Why Does Shampoo Lather? The Secret and Tips

Have you ever wondered why the shampoo bottle you use every day has so much foam? What Makes Shampoo Lather? What causes this foaming ability? And is too much foaming shampoo harmful? Today we will answer this question with you!

Why does shampoo lather?

The reason shampoo can lather is thanks to surfactants. These substances work as janitors to clean up all the dirt on your hair and scalp. 

Lather plays an important role in cleaning hair
Lather plays an important role in cleaning hair

Surfactants tend to be on the surface of the water. On the other hand, the air is hydrophobic. Meanwhile, water always wants to push the hydrophobic part of the surfactant out of the water molecule matrix.

This is how the skin layers of the bubble are formed. 

When a solution consisting of water and surfactants is mixed together, with the help of air, bubbles are formed. Gathering a lot of bubbles here will form a foam – which we often see when washing our hair.

In brief:

After all, the lather is a collection of air bubbles. They are surrounded by water-based shampoo. Surfactants work to keep the air bubbles stable and not free to fly while washing.

Shampoos Hub
Shampoos Hub

Simply put, the fact that you add water and shampoo and remove the squeeze means that you have mixed air into this solution. This creates lather.

As a result, they embrace the dirt off the surface of the hair. Therefore, the foaming agent has the ability to effectively clean the dirt on the hair.

So, what lather agents are there in shampoos? There are some common foaming agents such as:

  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS). There is a document that says Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate
  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)
  • Coco-glucoside
  • More

They are often used in cosmetics or shampoos.

What makes shampoo lather much more the second time?

Washing your hair twice is the ultimate hair care technique that many people often overlook. If you pay close attention, you will see that the hairdressers will wash your hair twice. 

  • In the 1st wash, shampoo and lather will gradually play a cleansing role in removing dirt accumulated on the hair. The lather is a product that usually forms when more surfactants are present than the hydrophobic surface. At the first wash, the hair is usually dirtier, so the surfactant is often balanced or less than the hydrophobic head. So when the hair is dirty, there will be less foam.
  • In the 2nd wash, the hair is cleaner now. It means that the surfactant exceeds the hydrophobic surface. That’s why the second shampoo is always more lather than the first.

It is also for this reason that washing your hair twice will have a better cleaning effect than washing your hair once. Moreover, the hair also easily eats the nutrients from the shampoo. As a result, your hair will be soft and smooth as well as the breakage is clearly reduced.

Shampoo lather
Shampoo lather

What roles do lather play in shampoo?

Surfactants in shampoos clean by dissolving things that cannot be dissolved in water on their own. At the root of the hair, there are glands that secrete sebum, which helps the hair to be smooth and strong. 

However, this slime itself is also a kind of glue that retains dust and dirt from the surrounding environment. It really has a bad impact on any kind of hair, especially for those with oily skin.

At this time, the foaming agent will perform its role. When they come into contact with water, they form “small balls”. You can also imagine them as extremely small “prisons”. They trap oil and dirt so you can wash them away when rinsing with water. 

Therefore, not only created to make a pleasant feeling when shampooing for users, but the dense foam from surfactants also helps to thoroughly clean the scalp easily.

Is lather necessary for cleanliness?

According to experts, shampoo does not have to be lather to clean. Most shampoo lather is created to meet customer demands, not because it is needed for cleaning.

This is because surfactants have two basic properties: cleaning and foaming. However, these properties work independently without affecting each other.

You can understand it simply as follows: Shampoo can still do a good job of cleaning even if it doesn’t have much foam. Conversely, just because a shampoo is rich in lather does not mean it will clean extremely well.

So scientists and shampoo manufacturers have a duty to balance these two properties with the right dosage. In other words, more foam leaves your hair feeling cleaner, but it doesn’t increase the power of cleaning. If you want your hair to be completely clean, you might want to consider a shampoo labeled deep cleaning.

Should you use low-lather or high-lather shampoo?

Low-lather shampoo should still meet the cleaning effectiveness
Low-lather shampoo should still meet the cleaning effectiveness

The best shampoos are not the most lathering shampoos. The lather agent content ranges from 5 to 40% of the total shampoo volume. The most popular type of foaming agent is Sodium Lauryl sulfate. If you notice, 90% of shampoos use this type of foaming agent because it is effective and cheap.

However, high concentrations of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate will cause phenomena such as skin irritation, attack hair follicles, and cause hair loss. Therefore, the bigger the content of this substance in the shampoo, the more susceptible the scalp is to damage and cause dandruff.

For those with dandruff, they should not use high-lather shampoo. They are very sensitive to chemicals and prone to scalp allergies. Thus, a special hair care regimen is essential with low-lather shampoo but still meeting the cleaning effectiveness.

Through research and user reviews, you can refer to a few shampoos as below:

ColorProof ClearItUp Detox Shampoo

This low-lather shampoo works to deep clean impurities in the hair. Besides, it helps to provide nutrients with safe natural ingredients. Thus, it benefits to nourish hair from deep within, helping you to maximize hair problems as well as have smooth and bouncy hair.

Zotos Curls Lo Lather Cleanser Free of SLS SLES Sulfates Silicones and Parabens ColorSafe

For those who have curled, straightened or styled a lot, the hair is very easily damaged, dry and tangled. Zotos shampoo helps moisturize and nourish from root to tip for strong, elastic and smooth hair, in order. It is very suitable for those who love low lather shampoo. It is safe and adapted to sensitive skin.

DevaCurl Low Poo Mild Lather Cleanser

DevaCurl is a very popular shampoo and conditioner set in high-end hair salons. This shampoo line is rich in nutrients to help restore and nourish strong and smooth hair. It is quickly accepted by the international market due to its excellent effectiveness and benign safety.

How to make shampoo lather?

Many people think that using shampoo just needs to put it directly into your hands and then apply it to your hair or scalp to wash your hair. However, this method of washing hair is completely wrong.

This makes it difficult for the nutrients in the shampoo to enter the scalp and hair. It also becomes more difficult to clean. This is the main reason why even though you have used the best shampoo, dandruff still appears.

Let me ask you a question! Every day, when you wash dishes, do you often mix dishwashing liquid with water or pour it directly on dirty dishes? Method 1 is more efficient instead of consuming materials like in method 2, right? Shampoo too, it should be mixed with water before applying to the hair.

  • Wet hair before shampooing (For shampoos that do not contain Sodium Laureth Sulfate, this step is especially necessary)
  • Apply a sufficient amount of shampoo to hair (if you use SLF-free shampoo, do not try to put more shampoo on your hair because of wasting)
  • Apply more water to clean the hair. Note: Rub and scratch gently with fingertips in a circular motion to distribute foam.
  • Wash your hair once more
  • Rinse with water and squeeze out excess water before using the conditioner.

Note: You should use lukewarm water to wash your hair instead of water that is too hot or too cold


Thanks to the above article, you understand why shampoo lather, right? The lather is not a cleaning material, but a testament to the “aggressive” nature of the product being used. Depending on the condition of your hair, choose the most suitable product for yourself!

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Edna Feber

I’m Edna. I'm here to guide you about hair products and maintenance tips. You'll fine here product reviews regarding hair tools, hair color, hair care and more along with tips to keep your hair healthy!

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