What You Need To Know About Hair Cleansing

What You Need To Know About Hair Cleansing
Written by
Morgan German

Hair cleansing is not a new topic, but many people still feel confused about it, especially those who may have various hair concerns. There seem to be a lot of questions that linger around whenever this topic arises.  

Are you really sure about the process? It can be done differently by everyone! So what is your take on doing it right? This blog post will cover various perspectives of hair cleansing and how important getting a good routine is - after reading, we hope you have a better understanding on hair washing and what is right for you.


Hair Cleansing – Back To The Basics

Washing your hair is a basic yet essential step in caring for it. The cleansing should involve both scalp and hair, as we all know: a clean scalp nurtures healthy hair. With that said, cleansing doesn't just mean scrubbing off dirt and oil—it also means retaining necessary sebum from your scalp during the wash.

In 2017, one cross-sectional research attempted to explore different perceptions of users about their ways and choices related to hair cleansers. The research findings showed that 40% of participants believed that shampoos were more effective than soap or other products to remove dirt, grease, and dandruff as well as give shine to hair. Interestingly, 44% used hard water to wash the hair, although 45% thought hard water could trigger dry and lusterless hair. 

Today you can easily find among the abundant hair cleansers on the market the one that suits whatever needs you may have - normal, damaged, dry or lacklustre hair. You will need to figure out what best fits your needs.

This includes the duration and frequency of washes which will contribute greatly to how much moisture remains in your locks. Failing to do so would lead to dry, brittle hair after constant use because the strip off natural oils on your scalp during the wash-off process, which is crucial for maintaining hair in a healthy state!


Hair Cleansing Products

Though there are different debates or perceptions regarding the hair-related effects of shampoos and conditioners, they have been used globally for hair cleansing thanks to their various ingredients that make our hair clean, soft, shiny, and healthy.



In general, applying shampoos is the first step to cleaning the scalp. The goal is to remove dirt, environmental pollutants, sebum, sweat, dead cells or residues from other hair care products.

Back in the day, hair cleansers (e.g., soaps) tended to come off as harsh because they contained compounds that could strip away too much of your vital sebum together with everything else, leading to dry and frizzy hair. Times have changed, and so has shampooing. Thanks to the modern advances in chemistry and technology, there are now highly advanced formulas that aim to keep your tresses nourished and healthy.

Nowadays, a commercial shampoo usually has an average of 80% water content and 10 to 30 different ingredients with a pH from 5 to 7. These ingredients can be categorised into surfactants (cleansing agents), conditioning agents, functional additives, preservatives, aesthetic additives, and sometimes even medically active ingredients.

Within this variety of items lies surfactants. Surfactants are cleansing agents that provide foaming and detergent properties; they account for the majority of shampoo's effects on your hair.

That said, there are certain substances that you may want to avoid when choosing your hair cleanser due to their known toxicity for hair health. They are parabens, sulfates, denatured alcohols, to name a few. Reading the label carefully before buying any hair care product to investigate the ingredients will come as handy and beneficial in the long run for your hair wellness. You can read more about harmful compounds for your hair here.

Also, hair shampoos come in a wide array of varieties, corresponding to almost every hair type and need. For example, ordinary hair shampoo is often used by those whose hair is chemically untouched and whose scalp produces normal to moderate sebum.

Meanwhile, oily hair shampoo is for people who produce abundant sebum. On the other hand, dry hair shampoo is suitable for those who undergo chemical treatment or harsh styling procedures since it provides mild cleansing and good conditioning. Additionally, medicated shampoo is meant to attend to specific hair and scalp problems.

Besides shampoos, water also plays an important role in cleansing the hair. Hard water might make it harder for you to wash your hair. There are too many mineral deposits contained within it, which could create a film surrounding your strands. This barrier possibly keep out nutrients and moisture needed for the health of your hair, leaving them dry, frizzy and fragile at best.


Hair conditioner


Using conditioners as a second step of the cleansing process has become a typical routine due to its benefits. Conditioners help decrease friction, detangle the hair, minimize frizz, restore hydrophobicity, enhance shine, smoothness, and manageability through a reduction in static electricity and friction among hair fibers. 

Overall, conditioners are a mixture of oil or wax in water, cationic agents, additives, preservatives, and aesthetic agents. The most used conditioner agent is silicone with different types, deposition, adherence, and wash-out capacities. When conditioners spread out to our hair, silicones spread over the hair surface and form a uniform, thin, hydrophobic layer that increases luster and gloss and simultaneously reduces the combing force.

Similar to the advancement of shampoo, conditioners include diverse types attending to the diverse needs of consumers. The most common ones are often applied immediately after shampooing. You might need to leave them on your hair for around 5 mins before rinsing to make the most out of their potential. One other type is deep conditioners, which require a waiting time of 20 to 30 minutes. Leave-in conditioners can be left on the hair to hydrate and enhance hair's properties intensively.


What is a proper cleansing routine?

The frequency of hair washing is mainly according to personal preferences and can be influenced by hair length, culture, sex, race, social norms, and economics. More importantly, it should reflect the actual needs of your hair rather than any specific number of hair washing per week that you have learned from someone somewhere. If you have oily hair or use hair-styling products daily, you may need regular cleansing sessions opposed to  people with dry hair. 

However, it is also critical to choose the right hair cleansing products. Frequent cleansing with a well-formulated shampoo and conditioner will benefit your hair greatly, while, on the contrary, an inappropriate one would do more harm than good. Indeed, there is a wealth of evidence to support that well-formulated, mild shampoos will not interfere with mitosis in the growing matrix of hair and may help fragile hair by decreasing grooming force.



On another note, a proper cleansing process typically include several steps as below:

  • Get your hair wet thoroughly to open the cuticles so that your hair can absorb nutrients from the hair products more easily. 
  • Get the right amount of shampoo for your hair length before applying it to your entire scalp, crown, and hair root. You can also mix your shampoo with water to dilute it in advance.
  • Massage your scalp with gentle pressure by moving your fingers and palms nicely to avoid tangling and damaging the follicles. Alternatively, you can use a scalp massager instead of your fingers to evenly spread the shampoo and massage your scalp.
  • Rinse your hair carefully to ensure no residue. 
  • Apply conditioner if needed and leave it on for about 5 minutes. Noticeably, do so only from the mid-shaft down to the ends of your hair; otherwise, you will risk greasing your scalp.
  • Rinse your hair one more time and dry it properly by squeezing or patting instead of rubbing it.

There are also several things you need to keep in mind. First, identify what type of hair you have so you know what products to use. Second, do not use an amount more than needed. Otherwise, your hair can turn greasy and dull due to buildups from residue. Next, allow your hair enough time to dry before going out or sleeping. Finally, it is better to let it air-dry naturally instead of using a hairdryer. Using a hairdryer can save your time, yet hair surfaces tend to become more damaged as the temperature increases.



Depending on socioeconomic status, cultural beliefs, and diversity of perceptions, people will have different choices for their hair cleansing. And among diverse options, the most common products used are shampoos and conditioners.

With the advancement in chemistry and technology, modern shampoos and conditioners can meet all needs of consumers regarding their hair types, scalp conditions, the frequency of hair wash, and other specific hair needs. Still, the primary function of shampoos is to remove dirt and environmental pollutants. Meanwhile, conditioners help to decrease friction, minimise frizz, restore hydrophobicity, and enhance shine and smoothness.

Although there are debates about the necessity of shampoos and conditioners, most people agree that using them during hair cleansing is necessary and preferable.

There is no exact answer about the frequency of hair wash since it depends on the specific conditions of each individual. However, a proper routine includes these basic steps: wet your hair, shampoo your whole scalp and hair root, massage your scalp gently, rinse it before and after applying conditioners (if you choose to use conditioners), and dry your hair with a soft fabric. 


Asifa, N., & Kusagur, M. (2017). Prevalent practices and perceptions in hair cleansing. International Journal of Trichology9(3).

Cruz, C. F., Costa, C., Gomes, A. C., Matamá, T., & Cavaco-Paulo, A. (2016). Human hair and the impact of cosmetic procedures: a review on cleansing and shape-modulating cosmetics. Cosmetics3(3), 26.

Davis-Sivasothy, A. (2011). The science of black hair: a comprehensive guide to textured hair. SAJA Publishing Company.

Draelos, Z. D. (2010). Essentials of hair care often neglected: Hair cleansing. International journal of trichology2(1), 24.

D'Souza, P., & Rathi, S. K. (2015). Shampoo and conditioners: What a dermatologist should know?. Indian journal of dermatology60(3), 248.

Kusagur, M. S., & Asifa, N. (2017). Trends in hair care and cleansing: A knowledge, attitude, and practice study. Clinical Dermatology Review1(2), 56.