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How Shampoo Works

Jul 8, 2008
Have you ever wondered what shampoo really is, what it contains, and how it works? Shampoo is something that many of us use every day, but rarely do we stop to think what it is that we are actually putting on our heads. A quick look on the back of a shampoo bottle will list ingredients like water, sodium laureth sulfate, sodium chloride, amodimethicone, glycerine, fragrance and a slew of others that are difficult to type and nearly impossible to pronounce.

Shampoo is able to clean your hair by stripping off sebum. Sebum is an oil that your hair follicles secrete each day, which is later then absorbed by the hair itself, forming a protective layer. The sebum that shampoo strips away protects the protein structure that the hair has. For all the good that sebum does, it also does some things to our hair that are actually not so nice. One good example is that, it tends to collect styling products, dandruff and dirt, which is why we need shampoo to maintain a clean head of hair.

When you massage shampoo into your scalp, it has a roll up effect on the sebum clinging to your hair. It takes it from close to your scalp to further away, then completely gone when you rinse the shampoo out. Surprisingly, there is no reason for shampoo to lather. It does not remove dirt more effectively or anything, it is just there to make you feel good about your shampoo experience. Shampoo manufacturers put additives in their formulas to help achieve a decent lather as you wash up in the shower.

Companies who make shampoo have a lot of things on their minds besides a decent lather, however. Studies have shown that people like their shampoos to feel thick and creamy, so they tinker with the formulas to make them richer. Of course, nobody wants to walk around with stinky hair, so the companies also add some nice fragrances to their mixtures. Other targets include easy rinsing, minimal skin and eye irritation, good biodegradability, a good finish after washing the hair and low toxicity.

Most importantly, all of the shampoos are slightly acidic, with a pH less than seven. This is because a basic environment weakens the hair a lot by breaking the bonds present in the keratin in the hair. So, that about covers all there is to know about shampoos!
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