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The salty secret of Big Shampoo from Lush

Michelle’s salty salutation: I was just wondering if sea salt does anything good for hair? Big Shampoo from Lush has apparently 50% salt content and Gudonya’s Salty Dog Shampoo is made with salt as well. How is this supposed to help hair?

The Left Brain’s reply:

As a professional hair care formulator, I don’t know of any benefits associated with using such high salt levels in a shampoo. In fact if there is any measurable effect, I’d expect it to be negative since high levels of salt are known to be drying to skin.

Why so popular?

So why are these products so popular? It could be a function of the unique sensory cues that they provide. Both brands claim to get your hair “squeaky clean” and the scrubbing particles of salt they contain could certainly provide a reason to believe for that benefit that’s different from any other shampoo on the market. (In that sense these formula are similar to sugar and salt scrubs for skin.) Another possible appeal of these products could be their cute connection to cocktails: a Salty Dog is a mixture of grapefruit juice and gin, and Big Shampoo is described as a “lemon-lime margarita.”

Is there anything special about these formulas besides salt?

Lush Cosmetics uses a surprisingly standard primary surfactant: sodium laureth sulfate. This detergent, a close relative of sodium lauryl sulfate, or SLS, can be found in many other mass market and salon brands. Gudonya is a bit more artistic in its choice of surfactants. It’s built on a combination of high end skin care surfactants including sodium cocoyl isethionate and disodium laurylsulfosuccinate with a good slug of sorbitol and propylene glycol. But neither of these formulas contain any unusual technology that would benefit your hair.

Are salt shampoos worth their salt?

Neither of these products are cheap. Gudonya is “badonya” wallet because it cost $6.50 for 6 oz, or slightly over $1 per ounce. Lush is even worse at $21 for 11.6 oz.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

In my opinion, these products are not worth the extravagant price. But if you’re looking for a unique shampoo experience, and you’re not constrained by price, then by all means give these products a try. They’ll certainly feel different than your everyday shampoo. Otherwise, save your money.

What do you think about these cocktails for your hair? Leave a comment and share your salty thoughts with the rest of the Beauty Brains community.

{ 3 comments… add one }

  • Femmepharoh September 23, 2014, 11:57 pm

    The salt may not necessarily be there to help ur hair. Provided it doesn’t hinder ur hair, salt does act to thickify soaps and make them have more body. That may be the reason ur finding them there.

  • Annalisa October 14, 2015, 11:23 pm

    I’ve seen a video where Mark Constantine (owner of Lush) explains why the salt. Basically, the choice is market driven.
    The first reason is that he noticed that people would still prefer and buy salt thickened systems instead of other well formulated options.
    The other reason is the recent internet hype about DIY sprays to obtain voluminous, beach-wavy hair, where the main ingredient is salt;
    Hype=salt is good= business, so they made this product, and that is why they call it BIG shampoo…for BIG volume
    The video I refer to can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BqrjfQKS5Rs

    • Randy Schueller October 15, 2015, 9:08 am

      Very interesting video! They way I understand it, Mark says they used salt in their shampoo because it increases hair volume. I’ve never seen any evidence of that and I can’t think of any reason why it would. (Unless maybe you rubbed dry salt on hair and it roughed up the cuticle to the point where the hair had more volume due to increased fiber-fiber friction. But doing that would be very damaging.)

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