I am a huge proponent of conditioning hair cleansers, or, as the Wen product calls them, cleansing conditioners. I personally use only non-lathering conditioning hair cleansers instead of traditional hair shampoos and recommend the same to all my friends. Scientific evidence reinforces the benefits of using non-lathering, detergent free cleansers. Here is why:
Our hair is healthier and looks more beautiful when the outer layer of each strand is intact. Called the cuticle, the outer layer surrounds and protects the hair cortex – which is the middle, bulkier portion of each hair strand. The cuticle is made up of multiple layers of overlapping protein “scales” that look like shingles on a roof, or scales on a fish. Like roof shingles these protein scales are most effective when they lay flat, all in the same direction.
The scales are held together by a lipid (fatty/oily substance) scientists have labelled 18-MEA. The 18-MEA lipid acts as “cement” keeping the scales properly aligned and sealed together so that they protect the inner part of hair. A healthy amount of 18-MEA keeps hair healthy by repelling water from entering the cortex. When water is easily able to infiltrate the inner hair shaft, hair becomes weak and damaged. Maintaining a strong well-sealed cuticle is vital to the health and look of hair.
The 18-MEA lipid is also crucial in making hair look shiny and vibrant as the lipid itself creates shine, and, because it smooths and seals the scales of the cuticle to lie flat and reflect light better – more shine.
Washing hair with detergent shampoo breaks down the 18-MEA lipids by bonding to them and flushing them away. While it is good that cleansers bind with excess grease and grime in your hair and whisk it away, -strong detergent and sulfate shampoos also bind to and remove natural lipids that are necessary for healthy beautiful hair. The result is a disruption of the smooth line up of cuticle and less of the shine-enhancing natural lipid that bind the scales together. Styling hair with heat and chemicals further break down the lipid layer. Damaged hair is more vulnerable to further damage – it has a cumulative effect. This is why it is a MUST to keep your hair healthy in the first place.
Because of the vital importance of the natural 18-MEA lipids in the cuticle of hair, detergent shampoos degrade the exterior structure of hair making it dull and weak. Non-lathering detergent free conditioning hair cleansers, keep lipids and cuticle intact and are a HUGE benefit for maintaining and achieving beautiful and healthy hair.