Do You Use Shampoo Or Conditioner First?

Shampoo Or Conditioner First

Have you ever heard of ‘reverse washing’ and wondered if you were doing it wrong all the time? Well, the most common question people ask after stumbling upon the reverse hair washing technique is if shampoo or conditioner first?

The new recommendation of reverse washing by some hair experts has baffled everyone, and the discussion about it never seems to cease. Let’s take a look into it, understand what the function of shampoo and conditioner is, and give a thought to shampoo or conditioner first.

What Is The Function Of Shampoo And Conditioner?

shampoo and conditioner


Shampoo is a hair care product that consists of cleansing agents (detergents and surfactants). Coming in liquid or gel-like substance, it is used to clean hair and scalp. As a shampoo comes in contact with water, it forms a lather when applied to hair. 

The major function of shampoo is to remove oil, sweat, dirt, impurities, product buildup, and other pollutants from hair and scalp. Besides, some shampoos are made to address other issues by adding hydration, volume, shine, etc to hair. 


On the other hand, conditioners are designed to make hair manageable. They consist of natural oils, botanical extracts, and components that make hair healthy. Conditioners can improve hair texture and overall health by making them soft, silky, shiny, and smooth.

Typically, conditioners leave a coating on the hair shafts once applied after shampooing to provide them a protective barrier against damage. 

How Does Conditioning After Shampooing Help?

conditioning after shampooing help

Generally, a shampoo is a concoction of detergents that include different chemicals. Usually, they are safe for hair and scalp; however, the chemicals can leave hair dry, rough, and frizzy, making them unmanageable. 

As one uses conditioner after shampooing, the natural oils present in it bring back the lost moisture, rebounding them from dry to well-nourished. Thus, conditioning after shampooing is one of the safest ways to maintain hair health and keep it glossy and smooth. 

However, as new washing techniques like reverse washing, wherein conditioner is used before shampooing, and co-washing, wherein shampoo is skipped altogether, have surfaced, people are getting confused. 

So, what method should be adopted now? 

What Comes First Shampoo Or Conditioner?

There is no denying that dirt, pollution, oil, and other debris keep accumulating on the scalp and hair, making them greasy and dirty over time. In such a situation, shampooing hair is the only way to get rid of all the accumulated impurities. Later, conditioner can be applied to lock in the hydration and make hair well-nourished.

However, if you feel the hair is not dirty yet, there is a need to wash it as you are heading for an outing or party; using a conditioner alone may help so, once in a while, conditioner before shampoo can be applied. 

What Is The Right Way To Use Shampoo And Conditioner?

A- Shampoo before Conditioner 

The traditional way of washing and cleaning the hair involves using shampoo before conditioner. Here’s how you can use shampoo-

  1. Damp your hair with slightly warm water.
  2. Take a small amount of shampoo in the palm and put a few drops of water. Rub hands to form a lather.
  3. Apply it to the scalp and massage gently.
  4. Now work towards hair and apply the same lather on them.
  5. Once hair and scalp get lather, rinse thoroughly.

If the hair still feels greasy and dirty, repeat the process. Now, it is the time to apply conditioner. 

  1. Take a small amount of conditioner in the palm and apply it to the length of your hair.
  2. Conditioner should be applied only on the hair and not the scalp. 
  3. Leave the conditioner on the hair for at least 3-4 minutes and then rinse thoroughly.

If you clean your hair regularly using a gentle or mild shampoo and conditioner based on your hair type, the hair will stay clean and healthy. 

B- Conditioner Before Shampoo

Even though there is hype about using conditioner before shampoo, no scientific evidence suggests the same. It is mainly because washing hair in such a way will not fulfill the function of these two products. Reverse hair washing is only a fad that people are accustomed to. 

If you use shampoo later, the hair will get dry and brittle due to the chemicals present in it. The purpose of conditioner, which is meant to provide moisture to dry hair, won’t be fulfilled as it has already been used. 

However, using conditioner before shampoo won’t harm hair in any other way, and it can be done in the following steps:

  1. Damp your hair and apply a small amount of conditioner. 
  2. Let it stay for at least 3-4 minutes.
  3. Now apply shampoo on the scalp and hair and massage gently.
  4. Wash out conditioner and shampoo at the same time. 

People who advocate conditioner before shampoo support it with the following facts-

  • It helps in even distribution of shampoo
  • The natural oils of conditioner do not let the hair become dry
  • The conditioner works like a primer before washing 

Conditions For Using Conditioner Before Shampoo

According to hair experts, people with normal hair or those with slightly dry and damaged hair can try reverse washing (conditioner before shampoo). 

However, if you often stay out for work and encounter dirt and pollution, a normal hair-washing technique (shampoo before conditioner) is recommended. 

At the same time, for people who have extremely dry and brittle hair that is prone to damage and breakage, co-washing (skipping shampoo and using only conditioner) is advised. 

People with coarse hair can go for a three-step washing method (condition-shampoo-condition) as such hair is prone to losing moisture very quickly. 


Shampoo and conditioner have different roles. While the former is made to cleanse the scalp by removing the dirt, oil, and impurities from the hair and scalp, the latter retains the moisture and keeps hair nourished. 

Since there is no scientific proof supporting the reverse washing technique, it is better to avoid it. However, in the case of highly porous, dry, and brittle hair, co-washing or skipping shampoo once in a while is recommended to retain hair sanity. 

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