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A Definitive Guide to Shampoo

An ideal hair care routine incorporates a regular hair wash with quality shampoos. But, have you ever thought of the importance of such products? How did this tradition start? Can you skip using a shampoo product? What are the various categories of shampoos available? And how do you choose your shampoo? These are some of the queries that this in-depth guide to shampoos seeks to address. Are you for the learning experience? Here we go!

What is Shampoo?

The shampoo is a fundamental hair care product for cleaning hair with a thick-consistency liquid. However, there are dry shampoos that are in powder-spray form, and others as bar soaps. We apply shampoo to wet hair.

Why Do We Shampoo Our Hair?

We wash hair as often as we choose. There is no definitive medical reason behind it, but history shows that we gain a lot from a regular shampooing routine, including benefits like:

  •    Removing dirt and debris
  •    It makes hair smell fresh
  •    Unclogs the hair follicles
  •    Removes frizzles
  •    Moisturizes and detangles hair
  •    Addresses brittleness

History of Shampoo

Different washing routines date back to thousands of years ago. In this era, complex bathhouses were for the royals. These featured in the Babylonian courts, Egyptian cosmeticians, and European’s Purity of the Soul. Each generation had delicate soaps, washes, oils, and treatments for the perfect wash. Yet, it would only be much later when the word shampoo would come to use. Then, the shampoo making process would later undergo microscopic scrutiny for mass production.

Commercial shampoo originates from India. For, the name shampoo was first used in the 1700s. It signifies the way the Hindu women would massage and penetrate their hair when washing it. Notable events in the evolution of shampoo are as follows: –


Hans Schwarzkopf, a Berlin chemist, came up with the first powder shampoo. Though soluble in water, the powder was too alkaline. Hence, it made the hair look dull.


The New York Times published guidelines on how to shampoo the hair. These so-called simple rules advised the use of Castile soap in shampooing the hair. A nighttime routine, four times a month, or every six weeks as recommended.


The first commercial liquid shampoo came about. An English man named Kasey Hebert made Canthrox Shampoo and put an ad for it in the American Magazine.


Hans Schwarzkopf came up with his version of liquid shampoo. At the same time, he also set up the first hairdressing training institutes.


Dr. John Breck made Drene, the first synthetic surfactant-based shampoo. It retailed as a PH balanced shampoo.


The first shampoo consisting of a surfactant and a builder came to be. The builder promotes the performance of the surfactant, the active agent.

The 1960s – 1980s

Chemists made shampoos whose active agent suspends in polymers. This composition address the unevenness of the detergent in the shampoo. More icons like Farrah Fawcett embraced shampoos. They advocated for shampooing hair more often during the week. And, chemists came up with ways of suspending silicon components in shampoos. This discovery resulted in the 2-in-1 shampoos.


Many shampoos vary depending on where they originate. These vary in all shapes and forms. Still, current shampoo trends show a move towards organic products. There is a growing demand for: –

  • Sulfate-free shampoos. There is a growing concern against sulfate-based shampoos. Consumers report color fading and irritation after using such a product. Yet, their makers insist that the products are safe as long as buyers use them as per the directions.
  • Natural Oil-infused shampoos.
  • Dry shampoos.
  • A growing trend to less shampooing. As companies urge buyers to use their shampoo their hair more often, there are concerns against this excessive use. They claim that over-shampooing strips the hair of its natural oils. Plus, it exposes the now vulnerable strands to chemical harm. Hence, it is now a common trend to shampoo once a week or less.

Contents of a Basic Shampoo

Shampoos comprise a surfactant, a co-surfactant, and salt. Other secondary ingredients include fragrance, conditioner, preservative, and a thickener.

A Surfactant

A surfactant is a chemical typical of detergents. It is what breaks the surface tension between substances. In simple terms, these are the active agents of a shampoo. General surfactants are in four categories.

First, anionic surfactants like sodium lauryl sulfate produce the lather and a detergent-like character in the shampoo. They have a negative charge effect on the water. Second, cationic surfactants like Polyquaternium-47 have a positive charge reaction with water. These active agents are typical with shampoos that also serve as conditioners. They cut that squeaky feel, leaving hair feeling smooth after a wash.

Next are the non-ionic surfactants like stearyl alcohol. These active agents have a neutral effect on the water. Hence, they act as emulsifiers, foam stabilizers, solubilizing agents, or conditioning base. Finally, the amphoteric surfactants have both positive and negative charges on the water. They are poor emulsifiers and cleansing agents. Yet, they boost the foam, get rid of itchiness, and condition the hair. Such agents include Cocamido propyl betaine and Sodium Lauriminodipropionate.

A Co-Surfactant

Co-Surfactant works with the active agent to make it more effective. For example, such substances increase the surfactant’s energy to dissolve oils. The most common co-surfactants are alcohol-based products like Cocamidopropyl betaine.


Salt neutralizes the micelle charge density. In turn, it thickens the shampoo. Yet, salt undermines the shampoo’s viscosity when used under lower temperatures. Typical salts found in shampoos include sodium chloride and magnesium sulfate.

Fragrance and Plant Essence

Shampoo fragrance works like perfume or cologne. Here, oils from plants, flowers, and fruits dissolve in the shampoo. These extracts give the shampoos that special note that fills the air when you wash your hair. Hence, you can achieve any scent, including manly ones and spicy notes. Examples of fragrance ingredients are linalool, amyl cinnamal, hexyl cinnamal, limonene, and menthol. But, plant essence includes eucalyptus, lemon, aloe vera, and almond oil extracts.


Shampoos include ingredients such as lauryl sulfate for mild conditioning. These conditioners make it easy to manage the hair after a wash.


Shampoo preservatives hinder any fungal or bacterial growth that causes shampoo to spoil. They do this by releasing formaldehyde, a chemical used to kill germs. The most common shampoo preservatives are imidazolidinyl urea and DMDM hydantoin.


A thickener is what determines the shampoo’s viscosity. At the same time, these thickeners create a temporary masking effect on your hair. In turn, they make the hair look full after a wash. Typical thickeners are protein-based. They include lipids, organic products, minerals, synthetics, and ions.

Types of Shampoos

Which shampoo do you use for your hair type? What makes this shampoo special? Indeed, gone are the days when a one-fits-all shampoo would be useful for the entire family. Instead, as the shampoo evolution took place, so did the number of options. Now, we have dozens of alternatives on which shampoo to use for different purposes. Still, these choices boil down to ten main categories. Each of these categories targets a particular client base. Let’s check them out next: –

Clarifying Shampoo

A clarifying shampoo uses dense surfactants. It helps in deep cleaning the hair. Due to its thoroughness, it is not your everyday use shampoo. It can strip your hair of its natural oils and end up irritating the scalp and damaging your hair. Instead, it would be best if you opted for it only when you have a massive build-up of dirt and products on your hair over time. Hence, use it only after using silicon products, heavy conditioners, and hair sprays a lot. Most clarifying shampoos use sulfate surfactants as their active agents.

Everyday Shampoo

Do you like washing your hair with shampoo daily? Then, it would be best if you had an everyday shampoo that uses mild surfactants. Unlike clarifying shampoos, everyday ones will not strip your hair of any oil. Instead, it washes it enough to be clean. The regular everyday shampoo includes those ideal for babies. Hence, use this shampoo if you have a low tolerance to sebum or enjoy shampooing your hair daily. Plus, opt for it whenever you feel that washing your hair with water only is unhygienic.

Volumizing Shampoo

Does your hair stay flat, or has it become fine over the years? Consider using a volumizing shampoo. Now, there is little that we can do about our genetics. Yet, this shampoo will give your hair more volume and body. Unlike popular belief, volumizing shampoos do not wear down the hair. Plus, they neither deposit any silicones, oils, or quats to the hair. Instead, they start by thoroughly cleaning the hair. Then, they use unique ingredients like a mousse to cause friction at the roots. In turn, this friction lifts the hair from the roots, giving the hair the illusion of more volume and body.

Oily Hair Shampoo

Oily hair shampoos work like clarifying shampoos. They aim at removing as much sebum from the scalp and hair follicles as possible. To do so, they use powerful detergents and fewer conditioners. Still, oily hair shampoos are not as harsh as clarifying shampoos. They will leave some of the natural oil intact at the roots. Examples of oily hair shampoos include sulfosuccinate detergents and sulfate surfactants.

Normal Hair Shampoo

Ordinary hair shampoos use sulfates alongside other surfactants to clean the hair. They are kind on hair, creating a protective layer that acts as a conditioner. In turn, this shampoo promotes the secretion of more sebum, hence healthy hair growth. Regular hair shampoos are excellent for use once or twice a week.

Dry, Damaged Hair Shampoo

These are two types of shampoos that consist of dense conditioning. As they clean the hair, these shampoos create a protective layer around the damaged or dry hair. Also, they get rid of any dirt, chemical irritants, and natural oil from the strands. But, these are mild shampoos. For, they tend to leave behind any oils, conditioning agents, and silicon products. These, too, add to the protective layer created after the wash. Most dry and damaged hair shampoos use sodium Laureth sulfate as the active agent. Still, other dry and damaged hair shampoos are sulfate-free.

Colored Hair Shampoo

Colored hair shampoos are sulfate-free. Also, some of them use a color booster to bring back the luster in your shades. Other colored hair shampoos help to remove any unwanted warm tones. Such brassiness is typical with blond shades. Still, colored hair shampoos are mild to the hair. They include conditioning that rejuvenates damaged hair after a ruined color session.

2-In-1 Shampoo

A 2-in-1 shampoo is a cleanser and a conditioner all in one. With such a shampoo, you don’t need to condition your hair after washing it. Hence, it works best for delicate hair. For, it helps limit the massages and rubs on the scalp.

Medicated Shampoo

Medicated shampoos retail as over-the-counter drugs. They contain the usual active agents for a shampoo. Also, they include other chemicals with healing properties. In turn, medicated shampoos have many roles as follows:

  • Treat bacterial and fungal infections.
  • They serve as a topical antiseptic.
  • They soothe itching or irritated scalps.
  • They address scalp scaling.
  • They prevent further hair loss in thinning hair.
  • Promote adequate blood circulation on the scalp.
  • Build volume in thin hair.
  • They treat dandruff and head lice.

Typical ingredients in medicated shampoos include zinc pyrithione, sulfur, and tar derivatives.

Swimmer’s Shampoo

Often, swimmers complain of dry, brittle, and damaged hair after swimming. A swimmer’s shampoo fights the chlorine and copper from such pools. It has chelating agents that remove these chemicals. First, its ascorbic acid breaks the bond between hair and the chlorine molecules. Then, they trap the copper ions and wash them off.

Choosing the Right Type of Shampoo for Your Hair

Now that you know the types of shampoos available pick one, that will suit your specific hair needs. By doing so, you avoid disappointments in your new shampoo choice. Here are some quick tips to get you started: –

  • Know your hair type and scalp. For example, if your scalp is oily, then opt for sulfate-based shampoos. For such shampoos help to get rid of impurities that clog the hair follicles.
  • Sulfate-based shampoos aren’t that bad. Yes, these shampoos may strip your hair a bit. But, they ensure your shampoo doesn’t sud-up.
  • Do you fancy lavish hair treatments? Then, spend more on the conditioner than on the shampoo. For, a shampoo with minimal ingredients is as effective as the lavish ones. If you have to spend on expensive shampoo, then opt for a shampoo that aims at addressing a particular issue. Examples of such shampoos include medicated shampoos and colored hair shampoos.
  • Drugstore shampoo brands are often of premium quality.
  • Opt for dry shampoos if you have oily or fine hair.
  • It is okay to mix different shampoo brands. Do this when you want a particular blend that you cannot find in the existing brands.
  • Change your type of shampoo after every six months. This way, you’ll discover other shampoos that are excellent for your hair.

Additional Forms of Shampoos

  • Shampoo Bars
  • Dry Shampoos

A Typical Shampooing Technique

First, we make lather in our wrists. Then, we massage the foam to the scalp. The product flows down the hair strands. Finally, we rinse the hair with lots of clean water. Shampooing styles differ according to the intended outcome.

Four Leading Shampoo Brands


Giovanni is a leading hair care line in the United States. Its line of shampoos uses organic ingredients. These shampoos are sulfate-free, biodegradable, with no formaldehyde or animal by-products. The brand’s founder, Arthur Guidotti, was a famous hairstylist in Beverly Hills. Some of Giovanni shampoos include a deep moisture shampoo and a raw shea retention shampoo.


Kerastase is a high-end, French shampoo brand. Also, it is a sub-brand of the L’Oreal group of cosmetics. The brand sells most of its products in Europe and Asia. Kerastase products include a volumizing shampoo for fine hair and cleansing & re-balancing shampoo.


Sunsilk shampoos are popular in Asia, South America, Latin America, and the Middle East. Unilever wholly owns this British brand. It retails in other names like Seda and Elidor, depending on the locations. Some Sunsilk shampoos include purple shampoo and black radiant shampoo.

Herbal Essences

Herbal Essences is a sub-brand of Clairol. Even so, it is available in many variations targeting the vast customer base. They include shampoos for hydrating, strengthening, and volumizing the hair. This brand sells its products in the United Kingdom and the United States.

Final Thoughts

Shampoos are versatile hair products for the modern woman. Indeed, the contemporary woman has no reason to have dry, brittle, or damaged hair. These hair care products address the needs of all hair types. Now, leading brands are rolling out new models every other day. You can always opt for the best quality care for your hair. We hope that this guide has shed some light on how shampoo is a critical component of our daily care routines. Stay informed.

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