Hair Care 2: Shampoo and Conditioner

shampoo and conditioner
shampoo and conditioner

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, 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 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.

Also Read:

Hair Care 1: Structure of Hair

Hair Care 3: Tips for Healthy Hair


40 thoughts on “Hair Care 2: Shampoo and Conditioner

  1. Hey Sanjeev, good one, actually climate also plays an important factor in hair structure…people living in coastal and humid weathers have dense and curly hair compared to others :nerd: :nerd: :nerd: :nerd: ……………..the guy with that mesh of hair wants to look grumpy and important, but he is looking so funny :nerd: :nerd: :nerd: :nerd:

  2. the best shampOO :poop: :poop: to clean off the dirt in the hair used by our ancestors instead are soapnuts and fenugreek paste……they cleanse the hair and scalp without stripping the hair off its moisture 😎 😎

    1. Jolmol: here is what I read on wikipedia: A very effective shampoo is made by boiling soapnuts with dried gooseberry (amla) and a few other herbs, using the strained extract. This leaves the hair soft, shiny and manageable.

      Just that people don’t have time to do all this….

      1. Hey Eno Kumar, my sister is an exception,…..most of the times she uses soapnuts and raw shikhakai soaked overnight in water for her hair as shampoo and then the only other thing she washes her hair with is Dove shampoo. Actually, she goes on a shikhakai plus soapnut formula for her hair when she wants to grow back her hair quickly (read when her mother in law or mom are visiting her) :blush:

  3. SHAMpoo and CONditioner 😀 😀 😀 … subliminal messages haan
    Sanjeev – says its an invalid link
    Looking fwd to the third part

  4. One trick I use to avoid conditioning the first 3 inches from the scalp is-
    I gather my wet hair as if to tie a high ponytail abnd whatever hair is hanging loose, i apply conditioner there.. Then run my fingers through the loose hair to detangle it and spread the conditioner thoroughly. :-)) :-))

    Nice and useful series Sanjeev Bhaiya!!! :yes: :yes:

    And yeah… Nice pic.. :-*

  5. Since you talk about SHAMpoos and CONditioners :P:P i had read somewhere that if you think you are damaging your hair with too many products, every once in a while (say in about every 2-3 months) you should wash your hair with BAKING SODA, like after regular SHAMpooing, take a spoon or two of baking soda and rise it through your hair, it will take away allll the chemicals and harmful contents of SHAMpoos, i haven’t tried it, but it makes sense

    1. smitha
      plz tell me few things…….
      1.hw do u use baking soda to remove prodcut buildup…?i mean as a powder or u mix it with water?
      2.hw do u apply it…? u leave it in hair fr few minutes or u rinse immediately??
      4.and do u use it before sahmpoo or conditioner of after that…
      plz describe in detail……

      1. Hi Shilpa,
        i haven’t tried it, but from what i have read –
        1. Mix it with a li’l water to create a sort of paste and then rub it all over
        2. Rub it all over, from root to tip
        3. Leave it for a minute or two, not too long
        4. U can use it after you shampoo or instead or shampoo

  6. Sanjeev Bhaiyya,
    Nice Post..And the Handmade and wooden comb tip was a good/crucial one…
    U make chemistry and biochemistry look so interesting(and humouros too).If only texts were written this way *sigh*


    Missed u babe..Where have u been all this while..U are rite about the climate affecting hair structure part.I would like to add that people living close to the equator have denser hair as compared to ppl living away from it..
    Btw what is fenugreek paste ?:-)

    1. Hey Minnie….I had been on a short trip to Velankanni …..actually just back from there…… 🙂 actually, Kerala women not until a long time ago used fenugreek paste (from soaking them overnight in water) for cleaning their scalp….its the best shampoo to clean off the dirt without being harsh on hair…..actually, nowadays, there is no time on hand to soak and then grind, and then wash with the paste…. :-((

      1. Jomol! i tried the methi(fenugreek) paste for hair, but the only problem is it sticks to the hair & doesn’t get washed off easily, it always leaves residue! Is there any way I could avoid this! ?:-)

        1. I know Uzma, fenugreek always leave residues… will have to wait until your hair is dry enough to comb them off 🙁 ….hey, you could also use soapnut and shikakhai soaked in water overnight and then there will be no problem of residue also….works just as well as fenugreek and no messiness too :-))

  7. 😯 😮 😮 😮 😮 😮 😮 😮 Sanjeev ji….I am really worried how many PILs will come your way if you started adding pics to text to explain what you actually mean…. :tremble: :tremble:

  8. hi sanjeev…………
    very very nice post aagain……..
    and am also back with few more queries……….hope you will oblidge this time too……….
    1.what is soap nut……….??hindi name plz……
    2.i have not been able to find any conditioner with sunscreen properties…???do u knw any? shampoo comes with a ph range written over it…………what to do….???
    4.hw r body shop wooden combs…..are they good??
    5.lastly u have not covered serums in ur column….have heard silicones are bad fr hair……what do u think??

    waiting fr the answers………….

  9. I have just surfed the net and found out about Shahnaz Saffron Shampoo with sunscreen, but I do not know about its effectiveness……its better to cover your head while out in the sun if its possible.

    Though most of the shampoos do not mention about pH thing….you can find many shampoos with “good for daily use” or “mild for daily use” written over them…..don’t use anti-dandruff on a daily basis.

    Broad combs work well on hair and cause less breakage and works best for detangling…….don’t know about Body Shop brushes.

    Serums are for very dry and damaged hair, they soften down the hair cuticles, but again, on a daily basis, they are not recommended…….for starters, try using Biolage Matrix serum which is easily avaiable…… O:-)

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