Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Shampoo 101

Now you may be saying to yourself  "Lather Rinse Repeat.. how hard can it be?", but in all honesty it took me until going to beauty school in my 30's, to learn how to properly wash my hair for maximum health.  I have always been a daily shampooer due to my oily scalp and loose curly hair that goes in multiple crazy directions after sleeping on it.  I never paid attention to the shampoo I was using, as long as it said "organic" or was sold at the local food co-op it was fair game.   I would just slap the shampoo all over my head, lather away, rinse and then condition my entire head of hair.  I then would towel it dry by rubbing it with the towel, and then "comb" it out with a paddle brush.  I had absolutely no chemical treatments on my hair, and I still had breakage at the ends and a ton of frizz.  Once I started Cosmetology School and learning more about hair, I quickly learned a lot about what I was doing to my locks.  I spent 30 years of mistreating my hair and have noticed improvements to my hair within 2 months of changing my habits.

First a note about products. As a former organic junkie I can tell you that just because a label says it is all natural and is sold as an earth friendly product, doesn't mean it will be the best item for your hair.  Choosing a proper shampoo and conditioner is essential, over time, for proper maintenance and ultimate hair health.  I know that the "no-poo" movement is also around and seen as a valid alternative in the blogosphere.  However, uses of baking soda on the hair regularly can be damaging to the hair shaft.  We will discuss different brands of shampoo lines and the "no-poo" method at a later time.  There are many shampoo lines out there that are Earth-friendly and do not contain harsh chemicals that will still be good on your hair.  I suggest talking to your stylist to help you find the best shampoo for your hair that works with your own personal views of what you want to put on your body.   

Step 1- Prep

You an extend the life of your hair between washings with one simple step, Brushing.  Using a brush on your locks to pull sebum through the hair shaft gets the good oils spread all over the hair shaft.  Using a boar's hair  brush does an exceptional job at this and leaves your hair nice and shiny.  Not only will the oils be spread, but keeping knots out of your hair prior to washing is a huge deal.  When we wet our hair we are breaking the hydrogen bonds in the hair's chemical make up.  This process is what allows us to style our hair wet and have it dry in a certain position and stay that way (such as a roller set, or scrunching curly hair).  However this also means that when our hair is wet, it is also weakened.  When you wash your hair you need to treat it like it is your most delicate of delicates, your favorite lacy bra.   Yanking out knots while it is wet can lead to unwanted breakage and damage to the hair.  It is for this reason that you want to start with your dry hair being well brushed to minimize any stress to the hair when it is wet.

Step 2- Shampoo

Once your hair is wet, its time to lather up.  Shampoo application can vary on hair type but a few basic ideas can greatly alter your hair health.  People with fine, oily hair are not going to be washing the same as someone with thick dry hair.  Nor will they need to wash their hair with the same amount of time between shampooing.   The more time between washing your hair the better.  I am a daily to every other day washer, but some of the women in my class, especially those with more porous hair, only need to wash once a week.   Needless to say that the longer you go between washings, the more likely you will need to do two shampoo steps.

Start by wetting your hair thoroughly.  Apply a small amount of shampoo (I use the size of a nickle on my long fine hair) in your hand.  Rub it between both hands and start to work the shampoo through your scalp area.  I tend to concentrate the rubbing action on the areas where I produce the most sebum to release any dirt that may have accumulated there.  Work from the front of the scalp to the nape of the neck.  Once you have washed your scalp, rinse your head clean.  You do not need to scrub the ends of your hair unless you have a build-up of product (such as hairspray) or dirt.  Rinsing the lather through the ends of the hair is enough to clean this part of your hair sufficiently.

Step 3- Conditioner

Once you have rinsed all the shampoo from your hair, you should condition the ends of your hair.  Conditioning your hair helps lock in moisture to the hair shaft.  Start from the ends and work the conditioner up the shaft of the hair with your fingers, without getting it on the scalp.  Generally the thinner and more oily your hair is the more you should keep the conditioner away from the scalp.  Hair that is fine will look greasy if the conditioner is placed on the scalp.  For extra coverage comb the conditioner through with a large tooth comb.  Rinse conditioner from your hair.

Step 4- Finish

Squeeze the remaining water out of your hair, keep in mind to keep treating the hair like it is very pretty lacy bra that you do not want to ruin.  Do not cover it with a towel and  rub it vigorously.  Instead wrap the towel around the hair and gently squeeze out as much water as possible.  Once you have towel dried your hair, comb it out with a large tooth comb.  Start by combing the ends of your hair and work up the hair shaft.  Do not yank any knots and be as gentle as you would be if you were combing a baby's hair.  The more rough you are, the more chance of breakage you have.  Once hair is combed out I personally like to add a bit of leave-in conditioner in the ends of my hair.  I only use a tiny bit, about the size of a half a pea, of the leave-in.  This helps to seal in moisture even further to the hair, and personally I find that when I do have minimal frizz and more body in my hair.  It also leaves my hair extremely soft.  I compare leave-in conditioner to body lotion.  Imagine the difference you feel in your skin on days you lotion up, compared to when you just shower and go.    If you can only splurge in one area, I recommend finding a really good leave-in conditioner.

Setting your hair up for optimal health is where one needs to start on the journey to have healthy hair.  There is no  need to damage your hair through regular shampooing, when there are so many ways to damage it.  I was evidence of this.  I would condition my scalp, brush it with a brush when wet, yank out knots and more. I am still dealing with ends that are slightly damaged from decades of doing this to my hair, but proper care is helping my hair get better by the day.  The feeling you get when you get compliments on your hair, or when you walk into a store and people look at your bouncing locks is indescribable, and does amazing things for your self image.  I highly recommend taking steps towards proper hair care.

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