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Hair care - washing tips

How washing your hair can damage it

Author: Charlotte Kuchinsky February 9 2011

woman washing her hair

Some factions of the beauty industry continue to argue about the dangers of over shampooing hair. Some claim that shampoo causes no or very little real damage. Others insist that harsh shampoos eliminate the hair's natural oil. That in turn results in a dry, damaged scalp and tresses that are brittle, dull and lifeless.

Since refusing to shampoo your hair isn't really an option, the real challenges are determining how often to shampoo and finding the right shampoo to use.

The dangers of overshampooing are often attributed to the sulfates and phosphates contained in most shampoos. The problem is that those ingredients are the very things that make products lather. A lot of women continue to assume that a good lather indicates the shampoo is working, but that isn't necessarily the case.

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In a trend seen across most beauty products, there is now a push toward more natural shampoos, and at the very least, a lot of shampoo manufacturers have begun to look for ways to remove their harshest ingredients.

Shampooing frequency

For many women, daily shampooing isn't really necessary. The exception to this rule is for hair that is excessively oily. Too much oil, just like too little of it, can result in damage. For these women, finding a gentle cleansing shampoo that doesn't strip out all of the scalp's oil is crucial. Cheap shampoos, under $5, generally include harsh ingredients that lather well and may clean the hair sufficiently, but they also rob it of the natural oils it needs to look and "be" healthy, so this may be one case where it's worth spending more.

As a rule of thumb, most hair can be shampooed every other day as long as the right type of shampoo is used. The exception here would be hair that is overly dry, color treated, permed or otherwise already damaged. In those instances, it might be best to cut back to three times a week in order to give the hair a chance to rest.

Your hair's condition

The condition of hair should be assessed, as a minimum, with each changing season. The stress of the sun or of artificial heating sources can change how hair functions during the summer and winter months. It may become drier, more brittle and in need of special care. During spring and fall it could require less targeted attention. Much depends on the woman, her lifestyle and her health. That is why regular professional assessment is important; a good hair stylist can identify the hair's immediate needs and steer you in the right product direction.

How to shampoo

Always shampoo correctly. That includes paying attention to the type and amount of water being used; water that is too hot can jump start oil stripping and further increase hair damage. Using an insufficient amount of water can also cause undue stress, stretching the hair and causing it to break or lose elasticity. Always make certain hair is thoroughly dampened before beginning to shampoo. Finally, don't overdo the amount of shampoo; if you are using the right type, it won't take more than a dime amount; maybe even less. Too much shampoo can be difficult to rinse out, which is another major problem.

Rinse, rinse and then rinse some more. Leaving any type of shampoo on the scalp or hair can result in dull, lifeless, oily looking hair, and excess product left on the scalp may irritate it and lead to other health issues. Rinse until you think the hair is clean and then rinse again and again.

How to condition

Conditioning hair is considered essential for most women, but this is another area where the experts can't seem to agree. Some say you should condition every time you shampoo, others insist that conditioning once a week is sufficient. Most believe that conditioning the ends of the hair is the best way to go because that is where damage most often happens. I go along with that train of thought; as a rule of thumb, I believe you should apply shampoo at the scalp and work it through to the ends of the hair. With conditioner, I recommend the opposite, applying at the ends and work upwards. That way the product's distribution is concentrated where it is most needed and less likely to cause problems elsewhere.

What to buy

Look for shampoos with little or no sulfate or phosphate content to help negate excess hair damage. Better yet, look for shampoos that are legitimately natural, containing no harsh chemicals. There are dozens of these shampoos available in today's marketplace. You may pay a few dollars more for them but the end result will be well worth it.

Always use products that are meant to go together. Using one brand of shampoo and another of conditioner might work for some but it can cause problems for most. Seek out the guidance of a hair care specialist to make sure you are using products that are compatible and not working against one another.

Most of all respect your hair just like any other part of your body. If you treat it well, it will serve you well. If you don't then you could pay the price as you age.

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