Lets Talk About Shampoo As We Help You To Learn English Conversation Ep 364

A photograph of a hairdresser washes customer hair in basin. An English conversation about SLS in shampoo.

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💬 2437 words ▪️ ⏳ Reading Time 13 min

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A Learn English Conversation About Shampoo

If you’ve listened to Adept English before, you know that we try to make our English lessons interesting. And today, as we help you learn English conversation skills, we talk about hair. Yes, the hair we all have on our heads and if you care about how your hair looks, it’s going to be useful information that could change the way you wash your hair forever.

So today we talk about SLS free shampoo, if you love your hair and want to look after it, then this podcast could change the way you look after your hair for life. I know I’ve changed the way I wash and care for my hair, and it’s made a massive difference to a lifelong problem of frizz!

Some of the worst mistakes in my life were haircuts.
⭐ Jim Morrison, Singer

As usual, even if you don’t have any hair, this podcast will be useful to your English language learning. Like our other English conversation lessons, there is a lot more going on in this lesson in learning English fluency. You can learn more about the Adept English, listen and learn approach, to learning to acquire a new language here.

We’ve had lots of people comment on our podcasts on YouTube recently. If you have something to say about this podcast or your hair and shampoo, please join us on our YouTube channel, we’d love to hear from you.

Most Unusual Words:


Most common 3 word phrases:

Sodium Laureth Sulphate5
Once A Week3
On The List3
Comes From The3
A Short Cut3

Listen To The Audio Lesson Now

The mp3 audio and pdf transcript for this lesson is now part of the Adept English back catalogue . You can still download and listen to this lesson as part of one of our podcast bundles.

Transcript: Lets Talk About Shampoo As We Help You To Learn English Conversation

Hi and welcome to this latest podcast from Adept English, helping you to learn English. Conversations in English are easier if you listen to Adept English to help your fluency. How to learn English through real conversation? Our podcasts are the next best thing to living in an English speaking country.

In this podcast, you’ll hear the word ‘hair’, H-A-I-R used in the singular. Many languages use a plural here – and they talk about ‘your hairs’. Listening to this podcast will help you become familiar with how English tends to use the singular noun, to talk about ‘the hair on our head’. It’s a common error of English language learners that you don’t need to make when you’ve listened to this!

What does ‘life hack’ mean?

One of the subject areas that I research online for my own interest falls under the category of ‘life hacks’. This is a relatively new phrase in English, but you find it online all the time. Life, L-I-F-E is of course the noun that comes from the verb ‘to live’ – ‘you live your life’. And ‘hack’, H-A-C-K is here being used as a noun, but it actually comes from the verb ‘to hack’, again H-A-C-K. This word comes from the world of computing originally. If you ‘hack’ a computer system, it means that you go around its security, you access the system without permission.

In a sense you’re taking ‘a short cut’, you’re going into the system without permission, you’re not ‘going through security’. If you’re working with a computer system, so you are authorised, you might also use the work ‘hack’ to mean a quick fix, something that gets around an IT problem, but it’s a short cut, a short way to do it – it’s not the proper way, not an official solution.

A ‘quick fix’, it is. And it’s this meaning which has given rise to the term ‘life hack’. So a ‘life hack’ is a useful piece of information, which will enable you to take a short cut in life, know something which isn’t necessarily known by most people and which will help you in some way.

There’s so much information available to us online, that often there are ‘life hacks’ which are quick or better ways of doing things – especially around health and wellness – which may not be the ‘official line’, they may not be the standard advice. So those things interest me!


What’s in your shampoo?

The ‘life hack’ that I’m talking about today is not medical as such. It’s about your shampoo. ‘Shampoo’, S-H-A-M-P-O-O is a word which I think is the same in many languages. The word ‘shampoo’ comes from Hindi (शैम्पू) – see the transcript for the word in Hindi. And shampoo is what you use to wash your hair. It usually comes in a plastic bottle – and it’s scented and coloured – and comes with a whole long description of the benefits to your hair of the particular shampoo, lots of ingredients which sound natural and lovely!

However, if you look on the list of ingredients for most bottles of shampoo, you’ll find they’re very similar. An ‘ingredient’, I-N-G-R-E-D-I-E-N-T is something you put into a mix, so for example if you were making bread, your ingredients would be flour, yeast, water salt – and possibly olive oil. So the first ingredient on the list for shampoo is usually water or ‘aqua’.

Second on the list however is usually Sodium Laureth Sulphate – where ‘sulphate’ can be spelt ‘S-U-L-P-H-A-T-E’ in UK English or ‘S-U-L-F-A-T-E’ if it’s an American spelling. An alternative is a slightly different chemical, Sodium Lauryl Sulphate – but basically the same thing. This makes up typically between 10 and 25% of your shampoo, so it’s quite a lot. This isn’t the ingredient that they list on the front of the bottle. No, it’s in small letters, on the back of the bottle!

Lather and bubbles from your shampoo?

And this ingredient, Sodium Laureth Sulphate is called a ‘surfactant’, S-U-R-F-A-C-T-A-N-T – that’s probably not a word you’ll need often, unless maybe you’re a chemist. But a ‘surfactant’ is a really strong cleaning chemical. You’ll find surfactants in your floor cleaner, the stuff you use to wash your car. It’s in washing up liquid - in fact surfactants are used wherever there is grease or oil which needs to be removed to clean something.


A photograph of a Teenage girl washing a car. Used to help explain surfactants in this learn English conversation.

©️ Adept English 2020

So surfactants are used to clean engine oil from engines! Now surfactants work well, for an engine or for your greasy dishes after a meal. But on your hair, Sodium Laureth Sulphate or SLS is used mainly because it’s cheap, it doesn’t cost very much, so of course, shampoo makers like it.

And SLS is used also because it makes good ‘lather’. ‘Lather’, L-A-T-H-E-R means the white froth, the bubbles that come when you rub shampoo into your hair. And we like to see lots of ‘lather’ with our shampoo – so that we feel that it’s doing a good job and our hair is really clean afterwards. 95% of shampoo sold uses SLS.

Recommending Course One Activate Your Listening

I’m just pausing there to remind you about our courses. If you want a Conversational English Course, then have a look at our Course One Activate Your Listening. This is a course which includes English conversations, between two people – with the vocabulary explained afterwards, just as I do in the podcasts. It has articles, rather like podcasts which cover common groups of words, common vocabulary for areas of life that you’ll need the English for.

Boost Your Learning With Adept English

We cover geography and information about the UK, food and education in this course. Have a look at the courses page on our website at adeptenglish.com for more information on Course One Activate Your Listening.

The downside of the average shampoo

Back to shampoo. The trouble is that SLS or Sodium Laureth Sulphate is used for reasons of cheapness and ‘bubblyness’, froth, lather alone – it’s not used because it’s good for your hair! And actually SLS is not particularly good for your hair. It’s a very strong chemical and it can actually take too much oil from your hair. It dries your hair out, particularly if you use a hair dye – that means you colour your hair. So most women over a certain age – and some men, put colour, put a hair dye on their hair to cover up grey. So hair that is dyed is particularly vulnerable to damage from SLS shampoo. Think of it as similar to using washing up liquid to wash your hair! You probably wouldn’t do that.

A personal experiment

So I heard about this and thought that I would try an experiment with it. My hair – and it’s the same for other members of my family – my hair can get frizzy, if the air is damp. ‘Frizzy’, ‘F-R-I-Z-Z-Y’ is an adjective and ‘frizz’, F-R-I-Z-Z is a noun, which describes hair which is the opposite of smooth or sleek. Frizzy hair is what most of us don’t want – and there are 100s of hair products that have been have been invented to work against ‘frizz’.

So I just thought that having ‘frizzy’ hair if I go out in damp weather is normal. You end up ‘hiding indoors’, or using a hood or an umbrella and hoping for the best. So I decided to experiment. For around a year now, I’ve washed my hair weekly with normal shampoo, containing SLS, but only once a week! I didn’t think it would make much difference. But now, there’s around 6 inches of hair grown since I started this experiment – that’s about 15cm if you’re metric. And this hair is shinier, thicker, darker, more of it – and guess what? It doesn’t frizz when I go out in damp air. But the hair below this line goes super-frizzy, if the weather is damp! It’s all over the place and it does its own thing.

So for me, this feels like a good outcome, perhaps some proof of the theory about SLS shampoo drying your hair out too much!

Now you may say to me that it’s not just the shampooing that makes the difference – it’s not very scientific. If I do a blow-dry – that means I dry my hair with a hairdryer, this also may dry it out – so that reducing that to once a week may have made the difference. True – but I do blow dry my hair in between washing to straighten it. So I’ve haven’t actually reduced the blow-drying – I’ve only reduced my use of shampoo. So it’s a bit more of what you might call ‘a controlled experiment’.

What I’ve also discovered recently, is that I can buy shampoo without SLS, so that I don’t use it on my hair at all, even once a week. So I’ve started doing that and I’m hoping for another line on my hair – where I can see the difference in the quality of the hair.

Download The Podcast Audio & Transcript

You can find SLS free shampoo and it doesn’t have to cost the earth!

SLS free shampoo – so that’s shampoo without Sodium Laureth Sulphate – can be quite expensive. But if you shop around online, you can find it for just slightly more money than normal shampoo. The effect of SLS on dyed hair, dry hair or afro hair can be particularly damaging – so it may be worth researching yourself. There’s even some suggestion online that using SLS shampoo could cause permanent hair loss - I’m not sure of the evidence for this, but that’s pretty serious, if it’s true.

If you’re not convinced to switch shampoo because of the effect on the condition of your hair, then maybe the fact that SLS is produced using palm oil, P-A-L-M oil – maybe that’ll persuade you to change. Why is palm oil bad? Well, you may know already – but I think that’s perhaps a whole different podcast! Learn English – conversations, fluency and vocabulary and English speaking – all of them are helped by Adept English.


Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.




The voice of Adeptenglish, loves English and wants to help people who want to speak English fluently.
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