How To Select The Correct Shampoo

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There are many types of shampoos marketed to consumers currently. Does it make sense to market different types of shampoos to consumers? The answer is simply yes. The reasons behind this answer are the varying textures of hair, condition of the scalp, and various needs of the consumer depending upon the condition of their hair and scalp. Also, the build up of leave-on products dictates the type of shampoo that will be most effective on the  hair and scalp. The most common types of shampoos that are marketed nowadays are as follows:


Cleansing and Clarifying Shampoos are commonly used to cleanse the hair and scalp and additionally to remove the build up of leave-on styling products such as styling gels, holding sprays, and oil sheen sprays. These shampoos often contain sodium lauryl/laureth sulfates or ammonium lauryl/laureth sulfates at 10 to 15.0 % active concentrations. These shampoos are usually drying to the hair and scalp. In last few years, a new trend of “Sulfate-Free” shampoos have become popular where lauryl/laureth sulfates are replaced with Disodium Laureth sulfosuccinate, amphoterics such as Disodium Cocoamphodipropionate, acyl isethionates, and alkyl glucosides, to name a few. While formulating “Sulfate-Free” shampoos, the types and concentrations of detergents need to be selected carefully to arrive at mild shampoos that are less drying to hair and scalp. Once a shampoo is formulated with detergents and other additives, preferably a skin patch test is conducted to verify if the shampoo is gentle to scalp. Similarly, appropriate tests should be conducted to compare the moisture of hair before and after the treatment of the shampoo. If the moisture loss for before and after treatment is not significantly different, then the formula should be marketed to consumers. In Europe, it is now mandatory for the marketing companies to present the proof of their claims under REACH standards.


Detangling/Conditioning Shampoos are usually popular among consumers who have wavy, curly and overly curly hair as this type of hair can be difficult to comb during wet and dry states compared to straighter hair. The detangling shampoos formulated for African descent hair contain a lot more detangling polymers such as Polyquaternium-6 or 10 or Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride. In addition, these shampoos are now formulated with amphoteric detergents and non-sulfated detergents for foam boosting. These shampoos help to make the combing process easier during the hair’s wet and dry states.


Anti-Dandruff Shampoos are formulated to cleanse the hair and scalp and remove dandruff from the scalp. The continuous use of these shampoos helps to manage scalp dandruff. If the use is discontinued, the dandruff and scalp itch starts to reappear within six weeks. The active anti-dandruff ingredients are Zinc Pyrithione, Selenium Sulfide, Ketoconazole, Sulfur, Salicylic Acid, and other FDA/REACH approved ingredients. It is also important to select the detergents that are gentler to scalp and hair in terms of moisture profile of hair and scalp. If the hair is curly or excessively curly, the detangling ingredients should be included in the base of the anti-dandruff shampoo. For dry scalp, other moisturizing ingredients can be added to the formula base.


Moisturizing Shampoos are formulated for dry damaged hair and scalp and they normally contain gentler amphoteric detergents along with ingredients that are known to impart moisture to hair and scalp. The moisture of the scalp is normally determined before and after treatment of the shampoo using bioengineering techniques such as TEWL and Corneometry. The detangling ingredients may also be added if the moisturizing shampoo is formulated for those with tightly curled hair. Even in case of wavy hair, detangling ingredients such as Guar hydroxylpropyltrimonium chloride may be added to the formulation of moisturizing shampoo.


Shampoo for Oily Scalp normally contains high concentrations of detergents such as  Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate. The active concentration of detergents may be 10-12% for normal hair shampoo, whereas shampoo for oily hair may contain as much as 15- 18 % of these detergents. Also, any addition of conditioning and detangling ingredients is avoided while formulating this shampoo. The degree of removal of oils from the oily hair and scalp may be determined using desquamation techniques or equipment such as Sebumeter.


Baby shampoos are specially formulated for the use on baby hair and scalp and they claim to be very gentle to baby hair, scalp and eyes. The detergents used are amphoteric in nature and have a very low irritancy potential.


Dry shampoos do not contain detergents and contain powders such as starch and are sprayed on the dry hair to absorb sebum/oils from the hair and scalp. After spraying the product, the hair is brushed off and the powder is removed by doing so. This product is ideal for a quick shampoo without going through wetting, lathering, rinsing, and drying the hair. This product is ideal for elderly and bedridden patients and it usually contains 5 % starch, 5 % methylene chloride, and propellants.


Co-wash Creams or Lotions are the most recent phenomenon in the marketplace and this category satisfies the new demands of the customers who possess curly/wavy and tightly curled hair. Generally, consumers with curly textured hair have dry scalp and washing hair can become very cumbersome for them on a daily or every three-day basis. It is a well-known fact that consumers with curly, African descent hair shampoo their hair every week or every two weeks. If a cleansing shampoo that consists of anionic detergents is used, hair becomes very raspy and is very difficult to comb. Also the hair and scalp loses more moisture and become dry. Therefore, these consumers cleanse their hair and scalp with cream conditioners that contain cationic (quaternary ammonium type) surface-active agents. The term ‘Co-Wash’ means washing hair with conditioners. These detergents that are present in co-wash cleansers condition the hair while providing some cleansing action. Products provide sufficient cleansing for dry hair and scalp, which does not inherently produce excessive sebum.