SOAP DISH: What's New in Shampoo. The Blather About Latherby Victoria Thomas
The lather is the result of surfactants, which are defined as substances which clean surfaces - in the case of hair, sebum (oil), hair product, dust and dirt which clings to the hair follicle.
The most common surfactant used in personal hygiene products is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, called SLS for short. Other commonly used sulfates: Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Ammonium Sulfate. These are salt-based chemicals which produce the piles of detergent-bubbles associated with old-school shampoos. Do sulfates cause cancer? No one is sure. But we are sure that they strip color from treated hair, and may result in skin and eye sensitization.
Chaz Dean, Founder of WEN products and Hollywood's Chaz Dean Studios,won't even put the word "shampoo" on his product bottles. Instead, he washes with WEN Cleansing Conditioner: "Traditional shampoos break down your hair, causing it to become finer, thinner, duller, frizzier and weaker." His nonfoaming products inspire him to remind clients that, "The lathering property of traditional shampoos strips your hair of its sheen, lustre, moisture, shine and color, much like laundry detergents do with your clothes."
For David Babaii, Founder of David Babaii for Wild Aid, the impact of sulfates reaches beyond your shower-drain. Citing research by The Royal Society of Chemistry, Babaii notes that sulfates, as well as controversial parabens and petrochemicals, now find their way into the world's waterways, negatively affecting sea-life and even our own tap-water.
For this reason, these chemicals are banished from his shampoo and conditioner formulations. His motto: "When in doubt, leave it out." He comments, "At DB4Wildaid, our Hydrating Shampoo and Amplifying Shampoo contain a proprietary blend of biodegradable, sulfate-free cleansers that deliver rich, luxurious lather without drying or irritation, and are color safe to prolong the life of your hair color. All formulas are gentle enough for use on children."
Apart from sulfates, simply washing your hair too often may contribute to short-lived color and hair dehydration.
World-class stylist Nick Arrojo reassures,"A gentle, daily shampoo is fine for everyday use, although for most of us, there really isn't a need to shampoo everyday. It's far more important to condition on a regular basis." Does hair that "squeak" when freshly washed crying for help? According to Nick, yes: "Hair that literally 'squeaks' after washing means that your hair is stripped of oil or sebum that is naturally found in your scalp and hair and promotes healthy hair growth."
Natasha Sunshine, Founder and Lead Stylist at Byu-Ti Salon in Los Angeles,comments, "People tend to overshampoo which is costly, and creates exaggerated oil production. By simply shampooing less often, your sebaceous glands will slow down and come into right balance. By shampooing every day or every other day, you're telling your scalp that it needs to replenish the oils you're washing away."
Sunshine puts her clients through "ponytail rehab"-no shampoo for two weeks while the scalp recalibrates. When a wash is in order, Sunshine insists on sulfate-free products: "My personal favorite is Pureology's SuperSmooth. It has a delicious fragrance of vanilla and rose and leaves your hair feeling highly nourished and smooth after shampooing," she says.
Stuart Gavert, Founder of Gavert Atelier in Beverly Hills,takes a moderate view. "Washing your hair every day? Bad girl. How about just rinsing your hair and applying a bit of conditioner, comb through and rinse out on non-shampoo days?"
But Lisa Decker, Director of Education for Farouk/CHI, feels that sulfate-free formulas really can't be abused. "It's all individual. For instance, a person who works out daily will need a daily shampoo. Also, the environment they're working in also contributes. It depends upon the condition and texture of the person's hair."
She further states that the old-school "lather, rinse, repeat" protocol is still valid: "The first shampoo should be to remove dirt, oils, while the second shampoo is to guarantee total removal of all oils and dirt."
So get real with your hair. If your scalp is over-oily - you may be shampooing too often. If your color fades in a week or two, you may be using a formula that's too harsh-try switching to sulfate-free. If hair feels limp or flyaway, try an old trick for new results: every third shampoo, use an alternative product. It's fine to stay within your favorite brand. Just switch from a hydrating formula to a volumizing formula, for instance.
And be ready to give up the suds. True, some sulfate-free formulas, such as CHI shampoos, do produce the big lather. But many do not. Stuart Gavert says that he's allergic to SLS and has used Mastey's latherless Traite..."foryears. Does it foam up like a shampoo containing SLS? No, but you don't have to havebubbles for clean hair."