Natural Hair Cleansing: Do You Need the Lather?

“Lather, rinse, repeat.” Who has not heard or seen that phrase on shampoo bottles? I know I have, and it has been ingrained into my psyche for years as a necessary component of cleaning my hair and my body. It is the only way to clean your hair, right? A shampoo bottle would not even be a shampoo bottle if those words were not written on them under the directions. For years we have seen commercials, movies, and even TV shows with women washing their hair full of foamy, sudsy lather.

We know shampoos are cleansers formulated with detergents that act like surfactants, which cling to the very elements we want out of our hair. The dirt, sweat, and product buildup are removed with effective shampoos but what is lather? I asked scientific consultant Yolanda Anderson, M.Ed., for a little understanding of lather: “Shampoos are made of the chemical sodium laureth sulfate (SLS) and cocamidopropyl betaine (SLES). SLS is in there for cleansing and the betaine is there for lathering. Betaine is actually what produces the bubbles or what we call lather.”

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