Shampoo question
November 11, 2013 1:29 PM   Subscribe

I started using sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner (Burt's Bees) about a month ago. Now my hair feels like it's never really clean, but also like it's never really dirty.

I wash my hair every other day, and condition maybe every other wash. When I used regular shampoo, my hair always felt clean and bouncy, but would be oily feeling by day 3. With sulfate-free, my hair strands seem to have a coated feel even just after washing. It is especially noticeable in the nape of my neck--it almost feels like my hair there never dries. On the other hand, I could now probably go at least 3 or 4 days without washing because the feel never really changes. It also feels like my hair might actually hold a curl if I was so inclined. Is this what "body" is?

I still wash every other day out of habit.

My hair is basically straight and medium texture. It is not color-treated or permed. I always air-dry, and do not use any other heated tools. I do not use any styling products either.

I am just wondering if this is what I should expect with sulfate-free products, and if it is a good thing.

I appreciate your help!
posted by auntie maim to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (30 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
This has been my experience. My hair is dry/frizzy, and in the past when I washed it it would be dry/frizzy for a day, ok-ish for a day, and then absolutely disgusting. Now that I used sulfate-free shampoo and really quality moisturizing conditioner, it can go like... a week. Exactly the same.

If you don't like it, try a clarifying shampoo once a month/every two weeks. That will give you a cleaner feeling for awhile in my experience.
posted by stoneandstar at 1:34 PM on November 11, 2013

It is what it is. You may be missing the surfacant aspect of detergents. That squeeky clean feeling.

You might try Dr. Bonners, it foams up nicely.

I find that I need a bit of rough to make my hair bounce. But I love using lots of products and fooling with my hair with blow dryers and ceramic brushes, etc.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:35 PM on November 11, 2013

Yeah, I had the same experience. Especially the weird curly bits at my nape. Dr. Bronners didn't really do the job for me either, I found it very hard to completely rinse out.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:42 PM on November 11, 2013

I think it's just the Burt's Bees products. I have used a variety of sulfate free products that do not give me the effect you're describing but Burt's always does.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 1:46 PM on November 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

I had the same experience with Burt's Bees shampoo, and I haaaaaated it. I've since used many sulfate-free shampoos that don't do that. I usually have to lather more than once with no-sulfate shampoos (though I have a very oily scalp and use a lot of hair products), but that's the only downside I've found.
posted by mostlymartha at 1:48 PM on November 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yeah, Burts Bees' conditioner didn't agree with me either. I now use Green People stuff and my hair feels properly clean and soft
posted by stillnocturnal at 1:49 PM on November 11, 2013

Best answer: Even if you ditch Burt, have you considered buying a "boar brush"? The bristles smooth oil from the scalp down the hair, making it look glossy and removing build up.

In beauty pageants, the contestants don't wash their hair for several days to get that slick healthy look. Looks great from afar but can feel weird if you're not used to it. Also a salon friend of mine hates styling "squeaky clean" hair because it won't hold anything. So yeah this could be what "body" feels like.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 2:05 PM on November 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Giovanni and Avalon have treated my hair pretty well.
posted by Lemmy Caution at 2:06 PM on November 11, 2013

Best answer: I've never used Burt's Bees, but I used to use Dr. Bronner's solid soaps as shampoo (and no conditioner) until I switched to a different solid shampoo. Dr. Bro's solid soaps are rather rich (great for face and body), and by the third day I'd have a bit of build up in my hair.

It was easy to get rid of though, and you might want to do this instead of using your conditioner, or between using your shampoo and conditioner: get a small non-breakable bowl, pour some apple cider vinegar in (how much depends on your length of hair), and top with an equal amount of water. Soak your hair in this bowl (and scoop up some to the scalp) for about a minute. If you have short hair, put the solution in a squeeze bottle and squeeze it out, careful not to get it in your eyes. I don't use conditioner, and doing this every few days makes my hair super soft, light and shiny, and removes oily build up.
posted by mayurasana at 2:11 PM on November 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

I generally only use sulphate-free products, and it's atypical to have build up from them. I've only had it happen with Dr. Bronner's, which is technically not exclusively a shampoo, but an all purpose cleansing bar.
posted by mayurasana at 2:15 PM on November 11, 2013

I've become a big Burt's bees fan but not of their shampoo which I found really difficult to get through my long hair. I believe they are discontinuing it as well. You may need to specifically put a dollop of shampoo at that spot in the back of your hair to get it cleaner. I've had better results with the Organix line which my grocery store carries. Giovanni makes good conditioners as well as alba botanicals but haven't tried their shampoos.
posted by wildflower at 2:23 PM on November 11, 2013

I have never had good luck with Burt's Bees hair products. I use Pureology shampoo and conditioner, both of which are sulfate-free, and my hair feels wonderful.
posted by joan_holloway at 2:28 PM on November 11, 2013

Another non-fan of Burt's here; check the reviews for Mastey shampoo. It is different from standard shampoos, but has never left me with any unwanted hair weirdness.
posted by kmennie at 2:31 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

For some reason, sulfate/silicone-free hair products have had a much wider range of effectiveness for me. Maybe it's because there's a wider variation in formulas? I used Burt's Bees Güd conditioner for a while, and it was okäy but not grëat.

I've done some brand-hopping and finally settled on DermOrganic shampoo and conditioner - it's pricey, but I dilute with water. The shampoo especially is lovely: it gets my hair feeling perfectly clean, neither dried out or coated in gunk. Plus it smells fantastic.
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:40 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't think it's the fact that it's sulfate-free so much as it's this particular shampoo. Burt's Bees is pretty notorious, but I find sulfate-free shampoos in general vary wildly in terms of how clean they get my hair, much more so than traditional shampoos (on preview: what Metroid Baby said). I've had to do some experimenting to find ones I like.

There are probably also a few other complicating factors: for example, do you live in an area with hard or soft water? Some shampoos just aren't up to the task of cleaning in harder water. It's difficult to get your hair feeling clean in harder water, and it can make hair texture rougher.

I also noticed you said you condition every other wash. Even though my hair and scalp have always been on the slightly oilier side of normal, as I get older I find I cannot skip conditioner after a wash. I don't just put it on the ends, either; I massage it in all over just as I would with shampoo (yes, I know we're always told "Ends only! Don't get it on your scalp!" but I ignore this now), and it is no exaggeration to say since I started doing this it's transformed my hair.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 2:49 PM on November 11, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks everybody, this is great information! Yeah, I should have mentioned we have hard water.
posted by auntie maim at 3:00 PM on November 11, 2013

Also came to second cider vinegar. Squeaky clean!
posted by BlueHorse at 3:32 PM on November 11, 2013

Third person to recommend cider vinegar. I actually just have the bottle in the shower and pour a little over my hair and then rinse it out right away, rather than fussing with diluting it. (I figure if I rinse it fast it's the same effect, right?) No complaints here, and I also like the way my hair ultimately smells. (If your hair is lighter-colored, it's also good for that.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:41 PM on November 11, 2013

I don't use Burts Bees, but i do use a sulfate-free shampoo. I don't use conditioner though, I use an apple cider vinegar rise. THis conditions my hair (and you won't smell like a salad). I leave a 16oz cup in the shower and put a few capfulls of the vinegar in the cup and then fill the cup up with water. I then pour this over my hair (close your eyes!), wait a few minutes, and then let me hair air dry. It might work with the weird feeling. If not, it will make your hair shinny without conditioner.
posted by eq21 at 5:43 PM on November 11, 2013

I use Burt's Bees shampoo because I don't want the sodium laurel sulfate in regular shampoo, but the one time I tried Burt's Bees conditioner, it left my hair feeling disgustingly dirty. Try using the shampoo but regular conditioner.
posted by tamitang at 5:56 PM on November 11, 2013

Vinegar people: Does it have to be apple cider or can other vinegars work as well?
posted by orrnyereg at 6:39 PM on November 11, 2013

I use the Trader Joe's Tea Tree shampoo and conditioner. Sulfate free and way cheaper than just about anything else.

I need to do the apple cider rinse.
posted by bibliogrrl at 8:27 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've always heard apple cider vinegar, but can't speak to why. Although, thinking about it, I'd be uneasy using any wine vinegar, in case there's some kind of residue in it; balsamic vinegar would be too expensive; and I think distilled white vinegar would be really harsh (you can use that to clean your house, yo). That leaves cider vinegar.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:49 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah, washing without sulfates will not leave you feeling as clean. Good or bad is down to your preference.

It sounds like you switched so you wouldn't have to wash your hair as often, but you still wash your hair as often, so you might as well use whichever you like. If you do go with regular shampoo, you can use dry shampoo in between washes to keep your hair from getting oily, then stop washing as much. After awhile of infrequent washing your hair will stop producing as much oil.

If you stick with sulfate-free it won't hurt to wash with a clarifying shampoo once in awhile to remove the build-up. If you use lots of products sulfate-free just can't remove all that build-up.
posted by Polychrome at 1:47 AM on November 12, 2013

To orrnyereg: Please use apple cider, I heard white vinegar was drying.

I've been sulfate free for years (mild allergy) but I also use a boar bristle brush, and apple cider vinegar! So my hair feels clean but not squeaky clean.

Using aveda (no sulfates as such, but sulfate like things) made my hair feel squeaky clean.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 2:59 AM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

I couldn't make it through the oily adjustment period of going sulfate free, so I compromised by rubbing a nice palmful of coconut oil through my hair (mid shaft to tips)once or twice a week before shampooing and that seems to be my golden ticket to non-oily roots and non-fried ends.
posted by WeekendJen at 10:24 AM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seconding DermOrganic. I've used sulfate and silicon free for years now and nothing has come remotely close. I find it at Marshalls ($20/liter) and it lathers well, feels clean and soft and lasts... 4 days between washing? Compared to that, burts bees and dr bronners made my hair feel like straw. Also, their conditioner rocks just as hard.
posted by marylucycraft at 5:34 PM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh. And we also have hard water. And my hair feels clean after washing. I know it's just chemistry, but I swear it feels like magic.
posted by marylucycraft at 5:36 PM on November 12, 2013

Seconding the Trader Joe's Tea Tree Tingle shampoo and conditioner. Really nice, inexpensive. They aren't kidding about not getting it in your eyes, though.
posted by jeoc at 1:57 PM on November 13, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks again everybody! I tried the tip upthread about putting the conditioner in first, then shampooing and my hair feels pretty good. I will also try the ACV rinse.
posted by auntie maim at 4:21 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

« Older Vacation in El Salvador?   |   Why won't my Chrome load YouTube's stylesheet? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.