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What Does Shampoo Do To Dry And Damaged Hair?

by Beverly Hills MD

November 19 2019

Shampoo helps clean your scalp and hair, making it look clean, soft, untangled, bouncy, and frizz-free.1 And washing with shampoo is a ritual most people do without putting much thought into it. It’s just part of their normal grooming routine. Most people never stop to ask, “What is shampoo actually doing to my hair?”

In the case of someone with dry or damaged hair, shampoo could be making matters worse. Read on to learn more.

Why Should You Shampoo Your Hair?

Washing with water alone can help remove basic dirt and debris from your scalp and hair. But it doesn’t necessarily eliminate more deeply ingrained sources of dirt – like oils from the sebaceous glands, odors, and even smoke particles.2

Shampoos use surfactants to provide a wide range of benefits. They help remove sebum and particulates from the hair. They also help release and wash away surface oil that builds up on your scalp and hair.3

Can Shampoo Damage Hair?

In some cases, shampoo may do more harm than good. Using shampoo too much or washing hair too frequently can lead to a dry, itchy scalp and even damage your hair.4

Normally, an oil called sebum coats the cuticle of each hair. However, too much sebum can make the hair look and feel dirty and oily. The challenge is that, as an oil, sebum is hydrophobic. This means that washing the hair with water alone doesn’t rinse it away.

Shampoo strips the sebum from your hair, like a detergent. Then, the sebaceous gland compensates: It either produces too much oil and the scalp gets oily, or it doesn’t produce enough oil and the scalp dries out.

Two common surfactants are sodium laureth sulfate and sodium laurel sulfate. These two ingredients create the lathering effect that people most associate with shampoos. Sulfates in conventional store-bought shampoo brands may dry out the scalp and hair – especially if you have sensitive skin, certain skin conditions, or dry and fragile hair. Thus, a sulfate-free shampoo may be necessary to prevent the hair and scalp from drying out.5

Volumizing shampoos, another common option, are designed to coat the hair shaft to make hair appear fuller and stronger over time.6

Blonde Hair: More Sensitive Than Other Colors

shampooing blonde hair | Beverly Hills MDBlondes (both natural and colored) need to be especially careful with the shampoos that they use. Blonde hair is susceptible to being stripped of its color by UV rays. And if you have fine hair to boot, you may do well to use a less harsh shampoo.7,8

To alleviate the possibility of developing brassy, yellow undertones, purple shampoo is often recommended for blondes. Finally, protein-based shampoo may make blonde hair brittle.9

Are You Washing Your Hair Too Much?

Some people wash their hair daily or every other day. But this habit can lead to damaged, dry hair. In fact, it may not be necessary to wash your hair so often. Some considerations include:

  • Does your scalp get oily very quickly? Your hair wash frequency depends on how much sebum your scalp produces in a given period of time.
  • Is your hair straight and thin or curly and wavy? Straight hair accumulates more oil than curly hair. On the other hand, curly hair requires more moisture to remain soft.
  • Does your hair get dirty easily? Depending on the season, dirt, dust, and pollen may build up over time.

There is no one right way to shampoo your hair. The right way to wash your hair is to be in tune with your own scalp. If your hair is not oily or dirty, it may be possible to reduce the frequency to a couple of times per week or less. You can also use dry shampoo to stretch the time between washes.

Don’t Forget The Importance Of Always Using The Right Conditioner

Conditioner is a very important aspect of the cleaning process. It keeps the hair hydrated while enhancing the feel, appearance, and fullness of the hair. After the shampoo removes the sebum, conditioner is often needed to synthetically replace sebum. Conditioner also helps reduce static electricity in the hair.10

There are many types of conditioners:

  • Instant conditioners
  • Deep conditioners
  • Blow drying conditioners
  • Hair thickening conditioners

Each has a very specific use. And using the wrong type may result in irritation of the scalp and damage to the hair shaft.11 Talk to your stylist about which conditioner is best for you.

Go “No ‘Poo”: Natural Alternatives To Store-Bought Shampoo

Most shampoos contain chemical ingredients. In response to this, a movement has occurred to treat hair with natural shampoo alternatives that purportedly don’t damage or dry out the scalp. It is called the “no poo” movement.12 The ingredients in these natural shampoo alternatives include:

Baking Soda and Apple Cider Vinegar

baking soda and apple cider vinegar | Beverly Hills MDA common natural alternative to store-bought shampoos is baking soda. It can be used in conjunction with apple cider vinegar.

Start with one tablespoon of baking soda. Mix with a little water. Add more water as needed to achieve a pasty consistency. Massage your hair and scalp with the paste for a couple of minutes. To remove the baking soda from your hair: Mix 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with 3 tablespoons of water and apply. Rinse with warm water until the baking soda and apple cider vinegar are both washed away.

Lemon Juice

Another very simple alternative to store-bought shampoos is lemon juice. The citric acid breaks down the scalp’s sebaceous oils and restores the hair’s luster.13

Squeeze one whole lemon and add a proportional amount of water to make a solution. Massage into your scalp for up to 5 minutes. Then rinse with warm water.

Note: Lemon juice can cause some hair types to lighten, so be sure to do a small patch test first.

Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is an effective natural way to help reduce excessive scalp oil. These areas are often responsible for scalp itchiness and flakiness.14

Other Ingredients

  • Salicylic acid may remove scales and decrease the amount of sebum secreted by the scalp.15
  • Coconut oil may act as an emollient (to moisturize and lubricate the scalp).16

Always Check The Ingredients In Your Shampoo (And Know Which Ones To Avoid)

Shampooing can be good for your hair if you can strike a balance between cleanliness and moisture. If you use the wrong shampoo, the ingredients can damage your hair.

Luckily, there are ways to keep your hair vital and full of life. You can break the habit of washing your hair every day. You can use shampoos without sulfates. You can use conditioner more often. And you can occasionally wash with natural ingredients.

Learn More:
What You Should Know About Apple Cider Vinegar Hair Rinse
Hard Water Skin And Hair Effects: Is Your Tap Water Bad For Hair And Skin Care?
How To Make Thin Hair Look Thicker And Fuller


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