Choosing a Hair Product

Girl with a trendy haircut
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.
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.