Stress over the tress? Get to the root of your shampoo

Sep 18, 2012, 11:22 IST | Shinibali Mitra Saigal

Fine hair or frizzy, coloured or grey, Shinibali Mitra Saigal finds that the answer to all hair woes lies in locating the perfect shampoo

Our hair can speak volumes about us. We all want hair that shines, that bounces and is our crowning glory. Ask anyone, from laymen to hair experts, and they will say the key to gorgeous tresses lies in the right shampoo. However, this bottle of wonder can be the cause of much confusion. These days, there are shampoos that hydrate, moisturise, volumnise, tame frizziness, hide the greys and work almost every kind of miracle that only the hair fairy promises. And spoilt though we maybe when it comes to choice, the million-dollar question that remains to be answered is how does one find the ideal shampoo that matches our hair?

Illustration/ Amit Bandre 

Saloni Mehra, 25-year-old advertising professional, has changed six shampoos in the last three months. Mehra is at the end of her tether since nothing seems to give her hair the luster she is looking for. “My hair looks limp and neglected even with all the effort I put in,” she says.

Hair or there
According to hair stylist Sapna Bhavnani, who runs the tony Bandra-based salon Mad O Wat, the best way to choose the right shampoo is to consult one’s stylist. “Since stylists work on your hair they are better judges of hair texture,” she says. Bhavnani does caution, however, that there is a fair amount of trial-and-error involved in choosing the right shampoo because everyone’s hair quality is different and something that works on one person may not on another.

Dr Apoorva Shah, trichologist and founder of Richfeel says that it is best to use shampoos that are formulated for daily wash as these have negligible chemicals in them. However, Shah adds that if the scalp shows conditions like oiliness, dryness, roughness or even rough and brittle hair then it is advisable to consult a specialist.

Meghna Butani, an independent hair stylist and make-up artist says that one of the first things to do before zeroing in on the correct shampoo is to do a self-analysis and figure the type of hair one has. “Once you know the category your hair falls under it will be easier to pick a shampoo that suits you.” Butani adds that often it is possible that one has to try a number of shampoos before finding one that works. She informs that shampoos that have a clear consistency are stronger and called clarifying shampoos. While denser shampoos are gentler.

“If your hair is very rough and damaged you should use a shampoo and conditioner with a thicker consistency and if your hair is greasy and has a lot of product buildup you should use a clarifying shampoo or a clear one,” says Butani.

Dr Anjali Mukherjee, leading nutritionist and founder and director of Health Total, says that most people seem to think that shampoos play a big role in hair loss but in reality it is one’s diet and hormones that have a major influence on the health of the hair. Mukherjee feels that hair treatments like colouring and blow-drying also adversely affect hair health. “Shampoos should be chosen to suit your scalp condition — whether oily or dry or normal, and a conditioner should be chosen according to your hair quality, be it dry, brittle, smooth, curly, fine or oily.”

The right choice
An important point of debate that often crops up while deciding on a shampoo is whether to opt for products made with natural ingredients or ones that contains chemicals such as sulfate.

Natasha Shah, founder of Nature’s Co., a brand that specialises in creating cosmetics from natural ingredients, says that it is best to avoid shampoos with synthetic chemicals, chemical preservatives, artificial colouring and strong fragrances. “Natural ingredients hardly have any side effects. It could be as easy as making a concoction of shikakai, ritha, amla in your kitchen to wash your hair,” says Shah. She cautions that one should steer clear from using chemicals because not only does it lead to premature graying and damaging follicles in the long run but the chemicals could also enter the scalp and the blood stream and harm the body.

Butani informs that most shampoos do use chemicals such as ammonium lauryl sulfate and sodium lauryl sulfate to create foam and this helps clean hair more effectively. “There have been some studies that suggest long-term exposure to sulfates can have damaging effects on hair follicles and could contribute to thinning hair. However, sulfates do a good job of cleaning the hair. So, one is essentially left with a trade off. Do you want your hair looking and feeling clean for a little while, before it goes dry, or do you use a sulfate free natural shampoo which will not strip as much oil and will not dry your hair but your hair will need washing again sooner,” she says.

The right shampoo can help build or break your confidence which is why keep up the trial and error along with a little bit of research, to zero in on the one that will keep your tresses stress-free.  

Food for your hair
Dr Anjali Mukherjee believes that for healthy hair one needs to eat the right food. Here are some tips to get that enviable mane.

Zinc: It is one of the most important nutrients for hair health. Eat zinc rich foods such as pumpkin seeds, eggs and sunflower seeds. Take a multi vitamin with at least 30 mg of zinc in it. 

Essential fatty acids: Include moderate amounts of nuts like walnuts, almonds, and peanuts, flaxseeds in your diet to improve your hair health.

Biotin: This is derived mainly from protein sources like meat and eggs, legumes such as lentils and beans. Correcting biotin intake helps control hair loss.

Iron: Low levels of iron in your diet can lead to anemia, which in turn can lead to hair loss. Major sources include green leafy vegetables, dried beans, nuts and pumpkin seeds.

Calcium: Eat a bowl of curd everyday to improve calcium intake. When you begin to experience mild hair fall, it is usually due to inadequate calcium intake.

Hydration: Not drinking adequate water will also result in hair loss because your body needs water to metabolise all the nutrients needed for healthy hair.
Nature, nurture
> To get shine and bounce the natural way, wash your hair with apple cider vinegar.
> An easy natural shampoo replacement is to use one tablespoon of baking soda with two tablespoons of water. You won’t get foam and lather but you will get clean and shiny hair.
> To clean dry hair, mix honey in two cups of cream.
> If you have oily hair, rinse it with multani mitti. 

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