Connie’s comedogenic question: My scalp is sensitive and easily clogged by shampoo ingredients so my dermatologist recommended Prell original rinse clean shampoo because it’s the only non-comedogenic gel shampoo on the market. But my hairdresser tells me that this shampoo is way too harsh to use every day because it’s too drying and damaging to my hair. What should I do?
The Right Brain responds:
Prell is an old-school shampoo created by Procter & Gamble back in 1947 and was orginally sold as a highly concentrated gel packaged in a tube. Prell’s claim to fame was a TV commercial that showed a pearl, when dropped into a bottle of Prell, would s-l-o-w-l-y float to the bottom. Supposedly, the implication was that if the shampoo was thick enough to float a pearl, it must be really rich. Actually, all that demonstration showed was that the product had a very high viscosity which has nothing to do with quality or richness. Nonetheless, Prell became a household word. Ah, the wonders of advertising. Prell is no longer owned by Procter & Gamble and today it is a relatively minor brand in the hair care category.
We’re surprised that shampoos clog your scalp. Comedones (a fancy way of describing clogged pores) can be caused by certain cosmetic ingredients, but typically you don’t see that occurring in rinse off products. If you were getting clogged pores from a leave in conditioner or a styling product it would make more sense, but conventional industry wisdom says shampoo ingredients aren’t in contact with your scalp long enough to have a comedogenic effect. In fact, companies don’t even usually test shampoos for comedogenicity for this reason, so your doctor’s comment strikes us as a bit odd. Is it possible that something else is causing your scalp problems rather than your shampoo? Or, could you be having some kind of allergic reaction to the ingredients (for example fragrance) in other shampoos? That’s something you might ask your doctor about.
Harsh on hair?
Having said that, if for whatever reason you determine that Prell is the only shampoo that is safe for your scalp, what about its effect on your hair? Looking at the ingredients we see that Prell is based on several common detergents: Ammonium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, and Cocamide DEA. It also contains a bit of ethanol which is unusual for a shampoo. These detergents are identical to, at least or very similar to, the main detergents used in many other shampoo products. This is a deep cleansing type shampoo and there are very little conditioning agents built into the formula, so you will most likely want to use a good conditioner afterwards. The only ingredient in Prell that would appear to more harsh on your hair is the ethanol, which in theory could remove more of your natural oils. But in reality, our guess is that Prell not inherently worse for your hair than any other deep cleansing type product. These products are all designed to be relatively strong cleaners.
The Beauty Brains bottom line
If you and your dermatologist decide Prell is the right shampoo to keep your scalp clog free, make sure you’re using a good conditioner as often as you can to reduce any drying effects you might have from the shampoo.