Not to scare you, but it’s entirely possible you’ve been washing your hair the wrong way your whole life. Apply, scrub, rinse.. right? Afraid not, says eSalon colorist and stylist Courtney, who gives us the expert way to wash your hair.
Sulfates or no Sulfates?
You hear a lot about them, but why do so many shampoos contain some form of a sulfate ingredient? It’s because shampoo and soap originally started as similar products and they still share a similar composition, says Courtney.
So, most of your drugstore shampoos are formulated with a surfactant (sodium lauryl sulfate is the common offender), which reduce its surface tension (technical speak), and disperses the formulation across your head so it increases the lather (real speak).
Put simply? Sulfates help put the suds in your shampoo, so (big retail) brands love them because they help to give you the illusion of an all-over “squeaky clean” feeling.
Trouble is, they also come with a heap of problems. For sensitive scalp-types, sulfates can be irritating. For everyone else, they have a drying effect and are major moisture-strippers, leading to color fade and a general dullness.
Here’s the real talk, direct from Courtney: “we actually don’t need the bubbles for clean hair!”. It may not feel like it, but your hair will still be completely cleansed without the excessive foam. “Sulfate-free shampoos are less abrasive, keep color from fading and promote general hair health by not stripping natural oils,” she says.
Wash it The Right Way
Here’s Courtney’s foolproof method for getting the best clean.
“Most shampoos are heavily concentrated and need a little water to really get them working,” she says. “Apply shampoo to the scalp first and begin massaging, but then run your hair under the shower briefly or splash with a little water.” A little more liquidity to your cleanse will help the shampoo to move more easily through your hair, she explains.
“Continue working the shampoo into your roots for 2 to 3 minutes.” she instructs. “When massaging into the scalp and hair, spread your fingers wide and use the pad of your finger in a circular motion.” That means no scrubbing—with your fingernails!–in an rough movement. “This will cause scalp irritation and hair damage,” she says. “Plus, it’s just not relaxing.”
Lastly, “Try not to pile the ends of of your hair onto the top of your head and scrub it altogether,” Courtney says. This’ll just cause you tangles and doesn’t cleanse the crown area properly—where the bulk of your oil and buildup lives.
Conditioner works totally differently than shampoo, says Courtney. “The main goal is to put moisture back into the hair and prevent against split ends.” (Try our Love Unconditionally Color Safe Conditioner for super hydration or our new Big Softie Volumizing Conditioner for some extra oomph.)
Since oil is produced from the scalp, you’ll rarely need additional moisture in the roots zone. “Focus conditioner first on the ends of the hair and then move up the hair to your mid-lengths,” Courtney instructs.
How about shaving a few minutes of your post shower routine? “After you’ve left your conditioner to sit for a few minutes, use a wide tooth comb to spread it through and help detangle before rinsing,” she says
Lastly, for extra shine, “finish with a cold blast of water on your lengths to close the hair cuticle. Hello, smooth, frizz-free hair!”