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What Shampoo Type Do You Need?

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Reviewed by Victoria Barbosa, MD

WebMD Feature

Walking down the shampoo aisle in the drugstore or grocery store can give you sensory overload. Hundreds of brands and specialized types of shampoo boast that they can give you the perfect bouncy, curly, wavy, shiny, or smooth tresses that you dream of. But how different are they really? And how do you know which one is right for you?

Here, two top stylists explain some of the most common buzzwords you see on shampoo bottles and what they mean for your hair.

What Makes a Shampoo?

All shampoos contain two things: a cleanser and a conditioner, says Cary O'Brien, owner of Cary O'Brien's Design and Color Spa in St. Charles, Mo. (Even shampoos that aren't billed as combination shampoo-conditioners have somekind of conditioner in them.)

How much of each is in the shampoo depends on what kind of hair it's made for.

"If your hair is lightweight, fine, or fragile, you want to clean it very well because any kind of oil or buildup will be heavy on it," O'Brien says. "You don't want too much conditioner, because that will weigh it down."

Very thick and coarse hair might need even stronger cleansers to keep it clean, because it can be oilier and hold in dirt more. "For this kind of hair, you probably want to beef up the conditioning agent, because that hair can handle it and probably needs it," O'Brien says.

Shampoos for Oily or Dry Hair

Oily hair is due to an overactive oil-making gland, says Vaughn Acord, owner of mizu salon, with locations in New York and Boston. "You want a shampoo that removes the oils and hydrates both the hair and scalp," he says.

Dry hair, on the other hand, usually results from damage to the hair itself. "The central part of the hair shaft is where we find all the proteins that give hair its strength,” says dermatologist Michelle Hanjani Galant, MD, of Columbia University Medical Center. "Surrounding the hair shaft is something called the cuticle, made up of flattened cells like shingles on a roof. If their edges aren't lined up perfectly, then hair is dull, brittle, and has no shine," says Hanjani Galant, who specializes in hair and hair disorders.

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