The cuticle is the outer layer of the hair shaft that protects the inside of the hair. It is made up of tiny scales that look like shingles on a roof with each scale overlapping the next. It should lie flat to offer protection and to reflect the light.
Starting with the basics, shampooing is the first step. I recommend using only soft water on your hair since hard water will leave mineral deposits behind that will coat and dull the appearance. Hair has to be clean to be shiny. Each hair has its own oil gland to keep it lubricated; unfortunately, the oil causes dirt to stick to the hair. It will take a soap or detergent product to wash away this build-up. Years ago, soap was used. A drawback to soap is that it may leave behind calcium and magnesium deposits known as soap scum. This is why Grandma used to follow a shampoo with a lemon or vinegar rinse. The acid dissolved the soap scum and caused the cuticle to lie flat making her hair shiny and smooth.
The first ingredient in most shampoo now is detergent, which sounds like harsh treatment for our treasured tresses, but it tends to be a better choice for cleansing. Soap solutions are alkaline which cause the cuticle layer of the hair to swell, feel rough and appear dull.
Lathering agents are normally included. Sudsing isn’t necessary but it makes us feel better about the cleansing ability of the shampoo.
There may be many other ingredients in your bottle of shampoo; everything from vitamins to herbs to additives with long unpronounceable names.
You will find shampoos that claim to volumize, thicken, or smooth your hair. Each has its own ingredient to accomplish the purpose. Volumizers contain ingredients that will plump up the hair shaft slightly and will increase the volume a small amount. Thickening shampoo coats the hair shaft to cause the hair to feel thicker. Smoothing shampoo contains moisturizers and emollients to decrease frizzyness.
Clarifying shampoos remove build up from styling products. They are extra cleansing and can be used about once a week to remove any build-up that dulls and weighs the hair down.
There are even rapid dry shampoos for those pressed for time. These either coat the hair with polymers that helps the water to drip off and evaporate faster than normal or contain ingredients that cause the hair’s cuticle to lock down flat, which minimizes water absorption. These shampoos can cause the hair to dry up to twice as fast.
Read the ingredient list on your shampoo bottle. While a long list of ingredients does not make the product of higher quality, there are some added ingredients such as herbal extracts you may want to try. I have compiled a list of common and some not so common additives along with their purpose to help you make an informed choice. Take it along the next time you shop for a new shampoo.
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