Fashion & Beauty

Sizing Up Shampoo

October 21, 2014


FIGURING OUT HOW TO CHOOSE the right shampoo and conditioner is like opening up a can of worms.

The legendary hair guy Oribe. / Photo by Mark Seliger

The legendary hair guy Oribe. / Photo by Mark Seliger

“You kind of have to figure your hair out because it’s hard to generalize,” says Oribe, the Miami-based Cuban-American celebrity hair maestro who’s famous enough to go by his first name only. “What works for you may not work for your mom.”

So much of what works is trial and error, but at the end of the day, all women want soft, silky, shiny hair.

“It always has to do with the amount of hair you have and the style you’re going for,” Oribe says. “Get educated about your hair and suitable hair products. Have a great hairdresser who understands you and your hair. And have lots of life experience.”

Because the world of shampoos and conditioners is so vast and at the same time so targeted for individual hair types and their sub-categories, we’ve broken it down into an occasional mini-series for the most common ones:  We’ll talk “normal” first and then move on to “damaged”; “fine”; “color-treated”; and “curly.”

Even using the label “normal” can be tricky. When I think of normal, I see all the high-school girls  whose hair I wanted: straight, medium-thick, glossy and swingy. But when trichologist Elizabeth Cunnane-Phillips at the Philip Kingsley Trichological Clinic in New York City thinks of normal, she says:

“My normal would not be the same as your normal or your friend’s normal. We believe you should assess your hair by its size and shape; whether your texture is fine, medium or coarse; and straight, wavy, curly or frizzy. You then look at your hair’s length and level of processing, and combine this information to choose a daily hair-care regime that’s best for you.”

Jeremy Buchanan, co-owner of D.C.’s One80 Salon, defines normal hair as healthy, with medium texture, medium density, no color and no heat damage.

Shampooing and conditioning are more than cleaning and softening; they prep the hair for whatever style you’re going for, or for the trend of the moment. Oribe notes that the hair on spring 2015 runways almost seemed like nothing. Just straight hair parted down the middle.

“But in order to get a good nothing you have to have healthy hair,” he says. “Fried nothing is horrendous. You really have to have your hair in great condition, and soft and easy right now. The look is a cleaner grunge. Undone but beautiful.”

It helps to stay within the same family of products to get those perfectly nothing results, says Cunnane-Phillips.

“Using products that are ʽteamedʼ or ʽpairedʼ can be very useful. A benefit of staying within brand is that research and development will be mindful of the complete experience and therefore formulate with this in mind.”

Speaking of formulas, it’s important to read the ingredients. Oribe says to go for sulfate-free products, and to switch and experiment with a variety of products. Buchanan contends that not all sulfates are bad; some shampoos with sulfates are harsh and have a high pH factor, which leads to dry hair and irritation, while others, derived from coconut oil, have a low pH factor, and are gentle and nourishing.

Eric Spengler, Living Proof’s SVP, R&D and Chief Commercialization Officer, recommends looking for gentle cleansing agents (sodium lauroyl methyl isethionate, a non-sulfate cleanser) and ehentrimonium chloride, a non-greasy, rich conditioner.

“We do believe there are better alternatives to sulfates when shampooing your hair.  Sulfates can over-strip the oils from your hair or scalp. We use a very specific mixture of non-sulfate surfactants in our shampoos which we have found to very gently remove debris, yet at the same time produce a rich, creamy cleansing experience.”

I’ve been washing and conditioning my hair all week with all kinds of products, from ultra-expensive to more wallet-friendly. Here’s my take:

Eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch for a month so you can experience Oribe at least once in your life. From the gorgeous packaging to the superb performance (a tiny bit goes a long way), to the dreamy fragrance–a refined blend of citrus notes and Cuba’s national flower, white butterfly jasmine–Oribe is a frankly decadent, glam, ultra-luxurious brand.

Oribe Signature Shampoo ($13-$116) contains watermelon, lychee and edelweiss flower extracts to defend hair from oxidative stress, photoaging and the deterioration of natural keratin. (Those ingredients also protect hair from elemental effects like drying, damaging and color depletion.) Coconut, corn and oat-derived cleansers are gentle and non-stripping. Vegetable-derived humectants impart shine without weighing hair down. Kaempferia galanga root extract delivers natural UV protection. I could go on. Save your paycheck for the lightweight Oribe Signature Conditioner ($14-$147) and Oribe Signature Moisture Masque ($59).

Sulfate-free can mean it’s hard to get a lather going, but that wasn’t a problem with Fresh Seaberry Revitalizing Shampoo and Fresh Seaberry Revitalizing Conditioner (both $26), both pearly and fragrant with seaberry oil (rich in nourishing omegas 3, 6, 7, and 9 that promote luster); cranberry seed oil (packed with vitamin E and additional omegas to help smooth and protect); and moringa seed extract (helps to protect the hair from environmental stressors).

If you’re in the Foxhall neighborhood, stop by Jean-Paul Mardoian (3301 New Mexico Avenue NW, 202-686-5212) to check Jean-Paul’s own hair-care line of botanically based products, including  Clarifying Shampoo ($17-$27) to remove dirt, oil and product build-up and residue and Ecstasy Deep Conditioner ($30), a rich yet weightless hydrating formula. Jean-Paul, who’s proudly low-tech, will mail them to you.

Even perfect hair can use extra moisture, especially now when there’s less humidity. This new group of products–L’Oréal Paris Advanced Haircare Power Moisture Hydrating ShampooL’Oréal Paris Advanced Haircare Power Moisture Hydrating Conditioner and L’Oréal Paris Advanced Haircare Power Moisture Moisture [sic] Rush Mask (all $5.99)– contains a special complex of ingredients that promise your hair will get up to seven times more moisture.  Excellent bang for your buck.

I can’t promise you’ll have Jennifer Aniston hair–she’s Living Proof’s spokesperson–but I can promise excellent results. Both sulfate-free products–Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Shampoo and Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Conditioner (both $10-$79)–are creamy but light, and smell fresh, lemony and pure. My hair was shiny and felt strong, supple and bouncy-happy. It also stayed cleaner longer. I can definitely live with that.

–Gigi Anders
Gigi Anders is a frequent contributor to MyLittleBird. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.