68. Shampoo

Every other day, I’m putting this colorful syrupy scented substance in my hair, scrubbing it diligently into every last strand as if my life depended on it. I scrub without question. Shampoo is just one of those things I’ve accepted as reality. In the same way we use toothpaste to keep our teeth in our mouths, I imagine shampoo is what keeps the hairs on my head.

But there’s probably more to it than that.

What does shampoo do? We all know it cleans your hair. Or something. It takes the grease away, gives hair its usual bounce. But how? And why? Shampoo is built of chemicals trained in the art of dirt and oil removal. But what are those chemicals? What serendipity led to the discovery that these chemicals were such good chums with human hair? Who stays up late trying to figure out hair moisturizing formulas?

I’m not trying to sound paranoid or anything, but I’ve been shampooing for twenty-five years and I’m just now realizing that I’ve been playing around with chemicals I don’t understand the whole time. Right next to my brain.

This is not leading to a boycott against shampoo, either, I simply I feel like half the stuff on the shampoo INGREDIENTS list is made up.

Other than water, shampoo also contains (among other ingredients): Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Dimethiconol, Carbomer, Glycol Distearate, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, TEA-Dodecylbenzenesulfonate, and Citric Acid.

What the hell is “Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride?”

To quote Wikipedia, it helps to “improve the ease of combing.”


I guess some of these big words are fancy ways of saying “cocunut extract” or “vitamin so-and-so.” You know scientists. They like tongue twisters. The ingredients aren’t as complex as they appear to be, although it’s not exactly something you can moonshine in your bathtub or cook up in an RV. Leave this to the professionals, Breaking Bad.

I’ve learned that the use of shampoo originally came about through head massages. Early shampoos were less concerned with the actual hair and more concerned with the feel-good results of a nice scrubbing. The smell of a shampoo was more important than its effects on dandruff and split-ends. I’m a fan of the “Ocean Breeze” aroma, myself.

The point is, shampoo gets a free pass, but I never stopped to wonder why. I’ve allowed dozens of different shampoo brands to navigate my hair follicles, and I never bothered to ask for identification. What the heck is this stuff? I was raised on shampoo. I never knew of any alternative, save for a head of greasy hair and an open invitation for a lice invasion.

I’m not saying we put our shampoo dependency on hold. I love it when my hair smells nice. But how it works and where that sweet aroma comes from, I have no idea. I’m just doing what I’m told.

3 thoughts on “68. Shampoo

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