What Is Micellar Shampoo—and Is It the Best Cleanser for Protective Styles?
By Kayla Greaves
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Like most Black girls, any time I book a flight, I book the braid appointment to match. The freedom of having my natural hair tucked away means I can basically get up and go—without having to think about styling, or needing to pack a full arsenal of products with me. The only essentials I’ll have to carry along are a good cleanser for protective styles, an oil, and, of course, some edge control. But believe it or not, while I had most of these packed in my luggage, I ended up discovering one of the best products for washing braids while visiting the South of France—and it was micellar shampoo.
When I first arrived at The Couvent des Minimes Hotel & L’Occitane Spa in Provence this past June, I was, of course, eager to slather on every single face and body product in my room. But when it came to hair care, I was hesitant and slightly skeptical, to say the least. As a Black woman, I’ve experienced my fair share of mishaps when it came to my curls—from using shampoos that would leave my strands feeling like hay, to applying styling products that didn’t even attempt to keep my hair in place. But here was my dilemma: after a long day of travel, I was sweaty, gross, and needed to wash my hair. However, while traveling, Air France misplaced my luggage.
Already frazzled, and with no French pharmacies near, I had no choice but to take a look through the product selection in the room. Then I saw it: L’Occcitane’s Aromachologie Gentle & Balance Micellar Shampoo. The elixir claimed to work for all hair types; and while that phrase typically makes me raise an eyebrow and perhaps even roll my eyes, I figured I could at least trust the formula’s lavender essential oil to work as aromatherapy—calming my lost bag anxiety.
Aromachologie Gentle & Balance Micellar Shampoo
I hopped into the shower, eager to wash the day away, and gave my scalp a good scrub. Once I was done, I stood under the rain showerhead for a few minutes to ensure everything was properly rinsed out, then wrapped my hair in a towel to help it dry. I came out of the bathroom not only feeling refreshed, but also left pleasantly surprised with how effective the shampoo was. Simply put, it was easily one of the best products for washing braids I had ever used.
Once I let my hair out, my scalp wasn’t left feeling itchy or dry, which is a common problem for me any time I have in a protective style. On top of that, my hair was soft, and there was no white residue or flakes left behind—the product washed out completely clean. I was floored, in the best way possible.
“Since our micellar shampoo is sulfate-free, it better preserves the hair’s natural oils,” explains Bianca Hutton, head of L’Occitane North America learning & development. “Shampoos that over-dry the hair by stripping it of natural oils, such as a traditional shampoo, disrupt the curl pattern in textured hair. And since our micellar shampoo is designed to gently clarify by effectively removing dirt, oil, and build-up, it is an ideal formula.” To top it off, the shampoo also contains gentle ingredients that help treat the scalp, making it perfect for cleansing protective styles. “Both orange peel and lavender essential oils, [as well as chamomile] help to soothe and relieve the feeling of irritation, while also calming sensitive skin to help reduce inflammation,” Hutton says.
Fast forward 24 hours, and my missing bag ended up being messengered directly to my room. When I finally opened it up, I was relieved to see that everything was just as I left it—including my former scalp cleanser. The only thing was, I didn’t have any real desire to use it again. In fact, since leaving Provence, I’ve had no reason to go back to any traditional shampoos—at least not while I had my braids in.
This chance discovery has left me dying to learn all about micellar shampoo’s secret sauce, and what makes it stand out as such a good cleanser for protective styles. So I spoke with Hutton, as well as Candace Witherspoon, natural hair expert and founder of the namesake salon in New York City, to find out more.
“Micellar shampoos are much more gentle than traditional shampoos,” Witherspoon shares. “If your hair tends to get dry easily, this may be the best option.” It’s also ideal for those who may also have a sensitive scalp, or need color protection but still require a clarifying formula. “[Since it’s not harsh] it may also extend the vibrancy of color-treated hair more effectively than traditional clarifying shampoos,” says Hutton.
According to Witherspoon, micellar shampoos have the ability to effectively cleanse the hair and scalp, while removing the inevitable protective style build-up—all without stripping the hair of its natural oils. That’s why the scalp is left feeling refreshed, but not dry, and hair is still soft.
Also, since micellar shampoos aren’t as thick as traditional formulas, there won’t be any remnants left behind. “When washing hair in a protective style, your strands can hold on to a lot of residue because of some of the detergents found in traditional shampoos,” the hairstylist explains.
Depending on the style you have, Witherspoon recommends pouring the shampoo into a bottle with a pointed nozzle to ensure you’re able to target the scalp. She also adds that you can add some water to thin out the formula, if you desire. When you’re ready to start cleansing, apply the product in-between parts, then use the pads of your fingers to gently massage into the scalp. After a few minutes, rinse the hair out well with warm water and style as desired.
In terms of how many times you should wash your protective style, there’s no definite answer. It all depends on your hair type, the condition of your scalp, and the braids or twists you have in. But the good news is, micellar shampoo is gentle enough to use as little or as frequently as you need. “It’s important to remember that micellar shampoos are designed to be versatile,” says Hutton. “They can be used as a part of a daily hair cleansing routine, or can substitute a preferred shampoo to be used as a clarifying treatment once or twice a week.”
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