3 Things You Must Know About Shampooing, From A Trichologist
Shampooing is arguably one of the most debated categories of hair care. Depending on who you ask, it could be a daily necessity, a weekly endeavor, or something to be avoided altogether. And here's the tricky part: Each is correct in its own way. Depending on your hair type, scalp needs, and lifestyle, your cleansing routine will look very different. (We actually wrote a very thorough explainer on this topic, which can help you decode what you should be doing.) Clearly, this is a muddled topic, which is why my conversation with trichologist Bridgette Hill on this week's episode of Clean Beauty School was so fascinating. Hill is a hairstylist, colorist, and certified trichologist (trichology is a paramedical field of hair care that focuses on scalp, follicle, and hair fiber health)—and she's made the scalp her area of focus with Root Cause Scalp Analysis.
So while she's the first to say that shampooing is and should be highly individualized, there are some takeaways that most of us would benefit from knowing. Tune in to the episode to learn more, but for now—here are three must-try techniques for shampooing your hair and scalp:
Try a pre-shampoo.
Her first shampooing tip starts before you even lather some on with a pre-shampoo treatment. "You always want to pretreat the hair dry with some type of nourishing oil; even your conditioner works," she says. "You always want to put moisture into the hair fiber: Think of it like a sponge before you get into the shower. It absorbs those nutrients and can help protect the hair fiber when you wash."
Certainly you can find an option specifically marketed as a pre-shampoo treatment (this number from JVN's new line is what I'm testing currently), but you can likely just use an oil you already have at home if you're not looking to make a purchase. Most botanical hair oils—or pure options like argan and jojoba—make for excellent pre-shampoo treatments to slick on the hair. For scalp-specific ones, Hill loves options that contain citrus oils as they have cleansing properties. "They're not going to be moisturizing for the hair fiber, but they're great for treating the scalp microbiome," she says.
Work it in.
One of the biggest reasons people have issues with shampooing is, well, we're just not educated on how to do it. "We're not taught to focus on the scalp," says Hill. "The majority of people when they shampoo, they're only washing the root of the hair fiber or the strand. Very rarely do people genuinely do a true cleansing of the skin on the scalp."
Think about how lovely it is to get a shampoo at a salon—that thorough scalp massage is sometimes thought of as a bonus luxury, but there's a very real reason stylists spend time doing it. They're not just washing the root or the hair fiber; they're manually cleaning the skin. Whereas think about the at-home process: Chances are, Hill notes, you're only shampooing the fiber. Take this as a cue to give yourself a scalp massage on wash days.
Opt for a nozzle.
Want help targeting that scalp? Opt for shampoo with a nozzle—or if your formula of choice doesn't come in said bottle, "I like to suggest transferring a shampoo into a bottle with an applicator nozzle," she says. "So that you're putting the shampoo directly onto the scalp." Once it's on the scalp, you can start massaging it and building that lather to activate that cleaning process. If you're looking for one that comes prepackaged, Sunday Riley Clean Rinse and Alikay Naturals Moisturizing Black Soap Shampoo are fan favorites.
Shampooing is complicated in the way that there are many ways to do it—but it's not complicated if you just listen to your scalp and clean it intuitively. And if you don't even know how to start doing that—this episode is a great place to start.
Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she's held beauty roles at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com. In her current role, she covers all the latest trends in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as lifestyle topics, such as travel. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.