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Your Guide to Shampoo and Conditioners

Should You Condition Your Hair?

Before the 1950s, shampoo was nothing more than liquid soap. Then surfactants came along. Although they were cheap and preserved the hair's natural volume, these cleaners were also harsh and drying.

Enter conditioners, which were designed to add moisture back into shampoo-parched hair.

To retain your hair's moisture, condition every time you wash, says Arrojo. "Conditioner not only makes your hair look and feel softer and smoother, it also calms your hair down, making it easier to shape and style." A leave-in conditioner can help re-hydrate hair that's over-processed, dry, and brittle. Be careful not to over-condition your hair, which can make it look flat and lifeless.

Today there are moisturizing shampoos and cleansing conditioners that do both jobs. Although moisturizing shampoos are usually hydrating enough to use alone, McMichael says cleansing conditioners often don't do a good enough job of cleaning the scalp.  

Should You Wash Your Hair Daily?

Many people wash their hair every day. You might not need to.

"Shampooing three or four times weekly is plenty," Arrojo says. Washing removes hair's natural oils. "There is nothing inherently bad about these oils; they actually help to create texture in hair."  

If your hair is on the oily side, you may find that you need to wash it more often -- every day or two. Waiting more than that is fine for drier hair, though if you go longer than two weeks it may get grimy.  It's a matter of finding the schedule that works for you.

Technique Matters

Washing your hair seems like a no-brainer, but there is some technique involved.

Don't just plop a huge glob of shampoo on top of your head and then start rubbing it in -- that can damage the hair cuticles and cause frizz, Arrojo says.

Instead, squeeze out a dime-sized amount into the center of your hand and lather it up between your palms. Then apply the shampoo, starting at your crown -- the top of your head toward the back -- and gently distribute through the rest of your hair. Massage – don't rub – your scalp with your fingertips as you shampoo, Arrojo says. 

Use a similar technique when conditioning. Rub the conditioner between your palms first. Then start with the ends of your hair.

"Focus on massaging the conditioner thoroughly through the final three inches of your hair in sections all across your hair," Arrojo says. "By doing this regularly, you'll find it truly does make an incredible difference to vitality and luster." The hair near your scalp gets plenty of natural oils, but hair farther away from your scalp tends to dry out.

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