Shampoo is a cleansing agent. It contains ingredients called surfactants and detergents that help remove oil, sweat, dirt, product buildup, and environmental pollutants from your hair.
Conditioners, on the other hand, contain natural oils, proteins, and botanical extracts that help keep hair soft, shiny, and smooth. They leave a thin film on your hair once rinsed to protect it.
Most people apply shampoo to their hair, scrub, and rinse before applying conditioner. Shampooing removes dirt and oil from the hair, but it can leave the hair rough, frizzy, and unmanageable. Using conditioner after cleansing with shampoo is thought to help this issue.
However, is shampooing before conditioning the only way to wash your hair?
A new way to wash hair called reverse shampooing or pre-wash conditioning proposes that you apply conditioner before applying shampoo. There’s also a new trend known as co-washing that skips the shampoo altogether.
So, which method is best? While the traditional shampoo-first routine is still necessary most of the time, depending on your hair type and preferences, you may find it beneficial to try another method every once in a while.
How to use shampoo and conditioner
The general recommendation is to use shampoo to cleanse the hair before conditioner. Follow these steps for best results:
- Completely saturate your hair with warm, not hot, water.
- Squirt a small amount of shampoo into the palm of your hand.
- Apply it to your scalp and massage until it lathers.
- Work the shampoo through your hair, but pay the most attention to the scalp.
- Rinse your hair and scalp completely.
- Squirt a small amount of conditioner into your hand.
- Massage it into the length of your hair, avoiding the scalp.
- Leave the conditioner in for about 3 minutes.
- Rinse your hair completely.
- After leaving the shower, gently blot a towel on your hair to remove moisture.
How often you wash and condition your hair is up to you. People with hair that’s prone to becoming oily may want to wash more frequently than people whose hair tends to be dry.
Regular cleansing with a mild shampoo won’t damage the hair. A mild shampoo contains gentler cleansing agents as well as added conditioning agents.
If your hair is oily or dirty, you should still use a stronger clarifying shampoo once a week.
Difference between shampoo and conditioner
The main difference between shampoos and conditioners is that shampoos contain cleansing agents (detergents and surfactants), while conditioners do not.
While conditioners don’t have any cleansing agents, certain types of shampoos (mild shampoos) also include conditioning agents similar to the ones seen in conditioners. These may be in the form of natural oils, silicones, or proteins.