Monday, 24 October 2011

Shampoos For Coloured Hair: Do They Work?

Colour Conserve, Colour Preserve, Colour Lasting ... Is It Real?

Q: Melissa, I read your article about shampoo with interest. But my stylist was horrified recently when I told her I used Pantene on my coloured hair. She insisted I purchase Aveda Colour Conserve shampoo at great cost. What do you think?

A: My first instinct is to say there is no such thing as a shampoo which can make your salon-fresh colour last longer.

Hair colour fades as the pigment molecules either wash or simply fall out of your hair with time.

Even the naturally occurring pigment in your hair degrades over time, which is why if you have very long hair you can often see a difference in hair colour between your roots and your ends.

If you truly want to make your hair colour last as long as possible, always wear it up, protect it from sunlight with a hat or scarf and never use shampoo on your hair.

That is a regime which is too draconian for me, not to mention too much like hard work.

I'm a "wash 'n' go" type gal myself.

But getting back to shampoo formulas for coloured hair, your question needled me.

I hadn't looked at a colour-conserving formula for a number of years, so for all I knew the brainiacs at Aveda had come up with something good.

Anything's possible.

Shampoo 101

If you've not read my Healthy Hair Care series of free articles, here's a recap of what you need to know about shampoo:

  • Shampoo should remove oil and dirt from your hair while maintaining the integrity of the cuticle

That's it.

Most main brand "normal" shampoos do an excellent job of this. In fact, they are so good, you need to use way less shampoo per wash than most people think.

About one-eighth as much as the average person uses in a single hair wash.

The Stone Bridge method of shampooing is this:

  1. Squeeze out the smallest pea of shampoo you can from the bottle
  2. Lather up between your hands
  3. Wash one hand off
  4. Only shampoo your head where you truly need it

You won't get a great sudsy head full of lather doing this. But you will get over time healthier and more manageable hair.

Think of it as eating just one biscuit instead of the entire packet. I know eating 18 biscuits is a nicer experience, but you just don't need that many.

Limit yourself, and you'll end up a healthier and more manageable person.

The Aveda Formula Inspection

For my own entertainment, I bought two Aveda shampoos to compare: Aveda Color Conserve Shampoo and Aveda Dry Remedy Moisturising Shampoo

If you're a formulator the hair issues that need to be addressed are quite different.

Coloured hair is, frankly, damaged.

Dry hair, however, has a "fingertouch feel" that is not agreeable to the customer. Often the integral health of dry hair is actually fine.

When considering coloured hair, the formulator is thinking of how to create a product that:

  • minimizes friction (and further damage) when hair is wet
  • slathers loads of conditioning agents on the hair that will stay there after rinsing
  • feels smooth on your fingers when your hair is dry
  • oh, and maybe doesn't wash out your expensive colour job

Turning to the problem of dry hair, the formulator is thinking about

  • adding ingredients that encourage water to cling to the outside of the hair, even when "dry"
  • slathering loads of skin moisturising agents onto the hair so your fingers feel nice
  • including heavy duty anti-static ingredients

And this is just what Aveda have done, using more expensive ingredients (some of which Aveda have exclusive license to, making then even more expensive but still probably just as effective as some of the more widely available alternatives).

Let's get down into the details.

Aveda Color Conserve

The first thing I noticed with Color Conserve is that the first ingredient is not water, but  basically essential oil type water infusions of a bunch of different plants.

Why would they do this? Because normally when you pick up a shampoo chock full of magic plants the amount used is actually so small (compared to the gallons of detergents etc) that these little beauties end up at the end of the list.

Crickey, the customer might be so bamboozled by  the palmamidopropyl trimonium methosulfate (and so forth) that they may never see that someone managed to squeeze in some aloe leaf juice - not that it's doing anything anyway.

But by formulating with "aqueous extracts" they get to list all the ingredients the hapless public think are beneficial in the same space that all those other, dumber shampoo companies use to print the word "water".

Phew. Clever.

Moving on to the real meat of this formula, we get to the true second ingredient which is .... wait for it ....

Ammonium lauryl sulfate.

This is a very common, very effective, not expensive detergent that cleans your hair perfectly well.

This guy is backed up by some not very unusual lather boosters and thickeners until you get down to Aveda's baby: babassuamidopropyl betaine.

Aveda has made a big commitment to ingredients derived from the babassua nut, which is harvested by a collective of indigenous people in the Brazillian Amazon. Aveda have established an extraction and processing facility in the area which allow them to source their imputs directly from this area, bypassing large chemical suppliers.

Other shampoo manufacturers should not worry about this (and I doubt they do) because I have a sneaky suspicion that the very widely available palm kernelamidopropyl betaine works just as well.

But anyway, why this particular ingredient is so interesting for shampoo for coloured hair is that, no matter what kind of palm nut it is derived from, it has good conditioning qualities, so deposits a little bit of slip into your hair that doesn't easily wash out.

I noticed this when I gave my own Colour Conserve sample a try. I didn't actually put it in my hair because I was freaked out when I tried to wash it off my hand and noticed it felt ... uh ... unrinsed.

I don't have coloured or damaged hair, so I don't need extra stuff clinging onto my hair. But if I did, this slippery coating would be a good thing.

I washed the Colour Conserve off with Revlon Flex Clarifying shampoo, a straight boring detergent with no magic ingredients, that also happens to be dirt cheap and smell REALLY good.

At least I think so.

Moving through the formula, there is no other interesting ingredient that would do the least little thing to preserve your hair colour.

I also didn't like the scent of Colour Conserve, personally. Too piney for me.

Saying all this, it is a perfectly good shampoo, with great conditioners in it. But Tresemme, for the cost, works about the same and at about 25% of the price (but with no Save The Amazon, feel-good benefits or suspicious save-the-planet "organic" credentials).

Aveda Dry Remedy Moisturizing Shampoo

Rats! So having failed to find any exciting new developments in Aveda's Color Conserve Shampoo, I turned my attention to their Dry Remedy formula.

Ooooo, I said to myself as I noted a lack of aqueous extracts of magic herbs. These were trapped in the middle of the ingredients list.

After water, the primary detergent used is sodium cocoyl isethionate, coupled with sodium methyl cocoyl taurate. These detergents are pretty widely used, but more in body washes and that kind of thing rather than shampoos. They are more expensive, but why they may be good for a "dry hair" shampoo is because they are mild on the skin.

Which is to say they are mild on your hands.

Which is what you use to check how your hair feels, right?

Next, after the detergents we find glycerine, which is the world's best moisturiser for ... mostly skin.

When it gets used in hair products, what it does really is sit on the outside of the hair and feel moist. It also adds a bit of weight to the hair and would help to prevent static, a problem with hair that has a low moisture content.

Glycerin is a pretty good conditioner in its own right. You can buy a giant bottle of pure glycerin from your chemists for next to nothing.

But they'll probably look at you funny and want to give you advice on how to use it.

Moving on down to the ingredients included in more minute quantities are a handful of magic oils, which I would bet good money just get rinsed out.

If you want magic oil in your hair, best to put it on there yourself when your hair is dry and you've got nothing better to do for half an hour but lie around with a towel around your shoulders and a mess of oil on your head.

That was a bit offhand, but if you suffer from dry hair, this is a perfectly good and effective shampoo to use.

But it does make me think that maybe you shouldn't use shampoo hardly at all. If you want to learn more about this, sign up for my free series of Heathy Hair Care articles where I explain this in greater detail.

Inescapable Conclusions

Aveda make great hair care products. I cannot deny this.

But they've also got some smart marketers working for them, who have clearly thought long and hard about women's insecurities about their hair and the personal care products they choose to buy.

The real reason to buy any Aveda product is any single one of the following:

a. you want to help Aveda continue to be major employers of the babassua nut crackers in the Amazonian rainforest
b. you like the smell
c. you like the bottle (which is seriously unlikely)
d. you like your stylist and want to supplement her income without simply giving her a tip

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  1. Well, at Aromazone in France you can buy Babassuamidopropylbetaine. :)
    Just scroll down there.
    Maybe you can get it somewhere else as well.

    I can't use any products contain Betaine on my scalp as it makes me shed like crazy, but when I use a color care Conditioner for black hair it helps my roots stay black longer.
    My problem are my roots sue to my henna/indigo routine, which needs two colorings to get the greys perfectly black as the rest of my hair. ;)

  2. Thanks teufelchen! I've since also found probably Europe's largest manaufacturer of babassua derivatives is based in Germany. :)

  3. Thank you! Just saved me 15 $ now to purchase tre