How to Wash Your Hair
If you want a professional-quality hair wash without paying for a salon, here's what you need to do:
Step 1: Rinse off. Get into the shower, turn the water to warm (not too hot), and let the warm water wash away the large impurities: dandruff, dirt, grime, dead skin cells, etc. Hot water can open up the cuticles and pores on your scalp for the shampoo to penetrate more deeply for a more effective cleaning. Plus, a good rinse will loosen the hair oils and hydrate your scalp.
Step 2: Apply conditioner (for long hair only). If your hair is short, skip straight to step three. But men with long hair should apply conditioner to the fragile ends of their hair. This will stop it from drying out once you hit your hair with shampoo. The conditioner can also fill any holes in your cuticles, enhancing moisturize and boosting the shine of your hair.
Step 3: Lather up. Shampoo is intended to cleanse your scalp and the roots of your hair, never the tips. Pay extra attention to the nape of your neck. Make sure to massage the shampoo into your scalp, where all the fine hairs are. Most of the hair oil will be present on your scalp and the roots of your hair, so that's where you need to focus your shampooing.
How much shampoo do you need? Really, just a nickel-sized dollop should do the trick for most men. Men with long hair may need a bit more, but the truth is that more shampoo doesn't mean cleaner hair.
Be gentle when you lather up and scrub your scalp. Too much vigorous frothing could pull hairs out by the roots and irritate your scalp. Be gentle, and use vertical motions (not circular).
Step 4: Rinse again. Gently rinse your hair with warm water, allowing the water to wash away the shampoo (don't scrub it away). One rinse is more than enough—you don't need to shampoo your hair again.
Step 5: Condition. Whether you conditioned before or not, now is the time to apply conditioner to your freshly-cleaned hair and scalp. The conditioner will lock in moisture, protect your skin, and nourish your hair. Apply an even layer of conditioner and let it sit for a few minutes while you finish washing the rest of your body. The longer the conditioner is in your hair, the better.
When applying conditioner, focus your attention on the middle and ends of your hair. Your roots are protected by scalp and hair oils. Make sure to condition the rest of your hair to protect it from dryness and damage.
Step 6: Rinse with cold water. It may make the end of your shower a bit chilly, but a cold water rinse will help to close your pores and cuticles. This seals them, trapping dirt and grime outside your sensitive pores and follicles. As a bonus, the cold water rinse will give your hair a beautiful shine.
How Often to Wash?
DO NOT wash your hair daily! Your natural scalp and hair oils will protect your hair and skin from damage. Regular washing can damage your hair, stripping it of oils and leaving it susceptible to damage (which could lead to balding).
Instead, wash your hair every two or three days--no more than three times a week. Men with shorter hair should wash less often to protect their hair!
Types of Shampoo
That's right, there are different types of shampoo, each with their own unique function! Depending on your hair type, you may need to work with a different shampoo:
For Dry or Damaged Hair – The average shampoo will be too damaging for your dry or damaged hair, so it's best to work with a gentle shampoo (perhaps even baby shampoo) that contains fewer chemicals. Try to find shampoos with conditioning ingredients like Vitamin E or shea butter. Keratin shampoo can also strengthen the damaged strands of hair by infusing them with the protein keratin.
For Oily or Fine Hair – Clear and clarifying shampoos are ideal for oily and fine hair, as they will help to thicken the hair without increasing skin oil production. If your hair is very oily, you may need to wash it daily to eliminate excess dead skin cells and scalp oils. Dry shampoo can also help to clean your hair without the need to wash it in the shower. Dry shampoos absorb excess oil, and can be brushed or shaken out to eliminate the powdery byproduct. It's a good solution to help you reduce the frequency of your washes.
For Color-Treated Hair – You'll need to find a shampoo that caters to the color treatment, which will protect the pigment in your hair rather than eliminating it (like regular shampoo). Color-protecting shampoos contain fewer cleansers and faders, but are manufactured to protect, hydrate, and restore shine to your hair.
For Curly, Thick, and/or Wavy Hair – Your hair is more prone to dryness, so you want a rich, creamy shampoo (like those for dry or damaged hair) that is free of strong chemical ingredients. Shea butter, olive oil, and Vitamin E are excellent for your hair. You'll only need to wash two or three times a week. If you only wash once every week or so, consider using a clarifying shampoo to give your scalp a thorough cleansing.
For Coarse Hair – Coarse hair is the driest type, so you'll need to use a shampoo that offers extra hydration and rejuvenation. Creamy shampoos made with natural oils and butters (such as coconut butter or macadamia nut oil) will help to trap moisture inside the hair strands and prevent dryness from damaging your hair.
Shampoo Ingredients to Avoid
As we mentioned above, certain types of shampoos can be too harsh or strong for certain types of hair. This is due to the chemical ingredients used in shampoos. Chemicals are usually fairly cheap to manufacture, which is why they're so commonly used. But if you want healthy hair, you'd do well to avoid the following:
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate/Sodium Laureth Sulfate is a surfactant that helps to absorb moisture, but also encourages the absorption of harmful chemicals. It can cause cancer, irritate your skin, and lead to rashes.
- Triclosan can accumulate in fat cells and cause toxicity in the body. It's also an endocrine disruptor and can cause organ problems.
- Fragrances are often made from strong chemicals that can disrupt hormone function, increase organ toxicity, and clog your lymphatic system.
- Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) contains dangerous levels of dioxins, which are linked to organ toxicity and cancer.
- Polysorbates can disrupt your skin's pH balance and destroy the natural moisture barrier on your scalp and strands of hair.
- Phenoxyethanol may irritate your hair, eyes, and skin, and is known to cause central nervous system dysfunction.
- Potassium Sorbate is a preservative that can irritate and damage your skin, encouraging the absorption of toxins into your body.
- Quaternium-15 can release formaldehyde, which is an extremely carcinogenic chemical.
- Retinyl Palmitate may be a chemical form of Vitamin A, but it's linked to rapid skin tumor development and the formation of cancerous lesions.
- Behentrimonium Chloride is toxic even at just 0.1%, and can irritate and inflame the skin.
- Dimethicone is known to irritate and dry out your skin, and can trap bacteria, sebum, dirt, and grim into the skin—leading to a higher risk of acne and other skin problems.
Be sure to read the list of ingredients in your shampoos carefully—the health of your hair and skin are depending on it!
Best Shampoo Ingredients
The "right" ingredients can be as good for your hair as the "wrong" ingredients are bad. Here are a few of the best ingredients to look for in your shampoos:
- Coconut oil, which is highly nourishing and moisturizing, and can improve hair strength and flexibility.
- Hydrolyzed keratin, a natural protein that will fill, treat, and restore damaged hair.
- Shea butter, a great source of natural fatty acids that can help to hydrate and protect hair that has been color-treated.
- Silicones, which create a moisture barrier on the hair, trapping moisture in and toxins out. Silicones also have a higher heat tolerance than natural oils, making them useful to protect your hair in direct sunlight.
- Olive oil, which helps to form a natural moisture barrier to protect your hair from dryness.
- Jojoba oil, a potent antibacterial agent that can cleanse your scalp and hydrate your hair.
- Palm oil, which is chemically similar to your scalp oil and thus helps to curb sebum production.
There will be many other essential oils, natural fragrances, and moisturizing ingredients used in your shampoos, but the ingredients listed above are the ones you definitely want to look for!
How to Thicken Hair with Shampoo
If you're worried that your hair is thinning or getting too fine, you may want to try hair-thickening shampoos.
Let's be clear: hair-thickening shampoos aren't going to deal with the underlying problem (genetic, hormonal, physical, dietary, environmental, emotional, etc.) that is causing the hair loss. However, they are intended to "mask" the hair loss, giving your hair the appearance of being thicker and richer than it is. The experts agree that they can restore a little lost volume to your hair, but they're not a long-term solution.
Simply put, hair thickening shampoos provide the illusion of thicker hair, filling out the strands and giving them more luster and volume. However, they won't regrow lost hair or prevent baldness.
The real secret to thickening your hair: your diet. If you get enough of the vital nutrients—protein, iron, zinc, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and so many more—your body will have what it needs to produce strong, healthy hair. Adding vitamin and mineral supplements to your diet can help to encourage better hair growth.
Another way to make your hair look thicker: color it. Coloring can add depth and the illusion of volume. However, it's another short-term solution. If you want thicker, richer hair, you need to find out what's causing the hair loss/thinning and deal with the problem at the source.
Does Hair Growth Shampoo Work?
Hair growth shampoo is another popular option, but one that is about as effective as "hair thickening shampoo".
The hair growth shampoo contains nutrients (like keratin) that encourage the growth of new hair cells, nourish the follicles, and promote better scalp health. Many people who have used the shampoo have seen positive results and faster growth.
However, there's only anecdotal evidence that hair growth shampoo is more effective than regular shampoo. The nutrient-rich shampoo may speed up the growth rate by nourishing the hair, but there's no way to quantify the amount of hair growth. And for those losing hair as a result of pattern baldness, the shampoo won't help to regrow lost hair.
Is Organic Shampoo Worth It?
Organic shampoo is a "trendy" option for those who want to go green or live a clean life. The shampoos are made without the chemical ingredients common in traditional shampoos, but use only natural and organic ingredients, including: essential oils, extracts, proteins, vitamins, and fragrances.
Organic shampoo offers a few benefits:
- Less risk of irritating or scalp drying
- Less risk of chemical damage to your hair
- Won't strip color from color-treated hair
- No risk of ingesting chemicals or toxins
However, be warned: organic shampoo isn't significantly more effective than regular shampoo. Traditional shampoos contain many synthetic ingredients that enrich, nourish, and protect your hair more efficiently than natural ingredients. The higher price may be worth it for the above-mentioned benefits, but you're not going to see a huge difference in terms of hair growth, luster, and shine.
Dandruff Shampoo 101
Dandruff shampoo can be a highly useful weapon in the war on dandruff, those pesky white flakes formed from dead epidermis cells. Dandruff is often caused by bacteria, yeast, or some other pathogen that speeds up the epidermal turnover rate. When the skin cells age and die off too quickly, they shed in clumps rather than individual cells. Together with the oils on your skin, they form the flakes that become dandruff.
Dandruff shampoo is intended to treat the problem by dealing with the bacteria or yeast that control the presence of scalp microorganisms. Zinc pyrithone is one of the most common ingredients in dandruff shampoos.
The problem with dandruff shampoo is that you have to keep using it EXCLUSIVELY in order for it to be effective. For example, if you use Head & Shoulders Anti-Dandruff Shampoo, you have to use it for 2 to 3 weeks to control the epidermal turnover. Only after this extended use will you see results.
So what happens if you stop using it? The dandruff returns, of course!
Thankfully, there are natural options that can help to control and prevent dandruff. Tea tree oil, aloe vera, and rosemary oil all contain anti-fungal properties that can control the dandruff-causing yeast and prevent a high cellular turnover rate. Shea butter, canola oil, and coal-tar shampoo are also effective anti-dandruff treatments.