How To Choose The Right Shampoo & Conditioner

What kind of shampoo and conditioner should I get? It's the question we all ask ourselves when we are squeezing the last few drops out of our shampoo and conditioner bottles. (And for some reason they never run out at the same time...am I right?!)

How then do we know what kind of shampoo and conditioner to use? There are 3 things to consider when selecting the proper products to wash with:

1. Hair Type.

This is probably the most important factor to consider when choosing a shampoo & conditioner set but also when choosing any hair product. To determine our hair type, we must break it down into two parts: hair texture and wave pattern.

Our hair texture is defined as the diameter of our individual hair strands - otherwise described as fine, medium, or coarse. (Not to be confused with hair density- I often hear people with fine or medium hair describe their hair as "coarse" or "thick" when really they are trying to say that they have a lot of hair, or high-density hair.)

Fine hair obviously has the smallest diameter and often can be limp, although very soft. I have seen many clients with fine hair have anywhere from very thin hair to very dense hair. Fine hair types will need a shampoo and conditioner system that is both lightweight and gentle.

Medium hair is what is considered "normal," as it is not fine but not coarse. Medium hair types are often easier to work with as they are easily moldable and have style memory. Medium hair types can often use a myriad of cleansing systems but especially need to take into account the other factors stated below to narrow down the right one that works best for the individual.

Coarse hair has the largest diameter of each hair strand and can often be unruly or more difficult to control. Coarse hair types are also more prone to frizz. Coarse hair often responds well to a heavier shampoo and conditioner set, or even one that has anti-frizz or smoothing properties.

It is also important to consider the wave pattern of our hair: straight, wavy, curly, extra-curly, or kinky/coiled. Hair can be any combination of texture and wave pattern. Since curly hair types naturally lack protein and moisture, it is essential to select products that are fortified with those ingredients. Straight hair can often lack body and can be more difficult to hold a curl, so selecting a shampoo and conditioner that is going to volumize yet not weigh the hair down is key.

When selecting a cleansing system for our hair types, determine your hair type and any challenges you face, whether that be frizz, lack of body, lack of shine, dryness, etc.

2. Chemical Treatments.

Whether your hair is chemically treated or not also plays a part when selecting the right shampoo and conditioner. Chemical treatments can include, hair coloring, hair lightening (otherwise known as "bleaching"), perming, relaxing, as well as any keratin smoothing treatments- such as the popular Brazilian Blowout.

Not all chemical treatments are equal as far as what the after care entails. For example, color treated hair will require a color safe and/or color protectant shampoo and conditioner system. Whereas lightening or blonding will require a special shampoo for blondes, perming requires a gentle shampoo with both moisture and protein, and hair treated with a smoothing treatment often performs best with the shampoo and conditioner that is designed to go with that particular treatment to promote longevity.

If you do not fall into the chemically treated category, it is still important for any hair type, chemically treated or not, to choose a Sulfate-Free shampoo. (See Tip #3 from my previous blog post to learn more about sulfates and why you should avoid them.)

3. Current Condition.

When determining the proper products to use on our hair, we also must consider the current state of our hair strands. Are you experiencing static, dullness or dryness? These are all signs that the hair is thirsty for moisture. If you are experiencing breakage, split ends, difficulty when combing through or if it tangles easily, the hair is telling you that it is weak and damaged and it is craving protein to re-strengthen it.

It is common for people to have signs of both damaged and dry hair simultaneously. In this case, select a shampoo and conditioner system that provides both moisture and protein. Although moisture and protein are beneficial to the health of our hair, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Beware that too much moisture or protein can also have the opposite effect on our hair, so it is a good idea to continually re-evaluate the condition of the hair and rotate out different cleansing systems based on what your hair needs at any given time.

If your hair feels mushy, fuzzy, it does not respond to force by hot tools, or if it feels like cotton candy, then it is extremely damaged. The hair is likely beyond repair and must be cut off. Also keep this in mind for split ends. Split ends are normal to experience as the ends of our hair age and are exposed to the elements. However, split ends cannot be repaired by any product or any amount of conditioner. Split ends can be prevented with proper care, but once they are present they will continue to split up the hair shaft until they are cut off.

Next time you're in the market to purchase a new shampoo and conditioner, consider these factors and do a self hair-analysis to help determine which products are right for you. If you're ever unsure, consult your stylist for their professional recommendation. Also remember to ALWAYS purchase professional hair care products and NEVER buy hair products from anywhere other than a licensed beauty professional or salon establishment. (Here's a video of me explaining why- explanation starts at 6:27.) Happy washing!

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