At Long Last, Clean, Freshly Washed Hair is Cool Again
With shampoo sales reaching peak levels and freshly washed hair dominating the runways, the latest trend is all about lathering up.
The night before Ralph Lauren’s Fall 2017 fashion show, the models had important plans: They were shampooing their hair. They did so at the request of Redken global creative director Guido Palau, who led the backstage team and turned clean hair—and the airy texture and soft shine that comes after a good lathering session—into a complete style that stood on its own. The radically simple look anchored the season, with well-washed hair sweeping the runways at Christian Dior, Isabel Marant, Coach and Chloé, sending a message that clean hair has never seemed quite so chic.
Perhaps the urge to suds up—and put one’s arsenal of styling aids on hold—stems from our current obsession with detoxifying and purifying every part of our being. “When your hair feels light and fresh, so do you,” explains Jorge Joao, international Redken artist. Washing your hair is no longer just one step in an overall routine—it’s the only step for some.
“Clean hair can be a style in and of itself,” contends Howard McLaren, celebrity stylist and co-founder of R+Co, who says the wash-and-go look appeals to women who would rather not deal with heavy products or who have realized that dry shampoo can only take them so far. “Though it can have a ‘cleansing’ effect, the only way to truly clean your hair is to wash it,” he explains. “If used extensively, dry shampoo can create a buildup on the scalp.” As French hairstylist Christophe Robin puts it, “You can’t live on dry shampoo!”
So, it’s no wonder “real shampoo” sales are booming in Canada. They have risen consistently over the past five years, reaching $337 million in 2016, according to market research company Mintel. Natural and organic formulas have been fuelling much of the demand. (So-called “herbal” shampoos are the fastest growing segment of the market.)
“Consumers are more aware than ever, and they know what they don’t want in their beauty products,” says Robin. On the no-thanks list: silicones (“they have a tendency to suffocate the scalp and make your hair fall flat and your scalp oily,” cautions Robin), parabens, synthetic chemicals and punishing cleansing agents that can strip the hair. “Until recently, shampoos could be too aggressive due to the use of harsh sulfates,” notes McLaren. Now, in the millennial era of total transparency, “clients are driving the standards for what ingredients they don’t want to see in their products,” he says.
This uprising has paved the way for next-level “smart” shampoos that tap into natural actives and uniquely different textures to clean your hair in never-seen-before ways. Redken’s Clean Maniac Micellar Clean-Touch Shampoo, for example, is infused with micellar technology (normally found in skin cleansers and makeup removers) for a first-to-market hair care innovation that gently lifts impurities from the surface. “Most shampoos clean by removing all of the oils in the hair and on the scalp,” says Joao. “The micellar molecule encases all the dirt and unwanted oils in your hair and removes them while making sure to leave behind your natural oils.”
When poured from the bottle, it feels more watery than your typical shampoo but still lathers up—just enough. Or, consider IGK’s Smoke & Mirrors Conditioning Cleansing Oil; the melting formula is a riff on face cleansers and gets rid of excess grease with a blend of coconut and sweet almond oils. (Plus, it functions as a shampoo and conditioner in one.)
Some concepts break the mould with shape-shifting formats. When dampened and rubbed on your scalp, Robin’s new Hydrating Shampoo Bar transforms from a solid to a foam state, sealing in moisture with aloe vera, castor oil and glycerine. The novel creation is handmade using cold saponification—a preservative-free soap-making method that maintains the integrity of the ingredients and produces a high-quality, nourishing lather. “Your hair needs a few washes to adapt because, unlike classic shampoos, which are water-based, this is oil-based,” explains Robin, who suggests using the concentrated bar two to three times a week and following it with his Hydrating Leave-In Mist. “The hair is going to feel crisp when you’re rinsing it out,” he says of the bar, which “ultimately gives texture to the hair and makes it stronger in the long term.”
When your hair looks on point post-shampoo, there’s little need to apply anything else. That’s the view of McLaren, whose R+Co shampoos come with built-in styling benefits. The Analog Cleansing Foam Conditioner contains shine-enhancing nettle leaf and strengthening horsetail extract, while the Cactus Texturizing Shampoo bulks up strands with diatom-aceous earth to add grip and body without the need to break out the mousse or beach sprays. “Being able to use ingredients in shampoos and conditioners that have traditionally only been used in styling products is a really cool advancement,” says McLaren. The end result, he adds, “sets the pace for the rest of your style.”
Still, even the most out-of-this-world shampoo should only be used a few times a week. “I’m not for washing the hair every day,” says Robin. “Stretching it out for a few days is better for your hair,” agrees Joao. “Let your natural oils accumulate a little bit—this is how your hair and scalp get some of their nutrition.” And no matter the type of shampoo, use the right technique: Focus on the scalp rather than the ends, and, as you rub, “don’t scratch your hair with your nails,” pleads Robin. “Gently massage—trust me, it does the work!”
And give your hair a good, thorough soaking to finish. “Rinse really well!” says Robin. “We never rinse enough!” As for the advice to rinse and repeat? Nah. “Back in the ’70s, some guy coined the phrase and the trend was squeaky-clean hair,” says McLaren. Times have changed. “When you are using a great shampoo, you just need to wash once,” he says. Now, it’s one and done—and out the door.