By Sarah Y. Wu
Color Wow contributor + Forbes senior contributor
From ingredients, to formulas, to the truth about organic shampoos, here’s everything you need to know about keeping hair and scalp its cleanest and healthiest.
If you’re on a quest for the best shampoo for your hair type or the right shampoo to solve a specific hair concern, you know there’s an overwhelming variety of choices. Shelves are stocked with bottles that promise benefits like thickening, de-frizzing or conditioning. But the ingredients required to achieve these claims (i.e. silicones, thickening agents etc.) do not easily rinse out of your hair and therein lies the rub. They stay behind so the hair and scalp never really get completely clean! And those are not the only culprits that interfere with a healthy shampoo experience. Even more confusing are the popular labels that promise a “natural and organic,” gentle shampoo experience, but come packed with essences and oils that that also cling to your hair and scalp.
To effectively cleanse your hair, it’s time to bust some common shampoo myths and get to the root of what’s in the bottle. Below, our Color Wow stance on shampoo.
HOW CAN I TELL IF A SHAMPOO IS RIGHT FOR ME?
Short answer: It needs to clean your hair, and do nothing else. Depending on your hair type, you might be looking for your shampoo to tame frizz, volumize, thicken, condition etc, but you should never look to your shampoo to achieve those results. Ingredients that can achieve those benefits cannot do so without sticking to your hair. This means that they can also stick to your scalp. Since a shampoo is the only product that gets massaged into your scalp you need to make sure every ingredient easily rinses off. If they don’t, they can wind up clogging follicles and causing inflammation and eventually lead to hair loss.
WHICH INGREDIENTS SHOULD I LOOK FOR IN MY SHAMPOO?
You know to steer clear of anything that causes buildup, so now comes identifying which ingredients are right for your hair health. All hair types should look for ingredients meant to gently cleanse, rinse off, and nothing else. To make it easier, we’ll highlight a few things you definitely want to avoid. For the best wash results, we firmly advocate for a residue-free formula. Our Color Wow Color Security Shampoo has been rigorously vetted to rule out any ingredient that has been engineered to stick to the hair such as silicones, thickening or volumizing resins, conditioning agents, oils, waxes, and defrizzing ingredients which are unfortunately found in many shampoos.
For the overall health and integrity of the hair, we recommend staying away from sulfates. Our shampoo uses a proprietary blend of sulfate-free cleansing agents (like glycinates, taurates, and isethionates) which cleanse gently and thoroughly without drying or stripping your hair. There are many shampoos on the market that do use sulfates (ingredients like sodium lauryl sulfate) to cleanse the hair but these are basically detergents that can be harsh and can cause color-stripping, and have an irritating, drying effect on hair and scalp.
ARE "NATURAL" AND ORGANIC SHAMPOOS BETTER?
There’s one last thing to be mindful of on your shampoo label: Is it better to opt for something “natural” or “organic”? Many of these formulas promise a gentler, better cleansing experience, making them sound like the better option on the surface. Dig deeper, though, and you’ll find that “natural” is not a government- or industry-regulated term, which means it doesn’t actually have any bearing on what you’re buying. Ingredients can be “certified organic” but that doesn’t mean they’re the most effective cleansing agents. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular “natural and organic” shampoo ingredients:
Apple Cider Vinegar: Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is a popular DIY clarifying rinse that you may be tempted to substitute for store-bought shampoo. While it has antibacterial properties, it’s not a surfactant (cleansing agent) and therefore may not properly clean your hair and scalp.
Argan Oil: Argan oil is often added to shampoo formulas for its nourishing, strengthening properties. It also tends to stay behind on the scalp, and accumulate with every shampoo session. According to Linda Copolla (Color Wow Senior Chemist) “If these oils continually build up over time, you can have clogged follicles and subsequent hair thinning".
Coconut Oil: Coconut oil is a common conditioning ingredient added to shampoos for imparting softness and shine to the hair and helping to prevent frizz. Just like argan oil, it’s not easy to rinse out. Instead of incorporating it into your shampoo step (and massaging it into your hair follicles!) coconut oil is best applied post-cleansing on just your hair lengths and ends. Our Color Wow Dream Cocktail Coconut-Infused is a high-powered heat protectant applied to wet hair before blow-drying. In this heat-activated formula, the coconut oil is absorbed into the hair where it can instantly restore silky suppleness and fluidity to dry, dehydrated hair.
Essential Oils: Essential oils are becoming an increasingly prevalent natural shampoo ingredient for their alleged antibacterial, anti-inflammatory properties. The reason we don’t use them in our shampoo? Like argan and coconut oil, they cause buildup. Essential oils can cause allergic reactions. But the main reason we steer clear of essential oils? They can also impact your hair color. And at Color Wow, we take every measure possible to protect your color from ingredients (commonly used in other hair formulas) that can dull, darken or distort your shade.
Our advice for selecting the best shampoo for your healthiest hair possible? Choose a sulfate-free, residue free formula like our Color Wow Shampoo. Don’t ask your shampoo to do more than clean. If you want to defrizz, condition, thicken, or volumize your hair, leave that to conditioners and styling products because those don’t get massaged into your scalp!