All About Shampoo

All About Shampoo

MONSTER Shampoo works by blending anionic, amphoteric, and nonionic surfactants with hair and skin healthy oils to clean and moisturize your hair.

Er . . . that might require a little more explanation.

Shampoo Basics: Head Purification 101

Surfactants: Surface Active Agents of CHAOS

Shampoo is made up chiefly of water and surfactants (or surface active agents). A surfactant is a chemical compound that reduces the surface tension between two liquids. Their molecules have a polar head and a non-polar tail, allowing them to bond simultaneously to polar (like water) and non-polar (like oil) molecules.

Your body secretes a kind of oil called sebum - often called your "natural oil" or "skin oil." Dirt and gunk and bacteria get mixed up in that oil and just kinda . . . hang out on your skin. The dirt can get into your pores and follicles and cause infections (generally, zits). The bacteria can do the same, and also has the lovely side effect of making you smell like the devil's outhouse.

Water alone will not get rid of the oil/gunk soup, because water does not mix with oil. If you wash with a wet cloth alone, the cloth is probably doing more to clean you than the water is. But a surfactant changes that, because it grabs onto the sebum on your skin with it's tail, and its head grabs onto the water. When you're rinsing in the shower, or under a sink, or in the spray of a mighty waterfall, the soap, oil, dirt, and all the lovely gross things living and feeding off your skin oil go for a ride on the water, leaving you clean.

Many surfactants are made from coconut oil, cause the world's got a ton of coconuts, and coconuts got a ton of oil.


When you clean your hair, you're really cleaning your scalp more than the hair itself. Hair is just dead cells and keratin. Your scalp is just skin like any other part of your body, and it secretes that wonderful dirt-trapping sebum that bacteria finds so damn delicious. That sebum does end up in your hair, but it's far more concentrated at the scalp. That's why shampoo directions always tell you to focus your cleaning efforts there.

The most basic surfactant we encounter in our lives is called soap. It's made up of water, fatty acids (oils), and a base called lye (usually sodium hydroxide, but sometimes potassium hydroxide). It's damn effective at removing that sebum oil. But a little too damn effective. That's why you don't use soap to wash your hair; it strips away oil so well, you're left feeling very dry. Dry hair gets brittle and likes to break, get frizzy, and is just all around a bad time for everyone.

Fortunately, there are a s***-ton of surfactants other than soap, that all work essentially the same way, but with variations. Some are harsher than soap, and some aren't even safe for your skin. But some exist in a sort of Goldilocks zone where they can effectively remove dirt and oil without drying skin and hair too much. Those are the chemicals that make up shampoo.

Shampoo Ingredients: The Good, the Bad, and the Possibly Carcinogenic

The cheapest surfactants that can accomplish the goal of a shampoo are called sulfates. There are plenty of sulfate molecules out there, but the two big ones you will see are sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate. Most shampoos you will find at the store use these chemicals - especially anything that runs under $5 a bottle. That's because they are super mondo cheap to produce. But that lower price tag on your shampoo comes at, well, a price.

Sulfates are known to be irritants. Studies have also shown evidence that they can cause organ toxicity, hair loss, and have a detrimental effect on the environment. It's long been thought that they could be carcinogenic, but no compelling evidence of this has yet been produced. Doctors have linked the irritation caused by sulfates to problems with acne, eczema, and other skin disorders, and recommend anyone with skin issues like these to discontinue use of sulfates. Some people can use products with sulfates without issue. Some can't use them at all. Others may experience no trouble for years, then suddenly begin to feel major irritation from the use of sulfates later on. This is why higher quality shampoos avoid sulfates entirely.

Brief note on bad ingredients: You will also see good quality shampoos advertising that they lack silicone and parabens. Some silicone ingredients are good conditioners, but due to their molecular structure, can be irritants like sulfates, and are best avoided. Parabens, sometimes used as preservatives in cosmetics and shampoos, may or may not be harmful; all scientists know for sure is that they have been found in tumors. Doesn't mean they cause them, but there's some kind of link. MONSTER shampoo uses neither.


MONSTER Shampoo uses three surfactants:

Alpha Olefin Sulfonate: Don't let the name mislead you; this is a sulfONate, not a sulfate. The difference is, basically a carbon atom. Might not seem like much, but add an oxygen atom to water (H2O) and you get hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). A single atom can change a substance entirely. AOS is a fantastic anionic (negatively charged) cleanser. It is gentle, non-drying, and foams up really well. Foaming doesn't really make a difference as far as cleaning, but we all like to see that our shampoo is working. A good lather also helps work the shampoo into your hair to make sure it cleanses that whole mane.

Cocamidoproyl (Coco) Betaine: Coco betaine works so well with other surfactants that many, many shampoos include it. It is amphoteric (both positive and negatively charged), which makes it good at both cleaning and conditioning. This helps make the shampoo a lot milder, helping to prevent it from drying out your hair and scalp.

Decyl Glucoside (aka polyglucose): Plant-derived, biodegradable, mild surfactant that cleans without drying. Paired with coco betaine, it is especially effective.

The combination of ionic, non-ionic, and amphoteric surfactants in our shampoo not only cleanses, but has another vital purpose: allowing the shampoo to moisturize. We include our trademark MONSTER JAM, our blend of jojoba, almond, and meadowfoam seed oils that make up our beard oil. This blend hydrates both skin and hair. A purely anionic shampoo would not allow any of this oil to stay behind and moisturize your hair. The opposite - a cationic shampoo - well, that's actually called conditioner, and it's not good at cleaning. But blending both elements allows you to both clean and moisturize your mane.

Pick up a bottle of MONSTER Shampoo to see what all the hype is about.

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