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A Scientist Weighs In On Your Haircare Routine

Let’s get straight to it: we’re all obsessed with our hair. For me, that “obsession” can sometimes feel like a toxic relationship, filled with up and downs. Some (albeit, rare) days, it’s perfect — just the right amount of mess and volume. But most days, I’m in a fight with it — annoyed that it’s thin, quick to flake, and adverse to dry shampoo.

This trying connection leads me to spend way too much time on the internet. Scour my search history and you’ll find a slew of really random haircare questions. And like most things on the internet, there’s a lot of contradicting advice.

Despite all these questions, it never occurred to me to just ask a professional. Sure, I’ve asked my hairstylist and the occasional beauty editor, but I never once thought to consult a doctor or scientist (!) for my hair.

So, when I had access to Head & Shoulder’s Beauty Lab, I took full advantage. Read on for the three best things I learned from P&G’s Dr. Rolanda Wilkerson.

1. Dandruff doesn’t mean your hair isn’t clean.

Why is no one talking about dandruff? I personally do suffer from it and get incredibly embarrassed. Mostly because I assume that if anyone ever saw a flake, they would assume that I’m gross and never speak to me again.

Turns out, dandruff doesn’t mean that your hair/scalp is unclean. In fact, all of us possess the fungus that causes dandruff. Dandruff, itchiness, or dryness does indicate that your scalp probably isn’t healthy. That can be caused by a variety of factors — your surrounding environment, hormones, etc.

So, don’t beat yourself up if you suffer from flakes. Do take action. Using a dandruff shampoo with ZPT will help eliminate your flakes and make your hair feel healthier.

If you stop using a dandruff shampoo, you may see your flakes start to come back. There’s no “cure” for dandruff, so using a dandruff shampoo for a few months won’t cure you for life.

Photo via @alanna_deeble

2. Don’t be afraid of conditioner — even if you have thin hair.  

I’ve been afraid of conditioner ever since some girl in middle school told me it would make my hair “flatter than a pancake.” It turns out that being afraid of conditioner can be incredibly damaging. When your scalp isn’t healthy and moisturized, it doesn’t emerge healthy from the root. (And all this time I’ve just been worried about my split ends!) After the Beauty Lab, I started conditioning every time I wash and I can see and feel a world of difference in the texture of my hair.

Photo via @michelledufflocq

3. Sulfate-free shampoo isn’t always better.

Lately, it seems like all anyone can talk about is sulfate-free shampoo. Being beauty-obsessed and blonde, I gave it a try. I didn’t want to tell anyone, but it made my hair feel way less clean.

Despite all the negative vibes around sulfates, they’re not innately bad. Sulfates are what actually give your shampoo its lathering effect. And lathering is super important — it’s what helps activate the ingredients of your shampoo. Studies have shown that some sulfate-free shampoos can actually lead to increased breakage and higher protein loss.

If you’re still worried about your color, take a look at your water. Sulfates only work on the surface level, so they shouldn’t be stripping any permanent color from your hair. However, wash water can contain levels of copper which are small enough  to permeate the hair and affect your color.

Head & Shoulders Smooth & Silky Shampoo & Conditioner ($6.99 each)

Have a haircare question? Sound off in the comments below!