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How to Pick the Shampoo That's Just Right For You

We’ve all been there: it’s either the dead of winter and our heads are snowing more than it is outside, or it’s the heat of summer and our greasy locks reflect the sun. While we may think the best idea is to jump in the shower and give our hair another good shampooing, experts say we need to think twice about what shampoo we use to avoid potentially harmful effects to our hair and face.

Common misconceptions about shampoo use:

Once we get into the shower, less is more.

Stylists from Riccardo Maggiore Salon in New York, NY claim that we don’t need a lot of shampoo to cleanse our hair. “You can actually use too much shampoo or conditioner, making it harder to cleanse or condition the hair.” More effective shampoos are more concentrated, and you’ll be better off using a smaller volume, about the size of a quarter.

If it doesn’t lather, it’s not working.

If a shampoo isn’t lathering, don’t fret and change bottles! Better shampoos actually create less lather and are much gentler on hair.

You should rub your hair when you wash it.

Rubbing your hair can do more to hurt than help. While scrubbing your scalp can be okay, rubbing the ends of your hair harshly can stress and damage the hair, even affecting its texture and color.

Related: 13 Ways to Get Thicker and Healthier Hair

What to look for when choosing shampoo:

While all wish we could wake up tomorrow morning with flawless hair, the hair we want often comes at the price of the right shampoo. The first step is identifying the problem. Whether it’s grease, dandruff, breakage, or something in between, there are tons of shampoos out there that can help treat specific hair issues. However, it’s also best to check with your hair stylist about what shampoo they think is right for you. Professionally prescribed shampoo may cost more money upfront, but will save haircare expenses in the long run.

“The right shampoo will keep your color beautiful longer and along with the right conditioner will keep your hair texture in better condition. Why splurge on your cut and color services then try to save on your shampoo and conditioner that can ruin the services you splurged on?” say stylists from Riccardo Maggiore.

If you’re still looking to buy shampoo from the store, you might want to avoid shampoos with sulfates (look for sodium lauryl sulfate on the back of the bottle). According to the American Academy of Dermatologists, while they're not unsafe, they might be too harsh for colored or chemically-treated hair. Some people with sensitive skin might also become irritated by this ingredient. 

Shampoos can also cause acne in common hair-to-skin contact areas: the hairline, upper forehead, jaw, sideburn area, or chest, shoulders, and back. If acne’s found its way into these areas, your best bet is to change up your shampoo to see if it’s the root of the problem.

If you think your shampoo is doing harm to your scalp or skin, switch to a milder shampoo product such as a baby shampoo or fragrance and color-free brands. Try looking for natural ingredients in shampoos like organic virgin coconut Oil shampoo ($8.99, Puritan's Pride) or Organic PRO moisturizing organic hair shampoo ($19.99, Nature's Organics). 

If you're really going for it, try to take a few days off from shampooing to reassess the situation. 

Shampoo brands to try

For those with dry scalp or dandruff, stylists at Riccardo Maggiore Salon suggest ORIBE Serene Scalp ($44, Beautylish). For those at the opposite end of the spectrum with oily hair and scalp, Bain Divalent ($43, Kérastase) works as a balancing shampoo for hair and roots.

For everything in between, hair stylist Jona Dean from New Karma Salon in Westchester, recommends Surface ($30.50, Beauty Care Choices), a “balancing shampoo that equalizes a greasy scalp and a dry scalp.” For a more mild cleaning shampoo with a squeaky-clean feel, try Biolage ($20.25, JCPenney). You might also want to try Function of Beauty--you can create your own custom shampoo based on your hair needs and preferences. 

Regardless of your hair type, color, or texture, examining the type of shampoo you use and the way you use it can help reach the hair (and skin) of your dreams. Happy scrubbing!