Hair Care Tips

Sulfate-free shampoos and conditioners are everywhere right now.

Sulfates (sodium laureth or ammonium laureth sulfate) are surfactants used in shampoos and cleansers to help them lather and are believed to fade dye color faster and remove too much natural oil causing frizziness and dryness.  Sulfates are a skin and hair irritant.

While I agree that sulfates should be limited or avoided when washing the hair, I find that some of the sulfate-free shampoos and cleansers fail to adequately cleanse the scalp.  When the scalp is not adequately cleansed, oil can build up and yeast on our skin will thrive, and seborrheic dermatitis (commonly known as dandruff) can develop.  Manufacturers of some of these trendy sulfate-free products will add other things to mimic the sensation of a deeper clean or cleanse.  For example, the Wen line contains menthol.  Personally, I don't like the smell or cold/tingly feel of menthol.  It's like washing your hair with Ben Gay or Icy Hot.

Dandruff is not dry scalp (despite how it looks), but quite the opposite, with excessive oil in the scalp.  When there is excess oil, (pityrosporum) yeast on the scalp thrives, inflammation develops, and the involved skin becomes itchy and flaky.  To prevent this cascade of unpleasant dermatologic events, one must cleanse the scalp often enough to control oil.  For most people, that is at least every two days.


Taming the frizzies

As one blessed with naturally curly hair myself, I have battled frizzies all my life, and have tested and analyzed quite a few products over the years.

I advise my patients who have frizz problems to lessen their use of sulfate containing shampoos but not to the degree that they don't get adequate cleansing and accumulate oil.  Maybe try the sulfate-free shampoos the majority of the time, and the sulfate-containing extra cleansing shampoo at least once a week.  Some heavy oil-producers may need to do use the sulfate-containing shampoo twice a week.

When you use the sulfate-containing shampoo, try one with less sulfate or use very little, and follow with a leave-in conditioner containing dimethicone or an analog of silicone (usually containing the suffix "cone").  The silicone analogs tend to provide the most effective frizz-taming.  You'll see that ingredient in good body moisturizers as well.  In fact, if one day you can't find your hair frizz serum, you can use a small amount of body cream containing dimethicone instead.


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