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Hair Shampoos

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Conditioning Shampoos

Conditioning shampoos, as you can gather from the term, are formulated to both cleanse your hair and serve as a conditioner.

Like a conditioner, these products are designed to produce a variety of aesthetic results, including softening your hair, thickening your hair, improving manageability, adding sheen, and repairing split ends.

Of course, not every conditioning shampoo will accomplish each of these fine things for you, but most will do more than one.

Combined Shampoo And Conditioner

We consumers, by the way, seem to appreciate the convenience of having our shampoo and conditioner in a single container, as evidenced by the fact that conditioning shampoos outnumber and outsell traditional cleansing shampoos by a wide margin.

This widespread popularity, however, does not necessarily equate with superior performance for every hair type.

People with normal hair, oily hair, or dandruff, for example, may find it advisable to try something stronger, while those of us with hair that tangles badly or splits easily may wish to use a separately packaged conditioner as a supplement to our conditioning shampoo.

In the end, the suitability of a given product for your hair type will depend mainly on the shampoo’s attributes (softens, adds sheen, etc.) and your specific needs (to build body, add lustre, etc.).

Protein Enriched Shampoos

Protein-enriched hair shampoos constitute a special category of conditioning shampoos, and are formulated to improve the appearance of damaged hair.

The protein in these shampoos, which may appear in the product as any one of a number of different additives, not only coats damaged hair shafts but also fills in cracks and pitted areas, resulting in hair that looks fuller, thicker, and glossier.

Proteins are utilized for this purpose because they bind well with the cuticle covering of the hair shaft, which itself is a structural protein.

Protein-enriched shampoos are particularly well suited for use on hair that has been damaged by dyes, waves, straighteners, and other chemical processes.

Shampoo Types

Just Your Type!

Now that you know a little bit about the various types of shampoo and the additives commonly used in them, the logical question to ask is: "What’s right for me?”

But as you might have guessed, we cannot provide a "one size fits all” solution.

Hair types and hair problems vary from one person to the next, and need to be considered when choosing a shampoo.

Fortunately, most modern shampoos are gentle enough that any error you might commit, aside from washing too often, won’t result in utter disaster.

As a starting point, consult the guidelines below to match your hair type with a shampoo type.

Then, once you’ve selected the general type of shampoo you want (low pH, cleansing, etc.), narrow your search by identifying any special needs or problems you have and looking for a product that contains additives that specifically address them.

Try low pH or pH-balanced hair shampoos for

  • dry, brittle hair
  • processed hair
  • sun damaged hair

Try cleansing hair shampoos for

  • oily hair
  • normal, trouble-free hair

Try baby hair shampoo for

  • limp hair
  • thin hair
  • hair that covers poorly
  • exceptionally thin, wispy hair

Hair Care Products

Effective Shampoo Additives


Balsam, a natural resin, has a well-established track record as a shampoo additive that strengthens and thickens the hair by restoring rigidity to damaged hair shafts.

It is often paired with protein additives in body-building shampoos. In such formulations, balsam repairs the shaft from the inside, while the proteins go to work on the outside.

Moisturizing hair shampoos comprise yet another category of conditioning shampoo. As the term implies, these shampoos are designed to help the hair retain vital moisture and oils.

In fact, they often contain ingredients identical to those used in skin moisturizers, such as soy lecithin and lactic acid.

A moisturizing shampoo is usually a good choice for anyone with naturally dry hair or for folks who spend lots of time outdoors, where the wind and sun combine to strip hair of the lubrication needed to keep it soft and manageable.

For obvious reasons, moisturizing shampoos are typically a poor choice for those of us with oily or limp hair.


Herbal ingredients are now included in a large (and growing!) number of shampoos, supposedly for their ability to soften the hair and intensify its color.

But while many herbs deliver these benefits in their natural state, none that we know of do so as shampoo additives.

The reason for this ineffectiveness is twofold: First, the concentration of herbal ingredients in most hair shampoos is so low that the herbs might as well have been left out from the beginning.

Second, the manufacturing process completely dilutes whatever softening or color-enhancing properties the herbs may have once had—just as it does with the herbal ingredients found in some bar soaps.


Aloe, which is derived from the succulent plant of the same name, has become a fairly popular hair shampoo additive over the years.

Perhaps because it is so well recognized by consumers for its capacity to soothe sunburn and ward off those pesky insects that bother us at the beach.

Research, however, suggests that it doesn’t possess any special properties that are beneficial to the hair.


Honey, like aloe, is another common additive that appeals to the ever-growing market for "natural” ingredients, yet doesn’t have any real impact on a shampoo’s ability to cleanse or condition the hair.

What’s more, honey is water- soluble, so any potential positive effect it might have gets washed down the drain with your shampoo lather.


Vitamins, especially those that fall into the antioxidant group, have long been used with some success in topical skin medications such as Retin A.

But as shampoo additives, they have largely disappointed. The one notable exception to this rule is vitamin B5, which you will find named as either panthenol or pantyl in a list of ingredients.

Unlike other vitamins used in shampoos, vitamin B5 in its chemical form has the ability to penetrate the hair shaft and strengthen the strand from the inside out.

Not surprisingly, it is often added as a conditioning agent in body-building hair shampoos.


Sunscreen ingredients such as cinnamates and PABA are found not only in products designed for the skin, but in many hair shampoos as well.

These shampoos provide useful protection against UV radiation to your hair and, to a lesser extent, your scalp, but do nothing to reduce the hair damage caused by heat and dehydration.

So, while hair shampoos that contain sunscreen additives are preferable to one that offers no UV protection at all, your hair—and, more important, your face—will find much safer shelter beneath a broad brimmed, tightly woven hat.

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Hair Shampoos
Author Tanna Mayer
Updated December 30, 2012

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