The Best Products for Removing Silicone Buildup in Hair

Removing Silicone Buildup in Hair

Silicone buildup is actually a very simple problem to solve. Many hair products contain both silicones and quaternary ammonium compounds, which bond with hair to create a protective layer. Unfortunately, as we know, these ingredients can also create buildup in hair. For some people, products with these ingredients don’t give them buildup problems, but for those who have trouble, there are several recommendations.

One of the things many people recommend is a “clarifying” shampoo. But it’s not so much about the label of clarifying as it is about the ingredients. As it turns out, you don’t need special shampoo to reduce buildup.

Silicone and Quaternary Ammonium Compound Buildup

Silicone Buildup

Silicones and quats will buildup in hair, particularly if you condition without washing every time (or, co-wash). While silicones tend to bind best to healthy hair, quats — which are the same compounds found in fabric softener — bind well with damaged hair (Washington PostJournal of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists).

Before getting into how to handle silicone buildup, it’s important to know a few things about it. Silicones and quats won’t buildup indefinitely. You only have so much hair and that hair only has so much surface space. So while buildup may leave you with hair that feels greasy or heavy, it doesn’t mean that you’ve done any permanent damage.

As far as removing silicones from hair, one study found that washing once with a non-silicone-containing shampoo could remove up to 90% of the residue from a 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner (Skin Pharmacology and Physiology).

[Read More: Are Silicones in Hair Products Good or Bad?]

Why You Want Some Silicone to Stick

Of course when you wash you want some silicone to stick — after all, that’s why they’re included in conditioners. But there may be other reasons besides making hair softer and easier to brush through, there’s also the matter of those with severely damaged or dyed hair.

When your hair is damaged, the cuticle opens. This is the first line of defense in protecting your hair and acts as a barrier. When its open, hair is susceptible to more damage, like split-ends and moisture loss (Journal of Cosmetic Science). This opening of the cuticle can happen with damaging activities like thermal styling, but also with some surfactants in shampoos.

Silicones and quats form a protective barrier that helps to keep hair from further damage. They can also help extend the life of a dye, as researchers have found that dyed hair treated with quats loses less dye than hair that was not treated with quats (Journal of the Society for Cosmetic Chemists). Essentially, these act as a seal on your hair that can keep damage out and dye in — so using quats and silicones are most necessary for people with damaged and dyed hair.

I personally really like the Nioxin Intensive Therapy Deep Repair Hair Masque. And there’s also Alterna the Science of 10 Hair Masque ($40.95,

Nioxin Intensive Therapy Deep Repair Hair Masque

Surfactants are Hair’s Fickle Friend

Surfactants are what give shampoo its suds and they serve as excellent cleaning agents. They’re the best ingredients to remove silicone and quat buildup. The best surfactants for removing silicone are: Sodium or Ammonium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate, Sodium C14-17 Alkyl Sulfonate (Olefin Sulfonate), or Cocoamidopropyl Betaine (Naturally Curly).

That said surfactants have a downside. The best surfactants — like sodium lauryl sulfate — have also been shown to irritate skin. In fact, sodium lauryl sulfate is used in patch tests to look at the barrier function of skin (Cosmetic Dermatology). And the less powerful the surfactant — primarily those that aren’t sulfates — will work, but not quite as well at taking the silicone from your hair.

If you’re concerned about finding a shampoo without sodium lauryl sulfate, consider Philip Kingsley Moisture Balancing Shampoo and Conditioner. Another option is New York Streets Shampoo and Conditioner.

Philip Kingsley Moisture Balancing Shampoo and Conditioner

[Read More: Spotlight On: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate]

Bottom Line

Hair greatly benefits from quats and silicones because they can do wonders in regards to protecting hair from damage and act as a protective measure. Unfortunately, they can also cause buildup, which makes hair lackluster and greasy. The remedy for this is simply surfactants, despite some recommendations about clarifying shampoos. Unfortunately, surfactants can sometimes be harsh and drying.

Some people have more difficult than others with silicone buildup and surfactants, so it’s important to find the balance and hair care that works for you.

Contributing author: Natalie Bell

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Why I Love Living Proof Full Thickening Hair Care

Living Proof Full Thickening Hair Care

I often see pictures of Asian supermodels like Lily Zhi (shown above), or gorgeous women like Jane Seymour, and I’m envious.  Though I’m Asian and have waist-length hair, my hair is lifeless and limp when straight, and flat at the crown when curled – not the kind of hair that is going to launch any ships anytime soon.

I’ve taken hair vitamins, I’ve gotten layers, I’ve paid experts to cut my hair (sometimes well into the hundreds), and yet, still nothing.  That is, until I tried Living Proof “Full” Hair Care.  Developed by MIT scientists, Living Proof Full actually thickens hair at the microscopic level.  Here’s how it works:


Living Proof Full Thickening Hair Care

The secret of Living Proof Full is an ingredient called poly beta amino ester-1, a polyfluoroester.  This patented ingredient coats each hair shaft.  Once dried, polyfluoroesters on adjacent hair strands grab at each other, but leave spaces between each strand.  Think of it like tiny, thick magnets on your hair:  they bind, but they create space – and hence lift – for your hair.

How Much Fullness to Expect

Living Proof Full Thickening Hair Care

Source:  LivingProof website

As with any other product, Living Proof Full will only make your hair as big as you style it to be.  I, for one, adore big voluminous wavy hair (see below), so I use the Living Proof Full system before I curl my hair with sponge rollers nightly, and then seal with the Living Proof Hold Flexible Hair Spray ($19.99, come morning.  On the other hand, some of my friends adore a sleeker, straighter look.  For them, Living Proof Full makes a visual 20-30% increase in hair thickness, with no teasing or hair-setting necessary.

How Much Product to Use

Living Proof Full Thickening Hair Care

Intuition may tell you that more thickening ingredient would mean thicker hair, but this is not the case.  Keep in mind that Living Proof Full was formulated for about a quarter-size amount of shampoo, conditioner [from chin-length downward], and thickening cream for an average-size woman with hair going down to her shoulders.  If you apply too much Living Proof Full, particularly the Thickening Cream, the silicones in the product can actually overcome the effect of the polyfluoroesters, weighing hair down a bit.  On the other hand, if you don’t apply enough, you won’t see as much effect.  The best option is to play around with the system a bit and find what amounts work best for you.

Does it smell?

Ever since I used Herbal Essences as a teenager, I’ve been obsessed with the scent of a hair care system.  (I don’t think I could recommend even a highly scientific hair care product if it was malodorous!)  Thankfully, Living Proof Full is one of the best-smelling hair care systems I’ve tried, a light floral blend with fruity notes mixed in.  I use Chanel Chance eau tendre as my daily perfume, and the scent blends magnificently with Living Proof Full.  Unfortunately, Living Proof Full is rather fragrant, and you may not find it blends as well with your daily perfume.  I suppose one woman’s selling point could be another’s deal-breaker!

Bottom Line

Living Proof Full Thickening Hair Care

I’m a huge fan of Living Proof Full, and I recommend it to anyone with fine, limp, or straight hair who is looking for a voluminous boost.  It also leaves your hair feeling light, shiny, and bouncy, in addition to nice and fragrant – I honestly can’t say enough good stuff about this line!  Now, if only Living Proof would create a UV protectant spray and a heat-protectant spray…

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LUSH Seanik Solid Shampoo Bar Review: Why You Should Skip It

I’ve never been one to worry about shampoo. Since I have curly hair, it’s naturally a lot drier than my straight-haired friends’, so I stick to washing it once a week (and co-wash daily) for fear of stripping it of its hard-to-acheive moisture. I usually stand by the logic that if I’m only using it once a week, then what’s the point of worrying what it’s made of?

Unfortunately, that’s not the best stance to have on this issue, especially since I don’t need something along the lines of a clarifying shampoo; I don’t use silicones in my hair, so there’s no chance of build-up. So when I stumbled upon the LUSH Seanik Solid Shampoo Bar ($11.95, lurking about in our office, I just had to try it; it’s cute, smells like the beach, and seems fun. How bad could it be?

What the Science Says About the Ingredients 

The first ingredient listed raises quite the red flag: sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), the infamous ingredient known for its lipid-stripping abilities. According to Leslie Baumann, M.D., SLS, it’s a well-known irritant used in patch-tests to evaluate how the skin’s barrier function will perform against the harsh chemical. It strips your skin and hair of natural oils, weakening any defenses those parts may have against future environmental damages (Cosmetic Dermatology). This is further demonstrated by researchers who studied the effects of application of a 2% SLS solution on skin, which showed that repeated application resulted in transepidermal water loss in 29 of the 34 test sites, which is indicative of a decrease in skin barrier function (JAAD). 

Next, LUSH Seanik Solid Shampoo Bar boasts the use of Chondrus crispus, also known as Irish moss gel. There isn’t much research on this type of red algae, but as far as generalities are concerned, algae extracts are known for their ability to moisturize hair, increase shine and softness, and decrease static (Dweck). Irish moss gel has been shown to produce mucilage when immersed in hot water, which lends itself to detangling your hair in the shower (The Examiner). Mostly, this is present in the formula for its stabilizing and emulsifying properties (Journal of Biomaterials Science: Polymer Edition).  

The product’s namesake lies in its inclusion of Fucus vesiculosus, also known as Nori seaweed. According to Lush, it’s used for its softening effects on hair, which makes sense as it’s composed of 40% fatty acids. These include linoleic and linolenic acids, which will protect your hair from losing moisture as well as hydrate the cuticle (Journal of Applied PhycologyCentre Clauderer). 

Does It Work?: Personal Use and Opinion

At first, I was a little confused by how the LUSH Seanik Solid Shampoo Bar is supposed to work — do I just lather it up in my hands? — so I had to consult LUSH’s website for a video. After following the website’s recommendation of rubbing it directly onto my hair, I noticed that it lathered rather well, and I didn’t need to use the bar once I got it going. The smell is great (oceans!), and I liked that it had chunks of seaweed in it, although I guess that might be a little off-putting when they actually come off of the bar.

While I thought the concept was fun and different than your average shampooing routine, I can’t said I liked the effects too much. My hair felt too squeaky-clean due to the sodium lauryl sulfate, and I could actually feel the oil of my hair being stripped away. It didn’t tangle my hair like a lot of other shampoos have, but I still wasn’t happy with the results. 

Bottom Line

The LUSH Seanik Solid Shampoo Bar is a great concept; the product is small and contained in a cute tin, so it doesn’t take up a lot of space in your shower. Unfortunately, its main ingredient is the lipid-stripping sodium lauryl sulfate, which means it isn’t good for your hair, even if your hair is particularly oily. Since I only wash my hair once a week, it wouldn’t really make too much of a difference in my hair’s moisture levels, but I’d still recommend staying away from this product. Instead, look for a shampoo with sodium laureth sulfate, which will clean your hair without drying out your luscious locks.

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Klorane Shampoo with Citrus Pulp Review


Klorane Shampoo with Citrus Pulp ($18, is supposed to clean hair by gently removing build-up, neutralizing hard water, and protecting hair from free radicals. The credit for the purifying effect goes to the main active ingredient, citrus pulp, from citron fruits cultivated in Corsica for use in their products. Klorane explains that its conscientious of surrounding ecosystems when harvesting its ingredients, in this case, citron fruit.

This shampoo is supposed to bring life to dull hair, cleanse gently, and be used with relative frequency on any hair type — but do the ingredients add up to a gentle, invigorating wash?

Corsican Citrus: Cleansing, Clarifying, and Acidic

Corsican citrus

Corsican citrus extract helps to cleanse and has antioxidant properties.

For the benefits of citrus, it’s better to go with citrus included in a formula instead of straight up citrus on your locks, which can do damage.

[Read More: Why Applying Lemon Destroys Your Hair]

Citrus medica limonum is the scientific name for the peel extract used in this Klorane shampoo, according to the product, is the active ingredient. Corsican citrus  is considered particularly high quality and is sought after for cosmetics, because the leaf oil has a distinct composition (Phytochemistry). Referred to as citron in French, this citrus fruit is primarily grown in the Mediterranean and resembles a lemon but is larger and more green in the rutaceae family of plants.

Besides the refreshing scent, citrus balances the pH of hair in this formulation. Typically, shampoos are more alkaline, which causes the hair shaft to swell and open and can result in moisture loss and damage, which is why a pH balanced shampoo is so important (The DERMAdoctor Skinstruction Manual). Ideally, it also helps neutralize hard water, which has a high mineral content that can damage hair. The company doesn’t specify whether the product has an acidic, neutral, or alkaline pH, but it does contain glycolic acid fairly high up in addition to this citrus, which bodes confidence that it’s not super alkaline, despite the inclusion of alkaline surfactants.

One of the other reasons Klorane likely used citrus fruit is because they have antimicrobial properties and (Journal of Ethnopharmacology). And citric acid is a frequently used cleaning agent, which is likely why the company touts its cleansing capabilities. It’s also said to have astringent properties that could help reduce excess oiliness.

In addition to this, citrus contains bioactive compounds like ferulic acid, hydrocinnamic acid, and vitamin C (boosting its antioxidants) (African Journal of Biotechnology; IJPI’s Journal of Biotechnology and Biotherapeutics).

Panthenol: Hair Moisturizer Extraordinaire


Panthenol is a much-loved ingredient. In fact, it’s hair care company Pantene’s namesake.

Panthenol, known as provitamin B5, is one of those hair product staples, because it reduces breakage (Drug and Cosmetic Industry). Panthenol penetrates the hair shaft and acts as a humectant moisturizer, pulling moisture from the environment into hair (Handbook of Cosmetic Science and Technology). That’s one of the reasons why it’s a great ingredients for treating damaged hair, with one study showing that it can help stop deterioration (Analytics in Cosmetic Research).

[Read More: Spotlight On: Panthenol]

Glycolic Acid: A Boon to Hair


Not only does glycolic acid exfoliate skin, it also increases the amount of hyaluronic acid in the skin.

Glycolic acid might seem like a surprising ingredient in hair products, but the simplest alpha-hydroxy acid and smallest fruit acid could be just what hair needs (Cosmetics and Toiletries). But DuPont tested their cosmetic-grade glycolic acid, Glypure®, and found that it increased hair’s ability to withstand heat, increased hair’s strength, lubricates the hair for easier combing and styling, makes hair feel softer, and exfoliates the scalp (DuPont). Pretty impressive, especially considering that the scalp is so often ignored for exfoliation.

Overall: ***


Klorane Shampoo with Citrus Pulp was gentle, but effective and had a lovely citrus scent.

Klorane Shampoo with Citrus Pulp has an invigorating citrus smell that is the perfect wake-up in a morning shower that is not overly fruity or artificial. It is refreshing and clean. With just a dollop in my hand, I was able to rub the shampoo through my whole head and thoroughly scrub my scalp. Once I rinsed my hair, it felt cleansed and soft. It didn’t feel dry and I didn’t get the normal oily scalp that I’m plagued with by the end of the day.

Klorane Shampoo with Citrus Pulp with citrus pulp is meant to be used by all hair types, from normal to oily hair, to balance and neutralize and to avoid buildup from hard water minerals. The citrus pulp gives the shampoo a boost of natural vitamins and purifying properties along with a fittingly refreshing scent. I would make this shampoo a part of my routine, both for the the cleanly lightness of my hair after using it and for the fresh citrus scent that lingers.

Ingredients: Water (Aqua). Sodium Laureth Sulfate. Disodium Cocoamphodiacetate. Citrus Medica Vulgaris Fruit Extract (Citrus Medica Vulgaris). Decyl Glucoside. Sodium Chloride. Citric Acid. Disodium EDTA. DMDM Hydantoin. Fragrance (Parfum). Panthenol. Polyquaternium – 10. Propylene Glycol. Yellow 10 (Cl 47005)

John Frieda Luxurious Volume Touchable Full Shampoo and Conditioner Review

John Frieda Luxurious Volume

I’ve made no secret of my struggles with unbearably thin hair reviewing products. I fake thick locks with tons of products and I’ve mastered a teasing comb. So, when John Frieda sent a sample of John Frieda Luxurious Volume line, including John Frieda Luxurious Volume Touchably Full Shampoo ($9.99, and John Frieda Luxurious Volume Touchable Full Conditioner ($10,, I was first in line to try it out.

A good hairstyle begins in the shower: Shampoo and conditioner are the first steps in getting the desired outcome. So how is a shampoo capable of adding volume to hair? Both the shampoo and conditioner contain wheat protein and sea salt, which are common thickening agents in hair products. And in case the inclusion of surfactant sodium laureth sulfate gave you pause, don’t go running quite yet! Sodium LAURYL sulfate is the bad guy, but the similar names often result in sodium laureth sulfate getting an undeserved bad reputation.

Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein Great for Strengthening Hair


Hydrolyzed wheat protein can thicken hair by filling in the places where it’s damaged.

Wheat protein is famous for its ability to transform weightless or damaged hair into healthy, full individual strands. Originally, salons used it in post-perm treatments to reduce some of the damage done in the perm process, but recently it’s been used to correct all kinds of damage.

Hydrolyzed wheat protein has a low molecular weight, so it’s small enough to penetrate the hair shaft and acts as a humectant moisturizer, drawing in water from the environment; and because it’s also a film former, it’s able to hold moisture in (Cosmetic Science Technology).

But wheat protein is more than just a conditioning agent — it can help strengthen hair. As hair goes through the detriments of daily life, it loses externals cuticle scales, leaving the cortex more vulnerable to damage. The cysteine residues in both hair and hydrolyzed wheat protein facilitate a covalent bond between the

Since hydrolyzed wheat protein can penetrate the shaft, its cysteine residues allow it to covalently bond with disulfide bonds in the hair, essentially filling holes left by damage and strengthening hair by up to 10% and reducing breakage from combing force (MedScape: Skin and Hair Cleansers; Hair in Toxicology). Studies cited in the book Conditioning Agents for the Hair and Skin have shown that hydrolyzed wheat protein reduces brittleness and limpness, and also improves hair’s body and shine.

Cationic Polymer: Polyquaternium-52


Polyquaternium-52 is one of the things in this formula that makes hair easy to comb, but it hasn’t been shown to add volume.

Polyquaterniums are a popular additive to hair products, bringing it to the top of the list for most common cationic polymers. Cationic polymers have various roles that range from thickening to conditioning and film forming (Making Cosmetics).

According to the Hair Foundation library Polyquaternium-4 is the polymer that aids in thickening the best. The number following the ‘Polyquaternium’ describes the constituents that are attached to the polyquaternium structure and are responsible for the properties of that certain compound. But Polyquaternium-52 was found to be most useful for its conditioning properties, not thickening. And the Society of Cosmetic Chemists reported that all cationic polymers have the ability to improve body and comb-ability (ease of combing) (Journal of SCC). This is due to the positively charged group on the polymer attracting to the negatively charged hair surface and causing adsorption which leads to polymeric film on the hair surface and increased volume and conditioning properties (Journal of SCC).

There is quite a buzz about the polyquaterniums and which ones perform what role. The most specific evidence was from Personal Care Magazine. It related polyquaterium-52 with laureth-16, which is also present in the volumizing shampoo, naming the combination Marquat 5210, a crosslinked polymer. This combination was said to condition, improve foaming capabilities and improve color retention. There was nothing related to thickening in the article. So, although polyquaterniums are generally praised for film-forming and thickening properties I’m not sure this specific polyquaternium can actually deliver those results (Formula, Ingredients, and Production of Cosmetics).

Skip the Confusion: Sodium Laureth Sulfate is NOT Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

sodium laureth sulfate

Sodium laureth suflate has those suds you’re looking for, but causes less irritation than sodium lauryl sulfate.

The names are super similar but don’t get the two confused. Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) is much more gentle and less irritating than the infamous sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). SLS is so ubiquitous because it lathers well and removes dirt and oil exceptionally well (maybe too well, since it can strip moisture and leave you with dry hair and skin).

According to the International Journal of Toxicology there have been no adverse effects to sodium laureth sulfate in ANY toxicology testing. In one study an irritant patch test was performed on subjects using SLES and SLS and transepidermal water loss (TEWL) and skin irritation was measured (Contact Dermatitis). The results proved that those treated with SLS had a “pronounced reaction” and those treated with SLES had a far milder reaction; even at the highest concentration of SLES any signs of irritation were “hard to detect” up until day 7 (Contact Dermatitis).

Next time you check the ingredients list on any product don’t forget that sodium LAURETH sulfate (SLES) is different from sodium LAURYL sulfate (SLS) even though they may be close in name.


John Frieda Luxurious Volume

I really wanted this to make my thin hair look super voluminous, but it really didn’t have an impact.

As a general shampoo and conditioner John Frieda Luxurious Volume Touchably Full Shampoo and John Frieda Luxurious Volume Touchable Full Conditioner were great. They both lathered on nicely and made my tresses feel beautiful and soft but not touchably full as the brand promotes.

I used the shampoo for a week and a half, and I’m just not seeing any distinct changes in the thickness or volume of my hair. I went a few days without applying additional products to see how the shampoo and conditioner worked alone. After those few days I gave in and started using my products again, because I couldn’t stand the lack of volume in my hair anymore. I was disappointed but not surprised because hydrolyzed wheat protein is the largest contributor to thickening and strengthening hair and it was one of the least abundant ingredients.

Thanks to sodium laureth sulfate I was not afraid that the shampoo and conditioner would cause irritation. Overall, the shampoo and conditioner were nice but nothing to write home about when it comes to adding volume to hair. 



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How Does Dry Shampoo Work?

 Beautiful woman portrait

Showering every day is part of a daily ritual for many people, Americans in particular. Market research firm Mintel found that nearly 93% of adults in the U.S. suds up with shampoo every morning (New York Times). But recent trends have caused many to question a daily shower, because it can dry skin and strip it of sebum. Too frequent washing may even create a better breeding ground for certain bacteria.

[Read More: Does Showering Too Much Damage Your Skin?]

Enter dry shampoo, which many use to keep hair several days out from the last shower looking fresh. In 2008, it represented only 1% of global shampoo launch activity, but in 2012, it had grown to 3% of global shampoo launch activity. In fact, 53% of the current dry shampoos have been launched after 2009, according to Mintel (Mintel).

In the U.S., roughly 16% of adults used dry shampoo in the last year. That number is about the same for the “Big 5” European markets (Spain, UK, France, Italy, Germany), except in the UK, where 23% of women avolved in the market.

The Difference Between Dry and Wet Shampoo

Wet washing your hair gets it cleaner but can also do more damage if done too frequently.

Wet washing your hair gets it cleaner but can also do more damage if done too frequently.

Dry shampoos work by absorbing the excess oil on your scalp, so that hair doesn’t have an “oily” look. It’s specifically for use with dried hair, not with wet hair.

In traditional wet shampoos, surfactants work in two ways. Their lipophilic, or oil-attracted, part adheres to dirt and oil, then the hydrophilic, or water-attracted, part follows the water in your shower. Essentially, the lipophilic part grabs hold, and the hydrophilic does the moving.

[Read More: Infographic: From Shampoo to Fabric Softener — What Surfactants Do for You]

But dry shampoos instead work by absorbing the oil in your hair. Unfortunately, for that reason, you won’t get the same kind of clean as you would with a wet shampoo.

Absorbing Oil: Starch, Silica, Talc, and More

Dry shampoo can come in a few forms, including aerosol and loose powders, but they all pretty much work the same way. Clays, silica, and several other possible dry shampoo ingredients are know as “sorbents,” which essentially means they’re able to absorb other things (Queensland University of Technology).

[Read More: Is Talc Bad for Your Skin?]

The idea is that once you leave the oil in your hair for a few minutes, you can brush your hair or shake it out a little to get rid of any of the flakes or powdery look that dry shampoo can give.

Using Dry Shampoo: The Good

If you're regularly heat styling, dry shampoo can save your style AND your hair.

If you’re regularly heat styling, dry shampoo can save your style AND your hair.

I’ve heard many people say that while frequent washing dries out their hair, their scalp gets oily if they don’t wash their hair everyday. For those people, dry shampoo is a perfect solution, allowing you to save your hair from over-washing without having the roots look oily.

Dry shampoo isn’t just beneficial for those who don’t want to shower everyday because it dries out their hair. It’s also good for those who regularly use heat styling. Heat styling can strip the lipid layer that helps protect you hair (Handbook of Nanotechnology). It can also cause hair to become more negatively charge, resulting in more frizz.

By using dry shampoo, you can save your style for several days instead of redoing it repeatedly and inevitably damaging your hair. Just be sure to wait a few minutes before styling to make sure you give the dry shampoo time to work.

Using Dry Shampoo: The Bad

Reading the labels is important when buying dry shampoo. Alcohol without emollients and moisturizers can result in dry hair.

Reading the labels is important when buying dry shampoo. Alcohol without emollients and moisturizers can result in dry hair.

Unfortunately, like with many things, there are benefits and downsides to using dry shampoos. Some of that depends on which dry shampoo you pick. Certain aerosol dry shampoos mix their ingredients into a quick dry formula by using something like denatured alcohol.

That might not be as big a problem as you think. Many dry shampoos include oils that help to counterbalance the alcohol. When these ingredients are included, the alcohol dries layer of the product, rather than drying out your skin. Fortunately, it’s possible to find aerosol dry shampoos that include moisturizing ingredients or those that are alcohol free.

[Read More: Is Ethanol in Skin Care Products Safe?]

There’s also a limit to dry shampoo use. Celebrity stylist Jacqueline Bush says that if you’re thinking of using dry shampoo for the third time, it’s time for a full-on shampoo instead (Huffington Post).

Bottom Line

Nearly anyone can use a dry shampoo, and they’re growing in popularity. Too frequent washing can be bad for skin and hair by drying them out and stripping their natural protection. Dry shampoo, which isn’t as thorough a wash as wet shampoo, works by absorbing the oil in your hair. Overall, there aren’t many negatives to dry shampoo, unless you use one with alcohol and no moisturizing ingredients. It’s a pretty simple solution.

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  • We know that heat can change the shape of hair. If someone with pin curls runs a flat iron through their hair — POOF! — their hair becomes straight. If someone with poker straight hair wraps it around a curling iron — BAM! — they have beautiful curls. But what is it about heat that can seemingly…
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Philosophy Pink Frosted Animal Cracker Shampoo, Shower Gel, and Bubble Bath Review


For those times when you feel exceptionally light-hearted and full of whimsy, it’s best to match you mood with fun cosmetics and products. Philosophy offers lines of whimsically-scented shampoos, lip glosses and other beauty products with names like “Senorita Margarita” and “Ooey Gooey Cookie.” Recently they sent us Philosophy Pink Frosted Animal Cracker Shampoo, Shower Gel, and Bubble Bath  (, $19.99) to test out, and while the ingredients are great, I found it to be drying.

Sunflower Seed Oil and Skin

Sunflower seed oil, unlike olive oil, has been shown to improve skin barrier function.

Sunflower seed oil, unlike olive oil, has been shown to improve skin barrier function.

Seeing something as bright and beautiful as a sunflower will surely make you smile — but all of the benefits that it yields on your skin will make you absolutely giddy. For example, sunflower was shown to have remarkable antibacterial properties in a 2004 study from the Pediatric Journal of Infectious Diseases. Researchers topically applied sunflower oil twice a day on infants who had contracted nosocomial infections (infections obtained while in a hospital). After approximately three weeks, 54% of infants had a reduced chance and severity of nosocomial infection.

Researchers believed on of the reasons chance and severity of infection were reduced is because of sunflower seed oil’s ability to form a protective barrier on the skin. Sunflower seed oil formed a topical barrier that not only retained water, but also strengthened the skin’s natural barrier of babies’ delicate skin. Moreover, sunflower extract created a semipermeable layer that allowed sunflower’s natural lipids to enter and nourish the skin, and fortify the foundation for a stronger, natural skin barrier (Pediatric Journal of Infectious Diseases).

A study from the Acta Cirurgica Brasilera focused on sunflower extract’s role in wound healing. After three weeks of application, wound areas had shrunk by 68%, and the wound had contracted significantly as well. Sunflower seed oil stimulated fibroblast proliferation, which plays roles in the extracellular matrix, collagen formation, and granulation tissue formation, which is crucial to proper wound healing. The number of inflammatory cells also decreased when sunflower was applied topically, and cell re-epithelialization was greatly improved in the wound area.

For patients who had scaly, dry patches on their skin and a lecithin deficiency, which plays a part in skin moisture. After applying sunflower seed oil for two weeks, the patients’ dry patches healed significantly, moisture returned to the skin, and the patient with a lecithin deficiency had normal levels of lecithin in the skin. However, this study used a small sample size (3 people), and needs further research to support the findings (Journal of Investigative Dermatology).

So what does all of this mean? If you use Philosophy’s Shampoo as a body wash, that means it would not only cleanse the skin but moisturize it, encourage wound repair, and possibly strengthen the skin barrier. 

Sunflower Seed Oil and Hair

While sunflower oil’s role in hair health remains isn’t well studied, its main component  —linoleic acid — plays a major role in hair hydration. A recent study on topical linoleic acid and scalp penetration found that it was able to effectively penetrate the scalp and follicles, ensuring better hair health (International Journal of Cosmetic Science)

This omega-6 fatty acid retains hair’s moisture, and make it more fortified and elastic,by seeping into the cell membranes found around the hair follicle. It also protects against frizzy and dry tresses, dandruff, and hydrates the cuticle. But linoleic acid’s most crucial function is its forming a barrier over the hair strand and connects the cuticle cells together. The cuticle is the outermost layer of hair, and when it becomes damaged, hair loses its natural luster and bounce (Centre Clauderer). In short, sunflower is a great moisturizing and barrier-forming agent that will both lock in the moisture and keep out harmful bacteria from entering the skin.

Green Tea Extract and Skin

Green tea extract has been shown to help mitigate UV damage.

Green tea extract has been shown to help mitigate UV damage.

Green tea is a great extract, known especially for being anti-carcinogenic and anti-aging agent. Green tea’s polyphenols, especially EGCG, combat inflammation that can result in cancer cell formation and proliferation, as well as tumor formation when untreated (JAMA Dermatology). When researchers applied EGCG to mice that had been exposed to UV rays, they saw an improvement in both benign and malignant tumors (Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology).

Similarly, green tea is able to soothe skin that is affected by sunburn or erythema (JAMA Dermatology). The polyphenol GTTP also combines with reactive oxygen species to protect against UV damage in mice, though its effect on humans has not been well studied (Journal of Drugs in Dermatology). Green tea has also been linked to reversal of photodamage. If left untreated, photodamage can cause wrinkles, collagen lose, rough uneven skin, depleted skin lipids, release free radicals, and a host of other problems. Fortunately, green tea can restore/protect our skin’s natural lipid levels, which leave skin looking soft and full. It also does some work to repair damaged protein and collagen fibers in the skin, which also contribute to skin’s firm and supple appearance. By inhibiting the enzyme matrix metalloproteinase, green tea fortifies the cellular matrix (Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology).

For acne suffers, green tea inhibits 5 alpha reductase, an enzyme that disrupts hormone levels and contributes to acne formation. It also regulates sebum production, which can clog pores if it becomes excessive.  If you have acne that typically scars or that become open lesions, green tea encourages cell reproduction so that wounds can heal more quickly (Journal of Drugs in Dermatology).

Green Tea Extract and Hair

But green tea’s benefits are limited to the skin — they have also been shown to greatly improve hair growth. In a study published in Phytomedicine, researchers analyzed the effect of EGCG amd its effect on the hair follicle. When applied topically, green tea significantly lengthened the hair follicle, and encouraged hair growth and dermal papillae cell reproduction. Dermal papillae cells (DPC) are cellular protrusions that grow from the dermis into the epidermis, and are often realized in fingerprints. They are particularly important for nourishing cells and encouraging growth, especially hair follicle cells (Journal of Cell Science).

Moreover, green tea’s EGCG stimulated the ERK pathway, which is used in cell growth and mitogenesis (beginning of cell division). It also encouraged AKT pathway stimulation, which is used to elicit survival signals/responses, and may even be linked with dermal papillae cell life.  Each of green tea’s benefits, from ERK pathway activation to hair follicle growth, increased when applied directly onto a human scalp than when studied ex vivo (removed from a living subject) (Phtyomedicine: International Journal of Phytotherapy and Phytopharmacology).

When administered EGCG, hair began to regrow and regain its former health. The scientists theorized that the EGCG lessened testosterone-induced cell apoptosis and encouraged cell epithelialization (the growth of more cells). It is also possible that EGCG could inhibit androgen’s effect on hair health (Experimental Dermatology). In a separate study, one third of mice who were orally administered green tea exhibited significant hair regrowth over a six month period (Journal of the National Medical Association).

Panthenol and Skin

Panthenol or vitamin B5 is known for being beneficial to hair, skin, and nails.

Panthenol or vitamin B5 is known for being beneficial to hair, skin, and nails.

Panthenol is a great ingredient for hair, skin, and nails. When applied topically, panthenol significantly reduced redness and improper pigmentation for scarring, pimples, and other skin lesions (The Indian Journal of Dermatology). It has also demonstrated its potential as an anti-aging and wound-healing agent by encouraging fibroblast proliferation (Drug and Cosmetic Industry). Fibroblasts play roles in the extracellular matrix, collagen production and wound healing (News Medical). Therefore, when fibroblast production is increased, so is the skin’s general appearance. In addition its internal structure is fortified, and cell reproduction is improved, all of which contribute both to wound healing and fuller-looking skin.

Panthenol also has beneficial humectant properties. This means that it pulls water from the environment into the skin. Being a humectant, panthenol also makes skin more elastic, less prone to drying/flaking/cracking, and soothes it from irritation and inflammation  (Heather Brannon, MD).

Panthenol and Hair

Panthenol is one of the best things you can ever use on your hair. Coupled with its humectant properties and its ability to deeply penetrate the hair cuticle, panthenol helps hair and skin to it retain moisture and pull moisture from the surrounding environment. Even better, using just a 1% concentration of panthenol significantly reduced water loss after blow drying hair Panthenol also  fortified hair that it was less susceptible to strain and breakage,  and promoted regular keratinization, which means that hair cells can reproduce regularly (Panthenol – The Beautifier).

Personal Use and Opinion

An overwhelming smell, thick viscosity, and drying properties made this product one I wouldn't use again.

An overwhelming smell, thick viscosity, and drying properties made this product one I wouldn’t use again.

I was really excited to give Philosophy Pink Animal Cracker Shampoo, Shower Gel, and Body Wash a try, but I was very disappointed with the results. First, the scent is very overpowering — it will definitely cover any perfumes or scented lotions that you wear and is so pungent that it gave me a headache within a few hours. The shampoo also was exceptionally thick, and even when using a quarter-sized amount it took me along time to rinse it all out. Afterwards, it made my hair feel very dry, weak, and knotted. Even after using a conditioner, my hair tangled very easily, and was frizzy and frayed all day long. When using it as a body wash, Philosophy’s product left my skin feeling dry, flaky, and unclean.  Moreover, I found that using the shampoo made my hands dry out, even though it was on my hands for a matter of seconds.

Bottom Line

Philosophy Pink Animal Cracker Shampoo, Body Wash, and Bubble Bath boasts some impressive ingredients, like panthenol for moisture and hair thickening and sunflower seed oil for antibacterial. Unfortunately, the shampoo made my hair and skin feel exceptionally dry and unclean — after using a conditioner, my hair was still tangled, frizzy, and flyaway all day long. This shampoo and body wash is probably good for those with oilier hair and skin types, but if you have regular to dry skin, this shampoo and body wash will only disappoint you and take away your natural moisture.

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5 Drugstore Shampoos and Conditioners that Strengthen Your Hair

strong hair from the drugstore

We love a good drugstore secret here at FutureDerm — especially when it comes to our hair. Every day we try a ton of products and we all experiment in outside the office to find products we like a lot. Some of our favorite products are things you can find at the drugstore. The nice thing about these finds is that they aren’t a big wallet-buster to try (still, we’ve got the scientific facts for you on each one!).

Product 1: Mane ’n Tail Shampoo and Conditioner


I begin using this one a few years ago, after I switched to a vegetarian diet and  my hair became noticeably thinner. Marketed as a conditioner for both humans and horses, Mane ’n Tail ($29.95 for 32 oz. shampoo and conditioner, promises to deliver stronger, thicker, cascading hair for its users — and anything that makes horses’ hair thicker, I reasoned, should give me locks to rival the Disney princesses.

What sets Mane ‘n Tail apart is its coconut oil. True, coconut oil has a reputation for being heavy and fattening, but it contains good fats that will nurture your locks. Specifically, it contains fatty acids called triglycerides that are able to be absorbed into hair’s four layers. Once in your hair, it retains moisture and halts hair protein loss (protein strengthens hair) especially if you frequently chemically treat your locks (Journal of Cosmetic Science). When your hair becomes more moisturized and fortified, it will give it the feel (or at least the appearance) of being thicker and healthier (LaRoche-Posay Dermatology Library).

So why do I love it? To start, it retains moisture and makes my hair appear less frizzy and coarse. Secondly, the shampoo and conditioner made my hair feel noticeably thicker after about a month of using it, though the feeling quickly disappeared after I switched to another shampoo. They also come in 32-ounce bottles, so you don’t have to worry about running out of  it for a few months (even if you are a heavy user like me). On a minor note, it has a very faint refreshing scent that would linger around you for days on end.

Product 2: Garnier Fructis Sleek and Shine Shampoo and Conditioner


Garnier Fructis Sleek and Shine Shampoo ($4.97, and Conditioner ($4.97, fell into my hands after my local drugstore sold out of Mane ‘n Tail and I was in desperate need of conditioner. Sleek and Shine’s apricot kernel oil contains gamma-linoleic acid, that soothes skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. It can also soothe inflamed scalp conditions, such as dandruff, dry hair, sunburn, or painful roots that can agitate our hair follicles and inhibit the growing process.
In cases, bacteria and chemicals will collect in our tresses and slowly disintegrate the hair shaft all the way up to the follicle. Luckily, gamma-linoleic acid protects against these free radicals and more by creating a protective, moisturizing shield (University of Maryland Medical Center).

This shampoo and conditioner also contains sugarcane extract, which contains the multi-purpose glycolic acid. Firstly, glycolic acid moisturizes your hair by seeping deep into the hair shaft and hair follicle. Moisturized hair appears healthier and fuller because glycolic acid molecules attach to hair keratin (hair protein), while a moisturized scalp can reduce hair loss and promote normal hair growth. Glycolic acid should make your hair easier to comb out and offer it a softer texture (Dupont – Glycolic Acid).

Garnier Fructis is probably my number-one shampoo and conditioner duo. It leaves your hair with a deliciously fruity scent that isn’t too pungent, but will draw compliments endlessly from friends and passersby. Plus, it really does “sleek and shine” your hair, but still gives you enough volume and body. I did not notice my hair feeling thicker while using this shampoo, but it does make it appear full, and your hair will feel so soft and healthy that you won’t really mind that it isn’t a thickening shampoo. I noticed that fewer hairs fell out/appeared in my comb while using sleek and shine, and my hair didn’t feel as weak when I pulled it back into a ponytail or bun.

Product 3:  David Babaii for Wildaid Amplifying Conditioner


My mother gave me David Babaii’s Amplifying Conditioner ($9.79, as a birthday present, knowing that I would love to try out a conditioner that both contained volcanic ash and donated some proceeds to the WildAid Charity. However, the volcanic ash may just be fluff — there is no scientific evidence that it will fortify your hair, or do anything, for that matter. In fact, volcanic ash is often an irritant for the lungs and eyes since it a smattering of dirt, glass, and rock.

This product does contain jojoba oil, which is renowned for mimicking human sebum. Your body creates sebum to create a protective, hydrating casing over your hair follicles, though sebum production can sometimes be reduced by things like frequent hair drying, lots of styling products, sun damage, etc. Therefore, you should use jojoba oil as an alternative when sebum production is low, or whenever your hair needs some extra oomph (Skin and Allergy News).

Perhaps it was the volcanic ash or the smattering of natural ingredients, but David Babaii’s Amplifying Conditioner did wonders for my hair. After just three washes my tresses felt softer, shinier, thicker, and had more volume than when using most other conditioners. I even compared before and after pictures for this product, and friends agreed my hair looked much better. Plus, it made my hair so much easier to detangle after showering.

The only bad thing about this product is that its only in a few drugstores (i.e. only certain Rite Aids and CVS’s), and you may go a few months without finding it again. Still, it’s a great buy that leaves your hair smelling lovely and feeling clean, while donating proceeds to save wildlife.

Product 4: Tresemme Luxurious Moisture Shampoo and Conditioner


When I want to switch things up a little, I use Tresemme’s Luxurious Moisture Shampoo ($4.79, and Conditioner ($5.99, I love to use this one because it leaves your hair feeling so lightweight but makes the hair shaft feel thicker and more lustrous. Plus, unlike a lot of other conditioners you can put Tresemme on your scalp, and it won’t weigh down the hair follicles. If you have curly hair or wavy hair, Tresemme’s Luxurious Moisture Conditioner is good for keeping them intact while eliminating pesky frizz.

The product’s sunflower oil may have something to do with its great results. Sunflower oil is a popular antibacterial, moisturizing, and soothing agent that will return skin to its natural, smooth texture. So what does that mean for the hair? Well, when hair becomes inflamed or infected, it begins to grow hair at a slower rate, and current hair strands will become dull, weak, and thin — using sunflower oil combates these issues (Dr. Leslie S. Baumann). It will also return linoleic acid to the skin, which is a essential for hydrating and fortifying individual hair shafts.

Product 5: Hair Accessories


So, this one seems really simple but it’s one that most of us forget to pull out hair up during the frigid winter months. Consider this: excess humidity and static can make hair frizzy and flyaway, and frizzy hair appears thin and unkempt. Repeatedly pulling on and off coats, hats, and scarves can gently (and discreetly!) pull out unsuspecting hairs, leaving your hair much thinner for the coming summer – this one used to happen to me a lot, especially because my winter-term classes were all in different buildings.

Even if you like to leave your hair down, you should consider pulling it up into a butterfly clip while you are outside, so that your hair won’t be subject to as much static or cling to your coat when you take it off.

I started doing this this summer, after I was tired of seeing my coat draped in enough hair to make a wig and my scalp becoming increasingly transparent. I purchased two butterfly clips from my local RiteAid and use them while riding the bus to school and walking to and from classes. Sure, my hair is still dry, but I have noticed that I have been losing fewer hairs and shedding less on my clothing.

Think something like Scunci Effortless Beauty Basic Jaw Clips ($3.99 for a three pack, They’re big enough to hold all your hair but they have plenty of teeth to hold on.

Bottom Line

What makes a conditioner so special is its use of essential oils and fatty acids. When looking at ingredients, make sure that they are ones that will return moisture to the hair shaft, such as beeswax, coconut oil and linoleic acid, and put protective films over them, such as sunflower oil. You can find a routine for beautiful hair in the drugstore if you know where to look.

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Why Dandruff Shampoos Work (Even Though We Don't Know the Exact Cause of Dandruff)


We’ve all seen it — whether on ourselves or others — the telltale white flakes that accompany dandruff. Dandruff, in particular dandruff caused by seborrheic dermatitis (SD) , is often caused by overproduction of sebum (skin oils) and skin cells in addition to irritation from malassezia (a yeast-like fungus). This fungus lives on all adult skin, but when it grows out of control, which researchers think may happen because of excessive shedding of dead skin cells, it can cause problems (Mayo Clinic, Journal of Medicinal Chemistry).

This fungus causes the inflammation that results in flaky, scaly patches and red, itchy skin (A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia). In more severe conditions, sufferers may have excess oiliness, yellow crusts and fissures of the skin, and there’s concern about secondary bacterial infection. Dandruff/SD seems to be genetic, but can be triggered by weather changes, stress, skin disorders, fatigue, insufficient washing, oily skin, and obesity; certain neurological conditions and HIV have also been linked to increased cases.

Numerous studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of dandruff shampoos to treat these conditions, though they don’t cure them. Though we don’t understand the exactly why dandruff happens, we do know that these shampoos work.

Dandruff/SD and Too Many Dead Skin Cells

An excess of dead skin is definitely an important factor in dandruff and SD, but what causes it?

An excess of dead skin is definitely an important factor in dandruff and SD, but what causes it?

Dandruff shampoo primarily contains zinc pyrithione, which is an antibacterial and anti-fungal compound that also has cytotoxic activity against skin cells (Merriam-Webster, Food and Chemical Toxicology). In fact, this cytotoxic action may be an important part of how dandruff shampoos work.

Studies have looked into the scalps of SD sufferers to understand why malasezia, which is found on all skin, causes SD in some and not in others. In a small, single-center, double-blind, randomized, parallel group comparison study of 12 participants to determine whether the ultrastructure of a scalp with dandruff was different than a non-sufferer’s scalp (Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology).

Those with dandruff had an altered structure of the scalp. This primarily entailed an increased number of intercellular lipids. These appeared in and cause separation and curling of the corneocytes, which are what makes up the stratum corneum (outermost layer of skin). So, the researchers conclude that SD is caused both by altered keratinization and altered sebum production. The researchers found that these scalp abnormalities were greatly reduced by zinc pyrithione, meaning that whatever the cause of these abnormalities, zinc pyrithione helps.

An in vitro study on human cells found that zinc pyrithione might have an antimetabolic action on the skin, which decreases the cell proliferation (Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists). This research shows that increased cell proliferation is an important part of SD, but doesn’t actually provide a root cause.

While researchers initially thought this meant that the fungus was a component but not a cause of SD, the introduction of azole anti-fungals, which proved to help people with SD, seemed to suggest that the fungus was complicit in causing SD.

Dandruff/SD and Fungus

Malasezia, a fungus found on nearly everyone's skin is a part of dandruff. But researchers want to know why only some people are affected.

Malasezia, a fungus found on nearly everyone’s skin is a part of dandruff. But researchers want to know why only some people are affected.

Some researchers have suggested that the increased proliferation of skin cells might actually be the body’s response to the presences of the fungus malassezia. People who are sensitive to this fungus might have their immune system provoked by its presence, resulting in the proliferation of cells (PLoS Pathogens). This is further backed by the increase in SD in people with AIDS, which seems to suggest that there are immunological factors at work (Clinical and Experimental Dermatology).

Some people with SD have also been shown to have an elevated number of activated lymphocytes in their system, which backs the idea that SD has ties to the immune system. Research as to whether malassezia raises the antibody count in SD sufferers has been inconclusive.

The fact that lesions improve with the removal of malassezia from skin seems to suggest that this fungus is directly correlated with SD. There are still numerous questions to be answered, but the currently theories about SD and dandruff include the presence of fungus. That’s a good thing, because Proctor & Gamble cracked the genetic code for the fungus and hope to create products to combat it even better.

And thanks to its antimicrobial capabilities, zinc pyrithione also helps to take care of malassezia. One study found that an important part of how it functions is inhibiting fungus by increasing copper uptake and activating key proteins that stop the growth (Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy). Still, we don’t entirely understand it’s antimicrobial properties and more tests must be done.

Bottom Line

While we don’t know exactly what causes seborrheic dermatitis or the accompanying dandruff, we do know that dandruff shampoos seem to work to aid the problem, if not cure it altogether. That’s because the usual ingredient, zinc pyrithione, combats many of the components of SD and dandruff. As a cytotoxic agent, it helps to curb the excess proliferation of skin cells. As an antimicrobial agent, it curbs the growth of malassezia, the fungus that is a huge component and possibly the cause of SD. Future studies to understand exactly what causes SD and dandruff will help us to create products that might actually cure the condition one day.