Is Shampoo Damaging Your Hair? Yes, According to the Founder of Bumble and bumble

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Image: Courtesy of Hairstory

We thought our ears were deceiving us when we heard Bumble and bumble founder Michael Gordon proclaim that shampoos are damaging our hair. How could the founder of a haircare empire say such a thing? Turns out, a lot has changed since he sold his beauty behemoth to Estée Lauder.

In 2013, Gordon founded Hairstory, an invitation-only studio (as we were corrected when we referred to it as a salon) located inside the entrepreneur’s 6,000-square-foot Financial District apartment. It’s in this studio that in-the-know men and women (including a number of models) can come and get their hair cut, colored and styled. It’s also where Gordon runs the operations for his new range of tightly edited haircare products, all of which are made without detergents like sodium lauryl sulfate – a key ingredient in almost all shampoos. Gordon says these detergents dry out the scalp and hair follicles, leading to the need for repairing products like conditioners and hair masks. Gordon’s star product, New Wash, contains none of these harsh detergents and is meant to replace your shampoo, conditioner and mask while also cutting down on the styling products you need thereafter.

“Every shampoo, regardless of price, that contains a detergent (even a naturally derived one) is bad for your hair.”

We spoke with Gordon to find out more about what exactly makes shampoo so bad, how he came about such a dramatic shift in perspective and his mission to declutter our vanities.

theFashionSpot: It’s hard to believe that one product could replace shampoo, conditioner and a mask, but New Wash does. It also has a menthol-like cooling effect. Can you tell us a little bit about how you developed it?

Michael Gordon: Most people have the relationship with shampoo that it takes a few days to calm down, so it’s not a new thing that people have a problem with shampoo — there just wasn’t another option. I noticed about six years ago that women had stopped using soap on their faces and were using oil-based cleansers, which left skin feeling clean, but not dry or starchy. Working with a lab, I described what I was looking for, some ingredient suggestions, but most importantly a list of absolute NOs. On top of that list was detergent — sodium lauryl sulfate and its derivatives.


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Image: Courtesy of Hairstory

tFS: You say that traditional shampoos do more harm than good. Is that categorically all shampoos? 

MG: Yes, it’s true, all and every shampoo, regardless of price, that contains a detergent (even a naturally derived one) is bad for your hair. It causes a chain reaction — meaning you need a conditioner, sometimes a mask, a leave-in and various styling products. It’s like overcooking pasta and trying to cover it up with sauce. I don’t think stylists really understand, for the most part, or know how bad it is because it’s been going on for a hundred years. As I said, any shampoo that contains a detergent regardless of the price is bad. All the marketing claims covering the bottle of its ingredients are smoke and mirrors.


Image: Courtesy of Hairstory

tFS: Given your background as the founder of Bumble and bumble with its cult line that includes a large number of shampoos, what made you change your perspective on haircare products and opt for a pared down approach?

MG: After I left Bumble, I became exposed to a lot more books and films on the environment, notably An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore and Cradle to Cradle by William McDonough. What I realized was that we needed to create less waste. This led to the realization that nobody needs 15 shampoos and 15 conditioners that are all essentially the same. With that, the concept of a pared down and sophisticated line was born. The more I worked on it, thought about it and tested our original versions, I came to realize my whole concept of how hair should be treated needed to change.

tFS: What should people watch out for when they’re shopping for products? Any particular ingredients that are very important to avoid?

MG: For me, it all starts with sulfates, detergents and silicones and sodium lauryl sulfate in particular. Once you have overcleansed hair, it doesn’t matter what the other ingredients are, this is public enemy number one. In addition, it was imperative for me that our New Wash work on all and every hair type. It doesn’t strip out color nearly as quickly and over time, results in better and better hair. In fact, most people will be shocked at how amazing their hair has become.