How to Tell If Your Shampoo Is Not Actually Working For Your Hair

Experts explain how to find "the one."

Finding the right shampoo is a journey in and of itself — so it can be really disappointing when you thought you found "the one" and soon realize it is, in fact, not your hair's "one true love." But don't worry if this has happened to you a few times. With so many shampoo options out there for all different hair types, it's easy to purchase a shampoo that isn't the right fit.

"Shampoo is designed with multiple characteristics that perform at varying degrees depending on its formulation," trichologist and hair expert, Shab Reslan, tells InStyle. "Shampoo can not only cleanse but simultaneously moisturize, smooth, have minimal conditioning — or cleanse extremely harshly." And if it's doing more damage than good, that's when you may want to find another shampoo option or examine how often you're washing your hair. "You must shampoo your hair at least four times a week unless you have coily hair, then once a week is fine," salon trichologist, Penny James, tells InStyle. "Our hair and scalp have to be taken care of. Our hair is a fiber that grows from the epidermis in a follicle. Thousands of follicles are on our heads and this is a breeding ground for scalp problems if you are not cleaning the scalp on a regular basis."

How to Tell Your Shampoo Is Not Actually Working For Your Hair
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However, if you are doing your due diligence with washing your hair, and you're still experiencing issues, then your shampoo might be the culprit. But how exactly do you know if your shampoo is not working or causing your hair to look lifeless? We talked with a few experts to find out.

What Are the Signs That Your Shampoo Isn't Working?

According to James, if your hair is looking heavy and oily at the roots, then the shampoo you are using may have a lot of conditioner or silicone in it, which may be too heavy of ingredients for your particular hair type. Reslan adds that you also don't want your hair to feel waxy, oily, frizzy, or even overly cleansed. If it feels weighed down post-shower, then that could mean it's time to find a new shampoo, too.

"Some shampoos can throw off the pH of the scalp and cause it to be overly oily (which would cause dandruff) or dry itchy and flaky," BosleyMD certified-trichologist, Gretchen Friese, tells InStyle. "If someone is experiencing these issues they may want to look for a shampoo that says it is 'pH balanced.' Avoiding shampoos that contain sulfates is also key in keeping a balance, as they can be very drying to the scalp and hair."

However, if you're not 100 percent sure that's the issue or which shampoo is right for your hair type, James encourages you to talk with a trichologist or a hairstylist. "They know your hair type and can give professional advice," she explains. Either way, Reslan recommends giving your shampoo a few tries before determining if it's right or wrong for you. "If your scalp starts to become dry or red from irritation or your roots progressively become more oily after a few uses, then I would look for an alternative shampoo," she says.

Why Does Shampoo Stop Working?

If you ever found that your shampoo doesn't do the trick anymore, there are a number of factors as to why this is happening — and it might have less to do with the actual shampoo and more about your body. "Our hair texture often changes the older we get due to hormones or diet," explains James. "A shampoo that used to make your hair look amazing five years ago is not going to do its job anymore. It's time to make a change." If this is the case, James suggests changing your shampoo every few years, especially if you're using the same shampoo brand.

Of course, the other reason why your shampoo might not work is because it has expired. "It's most likely that the active ingredients just aren't as potent," says Friese.

HowCan You Find the Right Shampoo at the Store?

When you're trying to find a new shampoo, Friese suggests examining what is going on with your hair and scalp first and how your current shampoo is affecting your head overall. "If [your shampoo] is not moisturizing enough, then you will need to look for moisturizing ingredients," she explains. "Or if your hair is feeling lifeless, you might want to make sure that the shampoo has more volumizing ingredients than moisturizing ones."

However, if you have a sensitive scalp, you may want to be mindful of the kinds of ingredients that are included in most shampoos. "Avoid shampoos that contain harsh sulfates such as sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate as well as the use of multiple essential oils and natural extracts," says Reslan. "They can be very irritating on the scalp and disrupt the scalp microbiome."

But if you're more prone to oily build-up, Reslan says you can incorporate a scalp scrub, like the Glycolic Acid Exfoliating Scalp Scrub from The INKEY List ($13, to cleanse the scalp even more. "It's the perfect complement to your daily shampoo and can be used on an as-needed basis," she explains.

What Are the Signs That You Found the Right Shampoo?

When you found "the one," James says your hair and scalp will feel clean, your hair will have a bounce, and your roots will be lifted with no oily patches on your scalp. Reslan adds that the right shampoo will help keep your roots balanced and cleansed without drying your scalp and your ends. "[It will] render your conditioner more effective if it sufficiently cleanses product and environmental build-up from your hair, allowing your strands to actually absorb the benefits from your conditioner," she explains.

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