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Chemistry of shampoo

chemistry of shampoo

You might be curious about the formulation of your hair care products. Shampoos are the most common part of everyone’s hair care routine. But here’s a question: What is the formulation of a shampoo? What is the role of each ingredient? How do they all work together? We are going to explain all these questions.

History of shampoo

Before shampoo, people used soap to clean their hair. However, soap had many disadvantages, which are as follows:

  • If this material comes into contact with your eyes, it can cause irritation.
  • Soaps cannot be used with hard water.
  • It can cause the hair to lack moisture.

The first shampoo production dates to the 1930s.

What is shampoo?

Shampoo is one of the most important hair care products because it can clean the dirt from the hair.

“Ideally, a good shampoo should produce a voluminous lather and effectively cleanse the hair and scalp and should be easily rinsed out with water, leaving the hair soft, lustrous, and moisturized. The product should not adversely affect the scalp and hands or cause irritation to the eyes, particularly when children and baby formulations are considered.”


What are the ingredients?

Almost all shampoos in the world contains some main materials:


 It is interesting to know that up to 80 percent of the entire shampoo formula is water. Water has an important role in removing unwanted ions from hair.


 20 percent of shampoo contains surfactant. Surfactants are molecules that have two ends. One of them likes water, and the other likes lipid-based substances. This chemical structure helps the molecule attach the lipid from one of its ends and attach the water molecule from the other end. So it can remove lipid-based dirt with the water.


Alkanolamides are chemical substances that can improve the size of bubbles and the amount of foaming. They can also make the product more viscous.


Methylcellulose is another ingredient that has an important role in increasing the viscosity of the final product. Briefly, methylcellulose is a great thickening agent.

Conditioning agent

Conditioning agents such as guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride are chemical compounds that have an important effect on improving softness and reducing the static charge of the hair.

Preservative agent

These materials can increase the shelf life of the product. How? It can reduce the bacterial growth.


Fragrances can be some ingredients such as essential oils that can be used to apply a good smell to the product.


Opacifiers such as calcium or magnesium salt and titanium oxide can improve the appearance of the product.

Sequestering agents

Sequestering agents such as tetrasodium phosphates and sodium tripoly phosphate can make a complex with the specific ion and remove it from the solution. So they have an important role in limiting the effect of water hardness on the hair.

The bottom line

Shampoo is an important substance that can help us have clean hair, but what are the ingredients and how do they work? The main ingredient in shampoo is water, because up to 80 percent of these products consist of water. It also has a surfactant that can bind with lipid-based dirt and remove it from the hair. Preservatives are important too. They inhibit the growth of bacteria and make the product last for a longer period of time. Fragrance, sequestering agents, conditioning agents, alkanolamides, and methylcellulose are important too.

Frequently asked questions

How does shampoo work in chemistry?

Shampoo contains surfactant, which is a material that has two ends. Surfactants can bind with water with one of their ends and bind with lipid-based dirt with the other tail, so they can remove dirt easily.

What is the basic chemistry of shampoo?

Shampoo has a surfactant that can bind with dirt and remove it from hair. It also has preservative agents to reduce the growth of bacteria and make the product last for a longer period of time.

What chemicals are in hair shampoo?

Water, surfactant, preservative agent, sequestering agent, fragrances, and methyl cellulose are some of the important ingredients in all shampoos.

What is the chemistry of soap and shampoo?

Before shampoo, people used soap to clean their hair. However, soap had many disadvantages for example it could cause the hair to lack moisture.

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4 thoughts on “Chemistry of shampoo

  1. Ava says:

    What is the pH of shampoo?

    1. china chemicals says:

      Most shampoos have a pH between 6 and 7.

  2. Isla says:

    How does an opacifier improve the appearance of the product?

    1. china chemicals says:

      Opacifiers make the formula opaque. Actually, these chemical substances are the reason why your shampoo looks pearly.

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