New beauty routines and practices are constantly popping up on social media and through innovations in the beauty space. But there are staple beauty and hygiene routines 一 like washing our hair 一 that we’ve known from a young age. For many, those daily practices rarely or never shift.
Arguably the most common way to wash hair is by sudsing up with shampoo then moving onto conditioner. But have you ever considered using conditioner before shampoo? Sometimes referred to as the reverse hair washing method, this order of application can actually have many benefits for your hair if done properly.
If you’re ready to try this hair washing method, check out why it might be particularly beneficial for you if you have fine hair and how you can put it to the test in your own hair care routine.
Why Use Conditioner Before Shampoo?
To understand the rationale behind conditioning before applying shampoo, it’s important to remember their basic functions. Shampoo is used to cleanse the scalp and roots (and subsequently the hair) of things like excess oil, product buildup, and dead skin cells.
Conditioner, on the other hand, is meant to smooth the strands and seal in moisture. It should be applied directly to the lengths and ends of the hair — not the scalp. However, for people with fine or oily hair, conditioner can weigh down the hair and contribute to greasiness, which is counterproductive.
By reversing the traditional order and starting with conditioner, your strands will get the hydration and nourishment they need from conditioner, but won’t be left feeling weighed down and oily. You’ll shampoo the hair after working in the conditioner and let it sit for a few minutes (don’t rinse the conditioner before applying shampoo), and this will prevent the conditioner from being too rich on fine hair.
“This method has become a popular technique due to it being gentle on the hair while improving hair health,” says Jonathan Colombini, celebrity hairstylist and creative director of style and color at L’Oréal Paris. “Everyone’s hair care routine is different. However, in my opinion, all hair types and textures can benefit from reverse washing.”
Colombini also explains that conditioners coat the hair shaft and protect against harsh chemicals and pollution. So applying conditioner first can act in the same way, protecting the hair against chemicals in shampoos, making it harder for shampoos to penetrate. This can help persevere moisture, natural oils and even hair color.
This makes the technique particularly beneficial for someone with frizzy hair. Since shampooing can cause the hair to appear frizzy as it strips the hair of natural oils that give it a smooth appearance, coating in conditioner first means less stripping, and in turn less frizz. Apply a smoothing serum like the L’Oréal Paris Elvive Dream Lengths Frizz Killer Serum Leave-In after washing and you can keep those excess flyaways in check long-term.
Can You Use Any Conditioner Before Shampoo?
While there are plenty of options for using conditioner before shampoo, you shouldn’t reach for just any shampoo and conditioner combo to try the reverse washing method. Some conditioners are simply too heavy for this process.
As a rule of thumb, it’s best to follow the instructions found on the back of your shampoo and conditioner bottles. If it says to shampoo first, the product was specifically formulated to give the best results that way. If you’re looking to use the reverse washing method, it’s best to seek out formulas that are intended for this process.
Co-Washing Vs. Reverse Washing: What’s the Difference?
If you think that reverse washing sounds a lot like co-washing, you’re not wrong. Co-washing is the process of washing your hair with conditioner or a specially formulated cleansing conditioner. This hair washing method can be beneficial for people with extremely dry hair and scalps, as traditional shampoo can contribute to dryness.
The difference between co-washing and reverse washing is that co-washing cleanses the hair with one product that covers both steps — reverse washing is still a two-step process that simply reverses the traditional order of shampoo and conditioner. Both methods can be great for people who find shampoo to be too stripping.
If you have dry or dehydrated hair but you prefer to stick with the traditional order of shampoo and conditioner, try using a hydrating cleansing system like the L’Oréal Paris Elvive Hyaluron + Plump Hydrating Shampoo and L’Oréal Paris Elvive Hyaluron + Plump Hydrating Conditioner. This duo is formulated with hyaluronic acid to instantly hydrate and replump hair, giving it a boost of moisture without weighing it down.
Edited by: Shalwah Evans, Photography: Chaunte Vaughn, Senior Art Director: Melissa San Vicente-Landestoy, Associate Creative Producer: Becca Solovay, Makeup Artist: Jonet Williamson, Hair Stylist: Akihisa Yamaguchi, Wardrobe Stylist: Adriana Perez-Bell, Digital Tech: Paul Yem, Model: Chelsea Vaughn
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