By Chere Di Boscio
In ancient times, water was mixed with lemon juice to remove sebum from the hair, and this tradition carried on for many centuries in Europe until British hairdressers adopted the verb “champo”, meaning “massage” in Hindi, to refer to the soap they used to massage into their clients’ hair to clean it. Bars of soap were used for this purpose until the late 1890s, when the Germans started using shampoos made of liquid surfactants.
It was an American, John Breck, who developed the first variety of shampooing formulas for different types of hair and scalp, in the hopes that these would also stop baldness. Whilst the shampoos were a hit in terms of keeping hair healthy and shiny, unfortunately for many, Breck was not able to put an end to hair loss.
Despite decades of innovations in the hair product market, there are still plenty of questions people have about how to best care for their hair. Here, we attempt to answer some of the top 10 questions about hair care, with a focus on natural care, of course.
1. Are shampoo brand really that different? Or is it all just much of a muchness?
There actually are LOADS of differences, ranging from the concentrations of active ingredients such as proteins and keratin, to the chemical load each brand carries. Professional shampoos used in salons have a pH between 4.5 and 6.5, which is less damaging to the scalp and hair follicle. Of course here at Eluxe we prefer organic shampoos that don’t contain harmful ingredients. Some of the best we’ve found? Luxsit, Stop the Water While Using Me, Rahua and Dr Organics.
2. Is there a shampoo that will help my hair to grow faster?
Sadly, no. Nothing you could apply topically can help your hair grow faster. While some products can help stop breakage by strengthening the hair, if you want your hair to grow faster, you’ll have to do that from the inside out, namely through better nutrition: iron and zinc (found in spinach, salmon, lentils and eggs, for example), folate and B vitamins (found in brown rice and whole grains) and Omega 3 (found in oily fish and walnuts) are particularly helpful.
3. Should I wash my hair every day?
Not really, but note that the frequency of washing varies between individuals, and depends on activities and the amount of sebum secreted by the scalp. It’s not necessary for all people to wash their hair every day–in fact, washing our hair every day dries it out, which is why we need conditioner. But then overuse of conditioner makes our hair limp, so we shampoo it…and so the cycle goes on…
If you do wash your hair daily, make sure you use a non-chemical shampoo that’s pH balanced to minimise your exposure to chemicals and reduce damage to your hair. We like Luxsit for normal hair–super gentle and effective, with no harsh chemicals. Also, ensure that you’re only putting conditioner on the driest parts–the ends, in most cases–otherwise you may be weighing your hair down.
4. Does leaving the conditioner in longer mean it’s working harder?
To an extent. After a few minutes in the shower on wet hair you’ve probably maximised penetration. If you want a deep conditioner, choose a masque or oil, like Argan oil. Apply it to the driest parts of your hair, put on a shower cap, and either leave it on for a few hours, or gently blow dry the shower cap on a medium setting–the heat will lock the product in. Rinse well.
5. Can regular shampooing can make my hair oily?
No. Hormonal changes, genetics, sweat and friction on the scalp increase the production of natural hair oils, not shampoo itself.
6. Is it true your hair ‘gets used to’ certain shampoos and they become less effective?
No. They ingredients should still be effective over time; however, you may build up residues from one product if you use it frequently. A clarifying shampoo or a cup of cider vinegar or lemon juice poured over the hair and rinsed off in the shower will rid your hair of this residue.
7. Is it ok to use shower gel on my hair in an emergency?
The pH of body soap is too alkaline, especially if you have colour treated or chemically treated hair: this can damage the colour in some cases, even after one use. Better to use no soap at all than damage your hair, right? If you’ve completely run out of shampoo, do like the ancients did and pour some lemon juice or cider vinegar over your locks to rid them of oil.
8. Can ‘split end repair’ shampoos really fix split ends?
No. This is a marketing gimmick. Once a hair is split, all you can do is cut the split off. What these products do is ‘glue’ the split together, usually with a silicone based ingredient, but note that these are quite drying on your hair and regular use may eventually even cause more split ends!
9. I use styling products every single day, but I think my shampoo isn’t cleaning them off completely–now my hair’s dull! What can I do?
Some products, like silicone, build up on the hair and are hard to remove. Once or twice a week, you can use a deep cleansing shampoo that has a higher pH than other products. Clarifying shampoos are quite drying, so be sure to follow with conditioner. In any case, never use a clarifying product for more than 2 shampoos per week. If you want to try a more natural approach, again, a cup of apple or cider vinegar does the trick!
10. Is it true that hair dyes can cause cancer?
We don’t know for sure. Many links have been made between hair dyes and a variety of cancers including bladder cancer, breast cancer, leukaemias and lymphomas. But there is no 100% certain evidence that hair dyes could cause any of these cancers.
In 2008, the International Agency for Research into Cancer (IARC) said that hairdressers “probably” have a slightly higher risk of cancer because they are regularly exposed to certain chemicals. They can reduce their exposure to these chemicals by wearing gloves.
There’s not enough evidence to say for sure whether people who use hair dyes themselves have a higher risk of cancer as a result, but to stay on the safe side, try to use a natural hair dying product whenever possible, and try minimise contact of your skin (i.e. hands, scalp) with the product by wearing gloves and avoiding any parts of your head that don’t need the dye.