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Why does shampoo stop working after awhile?

Tammy’s request…It seems I have to change my shampoo all the time because my hair gets used to it. Why is this?

The Right Brain Responds:

A lot of people complain that their shampoo “stops working” or that their hair “gets immune” to it and they have to change. Hair care researchers have looked into this question but have never been able to find any solid scientific reason that this should happen. But, as usual, we have a theory:

Shampoo burnout?

Many shampoos contain some level of condtioning agents. Back in the day, unless your shampoo was a “2-in-1″, it was not generally capable of depositing any conditioning ingredients on your hair. But today, that the 2 in 1 (shampoo plus conditioner) technology has found its way into moisturizing shampoos, color care shampoos, and even some volumizing shampoos. You might find ingredients like silicones, cationic guar gum, and conditioning polymers in almost any shampoo today.

So, although you may not realize it, you may be using a shampoo that provides as much, or almost as much, conditioning as a 2 in 1. Let’s say that you use this kind of shampoo for a while. You might feel that your hair gets over conditioned after a while. So, you decide to change shampoos.

Maybe you start to use a clarifying or deep cleansing shampoo. For a while everything is fine – your hair feels nice and clean again. All the ingredients that built up on your hair from the 2 in 1 shampoos get removed. But then, after using that stripping shampoo for a while, your hair starts to feel dry like straw.

So, you feel the need to switch shampoos again. You pick up a “balancing” shampoo that contains some conditioning ingredients. And after using this one for a while you start to feel buildup and the whole cycle starts all over again.

This kind of process could be the cause of “shampoo burnout.” Of course, this is only a theory, but it is a theory that makes sense when you consider how modern shampoo formulations work.

Kerastase concern

The good people at Kerastase have a different theory, however. We quote:

No, it isn’t true that shampoos don’t work after some time, Karen Ong, brand manager for Kerastase and Redken, says. Like skin, hair and scalp conditions change due to internal and external aggressions such as hormonal levels, diet, sleep and pollution, and need different solutions. That`s why it feels like the shampoo doesn’t work anymore because your needs have changed.

We seriously doubt that diet, sleep or pollution significantly impact shampoo performance. But hey, they’re entitled to their theories too. Of course another possibility is that the perception of needing to change shampoo is just psychological.

What do YOU think? Do you have to change shampoos because they burn out? Leave a comment and share your thoughts with the rest of the Beauty Brains community.

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