Walking down the shampoo and conditioner aisle can be intimidating if you don't know what you are looking for. Examining bottle after bottle and reading label after label can get you nowhere fast if you don't understand the different types of shampoos and conditioners, and how they work. However, there are three steps to figuring out which products are best for your hair, and once you have them memorized, you can't go wrong again.
Step One: Identify the Factors
The first step in determining the best shampoo and conditioner for your hair is to identify the type of hair that you have and how you treat it. Here are some of the factors to consider before picking out a shampoo or a conditioner:
- Your hair texture
- Your hair color
- Your hair thickness
- How often you shampoo and condition
- If you have split ends or dandruff
- If you use heat-based styling tools often
- If your hair is color-treated, relaxed or permed
- If your hair lacks shine
Step Two: Know the Types of Shampoos and Conditioners
Here is what shampoo and conditioner you should use based on what type of hair you have:
- If you have normal hair, a regular shampoo will be fine and won't strip hair of its natural oils.
- If you have oily hair, use a clarifying shampoo, which contains astringents like tea tree oil, rosemary, sage or citrus oil. These ingredients dry the scalp and remove excess oil from the hair and scalp.
- If you have dry hair, use a moisturizing shampoo. It contains oils and shea butter, which nourish dry hair. You can lock in that moisture by using an extra-moisturizing conditioner, which is recommended for course and curly hair as well.
- If you have fine hair, a volumizing, or thickening, shampoo will work best for you. These shampoos contain ingredients such as panthenol and glycerine that help the hair shaft swell by lifting it from the cuticle. Volumizing conditioners will coat the hair with protein and fill in any gaps in the cuticle. This type of conditioner is also good for damaged or limp hair.
- If you have an itchy, dry, flaky scalp, then you should use a dandruff shampoo. It will alleviate the symptoms associated with dandruff and will moisturize the scalp, causing it to flake less.
- If you don't wash your hair often, you may want to try a leave-in conditioner. It's a great sun protector and can make your hair more manageable.
It's important to use the right type of shampoo and conditioner for your hair to get the best results and make your hair healthier. Many of the leading brands now offer products that are specifically designed for color-treated hair, different hair textures, different hair colors, etc. Here are some examples:
- Aveeno Nourish and Moisturize Shampoo
- Suave Daily Clarifying Shampoo for Normal to Oily Hair
- Pantene Pro-V Flat to Volume Shampoo and Conditioner for Fine Hair
- L'Oreal Vive Pro Hydra Gloss Moisturizing Conditioner for Dry Hair
- John Frieda Shine Release Shampoo Chestnut to Espresso
- TRESemme ColorThrive Conditioner for Blonde Hair
- Garnier Fructis Fortifying 2-in-1 Anti-Dandruff Shampoo Plus Conditioner
Step Three: Understand the Ingredients
The final piece of knowledge you should stash in your hair-care arsenal is understanding what the tongue-tying ingredients on the label are and what they do for your hair. Here are some of the most common ingredients, demystified:
- Surfactants: These include alkyl monoglyceride, ammonium lauryl sulfate, cocamide DEA or MEA or TEA and sodium lauryl sulfate, among others. These ingredients are the cleaning agents that surround, stick to and lift away dirt and other substances that build up on the scalp.
- Preservatives: Sodium benzoate, iodopropyl, isothiazolinone, among others. Preservatives are what keep shampoos and conditioners from going bad as they are both derived from organic ingredients, which can help mold or fungus grow over time.
- Conditioners: Citric acid, silicones, glycerin, sodium dihydroxide and amine oxide, among others. These ingredients serve to moisturize and soften and smooth hair. They also aid in detangling those pesky knots.
In an article features on WebMD, Ni'Kita Wilson, a cosmetic chemist for Cosmetech Laboratories, explains that other shampoo ingredients, such as vitamins, proteins, antioxidants, natural oils and alpha hydroxy acids, actually have little effect on a person's hair. While many of these ingredients might be beneficial on the skin, they aren't as useful on the hair since hair is a dead fiber.
Now that you've read through these three steps, you should be ready to face the shampoos and conditioners at your local market or drugstore. You'll have no trouble picking out the products that will work best for you, and your hair will thank you for it.