About Shampoo

The Basics of Cleansers:  Soap / Detergents / Shampoos

August 2013 – by Barbara Denzer, reporting for CardinalPet.com

Cleansers are available in solid, liquid or powder form. Today bar soaps, dish or laundry detergents and liquid shampoos for hair care may share some of the same chemical ingredients even though they are made differently, have different percentages of ingredients, and clean in different ways, so they have different names to distinguish between them.

Originally bar soap was made from animal fat and lye. Today’s bar soaps are much more sophisticated and not really true soap. Animal fat has been replaced by mostly by vegetable oil, plant oil (like olive oil) or essential oils plus sodium hydroxide, and minerals.  They’re made by a process that combines ingredients in a mix that ends up at a neutral or alkaline pH of about 9. Glycerin soaps are in a class of their own. Dove bar soap carved a new category by adding moisturizing cream: the beauty bar.

Detergents are made of synthetic petroleum products called surfactants, which are chemicals that have been designed to work in all types of water. The molecules grab dirt, oil and grease by reducing the surface tension of water, and are then able to be rinsed away. Detergents and dish soaps generally have a larger percent of surfactants than liquid hand soaps or shampoo because of the strength of the liquid needed to perform the cleaning required. Foaming agents also play a big part in detergents. The less foam the more likely the detergent is to be rinsed out well, leaving fabrics softer.  Consumers like to see visual results when cleaning dishes or washing clothes. Foaming agents are seen by consumers as proof a detergent is working.  In truth they leave fabric not as soft as consumers like, which resulted in fabric softener products as an add-on category. Ingredients themselves don’t have a very pleasant aroma so fragrances or masks play a big part in detergent, especially since they leave clothes and bed linens with a lingering scent.

Shampoos are often considered beauty products because hair is such an integral part of our identity and grooming our hair is part of our daily routine. They also start with synthetic surfactants that loosen the dirt, dust, grease and oils. Then they add ingredients with specific jobs to do, to make our hair clean and beautiful.  Foaming ingredients are added to produce lather, which it turns out is also one of the consumer’s ways of measuring the effectiveness of shampoo.  (In reality, the less foam there is, the quicker and more effective the rinsing process for hair.) In this case, conditioning ingredients are added to make our hair more manageable.  Emulsifiers bind the ingredients together and maintain the mixture’s stability. In the past, “Shake Well” was a common direction. Today that’s hardly necessary.

Sodium agents adjust the thickness of the liquid. A common misconception is that sodium is added to make shampoo thicker. It’s actually used to make the mixture thinner - easier to pour and use. Humectants attract water molecules from the air and help keep the moisture from evaporating. They also reduce static and fly-away.

To make the hair cuticle lie flat against the hair shaft and prevent it from looking dull or rough, “buffers” like citric acid and sodium citrate are used to make shampoos slightly acidic (below 7) and close the cuticle.  Panthenol, Pro-Vitamin B-5, is also used in many shampoos for adding strength and shine by filling in the hair shaft.  Prefer a white shampoo? Opacifiers will change a clear liquid to opaque.

In a water and organic solution like shampoo, it’s essential to keep bacteria and germs from contaminating the liquid from the time it’s opened and comes in contact with the medium to be washed.  Anti-bacterial ingredients (preservatives) are added to prevent germ growth.

Because there are many different kinds of applications for shampoo (thick hair, thin hair, damaged hair, colored hair, oily, dry, normal etc.) different percentages of the above ingredients are used for different results. Fragrances, essential oils, color, botanical extracts, protein and vitamins are added for the specific properties they can contribute as well as for distinguishing one variety of shampoo from another.

Dog shampoos are made the same way shampoos are made for people. However, they have to be better to compensate for the different problems they have to solve.  Let’s compare:

The dog wears the same coat all day and night. The dog has fleas. The dog eats smelly things that get on his face and coat. The dog runs and exercies a lot but doesn’t wear deodorant. The dog likes to play in the mud and roll in the dirt. The dog’s hair is about  6-18” from the ground, yours is about 5 feet from the ground. The dog never combs his hair. The dog doesn’t shower every day. The dog’s hair collects dirt, bugs and weeds like it was Velcro®.  The dog with long hair gets tangled, matted and tied in knots.  The dog does a couple of other things we won’t mention here. The dog usually gets bathed once a month if lucky.*

At Cardinal, we think about these differences every day. That’s why the Gold Medal  Pets shampoos are formulated with the highest quality ingredients and offer so many choices for solutions to your problems. We have to make a shampoo that cleans, conditions, adds shine, whitens, brightens, removes static, deodorizes, detangles and keeps dogs smelling fresh and clean for – well let’s just say until the next time you bathe him. There are specific shampoos for specific problems: skin irritations, eczema, fleas, flea bite dermatitis, sensitive skin and a puppy’s tender new skin. If you have a problem with your dog’s coat, we have a shampoo “solution.”

You’re probably asking yourself why you aren’t using a Gold Medal Pets shampoo for your own hair! (You can if you want to. Your dog will never tell.)

*Remember, this guy is part of the family – and possibly even sleeping at the end of your bed.  It might be time for a bath!

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