Shampoo – the Daily Mail speaks out

An article appeared on the Daily Mail online overnight – I don’t know it is destined for the print edition – telling us that expensive shampoos are no better than cheaper ones.  They are all, apparenetly, hogwash.

Well most trades have little secrets they wouldn’t want the general public to know about.  For instance I am sure journalists don’t let on that they often simply rehash articles from other publications just throwing in a bit of local colour.  This Mail piece bears a remarkable similarity to this one I read in the LA Times a few days ago.

They even quote one of the same experts, Paula Begoun.  The Daily Mail of course refers to British brands and has a picture of celebrity as well, just to prove it is indeed a serious bit of journalism.  Sadly they don’t quote the excellent Perry Romanowski, a proper cosmetic chemist and a contributor the the excellent Beauty Brains blog.

But on the whole I think the Mail is making a good point.  Very expensive shampoo brands are frankly not really worth it.  I am not sure that the really cheap ones are either.  The kind of formulations you see on sale for about 60p a litre are much more dilute and use cheaper ingredients than the mass market ones.  I wouldn’t use them personally.  But supermarket own brands are usually pretty good value for money.

I certainly agree that botanical extracts added to shampoos almost never do anything at all and are usually  there purely and simply to make the product look more natural.   They are used at very low levels indeed, even lower than you might think from the Mail article. The name for these in the trade is ‘tip ins’.  All in all, a pretty cynical exercise.  The essence of some herb will not in any case wash your hair so I suggest you don’t let that kind of thing influence your purchasing decision.

8 thoughts on “Shampoo – the Daily Mail speaks out”

  1. Annabella Freeman

    Thanks for this Colin, as with the rest of the beauty industry it’s all smoke and mirrors. When celebrities are aligned with certain products we are all tricked into thinking that we could be like them if we just purchase what they use. Nobody mentions that someone probably took two hours to do a celebs hair before the photo shoot with extensions, tonging, curling, serums etc. I wouldn’t spend over £10 on shampoo as I don’t see the point but it all depends what works for the individual.

  2. Its interesting, my Dad, an Ex Biochemist, used to tell me this all the time, only he took it one step further and included bubble baths and shower gels into the mix…

    As a product user, which he wasn’t other than shop bought basics, I strggle to believe this in some cases as the difference on the hair is remarkable.

    I do find it fascinating though and my dad will be delighted!

  3. It’s good to read words of sense. This all seems rather obvious when you are told how it is – I’m rather suspicious of what advertisements promise, but one still wants to believe one can have thick, shining hair and lashes three times longer.

  4. Thanks so much for this, in 2 days I have read your entire blog! I recently became licensed as an esthetician and have found your blog invaluable for sussing out the real information from the many fictions of the beauty industry. Having all of this information about the skin and cosmetic formulations will enable me to help many others. Please do come out with a book!

  5. Thank you for your very kind comments Janice. I get quite a lot of readers nowadays but when I first started the blog the only person who read it for a long time was my mum, so you are probably only the second person to have read some of my early posts.

    Thanks for the encouragement to get on with the book.

  6. Great site Colin. Really informative. I like reading the labels on beauty products and finding out what makes them work.

    About the shampoos – What about SLSs? I’ve just read your SLS post and I already avoid all SLS products as they aggravate my skin and my scalp. To this end, I’ve switched to a non-SLS shampoo (Duchy originals) and even though I don’t get the instant, copious lather of an SLS shampoo or the squeakiness in the clean, I do find that my hair is gently cleansed, my scalp isn’t flaky and aggravated and my hair doesn’t get greasy as quickly so I can get away with washing it less often. SLS shampoo would feel initially cleaner but get greasy quicker so I wonder if it was stripping the natural oils more harshly thereby stimulating overproduction?

    Anyway would you agree that it’s worth at least spending enough on a shampoo to make sure it’s SLS-free?

    1. Good points Divya. You seem very well informed and probably know this already, but for the benefit of people who don’t follow these things so closely SLS and its derivative SLES are the main ingredients in most mainstream shampoos. SLES is much more widely used. The names on the label are sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulphate. These aren’t particularly good cleansers but they do give a rich creamy lather. People seem to like bubbles. Most people will pick the shampoo that lathers well rather than the one that leaves their hair in the best condition.

      I don’t think that SLS and SLES are particularly good at stripping grease, but they are likely to be used in combination with something that does, so your observation is quite right. If you strip away the sebum that the scalp has produced it will quickly get to work to replace it.

      So yes I agree that if your goal is clean hair avoiding SLS and SLES is not a bad strategy. As to the cost, you don’t need to use very much shampoo if you aren’t after bubbles. Duchy is about twice the price of a comparable mass market option but I bet you only need to use half as much. (I am sure you are not shallow enough to be influenced by the stylish packaging.)

  7. Thsnks for your reply Colin. You’re right, the Duchy bottle lasts longer. I had the same instinctive thoughts about expensive shampoos not being worth it but because of the irritation, I tried Duchy (based on a beauty forum user’s recommendation). Now I know it’s the SLS-free bit that’s key, I’ll see what else is available that’s cheaper and available in bigger bottles (and yep, don’t care what the bottle looks like)

    BTW, the bit on your site about ‘tip ins’ was very interesting. It did occur to me when reading labels that in some cases tiny amounts of herbal extracts seem to be there just to differentiate variants of a product and make it sound more natural. Fascinating that the concept is deliberate enough to have a name!

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