Proper Shampoo and Hair Care Methods

Submitted by Jon Snyder

This month’s tip focuses on the correct way to shampoo hair.  The importance of doing a thorough job of shampooing cannot be exaggerated; if a poor job has been done, it will show, and, possibly, the hair will smell when a curling iron contacts oil in the hair.  The person who must style the hair afterward will have a very difficult time, as the hair will not style properly.

 In order to always do this task well, start by keeping in mind, “once is not always enough.”  Commit to washing the hair several times, if necessary, to achieve complete cleanliness.
Tangles are quite often a big problem.  To help deal with them, apply a good conditioner or detangler at the beginning of the embalming process, and brush through hair.  (One such product that can be highly recommended is Joico’s Lite Instant Detangler and Conditioner, available at salons and beauty supplies that sell and use Joico products.)  Leave this conditioner on and allow it to soak into the hair during the entire embalming process.  When it is time to shampoo, you can further avoid tangles by not washing the hair with the usual “scrubbing” motion most people use to wash hair.  Instead, wet the hair and apply shampoo, then brush the shampoo thoroughly through the hair, as you did when applying the conditioner.  This is the main point of this month’s tip – BRUSH the hair.  This prevents most problems and ensures cleaner hair.  Rinse the hair, brushing as you rinse.  Repeat as needed.   

Long hair can pose special problems.  To prepare to wash long hair, move the decedent to the end of the table so that the hair can hang over the edge.  Put a trashcan or viscera bucket on the floor beneath the hair.  Wet hair, apply shampoo and brush through.  Rinse the hair into the trashcan or bucket, brushing the hair during the rinsing process to avoid tangles.  Repeat as needed. 

If a case has cradle cap, use some of Dodge Chemical Company’s Dry Wash to remove it.  Brush the Dry Wash into the hair, starting with a small amount, and using more as needed, until the cradle cap is removed.  Dry Wash will cause oiliness in the hair, however, so the hair will need to be washed several times afterward.   If you do not have Dry Wash, dry (powder) laundry detergent may be used instead; brush the powder gently through the hair to remove the cradle cap.  Shampoo as needed.   

A very useful final step is to use a 50/50 solution of water and white vinegar to rinse the hair.  This makes the hair manageable and finishes cleaning the hair, leaving it “squeaky clean.”  It also removes any shampoo film or hard water minerals and leaves a nice sheen.  

When you are finished embalming, it is important to wash the hair one final time to ensure absolute cleanliness.  In all cases, always remember to lift the head and be certain that the nape of the neck is very clean and completely drainage free.

I feel that this is an opportune time to mention a matter of extreme importance that is related to this month’s subject.  It is this – DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, CUT THE HAIR, NO MATTER HOW TANGLED OR MATTED, UNLESS YOU HAVE A SIGNED AUTHORIZATION FROM THE FAMILY OR MORTUARY TO DO SO!!  To do otherwise is to invite a lawsuit, plain and simple.  As you now know, there are other ways to deal with tangled or matted hair.     

Hair care issues are a common problem, but these simple changes in the hair cleansing routine can make all the difference.  Try them, and let us know what you think!


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