What’s in Shampoo?


Tiny bubbles.

Champagne comes to mind, but, this reference is to shampoo.

First, a little history on our modern day necessity. London, England was the birthplace of a substance that arose from adding soap to boiling water with added herbs for fragrance and well being. Kasey Hebert was the first to market his “Shaempoo” in 1762.

Happily we have come a long way since soap was an ingredient as it is too high in ph level to make our locks lovely. The average hair concoction still has about fifty to ninety percent water in the ingredient list. But, the majority of the workload falls on a group of detergents called surfactants (surface active agents). Surfactants are molecules that have one end that attracts to water and one end that attracts to oils. Together with the suspended dirt and debris everything ends up down the drain, resulting in a clean head of hair.

Lather builders are the reason there are so many bubbles present in your shampoo. They are mostly cosmetic, however, lather does indicate if dirt is still present.

Humectants are a very important part of the ingredient medley as they draw water to the hair adding volume by swelling the hair and keeping it from feeling dry. Glycerine, propylene glycol, panthonol, sorbitol or sodium PCA is a few of the chemicals that can achieve this.

Styling agents are commonly found in shampoo formulas as well. They are responsible for making your hair behave and can be what makes one product your favorite shampoo. Unfortunately, they can build up as well, requiring special treatments from time-to-time to properly clean off.

Most shampoos are formulated in such a way that the surfactants lift the unwanted dirt and sebum away and leave some conditioning compounds behind. They fill in the tears and holes in the hair and make damaged hair feel smooth and healthy.

Quaternary ammonium compounds detangle and make hair more manageable. Their names include guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride, dicetyldimonium chloride and other really long names. Other conditioning ingredients you may find are collagen, elastin, amino acids and proteins.

Silicones are the best of modern chemicals in shampoos. Protection from heat damage, reducing static, detangling and imparting shine are all standout traits. Silicones are also able to remain on the hair even after rinsing.

Thickeners are included for texture improvement and ease of application.

Shampoos, as with most liquids, are a perfect environment for bacterial invasion so preservatives are always necessary.

And last (and very least), the one percent of the list on the back of the bottle is reserved for the proteins, vitamins and plant extracts that likely lured you to that particular elixir. Most extracts, although natural, cannot make your hair clean or more manageable, and the vitamins are usually not in large enough amounts to prove useful.

So there you have it–shampoo!