditioner a suitable substitute for shampoo for some people who don’t subject their hair to excessive soil and dirt.
Leave-in conditioners are exactly that – conditioners that are left on the hair and are NOT
rinsed away. These conditioners are designed to be absorbed by the hair and are formulated as lightweight creams or lotions, or as
liquids which can be sprayed onto the hair. These spray-on conditioners offer the benefit of being able to target the portions of
the hair that need the most extra conditioning/protection – the ends of the hair, the top of the head only, etc.