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  1. Hi, I just had a question. Is it true that one cannot clean their hair with anything other than sulphates and sulfonates and other cleaning agents? Is it necessary that a cleaning agent is needed or just using conditioners to wash hair cowashing) is good enough to clean the hair and scalp? I am asking because I read an article recently on naturally curly . Com about how cowashing alone might not be enough to clean hair. I have been cowashing with a conditioner for more than 6 months now. I do clarify and use sulfate free shampoos occasionally to clean my hair when I feel there is buildup. But I was having this debate with one of the popular hair product manufacturers in the US about the same topic and he basically told me that cowashing with conditioner does not clean hair. It's against the laws of chemistry etc without really going in depth about why or giving any proofs and references. I am not a chemistry person and I thought it best to ask someone who is proficient in chemistry like you. Please help with my query. Thank you.

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    1. Hello Manjula,
      Sulphates and sulfonates are in a class of surfactants (also called detergents) called "anionic surfactants." They remove oils very well, and also remove soil like dust or many hair products.
      There is another class of surfactants called "cationic surfactants" which include things like Behentrimonium chloride or Cetrimonium chloride which are used in hair conditioners because they provide lubrication and bond to hair, leaving an extremely thin layer of charged particles behind that (usually) help hair stay lubricated when it is dry. As surfactants, they do have weak oil-removing ability, and they can also help remove dust and other things that land in your hair.
      Cationic surfactants are included in nearly all hair conditioner formulas. They are not powerful cleaners - but they do assist in cleaning hair and skin.

      One needs to pay attention to their own skin and hair. If you use a conditioner to wash and your skin stays healthy, your hair is consistently looking and feeling good with no extra shedding or itching or limpness - then you're getting hair and scalp as clean as they need to be. As you have noticed, some hair needs an occasional "deep cleaning" to remove build-up and restore bounce.

      For people who are accustomed to thinking of cationic surfactants as only for detangling and conditioning - the idea of them having some mild cleaning ability might be pointless - because we have stronger surfactants that do a better job of that. But not everybody who is using products wants or needs intense cleaning every time we wash our hair.
      Best wishes ~W

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