In supermarkets or perfumeries there are all kinds. Some shampoos are useful, others hide behind very tempting but often untruthful advertising messages. Here’s how to choose the right product for you without falling into advertising traps, and what ingredients to pay attention to.
Make your hair shiny and full bodied, eliminate dandruff, maintain the colour of the dye or protect from the sun. Shampoo is no longer only asked to wash your hair. For this reason, the products have increased out of all proportion. Some are really functional, others are of little use or even to be avoided. To help you choose, we’ve tested 12 of the most popular shampoos in the shop.
The list of ingredients can help you
Don’t trust ads, drawings and catchy names. Very often ingredients “shouted” on television or in newspapers there is almost no trace of them (or they are present in insignificant quantities) and in any case in their presence cannot drastically change the main functions of the shampoo, which we remind you that they are washing and “care” intended as protection from aggressive cleansing through conditioning ingredients. Some products then promise real miraculous or unattainable effects, such as those related to hair regrowth or repair: hair, in fact, can neither grow back using a shampoo because the growth process is regulated by fine genetic processes not yet fully clarified, nor be “repaired” by a shampoo as “dead” and therefore can not be reconstituted, nourished or rejuvenated.
But how is it possible not to fall into advertising traps? Simple: on the one hand, always keeping in mind what a shampoo can realistically do to our hair; on the other hand, reading the label that by law lists the ingredients in descending order of presence, bearing in mind that the main ingredients, which also make up more than 90% of the product, are in the top positions and that among them there is water that covers the largest share.
What does a shampoo look like
A shampoo is mainly composed of water and surfactants, i.e. washing substances that can be of various types depending on their washing power and that are generally used in a mix in order to formulate the detergent complex in an optimal way (the most used are sulphates, such as sodium laureth sulfate, and betaine).
To these are added small percentages of other ingredients:
- conditioning agents (quaternary and polyquaternary, silicones, glycerine, hydrolysed proteins, oils) that protect the hair during washing and make it more combable, soft and manageable;
- shiumogens, which contribute to the creation of more foam much loved by consumers even if this is not an exclusive sign of washing ability, in the sense that even shampoos that make little foam wash well;
- viscous (usually sodium chloride) to give a creamy consistency;
- pH corrector (the most common is citric acid) because hair has a low pH around it, so it is good that the shampoo does not have a pH above 5.5;
- perfume to make the product more pleasant to use and with a good smell left on the hair;
- preservatives such as sodium benzoate, methylisothiazolinone and methylcholoisothiaozlinone) to keep the shampoo in good condition over time.
How to use the shampoo
Pay attention to the dosage: wet your hair well, put a little shampoo in the palm of your hand and dilute it with a little water. Using too much does not improve the effectiveness, but it pollutes and wastes.
When you can no longer get the remaining shampoo out of the bottle, add a little water and shake the bottle to use what you have recovered. Remember to use it immediately because it could deteriorate.
There is no specific standard that requires the biodegradability of shampoo (while for all detergents the biodegradability must be over 90%), the only reliable label that limits the environmental impact is the European Ecolabel, but unfortunately in Italy it is still little used in cosmetics.
Shampoos yes, but what kind?
There are many different types of shampoo on the market but, as we said, a shampoo must mainly wash (more or less, depending on the needs) and provide a minimum conditioning of more or less depending on the type of hair) to make the hair softer and combable.
These are the two aspects, washing power and quantity of conditioning ingredients, on which we can observe the differences between the various shampoos on the market. An exception to this is only the anti-dandruff shampoo that contains specific ingredients and the so-called “shampoo and conditioner”.
Bearing the above in mind, let’s look more specifically at the main types:
- for frequent use: in theory, these products should not be very washable and therefore not too aggressive on the scalp, precisely because they are aimed at frequent use;
- for coloured hair: these products should protect the colour and to do so use less aggressive surfactants, they have dyes and sun filters. These shampoos have no particular effects, they are only more delicate in washing, pollute a lot and cost more;
- anti-dandruff: in addition to surfactants, they contain specific ingredients to combat dandruff and prevent its formation;
- for children: to reduce the risk of eye irritation they use less foaming and more delicate surfactants. However, care must be taken and if the shampoo comes into contact with the eyes and nose rinse immediately. Babies do not need shampoo, just water;
- shampoo and conditioner: to obtain the “conditioner” effect, silicones and emollients are added. The yield, however, is low and generally the hair gets heavier: it is better to buy two different products;
- for dry hair: use less aggressive surfactants and a significant amount of conditioning ingredients such as oils of natural and non-natural origin, silicones or hydrolyzed wheat protein.
Which ingredients to avoid and in which cases
Since shampoo is a rinse-off product that therefore stays in contact with our skin for very little and everything is rinsed off, the criticalities related to its use are minimal when you are in the presence of ingredients not recommended, unlike, however, in the case of products intended to remain in contact with the skin (such as body creams, for example). In any case, in general we do not recommend products containing butylphenyl methylpropional, a fragrance not considered totally safe by the European Scientific Committee in all cosmetic products, whether rinsed or not, because its genotoxic potential cannot be excluded. While we only advise allergic people to pay attention to allergenic fragrances (such as limonene, geraniol, citronellol…) which are very common in all cosmetics. Also for allergy sufferers, attention should be paid to the preservatives methylisothiazolinone and methylchloroisothiazolinone because they can sensitize the skin.
Natural does not mean safer
Nowadays, the slogans of nature-based products are wasted and shampoo advertisements are no exception.
From the list of ingredients, however, it is possible to verify the presence of natural extracts, indicated by the botanical name in Latin. For example, the wheat germ is Triticum vulgaris, the apple is Pyrus malus. If present, very often, these names are listed at the end of the list, which means that they are present in minimal concentrations. On the other hand, perfumes and dyes have very high quantities just to evoke that natural ingredient (apple or coconut) in our mind.
Natural does not mean safer (even essential oils contain allergens) nor more effective: it is certainly not the green apple or honey that wash the hair.