So many shampoos, so much confusion
March 5, 2008 8:40 AM   Subscribe

I need to know the truth: How often should I be using shampoo and conditioner, and what sorts of shampoo and conditioner?

Over the past few years, my hair has started thinning. I'm not bald, but I no longer the possess the luxuriant mane I had in college.

I get my hair cut at a hairstyling academy, and have been asking the stylists how I should shampoo. Their advice is making my head spin. Some told me to use organic shampoo, others told me to use shampoo without sulfates. Some told me I need to condition my hair often, others have said once a week is enough. I've been told to use volumizing conditioner by some to make my hair fuller, others say it doesn't matter.

So I ask MeFi: How should I be washing my hair, with what, and how often? If you can also let me know specific brands to use, it would be much appreciated.

I saw this earlier thread, but it doesn't seem to answer my questions.
posted by stedman15 to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (16 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
You're going to have to try things out until you figure out what works best for your hair. Everyone is different, hence the zillions of different advice you'll get on this (and a million other matters). Nobody is going to be able to tell you how you "should" be doing this.

Generally, shampoo with sulfates strips your hair of dirt and oil, including your scalp's natural oils. This makes your hair feel clean. It is also stripping your hair of moisture (hence the need for a conditioner). Generally, your scalp will compensate for being stripped of all its oil by producing more oil. Your hair might feel greasy, so to combat that, you wash again: repeat cycle ad nauseum. So some will contend that it is better to wash your hair less frequently, or to use a sulphate-free shampoo. If you opt to wash less frequently, start with every other day. Your hair might feel excessively greasy for a few weeks, but it should adjust to normal levels, resulting in your hair being less dried out overall (because washing constantly with sulphates can dry out your hair). Some people ween off to just washing their hair a couple times a week. If you opt to use a sulphate-free shampoo, make sure you scrub your scalp well. These shampoos usually don't lather up as well and can't clean your hair as easily as their sulphateful counterparts.

If you use a lot of styling products or condition, though, chances are that those products have silicones in them. Silicones will build up in your hair over time and cannot really be removed unless you wash them out with a sulphate shampoo (unless the silicones are water-soluble, but usually they aren't). So you can check your labels and stick to silicone-free products so you can use sulphate-free shampoo, or you can use the silicone-laden products, removing them from your hair with sulphates every so often.

I don't think you should need to condition your hair unless it's more than a couple inches long, and even then you should only condition the ends. If you don't heat style and don't have dry or unmanageable hair, there really is no need for it. If you're looking for a shampoo to help with your thinning hair, Nioxin is good.
posted by Polychrome at 9:03 AM on March 5, 2008 [3 favorites]

Polychrome's advice is excellent. I would add that baby shampoo is nice a option that isn't too harsh and is usually devoid of heavy perfumes and conditioners like lanolin. If you decide on using a conditioner (I use one daily as my hair gets too dry in the winter) try to stay away from any that contain waxes or versions of lanolin. It coats the hair making it very shiny but at the same time is hard to wash out and can build up on the hair shafts weighing them down and causing that permanently greasy look.
posted by LunaticFringe at 9:09 AM on March 5, 2008

Just realized I linked some treatment thing and not the shampoo. Sorry about that.
posted by Polychrome at 9:12 AM on March 5, 2008

Wash hair every day.
posted by pieoverdone at 9:20 AM on March 5, 2008

Can I piggyback on this question and ask for personal brand conditioner/shampoo reccs?
posted by shownomercy at 9:55 AM on March 5, 2008

I wash my hair two or three times a week and I use Redken, which is expensive ($15 for a 12oz, I think) and you can only get it at beauty supply stores but it is worth it. Their products are very high-quality and more concentrated than drug store products so you only need to use a little bit (my hair is shoulder-length and very thick and I only use about a dime-sized amount of shampoo and a little more conditioner). I don't mind spending the money because it lasts for so long. Since I started using it my hair has been visibly healthier.
posted by easy_being_green at 10:01 AM on March 5, 2008

Do not wash your hair every day, but definitely condition it every day.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:57 AM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: By washing, do you mean shampooing? Sorry if this is an obvious question.
posted by stedman15 at 12:12 PM on March 5, 2008

I wash my hair everyday and condition it everyday using Back to Basics. About once a week I use Head and Shoulders for my little bit of dandruff..

I'm actually going to try using apple cider vinegar soon.. I've heard that recommended before
posted by majikstreet at 1:31 PM on March 5, 2008

My hair is fine but I have alot of it, if that makes sense. If I shampoo and condition, my hair is flat. I use a shampoo for color-treated hair which has just enough conditioning agents in it that I don't need the conditioner. Once every few days I'll use a clarifying shampoo to get rid of hair spray residue. My favorite regular shampoo is L'Oreal's Color Vive Pro, from Target and such; for the clarifying shampoo I use cheap Suave Clarifying. Oh, and I wash every day.
posted by wafaa at 1:50 PM on March 5, 2008

Do not wash your hair every day, but definitely condition it every day.

That only works for some people. It makes my fine curly hair really nasty.

As to specific products, Pureology products worked well for me when I was trying the no-sulfate thing, which is supposed to help your hair color stay in longer.
posted by cabingirl at 2:15 PM on March 5, 2008

My husband has hair like yours, along with a dry itchy scalp. Head and Shoulders seems to work for him. I have thick, fine, very long, very curly hair. If I don't wash it regularly, it manages to look both frizzy AND greasy at the same time, but if I wash it every day with normal shampoo, it's bushy and dead-looking. I've found that mixing shampoo for dry hair at about 1 part shampoo/10 parts water in a spray bottle, spraying the roots, and giving my scalp a little scrub before drowning the whole mess in conditioner and rinsing in cold water is the only thing that really works. And my best friend hasn't touched her thick, shiny, wavy hair with shampoo or conditioner in months and it looks gorgeous. In other words, everyone is different, and you gotta experiment. Just realize that no matter what anyone says, the only thing that will ever make the tiniest difference in how thick your hair is/how fast you lose it is Rogaine, and I've never heard anyone say it made enough of a difference to justify the price.
posted by Wroksie at 2:31 PM on March 5, 2008

If you have dry, curly hair, you should probably almost never shampoo-- I went for years just using conditioner most of the time and now I use the delightfully-named No-Poo by curly hair experts DevaChan. No-poo feels like conditioner and has no lather-- they also have something called Low-poo, I guess for those for whom No-poo feels too much like washing their hair with conditioner.

If I didn't condition my hair, I would never get a brush or a comb through it-- as it is, it can only be brushed or combed while wet.
posted by Maias at 3:01 PM on March 5, 2008

Response by poster: Just to let people know if they need to, my hair is fine and straight. It does tend to get oily if I don't shampoo or condition.
posted by stedman15 at 6:55 PM on March 5, 2008

I grew up doing the daily thing, but a few years ago I weaned myself completely off shampoo / conditioner. Nowadays I NEVER use either, except right before going for a haircut for the sake of courtesy. I rinse my hair daily but ONLY WITH WATER. And my head does NOT smell, according to all.

I firmly believe that shampoo and conditioner are entirely unnecessary, just like how many of us survive just fine without elaborate skin care products. Think about: the shampoo strips away the natural oils that protect your hair, and then you replace that oil with synthetic stuff in "conditioner". Seems rather redundant to me.
posted by randomstriker at 11:04 PM on March 5, 2008

I would add that baby shampoo is nice a option that isn't too harsh and is usually devoid of heavy perfumes and conditioners like lanolin.

LunaticFringe, I have been told by hairstylists that Baby Shampoo is actually quite harsh for your hair and it is it's optimized to hurt your eyes less (since babies don't always listen to your bathing advice, those jerks.)
posted by man why you even got to do a thing at 1:31 PM on March 6, 2008

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