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Why Do We Use Shampoo & Conditioner?

Jun 10th, 2022

We use them a few times a week, at least, yet what exactly is happening when we put shampoo and conditioner in our hair?

Sure, it comes out clean and shiny, but what do these products actually do for us, and how the heck do we go about selecting from the thousands of hair care brands out there?

Dive into the hair-raising (hah!) world of hair care products and find out what YOU should be looking for on your next trip to the hair care aisle. 

Benefits of using shampoo and conditioner

What is shampoo, and why should we use it?

While there are a million different kinds of shampoo from a million different brands out there, most shampoos are designed to basically do the same thing: clean your hair.

Shampoo is designed to clean your hair of whatever is not meant to be there. Smoke particles from campfires, dirt from baseball caps, buildup from hair products, sweat from hot days, excess oils and any other kind of dirt or grime that may have gotten in there is all fair game, and the chemicals in shampoo can help remove these from your hair. 

One of the biggest reasons to be diligent with your shampoo use, though, is that it removes excess sebum from your hair follicles. Sebum, which is an oil naturally produced in our sebaceous glands, can build up on our scalp over time and clog pores, cause dandruff and, in cases of extreme buildup, slow hair growth or pause it altogether. Regularly cleaning your scalp and hair with shampoo rids our hair follicles and skin from too much of this sebum and can leave our hair healthier and in better condition than before. 

That’s not to say that one could use any old bar of soap to wash their hair. Most bar soaps and body soaps are too harsh for our delicate follicles and shafts of hair, so shampoos tend to contain a gentler combination of cleansing agents, fragrances, thickeners and oils. The ingredients vary with the type of shampoo too, of course, especially since there are so many different kinds of hair out there. 

Choosing the right kinds of shampoo for your particular hair type is essential for taking care of your hair properly.

Popular types of shampoo

  • Volumizing shampoo: adds thickness and texture, especially to fine, limp hair. 
  • Color-protecting shampoo: contains certain oils, kelp or algae that preserves color.
  • Two-in-one: a fast and easy way to both shampoo and condition your hair at once, though not as effective for hair with color, excess product or dry follicles. 
  • Oily hair shampoos: contains less conditioning ingredients and will therefore leave hair less heavy and oiled.
  • Everyday shampoos: contains extra-gentle chemicals for people who want to wash their hair everyday without leaving hair too dry.
  • Clarifying shampoo: contains extra-strong chemicals that remove product buildup and hard grime. Not to be used regularly.
  • Moisturizing shampoo: contains extra oils to help coat dry hair.

Benefits of using shampoo

In the end, these are the reasons shampoo is good for our hair.

  • Using the right type of shampoo on our hair makes our hair healthier.
  • Shampoo keeps our hair follicles clean and our scalps fresh.
  • The right shampoo can maintain hair color longer.
  • Clean and healthy scalps, follicles and hair shafts reduce the chance of hair loss. 

What is a conditioner, and why should we use it?

There are perhaps more types of hair conditioner out there than there are types of shampoo, as the ingredients, chemicals and textures vary so much more when it comes to the many different kinds of hair. 

At its most basic, however, conditioner is designed to make hair easy to manage by reducing the amount of friction between individual strands of hair. This can be done through coating the strands with oil, moisturizing the scalp and providing the follicles with essential proteins, which is why hair becomes so much more silky-smooth and easier to brush afterward.

To be used correctly and reap all the benefits of the product, squeeze out any water from your hair before applying any conditioner. This ensures that your hair follicles and strands can soak up as much of the nutrients as possible without the water diluting the mixture first. Most conditioners also require different amounts of setting times, so at minimum allow the conditioner to sit in your hair for a few minutes before rinsing it out.

And that’s pretty much the gist of it, really. There are a million different kinds of conditioners that do many different things, but most of them work in this way to some extent or another. 

Popular types of conditioner

  • Deep conditioner: best used for dry or damaged hair, but not recommended for thin hair as the oils can weigh down hair and make it look greasy.
  • Rinse-out conditioners: fairly self-explanatory, but these are used regularly and in many kinds of hair. 
  • Leave-in conditioners: a lightweight product used in already-washed-and-conditioned hair as a refresher. 
  • Hair masks: strong products that are meant to soak deep into hair follicles and provide moisture and protein straight to the follicle. 

Benefits of using conditioner

Conditioners vary in so many ways that it’s almost impossible to recommend one specific type that is good for every reason. However, no matter what conditioner you use or need for your hair, nearly all of them will offer at least most of the following benefits.

  • Damaged hair can get repaired by absorbing the proteins and moisture from conditioners into hair follicles.
  • Conditioners add moisture and oils to hair that can prevent hair from going dry. 
  • Conditioners are designed for very specific hair types, so finding the right conditioner can boost the overall health and appearance of your hair type.

All in all

While it may seem like one of the more boring and bland topics written about here, we doubt many of us ever spent too much time thinking about what these products did and how they help us. This is also where education about sustainable products, toxin-free ingredients and eco-friendly practices tie into all of this, so now we all know what to look for when we next need to go shopping for hair care products!

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Featured photo courtesy Pixabay/SocialButterflyMMG

Author of Article

Colleen Ford is a South African who now lives in Spokane, Washington. She loves to travel, camp (in warm weather) and bake.

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