You may not know it yet, but chances are you're in a dysfunctional relationship with your shampoo. If your scalp is too dry, too greasy, or too itchy, the underlying issue might be the same: detergent. But don't worry. A new generation of shampoos is ditching chemical suds in favor of naturally nourishing oils, which are like a spa for your scalp. Here, New York hairstylist Wes Sharpton and Jackie Bauer, who works in product development at Hairstory hair studio, discuss the dos and don'ts of follicular maintenance.
DON'T: Overcompensate with conditioners and serums
"Detergent does a lot of the work for you in the bubbles, but it tends to scrape everything out," Sharpton says. "It creates a lot of problems, then sells you a lot of solutions. Anti-frizz serums, masks, conditioners--all of those products are really designed to fix issues the detergent is causing. It's a vicious circle."
DO: Look at the ingredients list
Shampoos are 80% water. The rest can be good or bad. Essentials oils like sunflower seed oil, peppermint oil, and jojoba seed have natural cleansing properties, which are better for your scalp. What to avoid? "Sulfate [also listed as SLS, SLES, or ALS] and any glucoside component [e.g., deca-glucoside, coco-glucoside] have stripping qualities," says Bauer. "Parabens and silicone, often in conditioners, should be on your 'no' list."
DO: Treat your scalp like your face
"Your scalp is your skin, so switching shampoo is just like changing your skin-care regimen," Sharpton says. There's no real difference between shampoo for curly hair or oily hair, both of which can irritate your scalp. Whatever your hair type, opt for something gentle.
DON'T: Freak out about flakes (unless it's serious)
"There's confusion between dry scalp and dandruff," Sharpton says. "Heat, urban environments, and bad dietary habits, such as fried food, can cause the scalp to produce soft little white flakes." But they shouldn't be confused with dandruff, which is flaking combined with oil. That's a medical condition and requires an expert opinion.
DO: Wash your hair more often if you use product
"Using products clogs pores, so the more you use, the more frequently you should wash your hair," Sharpton says. How many times a week? "When switching to a detergent-free shampoo, stick with what you currently do. After the first month, become an observer to see if you need less or more."
3 GREAT SUDSLESS SHAMPOOS
New Wash by HAIRSTORY: This powerful cleansing cream enriched with jojoba seed, sunflower seed, and peppermint is designed to clean and moisturize the scalp. One bottle does it all, so no need for conditioner. 8 oz., $40, Hairstory.com
Citrus Organic Hair Rinse by DR. BRONNER'S: A concentrated organic solution mild enough for all hair types, it contains fair trade-sourced coconut oil and olive oil, as well as shikakai powder to stimulate hair growth. 8 oz., $7.49, DrBronner.com
Natural Shampoo by HANZ DE FUKO: This best-selling plant-derived serum cleanser doesn't foam, and is completely sulfate-, paraben-, and fragrance-free. 8 oz., $19.50, available at Birchbox.com
Like what you see here? Subscribe and be the first to receive the latest issue of Out. Subscribe to print here and receive a complimentary digital subscription.