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Shampoo and Conditioner
In the good old days of our parents and grandparents, the water coming out of the taps was not hard water; it was soft water which made the soaps lather well. The soaps were good for washing hair, and the natural oil (sebum- remember the structure of hair?) produced by sebaceous glands in the scalp was fine to keep the hair shiny and healthy. Then one day, the god of mammon decided to bestow its kindness on aspiring chemists, the future detergent makers. The god slowly turned all the tap water into hard water which rendered the soaps pretty much useless for lather. In came the detergents which could function in hard water. The problem faced by people in washing hair with soap was solved by a new detergent for hair. It was called the SHAM-POO. The shampoo lathered well and started cleaning dirt out of hair and all was well. Not quite. Nobody told the innocent hoi polloi swayed by the dubious claims of vitamins, amino acids and “pro-vitamins” that the much-loved shampoo was actually BAD for hair; it removed not only the dirt from hair but also the natural hair oil, which made hair shiny and smooth, thereby making the hair dry. But the SHAM-poo makers didn’t go out of their business did they? They devised another product to cover up the damage caused by the shampoo- the CON-ditioner. Well, the conditioner was actually good for hair, tightening the scales on the cuticle and reversing the damage done by the shampoo. Soon, to make the shampoo more appealing the market got flooded with shampoo mixed with conditioner. And all this because we could not wash our hair with soap anymore.
Understand that a shampoo is just a detergent used to cleanse your hair of excess oil (sebum), sweat and dirt, thereby stripping the hair of its natural protective covering. So in essence, it is the CONDITIONER which is important to keep your hair healthy. The sad part is that the base of the hair shaft- the area near the scalp- requires cleansing the most because dirt, sweat, sebum, dandruff etc. settles there on the scalp, and therefore we need to shampoo that area the most. Unfortunately- since sebaceous glands are present in the
scalp and the concentration of sebum is highest at the base of the hair shaft- this damages the hair the most as it cleans away maximum amount of natural hair oil. Once we have
shampooed the hair and stripped it of all of its natural protective properties, like sebum, the less the chance there is that the natural hair oils will reach the mid-shaft to ends of our hair. This exposes the older and more vulnerable sections of the hairshaft to further damage from heated styling appliances and chemical processes, such as coloring or permanent waving.
The effectiveness of vitamins, amino acids and “pro-vitamins” in shampoos is also largely debatable. Vitamins are substances that are essential for chemical processes that occur within the body, chiefly inside living cells and in the bloodstream. They cannot have the same beneficial effects on dead tissues like grown hair. However, the physical properties of some vitamins (like vitamin E oil or panthenol) would have a temporary cosmetic effect on the hair shaft while not having any bioactivity.
The proteins that make up the strand are chains of amino acids connected in very specific sequences, and are tightly packed in interlocking arrangements. Proteins are unable to penetrate the skin or the hair, and even if they stick to the outside of the hair they will not help strengthen it. Amino acids cannot penetrate cells through the skin, either; they may be able to enter the dead strands, but without the complex protein-building machinery of the living cells they will not actually return damaged hair proteins to their undamaged state. (Source: Wikipedia)
Well, I guess I have said enough about the shampoo. Let me just say that it is a necessary evil, one that we can counter by applying conditioner afterwards. There are different types of shampoos available in the market: for normal hair, dry hair, oily hair, damaged hair, dandruff, babies, or conditioning. Most shampoo will belong to one of two types: cleanser and a combination of cleanser and conditioner. If you want to find a shampoos or hair products which you can trust, try Folica.com, a website devoted completely to hair care. You can read customer reviews for every shampoo and conditioner and purchase one suited to your needs.
Let’s come to the good part of the duo- the conditioner. Most conditioners are slightly acidic, i.e. they are present with large number of hydrogen ions which strengthen the hydrogen bond in the cuticle thereby sealing the layers. The keratin is suffused with negatively charged amino acids on the surface. Most hair conditioners have positively charged molecules which are attracted to the negatively charged amino acids of the keratin on the cuticle and attach themselves to these amino acids. These positive charged molecules do not rinse out completely with water and form a protective layer. This protective layer makes the hair easy to comb, smooth and shiny, and safe from static electricity build resulting in ‘frizz’. This why it is absolutely necessary NOT to rub your hair dry with a towel, which depletes this protective layer, or use a rubber comb that removes positively charged molecules and builds static electricity. Use a wooden comb always and soak your hair dry with a towel.
I would like to digress a little bit here- the combs and brushes are big culprits in causing damage to women’s hair, although very rarely women realize it. Always go for high-quality handmade combs (Try to find some at Folica.com). Most of the combs that you find in market can shave the protective layer off your cuticle. They undo all your efforts in conditioning your hair. Avoid rubber combs and brushes with nylon bristles. Do your hair a favor and find some high-quality brushes.
Coming back, you need not apply conditioner to the hair shaft near the scalp; it is already provided with sebum and you will only over condition it. Start applying conditioner from your mid shaft (3 inches from the scalp) to the end of your hair. Use a wide-toothed comb to spread conditioner from the mid shaft to the end evenly. Depending on your need you can use many types of conditioners-
* Instant conditioners: For normal hair. They are applied following a shampoo, left on the hair for 5 – 10 minutes and rinsed.
* Deep conditioners: For dry, frizzy hair. They are more concentrated than the instant conditioners and are applied for 20 – 30 minutes before rinsing. But use deep conditoning only once a week.
* Leave in conditioners: They are applied after drying the hair and are left on till the next shampoo. They provide a little moisture to the hair and are good for frizz control.
* Sunscreen conditioners: For long duration exposure to sun. To prevent dryness, loss of color and roughening of surface texture, PABA and Benzophenones are added to conditioners to provide sun protection to hair.
Well, that is all. In the third and final part of our hair care series we shall see other factors that cause damage to our hair and how to counter them.