You may not put in much thought about what you wash your hair with, but the right type of shampoo may help you look and feel better.
"The wrong shampoo may make your hair look dry or dull," said Dr Joyce Lim of Joyce Lim Skin and Laser Clinic at Paragon Medical.
For example, if you use a shampoo for oily hair but have dry hair, your hair may end up looking brittle. And if you choose a shampoo for dry hair for your oily hair, you may end up with limp locks.
CONSIDER THE SCALP FIRST
When it comes to choosing a shampoo, you should first look at your scalp type and not your hair condition, said dermatologists.
Most people have a normal or healthy scalp, but some will have scalp problems, they said.
Dr Eileen Tan, a dermatologist at Eileen Tan Skin, Laser and Hair Transplant Clinic, said: "Hair can be classified into dry or oily hair but the scalp can be dry, oily or problematic (with redness, flaking or dandruff). So, a shampoo should be selected based on your scalp condition."
Dr Lim said that just like the skin, you will be able to feel the oiliness on your scalp, while a dry scalp may feel itchy with mild flaking.
If your scalp is oily, choose a shampoo for oily hair or scalp, which includes volumising, strengthening or balancing properties. Do the same for dry scalp, said Dr Tan.
If your scalp is only slightly dry with little or no itching and does not flake, you can get shampoos that promote moisture or hydration, or those meant for curly hair, she said.
But if your scalp is very dry and itchy or flaky, you need medicated shampoos that are specifically formulated for seborrhoeic dermatitis or dandruff, or the more serious psoriasis, a chronic skin condition characterised by itchy, red patches of skin covered with silvery scales.
Dr Tan said a good shampoo is one that can cleanse the dirt and sebum that accumulate on the scalp, and yet contain specific ingredients that cater to the various scalp types.
Dr Lim added that salon-range shampoos may not necessarily be better than the cheaper shampoos that you can easily buy off store shelves.
Dr Stephanie Ho, an associate consultant dermatologist at the National Skin Centre, said those who wash their hair frequently can try using a gentle shampoo without sulfates (potential skin irritants) or parabens.
However, Dr Tan advised people to consult a dermatologist if their hair problem persists and is quite severe.
OILY SCALP NEEDS DAILY WASH
You may have heard people say that it is better to wash your hair a few times a week or even just once a week.
However, the frequency of washing depends on one's scalp and hair type, personal preference and the external environment, said Dr Ho.
"If your hair is dry, thick, long or curly, washing every two or three days may be enough," she said. "But if you are prone to having an oily scalp, a daily wash may be needed."
One should also use less conditioner and apply it only to the ends of the hair to prevent excess oil build-up, she said.
And if your hair is often exposed to fumes, pollution, sweat and grease, a daily wash will keep it fresh and clean, she added.
One piece of advice Dr Tan gives her clients is this: Hair products should be washed off before sleep. Otherwise, scalp irritation or dermatitis may occur.
USE HEATING TOOLS MINIMALLY
Perming, straightening, rebonding, frequent hair colouring and flat ironing can damage the hair.
These "should be kept to a minimum", said Dr Ho, adding that hairdryers and heating tools should not be used too often.
Instead, go for keratin treatments every three or four months to smoothen one's hair, she added.
But one should avoid keratin treatments containing formaldehyde as this can irritate the scalp.
Over-processed hair often appears dull and damaged. In this case, focus on cleaning the scalp rather then the entire length of your hair to prevent further dryness, said Dr Ho.
"Use a conditioner and apply some oils or silicone during styling to restore some shine to your hair."
HAIR EXTENSIONS MAY LEAD TO HAIR LOSS
The degree of damage caused by repetitive chemical processes depends on the type and frequency of chemical process carried out.
Dr Tan said: "I have seen patients who experienced scalp irritation with transient hair loss after certain hair treatments."
However, chemical treatments, if administered properly, should not cause hair loss.
She said hair should not be dyed more often than every six to eight weeks while Dr Ho suggests a more conservative period of every six months. Dr Tan added that hair rebonding should be done about four to six months apart.
Dr Ho said hair extensions, in particular, exert extra weight on the hair, which can cause hair to gradually fall off. In the initial stages, this hair loss is reversible.
However, prolonged tension can cause inflammatory changes in the hair roots that will destroy hair follicles, resulting in irreversible hair loss.
A well-balanced diet that includes iron, zinc and essential vitamins is also important for healthy hair growth. Avoid crash or fad diets as these will stress your body as well as your hair, added Dr Ho.
This article was published on April 24 in Mind Your Body, The Straits Times.
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