'Hair Care Science' and What You Need to Know to Shop Smart

Monday, March 12, 2012

--Guest Post By David Cubbon

Some say we live in the age of information. I say that we live in the age of misinformation, with half-truths thrown at us from every angle. The "science of hair care" is one area that constantly throws up misinformation and misunderstanding. I get asked plenty of questions at my hair salon every day, so I decided to look into the science and the claims, through some of the most common questions people ask me...

Can you improve your "hair health"?
No you cannot! Your hair is dead, which means you cannot improve its health, you can only improve how it looks. And that's what hair products do – they make it look as if it's alive, they make it look good! There are laws surrounding what advertisers say hair products can and can't do, but the fact is this: they can't give you healthy hair.

They can give you healthy-looking hair, though. I've always found Davines products to be fantastic for intensifying hair color, while the Wella range is particularly good for making your hair look fantastically healthy in high humidity.

Davines Nounou Conditioner

→ Buy the Davines Nounou Conditioner, $22.17, at amazon.com (US delivery).

→ Buy the Davines Nounou Conditioner, £11.56, at strictlybeautiful.com (UK delivery).

How do silicones work?
You will find that most shampoos and conditions contain something called silicones, which give a certain silkiness to your hair. This is because they sit on top of your hair, and after time, they start to weigh it down and flatten it. So, in short, they work for a while, but then they have a negative effect. Heavy molecules, you see.

I've always been an advocate of silicone-free shampoos, and the most natural I've found is Original Sprout. Created by a mother for her child, who suffered from eczema, Original Sprout shampoo is free of silicones and even free from oestrogen enhancers such as lavender or tea tree oil. You'll even find Christina Aguilera using it.

Original Sprout Natural Baby Shampoo

→ Buy the Original Sprout Natural Baby Shampoo, $18.02, at amazon.com (US delivery).

→ Buy the Original Sprout Natural Baby Shampoo, £10.35, at strictlybeautiful.com (UK delivery).

Does a lot of lather mean my shampoo is working?
Not at all. In fact, the better your hair care products, the more likely it is not to lather, as the lather is actually not grabbing and cleaning the dirt on your hair. It's just creating more lather. So while that lather might seem luxurious, it's not really doing anything.

Moroccanoil is one product in particular that barely lathers when you apply it, and I've had many comments from customers who believe something is wrong. There's nothing wrong – it's doing its job, and it's free from sulfates, phosphates and parabens. The more natural it is, the less lather you should get.

Moroccanoil Moisture Repair Shampoo

→ Buy the Moroccanoil Moisture Repair Shampoo, $21.39, at amazon.com (US delivery.

→ Buy the Moroccanoil Moisture Repair Shampoo, £15.20, at strictlybeautiful.com (UK delivery).

What does hair really need?
Hair renews itself every 28 days or so, but you could keep a strand of hair for about 1,000 years in a museum. It's the strongest protein we've got (it's called keratin), and it's structured in such a way that it can become brittle and dry. In other words, it requires hydrating.

The chemicals you find in shampoos are designed to add effects to your hair – a bit like a photoshop palette! As I mentioned, silicon-based chemicals sit on your hair and protect the "core" of the strand of hair, but can become heavy. PH-balanced shampoos are actually relatively acidic, and pro-vitamins? Well... we're still trying to find out what pro-vitamins really do to your hair!

Ultimately, it depends on your environment. If, for example, you work in an environment that is causing damage to your hair through heat – or if you have been over-using heated tools – you'll need a more gentle, sulfate and paraben-free solution such as the fortifying yet gentle Tigi S-Factor Health Factor Shampoo, used daily with the associated conditioner. Its combination of Nettle, Ginger and Yucca is perfect for stressed-out hair.

TIGI S-Factor Health Factor Sulfate-Free Daily Dose Shampoo

→ Buy the TIGI S-Factor Health Factor Sulfate-Free Daily Dose Shampoo, $16.25, at amazon.com (US delivery).

→ Buy the TIGI S-Factor Health Factor Sulfate-Free Daily Dose Shampoo, £11.29, at strictlybeautiful.com (UK delivery).

The solution? It depends on you, the individual, and your own hair. It depends on your environment, and how it’s affecting your hair. Always ask a specialist for advice, and go for the most natural shampoo you can find. Don’t scrimp and save here. Your hair may be dead, but it still needs looking after!

David Cubbon runs Strictly Beautiful, a website specializing in hair and skin care products.