Shampoo – Smell the Sexy-time Detergent


haircutThe cute hairdresser squirted some of the shampoo into her hand and held it under my nose. I sniffed it obligatorily.

“It’s made with walnut shells and green tree moss harvested from Mexico,” she said proudly.

“I can’t think of a scenario where I would think rubbing walnut shells and moss on my head was an appealing thing,” I said.

Twenty minutes earlier, the hairdresser introduced herself as Dee when she led me to the chair and asked how I wanted my hair cut. She rubbed against my leg or back as she clipped away at my hair, all the while, professionally steering the conversation to what hair products I use. 

As Dee stared at my reflection in the mirror of the over-lit salon, I asked her, “Would you use this shampoo?”

“Of course I would.”

She was not to be undone by a simple observation and rebuttal, and retrieved a green bottle from the shelf and held it out for me to get a sniff. Apparently, my hair-care professional has determined that selecting a good shampoo is all about scent.

“Here. This is Tea Tree,” she said.

I sniffed.

“Smells a bit like the ointment my Grandmother would rub on her joints when the weather was about to change.”

“It does smell a little antiseptic, but that smells clean, don’t you think?”

Mentally, I gave her a point for trying, but I was intrigued by the concept of scent sells, and I wasn’t interested in how Dee rubbed against me as she cut my hair – it was just a weak lap-dance after all, followed by an invite to buy an expensive shampoo rather than expensive champagne. I wasn’t interested in being a mark, but was a personal grooming product really assessed on its scent alone?

This seemed logical for a perfume or one of those overpowering body sprays targeting ill-informed men that girls won’t be able to resist you if you wear X-brand body spray, so I suppose it also made sense for shampoo or hair conditioner. It was the ingredients used in the product that seemed suspect to me, and all the more so when I was evaluating top-shelf grooming products.

Why does one bottle of shampoo cost $20 and another sell for $2? 

Isn’t this just soap for my hair?

Why are there so many different shampoos?

Is there a difference in quality, and what the hell is this stuff we are rubbing on our heads, anyway?

I spent a solid twenty or thirty minutes researching shampoo. A duller time, you could not possibly imagine. Now, I pass my knowledge on to you, Padwan.

Shampoo is made by shampoo-aislecombining a surfactant with water so that the surface tension is reduced. Another way of putting it is to say it is a detergent. It always has been and always will be. All shampoos consist of the same active ingredient – detergent. All of those different brands at the store, enough to fill a hundred-foot aisle with bottles of all shapes, sizes and colors – they are all the same product. Consider Pantene, the shampoo category leader, which offers over a hundred products in over a dozen different benefit-themed lines, and it’s easy to see how the shelves have become so crowded and confusing.

Oh, I know, some claim to be antibacterial. Here’s news – all soap is antibacterial. All. Soap. All of it.  Being antibacterial is an essential function of soap. If it isn’t antibacterial, then it is not soap. 

Some shampoos claim to contain antioxidants. If a shampoo contains conditioner (as many do) they contain antioxidants.

It usually goes hand in hand; if they put organic, antibacterial or antioxidant on the label, the price doubles, but not much else changes. Of course, we equate something costing more to mean it is better, so consumers have been buying into that façade for a long time.

body-on-tapA study of shampoo conducted in 2008 showed that there really isn’t any difference between shampoos, and the majority of the possibilities boil down to different packaging. “All shampoo is essentially a cleanser,” says Paula Begoun, author of

So yes, buy your shampoo based on what smells best to you. Get one targeted to your hair type, and if you can manage it, don’t spend too much. Me, I wish they still made that shampoo from the 70’s, Body on Tap, which was “beer enriched.” I guess I’ll have to settle for drinking my beer rather than soaping up my head with it.

Life is hard. It’s a lot harder if you are gullible. Shampoo is not a status symbol.  Go for the cheap stuff.

Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.

© 2013, Mitch Lavender


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