Facts about soaps and shampoos for hair
Healthy hair is nearly always beautiful—beautiful because it has lustre and life and elasticity. No matter what any purveyor of tonics and pomades may say to the contrary, the chief factors that make for beautiful, luxuriant hair are hygienic care and stimulation of normal circulation of the blood to the scalp to nourish the hair roots.
To maintain the scalp in the best condition of cleanliness, it is not necessary to wash or shampoo the hair with too great a degree of frequency. The daily washing of the hair by men, or semi-weekly washing by women, may often cause a dry, brittle condition of the hair—the very thing they are attempting to avoid.
For shampoos—especially if the shampoo happens to contain too much alkali—have a tendency to remove the natural oil from the hair. This removes at the same time the lustre and elasticity.
Therefore, if the hair is inclined naturally to be dry, these repeated shampoos will often make its condition worse.
How to shampoo the hair
Unless there are some special reasons why the hair should be shampooed more frequently, it is not advisable for women to wash the hair oftener than once every week or ten days, and for men not more than two or three times weekly. If however, the hair is very oily, it may be found necessary to wash more frequently. For additional cleansings, careful daily brushing and a thorough cleansing of the scalp with a soft cloth should be enough.
Pure castile soap makes an excellent base for a shampoo. Sometimes the addition of an egg to castile jelly, made by boiling the soap shavings in water, is excellent.
Tar soap also makes a good shampoo.
There are, however, many splendid shampoos on the market, carefully prepared from excellent formulas, which will be found to fulfil all the purposes for which they are intended. Directions for the use of these shampoos are usually found on the labels.
As a general rule it is best to wet the hair with only a little water and to apply the shampoo. This should be rubbed thoroughly into the scalp, from time to time adding more water, so as to make a good lather.
Part the hair so that the scalp is exposed, and rub the shampoo thoroughly over the scalp with the finger tips. After the scalp has been gone over in this way, it should be rinsed several times, until all the soap is thoroughly removed.
The washing water should be warm, as should the first rinsing waters until all the soap has been removed, when it may be used cool, the final rinsing water unless it causes discomfort, to be cold to close the pores.
Be particularly careful in drying the hair to get all possible moisture out of it, and, if opportunity offers, finish the drying by exposing the hair to the fresh air and the sunshine, at the same time using the pulling process previously described.
If the hair is naturally curly, it should never be brushed immediately after shampooing, as this has a tendency to make it straight and stringy.
The best way to care for straight hair is to wait until the hair is nearly dry—using the warm towels assiduously in the meantime—and then pull the hair slightly all over the scalp and comb it with a wide spaced comb. This will make the hair naturally fluffy, and give it an opportunity to curl in a normal way.
How to dry long hair
To dry long hair and avoid tangling it is sometimes a very difficult undertaking. But if the strands of the hair are taken up separately, and rubbed from the roots down between the hands covered with warm towels, it will be less difficult. The hands should move down gradually to the very tips of the hair, stretching the hair to its extreme length. When the hair is nearly dry, assist the process by using the fingers as a comb, closing them tightly on the hair as they are withdrawn, and exerting gentle traction on the roots. This treatment as previously stated will greatly strengthen the attachment of the hair to the scalp, as well as give the hair a marked increase in lustre.
Hair if properly cared for should furnish its own emollient, but if you must have an application, a few drops of fine olive oil, or harmless dressing may be used after washing, if the scalp has a tendency toward excessive dryness. But always remember to give the hair ample chance to dry thoroughly before dressing or braiding it.
If the hair has a tendency to split at the ends, or to become rather brittle, its texture can frequently be restored by the use of a little oil rubbed through the length, and on the ends of the hair.
The best way to apply the oil is to moisten the hand in brilliantine, or a pure olive or cocoanut oil, and then rub the hair back and forth with a rolling motion between the palms, taking only a small strand of hair at a time, so as to insure the hair being thoroughly treated all the way through. A surprising degree of lustre can very frequently be attained in this way.
The dry shampoo
Once a week or oftener the scalp should be treated to a dry shampoo. A soft cloth should be used for this purpose. Part the hair and rub the exposed scalp briskly and vigorously with a bit of old muslin or linen that you have wound around the finger tip.
The entire scalp can be gone over in this way and stimulated and cleaned. The friction is very beneficial to the scalp, while the rubbing removes dust and dirt.
This form of shampoo is especially good for invalids, or for those subject to neuralgia, who would not be physically able to bear the fatigue of the possible reaction which might follow prolonged wetting of the hair.
Where a scalp is unusually oily, you can try moistening the cloth in a little alcohol, and then thoroughly rubbing the scalp will often help to overcome this trouble.
The corn-meal rub
Many people advise the use of cornmeal, orris root, or special powders, to be sprinkled into the hair, and then brushed out again. This I consider a very harmful practice, for while it is very easy to shake the powder into the hair, it is a very difficult matter to remove it again.
You may get quite a quantity of it out by careful and vigorous brushing with a brush whose bristles penetrate to the scalp, but the little that remains may prove a source of irritation. For it combines with the perspiration and the dandruff that the skin is shedding all the time, and tends to form a deposit that may choke up the pores of the scalp and interfere with their action.
The oil necessary to give the hair its lustre and gloss is thus choked back, which still further interferes with the proper nutrition of the hair.
Hot and cold applications
The use of hot and cold water, alternating from one to the other, is about the strongest stimulant to the circulation of the scalp that can be used.
Very warm water or heat of any kind applied to any part of the body draws the blood to the surface, swelling the pores to their greatest possible capacity, and thus greatly aiding in the elimination of impurities through this channel. Cold water has an opposite effect, closing the pores and forcing the blood inward. The circulatory system being supplied with "stops" like the plunger of a pump, the blood always travels in one direction. Therefore, any local stimulant to the circulation forces the venous blood inward towards the heart and the new arterial blood flows in its place.
The hot application draws the blood towards the surface; the cold drives it back and onward in its travels to the heart, thus actually creating practically an independent and vastly accelerated circulation of the blood wherever used, and the scalp, when thus treated, unquestionably reacts in greatly stimulating the hair growth.
"Hot air cones" for drying the scalp, frequently used in hairdressing and beauty shops, are undesirable for the hair and scalp, as they sometimes produce excessive dryness of the scalp and in a few instances cause brittleness of the hair. They also occasionally produce nausea, or car-sickness on the way home.
The best time for the alternate hot and cold treatment
The best time to treat the scalp is immediately after shampooing. Have the temperature of the heated water as hot as can be borne, and the other as cold as possible without using ice. Hot and cold wet cloths can be applied in the same way. This latter method is better in case the hair is very thin, or if a bald spot is being treated. The change from hot to cold should be made from three to six times during each treatment. Each application should be allowed to permeate the entire surface of the parts treated before changing to the other.
The selection of a soap
I cannot refrain from repeating that the greatest possible care should be taken in the selection of the soap used for cleansing the scalp and hair. If there is an excess of alkali in the soap, it will usually create a dry condition of the hair.
The best soaps are those made of vegetable oils, incorporating only a small amount of alkali.
The matter of perfume is entirely a question of taste. I might emphasize, however, that frequently a heavy perfume may cover a very rancid piece of soap. The finest soaps are usually only faintly perfumed.
Where a good antiseptic effect is desired, a shampoo with tincture of green soap will be found admirable. This particular soap is especially valuable in oily conditions of the scalp, where its high alcohol content tends to remove the excess of oil. For the same reason, however, it should not be used where the scalp is excessively dry.
If all these points are given careful consideration, and the suggestions outlined in this page are faithfully followed, I would be almost willing to guarantee that many of the most unpromising hair and scalp conditions can be overcome, and a clean healthy scalp, with beautiful, well-cared for hair, be preserved to the end of life.