In the natural hair world, shampoo can be a polarizing product. While many Naturals have a shampoo they swear by, you’ve probably also met someone who hates shampoo and doesn’t use it at all (maybe it’s you!) Some shampoo once a week, once every two weeks. once a month, or even less. Needless to say, we have a LOT of questions when it comes to shampoo, which is why Team NaturAll Club has dedicated this entire blogpost to answering these questions.
1. How often should you shampoo? (if at all?)
The truth is, people have different washing routines because everyone’s hair is different! Just because your sister or friend washes their hair every two weeks doesn’t mean it’s bad for you to wash more often. However, there are two washing routines you should avoid.
First, don’t be the person who never washes their hair! No matter what you’ve been told, you do need to regularly cleanse your hair. If you don’t, dirt and product buildup will eventually keep moisture from penetrating your hair! The result is dry, brittle hair that looks dirty and lacks shine.
Secondly, you should not be washing your hair every day, or even every 2 or 3 days, if you have natural hair. Why? Well, your scalp produces a natural oil called sebum, which travels down your hair strands to seal in moisture, preventing dryness. If you have curly or coily hair (type 3 or 4), your curls cause the sebum to travel down each hair strand more slowly.
Using a shampoo cleans dirt, product buildup, and oils out of your hair and scalp, which is why you need to do it from time to time. However, it also removes the naturally-produced sebum. Most Naturals find that using shampoo more than once a week leaves their hair dry, since sebum doesn’t have time to travel down the strand before it’s cleaned out again.
So what should you do? Listen to your hair! Start by washing it once a week, and if that works, try extending that week by several days to see how your hair feels. If it feels itchy, dirty, oily, flaky, or it feels like no product is able to moisturize it, it’s probably time for a wash. With a little experimentation, you should be able to find out the interval of time that your hair likes best. Once you do, stick to it!
2. What should you do before and after shampoo?
Remember, shampoo will clean sebum and other oils from your hair. These oils seal moisture into your hair and keep it from drying out. So anytime you shampoo, it’s essential to moisturize and seal afterwards. Use a daily conditioner in the shower (after the shampoo) to make your hair easier to detangle. Out of the shower, try using a leave-in conditioner followed by an oil. We also recommend using our Avocado Deep Conditioners to moisturize your hair before shampooing your hair to add extra moisture that will make your hair easier to detangle!
3. What are sulfates and do I have to use a sulfate-free shampoo?
As we mentioned before, all shampoos contain ingredients that clean your scalp and remove oil and dirt. Sulfates are the best at cleaning as they are a detergent, attracting and stripping out any oil and dirt in your hair and scalp. If your shampoo creates an immediate foamy lather, this is probably sulfates at work.
If you have tighter curls and coils, sulfates are usually too harsh, leaving your hair dry and brittle. (Sulphates are usually formulated and work better for straight hair that is thin and gets oily quickly). Feel free to experiment with different shampoos, paying close attention to how they make your hair feel. But for most natural, curly hair we do recommend a sulfate-free shampoo.
4. What’s the best shampoo out there?
This question is simply impossible for us to answer! Your hair is UNIQUE, which means it has its own characteristics and will respond differently to different products. Just like you need to find a washing routine that works for you, you’ll also need to find the shampoo that works best for you. Our advice is to look at the ingredients before you buy it, checking for harmful ingredients. (Take a look at our list of ingredients to avoid in natural hair products here.) And if you choose a shampoo that is making your hair feel dry, brittle, or just not good? Don’t be afraid to throw (or give) it away!
5. What about co-washing and apple cider vinegar?
Co-washing is a term for washing your hair by scrubbing it with conditioner. Many Naturals have found co-washing to be a good treatment in-between shampoos. Co-washing allows natural oils to cleanse and condition your hair, resulting in a very mild cleanse. We recommend working co-washing into your washing routine, whether you alternate shampoo and co-wash, or co-wash several times in-between using shampoo. This is an especially good solution if you exercise frequently and want to keep your hair clean without over-washing. However, we don’t recommend replacing shampoo completely with conditioner or a co-wash, since it simply doesn’t clean your hair fully.
Many have also substituted shampoo for apple cider vinegar (ACV). ACV is an extremely beneficial treatment hair treatment that we recommend trying, but if you want to completely substitute it for shampoo, we recommend using it with baking soda or another product that can fully cleanse your hair. It might be more helpful to think of ACV as a super effective conditioner, rather than a full substitute for shampoo. Read more about ACV here!
We hope these FAQ's have been helpful! Unfortunately, the question about which specific shampoo to use on YOUR hair is the most difficult for us to answer. Celebrate that your hair is unique, and take the time to find which products and routine work for you! Comment below or in our Facebook group with your questions about natural hair or shampoo!