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Shampoo Basics


When shampoo was originally invented it was designed to cleanse the hair. Over the years many hair care companies have amped up their basic formulas to focus on special hair needs.

The needs addressed by special shampoos ranged from dandruff to oily hair and scalp. As shampoo products designed for special hair and scalp needs became popular, other shampoo categories emerged including products created specifically to cleanse dry, damaged or chemically treated strands.

As the special shampoo categories continued to thrive, new brands were born designed to address sensitive scalps, colored strands, gray hair and fine or thin tresses.

Curly hair expert Ouidad was one of the first to offer a shampoo specifically to address naturally curly strands. From a few shampoo offerings addressing curly hair grew an entire industry of cleansing products for natural curls. Shampoo lines have also been introduced for long hair care as well as other hair textures and types.

Following on the heels of all the different shampoo offerings were the natural and organic lines with Aubrey Organics being an early innovator.

When trying to figure out what shampoo is best for your hair type, texture, condition and special needs it is important to remember that all formulas are not created the same. It is also significant to remember that a shampoo that works well for one hair consumer may not work for others.

Finally, shampoo for all hair types, textures, color, condition and challenges can be purchased for a wide range of prices from top of the line to bargain basement. In these current economic times when saving money is helpful, consider new cleansing options to fit your budget.


The first step to fantastic hair is choosing the right shampoo for your hair type (fine, medium, thick or combination), texture (straight, naturally wavy, curly, kinky or combo) and condition (normal, oily, dry, extremely dry, damaged).

It is important to select a product that will be mild enough to use without striping your hair of its natural oils while ensuring that you achieve the proper cleansing for your hair.

Listed below are a wide range of categories for different hair types, textures, conditions and special needs with suggested brands. While there are literally thousands of different shampoos available in the world today, these brands are based on my experience over the past 15 years trying a vast number of brands.

Not all brands or offerings within those brands will work for all hair types. Choose carefully and once you have found a brand that works best for you, give it time to work. Sometimes it can take weeks for your hair and scalp to adjust to new formulas.

Normal hair

Some shampoo products advertise they are designed to address normal hair needs. What exactly is normal hair? It depends who you ask but generally speaking normal hair would be considered to be either virgin hair that has never been chemically treated or hair that is straight, medium in thickness and without any significant issues such as dandruff.

Normal hair is sometimes defined as problem-free hair. Shampoo products designed for normal hair tends to focus on maintaining a healthy, glossy shine and may or may not be defined as gentle. Normal hair may also be the type of hair that is cleansed on a daily basis.

For some hair types, textures and conditions, daily cleansing can be extremely damaging. Normal hair can usually withstand daily cleansing with less damage although studies have shown that the majority of normal hair does best when cleansing is not done on a daily basis.

Some brands to try (in no particular order) designed for normal hair include the following:

Frequent Shampoo Use

Some hair consumers feel the need to shampoo their hair every single day. Others may shampoo more than once a day due to the fact that they work out in the health club or work in a bar, restaurant or other occupation that results in the need to shampoo constantly.

If daily cleansing leaves your hair dry or crunchy, continue your regular shampoo routine but consider diluting the shampoo formula with water or use a more moisturizing formulation.

Shampoo products created for frequent shampoo use include (in no particular order):

Clarifying Shampoo Use

Clarifying shampoo lines used to be extremely popular. The goal of a clarifying shampoo was to remove styling product build-up. In the past few years as hairstyles have migrated away from heavy layers of gels, sprays and related styling tools, the mention of clarifying cleansing products have faded.

A new philosophy about clarifying the hair has also developed. With a clarifying product, a little goes a very long way. Overuse of clarifying cleansers can leave tresses stripped of precious oils. They can also accelerate hair color fading.

Which is probably why you might see less advertising for clarifying formulas when you wander the vast aisles of your neighborhood beauty supply store.

If you partake of excessive amounts of daily styling products, you might still want to use a clarifying shampoo on an infrequent basis. If you do, consider these options (in no particular order):

Oily hair

Oily hair is a common problem for certain age groups. When hair is greasy and lank it needs more cleansing from a shampoo product designed to address the ongoing oil production. The key to selecting a shampoo for oily, greasy strands is to find one which addresses and control the oil without striping the hair's natural oils. Once you begin to strip your strands, the oil-producing sebaceous glands will go into overtime to compensate and the problems may actually worsen.

Some brands to try designed for normal hair include the following (in no particular order):

Anti-Dandruff hair

Dandruff is not limited to dry flakes. Dandruff can also be oily or greasy.

One of the earliest shampoo lines created for special cleansing needs was created to address dandruff.

Some hair experts believe that it is important to use a shampoo designed specifically to treat dandruff. Other experts believe the dandruff can be addressed by non-specific formulas:

Some dandruff related shampoos to try, which also help with general itchy scalps include (in no particular order):

Dry hair

It is agreed by most hair experts that dry hair needs a rich moisturizing product to give the tresses a smooth and shiny finish without leaving strands coated or weighed down. Dry hair which is either genetic in origin, or the result of improper care, does well when cleansed with a diluted formula of shampoo and water. Dry hair also does best when cleansed once or twice a week. An infrequent washing schedule will prevent ongoing wear and tear to dry hair.

Dry hair is not usually as severe as extra dry hair which often results from chemically damaged tresses.

To add moisture to dry strands without leaving a heavy film consider the following options (in no particular order):

Very Dry & Damaged hair

Damaged hair may or may not be damaged from chemicals such as hair color, relaxing, chemical straightening or related treatments.

While chemical damage is the leading culprit, hair which is defined as damaged can also occur from excessive use of hot styling tools as well as overuse of harsh shampoo lines. Damage hair is often categorizes as either damaged or extra dry hair.

Damaged hair needs helps, regardless of the reasons. This type of hair often responds well to pre-shampoo conditioning treatments along with a diluted formula of 1 part shampoo to 3 parts water. A popular practice is to cleanse damaged or extremely dry hair with rinse out Conditioner Only, which is known as CO cleansing.

Hair with damage issues often responds best to a shampoo schedule of only once or twice a week.

For hair that really needs help - whether from too much heated styling or chemical processing - consider the following shampoo products designed to help hair recover (in no particular order):

Extremely Damaged & Brittle Hair

Hair that is extremely damaged and overprocessed will often become brittle which makes it extremely prone to breakage. Some shampoo formulas are specifically designed to address brittle hair. Some options include (in no particular order):

Long & Dry hair

Long or extremely long hair is often more prone to dryness than other lengths or hair. This is because the longer the hair grows, the harder it becomes for the natural scalp oils to migrate towards the ends of the strands. In a lot of cases long hair is much drier towards the ends than towards the roots.

Long hair wearers are often very savvy about proper cleansing routines to pamper their long strands. Their routines often include Conditioning Only (CO) washing, pre and post-shampoo deep conditioning treatments as well as dilution of shampoo formulas.

Some companies have created shampoo formulas designed specifically for long and dry hair. A few of these formulas include (in no particular order):

Fine Or Thin Hair That Requires Volume & Fullness

Fine hair requires a delicate balance of shampoo which is rich enough to prevent frizziness but light enough not to weigh it down. Fine of thin tresses are less likely to sustain damage from daily cleansing and to ultimately benefit since constant washing keeps strands fluffed up, giving the illusion of more hair.

Volumizing or thickening formulas are advertised to boost fine or thin strands to help create fullness. Can a shampoo product which is ultimately rinsed out of the hair actually help plump up the strands? The controversy wages. However, some hair consumers swear that volumizing shampoo products do indeed help plump up their strands.

Some brands to try designed for fine or thin hair include the following (in no particular order):

Colored hair

Colored tresses need cleansing formulas which are gentle enough to remove dirt and debris without stripping any of the color.

Colored hair benefits from less frequent shampoo sessions. This type of hair thrives with added nourishment which smoothes dryness. Some well-known brands such as Phyto's Phytocitrus - Vital Radience Shampoo has developed a cult following over the years.

Other brands such as the John Frieda Sheer Blonde line have been developed solely to address a specific hair color type.

Some formulas to try include:

Blonde Hair

Some shampoo formulas are designed specifically to enhance natural or chemically induced blonde hues. Although some hair experts argue over the true benefit of color focused shampoos, others believe it can definitely enrich hair color.

When a shampoo formula is used to assist in amping up blonde hues, be sure to follow with a rinse out and/or leave-in conditioning program that is also designed to pump up color.

One of the hottest temporary color enhancers is from Celebrity Hairdresser Ken Paves. His new Healthy Hair Boost Up Color Drops available in six shades (platinum, beige, honey, black, brown and red) can be used both in rinse-out or leave-in conditioners to deepen hair color. The Color Drops can also be combined with styling products for a maximum color oomp.

Some shampoo products to try include:

Consider adding the following to rinse-out or leave-in conditioners:

Brunette Hair

Some shampoo formulas are designed specifically to enhance natural or chemically induced brunette hues. Although some hair experts argue over the true benefit of color focused shampoos, others believe it can definitely enrich hair color.

When a shampoo formula is used to assist in amping up chocolate brown hues, be sure to follow with a rinse out and/or leave-in conditioning program that is also designed to pump up color.

Consider adding the following to rinse-out or leave-in conditioners:

Red Hair

Some shampoo formulas are designed specifically to enhance natural or chemically induced red hues. Although some hair experts argue over the true benefit of color focused shampoos, others believe it can definitely enrich hair color.

When a shampoo formula is used to assist in amping up ruby red hues, be sure to follow with a rinse out and/or leave-in conditioning program that is also designed to pump up color.

Consider adding the following to rinse-out or leave-in conditioners:

Ken Paves Healthy Hair - Boost Up Color Drops - Red

Gray or White Hair

Hair that has turned white, silver or gray has unique needs. One challenge with these colors is the development of tinges of yellow. As a result, special shampoo products have been developed to help brighten these unique hues.

Some shampoo products to try include:

Considering adding the following to rinse-out or leave-in conditioners:

Dry shampoo

Some hair consumers prefer to cleanse inbetween wet washings with dry shampoo products. It is important to either use a product designed as a dry shampoo or a mixture of cornstarch. Never use talc or baby powders which may contain talc which can be potentially harmful when inhaled.

Curly hair

Curly hair often shares the same characteristics as dry or damaged strands, whether or not it has been chemically treated. This is due to the shape of the curls. Naturally curly hair contains cuticles shaped like corkscrews which never completely close, leaving the strands vulnerable to assault from the environment.

Naturally curly hair is often fragile and requires the addition of moisture to leave curls soft, glossy and well-conditioned.

Some shampoo products to try include:

Shampoo For 360 Waves

For men and women who develop and train wave patterns:

Shampoo For Dreadlocks & Braids

For men and women who develop and wear dreadlock or braids:

Coarse Unruly hair

Hair that is naturally coarse and wiry may also be naturally difficult to manage. Unruly hair may feel crunchy and requires extra moisture and smoothing formulas.

For hair that feels crunchy or is naturally coarse and unruly try:

Baby hair

Some hair experts promote utilizing a special cleansing product for babies to protect their delicate strands. Other experts believe that any type of cleansing formula can be used as long as it is first diluted with water.

Products to try include the following:

Anti-Aging hair

In some respects the shampoo world follows the skin care and cosmetic world. When a popular treatment program is developed for skin, hair is usually right in step. Recently there has been a big push in the beauty arena to address anti-aging with proper skin care and treatment programs. This movement has since moved into the hair care market with some of the higher end brands providing shampoo products designed for anti-aging of the hair.

Some products to try include:

Men's hair

The men's shampoo and hair care category have been growing into prominence over the past few years. Whether it is necessary to use cleansing products just for men is a matter of personal preference.

Some men's shampoo products to try include:

Thinning hair

An issue that causes concern for both men and women, thinning hair is considered a special need and thus shampoos are available to cleanse delicate strands that are prone to falling out. Some options include:

Sun And Swimming Shampoo Products

Special shampoos were designed to help remove the damaging effects of pool chemicals as well as to neutralize the impact of swimming in the ocean.

Some products to try include:


Shampoo was originally invented to cleanse the hair. Over the years many hair care companies have amped up their basic formulas to focus on special hair needs which covers a dizzying array of categories. When it comes to selecting a shampoo product for your hair, start with the basics. Consider your hair's natural type, texture and current condition and select formulas designed for those factors.

Of course if your budget is tight, it's perfectly acceptable to select a low cost shampoo for all hair types and modify the use of the product appropriate to your hair's type, texture and condition.

It is also important to remember that shampoo formulas that work for one hair consumer may not work for others. Do your homework and select products that you believe will work best for you.

If you want to talk more about this or other hair care articles on or anywhere else, please post a message on's Hair Talk Forums.

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