Story Details

It's understandable why the hair care industry is booming. Just think, we have 100,000 to 150,000 hairs on our head - alot of strands to look after! But you could work up a lather just trying to choose a suitable shampoo from around 60 different supermarket varieties and at least a hundred different salon formulations as well. So what's best for your hair and how do you get value for money?

Thin, limp, damaged, dull, flat hair - can it really be transformed into clean, shiny, enriched, healthy, volumised, moisturised, revitalised, perfumed locks?

Shampoo superlatives drive Australians to spend almost half a billion dollars a year .. just at the supermarket. Depending on choice, your yearly expenses, on shampoo alone, can be as little as $30 up to $750 if you buy the most pricey salon brands. But do you get what you pay for?

“The shampoo will open the cuticle of the hair. It will eliminate oil, dust, skin flake and any dirt in the hair and the make the hair clean” says George Giaris.

World renowned hairdresser, George Giaris, owner of upmarket salon The Blond Room.

“If their hair is normal they have more of a selection they can go to a supermarket or if they have coloured hair, psorisis or any hair condition, they may need something more specialised” says George.

“They all have detergents which remove the grease and hence the dirt that's stuck to the grease.” Dr John Kalman Senior Lecturer in Chemistry, University of Technology, Sydney, says shampoo formulations are certainly more effective and gentler than soap, which is alkaline and can damage the hair's cortex and cuticle.

“The big ingredient is water… you need the water there to dissolve all the stuff that's in the shampoo” says Dr Kalman.

Aqua or plain old water makes up 50% to 90% of the average shampoo.

“Followed by detergents, some have more than one, some have extra detergents to make them foam better, some have thickeners which make the actual product more viscose, some have sunscreen in them, some have material that make you hair more slippery when it's dry. It coats the strand” says Dr Kalman.

“They should pick something that is formulated and is going to be recommended for their hair type” advises George.

Labels must list ingredients in descending order of quantity, but there is no way of telling exactly how much there is of each. To help choose the right shampoo and conditioner, you can learn to recognise certain ingredients and additives that suit, or don't suit, your hair type.

“For dry hair you would emphasise the amount of some of the oily conditioning components so you end up with a bit more oil in your hair” explains Dr Kalman.

They should have gentle detergents and moisturising agents like silicone and panthenol. But nothing actually repairs split and damaged hair, despite the hype.

Also these water binding agents prevent dehydration, give hair bounce and shape. Dry or sensitive scalps should avoid certain detergent cleansing agents like sodium laurel sulfate which can cause skin irritations, but there's no proof it's linked to cancer. Perfumes and alot of plant extracts, like lemon, menthol and essential oils can also be drying.

“What you would have to do for oily hair would be to emphasise the amount of detergent in it, a bit more so it would be better at removing the oil” says Dr Kalman.

“It is essential to use a colour treated shampoo for coloured hair or chemically treated hair” adds George.

Avoid products with these chemicals that could strip hair colour: sodium C14-16 olefin sulfonate, sodium dodecyl sulfonate, alkyl benzene sulfonate.

You can save hundreds of dollars a year if you find an inexpensive shampoo that suits. A tip from uni student, Alice Peillon. “I generally go for men’s shampoo. Being a student I need to watch my budget so generally I find they are about $1 less to $2 than women's shampoos.”

“There is not anything magical about the more expensive ones but they may use more expensive ingredients which is slightly more effective” says Dr Kalman.

Choice had 500 home testers with normal hair blind-test 41 different brands, supermarket cheapies from $2.50, to pricier salon ones up to $60. They rated them for fragrance, consistency, lather, and how clean their hair felt.

Most preferred top 3 are supermarket cheapies. First Fruitrience, equal second Dove Revitalising and Garnier Fructis Fortifying. Equal third - salon brands, Joico Triage and the most expensive shampoo in the trial - Kerastase Bain Satin Facteur Nutrition 1.

“Emulsify it in the hand, so you get an even distribution throughout the whole hair.” George Giaris says alot depends on the way you wash and rinse. “It is absolutely essential to actually rinse all the shampoo out of the hair before you apply the conditioner.”

“For most people you put the conditioner just on the ends of the hair, especially if you have fine hair and want more body and the conditioner also acts as a detangler. For the final rinse I recommend a cold rinse that will actually close the cuticle of your hair. It will refresh, revitalise and you will feel a million dollars and you'll be ready to go” adds George.


The Blond Room
02 9328 6700

"DON'T GO SHOPPING FOR HAIR CARE PRODUCTS WITHOUT ME" by Paula Begoun. The book reviews over 4000 hair care products and gives the latest hair-care information.
Published by Beginning Press, 13075 Gateway Drive, Suite 160, Seattle, Washington 98168. Distributed in Australia by Peribo, 58 BeaumontRoad, Mount Kuring-Gai, NSW, 2080. phone 02 9457 0011. email

South Australian Hair & Beauty Association
Suite 10/198
Greenhill Rd
Eastwood SA 5063
Tel: (08) 8271 1355