Hair & Beauty

Should I Be Conditioning My Hair Before Shampooing?

By Anna May
19th Oct 2016

Shout out to all of my flat, fine, or greasy-haired ladies. I’ve tried it all… And if you’ve entered the realms of Pinterest or any beauty blog lately, there’s a good chance you’ve stumbled across the reverse washing thing. 

But what? I hear you say. It’s pretty simple, the idea is that using conditioner BEFORE shampoo takes the weight out of your hair and leaves you with fresher, more voluminous hair that looks way more like you’ve just stepped out of the salon after a blow dry. Sounds logical, and since my hair is quite often greasier than the brown paper bag a sausage roll comes in, I thought I’d give it a stab. 

I mean, it sounds logical, right? If you’re a little heavy handed with conditioner, it can weigh your hair down and leave it looking dull, but too little and you’ve got a bird’s nest on your hands, and in your hair brush. For the sake of my hair, I’ll try anything once. And try I did.

Of course, we need a professional to weigh in here. I asked my friend and celebrity hairstylist, Frankie Endersbee, for her opinion on the ol’ reverse wash. Before you raise your left eyebrow and ask me if you can trust her, you should know she worked on Kanye’s Yeezy fashion show at NYFW, directed the hair for The Face Australia, and is the go-to hair stylist for the MAC Cosmetics team on The Voice Australia. She knows her shit. But more on that later. 

And because I have harbored a deep love for science ever since I dyed flowers in my year 8 science project, I know we need to get serious with these experiments. For control, I used the same shampoo and conditioner combo the whole way through (Kerastase Cristalliste), and didn’t use any styling products, just a quick blow dry. See? Science whizz. Because my hair is fine-as-hell anyway, I generally only use conditioner in the ends, and a twenty cent piece amount because that’s how my mumma raised me. 

Then I did the damn thing. I’m sure you all get the idea, but just in case, it goes a little something like this:

The Steps

Step 1: Get in shower
Step 2: Wet hair
Step 3: Apply conditioner to ends and leave for a minute or two (during this time I like to think about things like how the floor is really the largest shelf in my house, but each to their own).
Step 4: Rinse
Step 5: Shampoo, and repeat if necessary. I always repeat. 

I’m not going to teach you how to shower in general, because I’m hoping you know by now (side eye emoji).

From here, it’s a quick blow dry and a whole lot of eyebrow raising at whether there was a difference in my hair. Spoiler alert: nup. But it was the first day, so onward and upwards and all that.

Attempt two: High pitched nup. Mostly because I am confused about what my hair usually looks like. My boyfriend shrugs, tells me it’s exactly the same, and asks where his grey T-shirt is. Which bloody one, mate?

I think it’s important to note that between washes two and three, my hair was rather unmanageable. Considering I have quite happy hair and rarely need more than a quick Tangle Teeze, this was a nightmare. It just didn’t feel as soft or healthy, more waxy and the colour was definitely more dull. 

So, wash three: Big, fat nup. There was literally no difference to my hair apart from the way it felt. And like a second helping of nuggets after your two cheeseburgers, it didn’t feel good. 

Because I wanted to test ooonee more thing, I did a fourth try using a cheap-ish supermarket shampoo. One that people always tell you not to use because it has silicone in it. Firm, resounding hell to the no. Seriously, do not try this. My scalp was so dry, so itchy, and my hair felt like a cheap-ass wig after. Shudder. 

Does It Actually Work?

So, in my humble opinion, this is a waste of time and precious conditioner. But let’s check with the expert because while I may be many things, I’m not a nationally renowned expert like Frankie. Her response? “Nah”. 

Of course, her reasons are a lot more valid than that. Then she got all professional on my ass. “First and foremost, you should always shampoo your hair twice: once to lift dirt and product, and once to actually clean the hair. You’ll notice the second shampoo foams up a lot more because there is less dirt and oil to stick to. Conditioner, on the other hand, is designed to close the cuticle of the hair and protect against heat, pollution, excess dirt, and oils. If you close the cuticle before you shampoo, the shampoo won’t be able to do its job properly, the conditioner will be washed away, and your cuticle will be left open to collect more dirt. All in all, it’s a big waste of product.” Frankie has spoken. 

Here’s What You Should Actually Do

“What’s the solution, then?” I asked. “If the goal is to have less build up on your hair, then I recommend using a very light, volumising conditioner on your ends.” Sounds pretty simple.

Bonus Tip

If you want to close off the cuticle even more, simply do a cold water rinse at the end of your shower. I tried this and it absolutely works, even though it makes a shower at least four times less pleasant. My hair was definitely more shiny and voluminous after this ol’ trick. 

The Verdict

‘Sup to you, really. Perhaps it will work on thicker hair, but I don’t recommend it to my greasy-haired sisters. After a week of reverse shampooing, I can’t say I noticed too much difference. The cold water trick is the winner. 

If you're not sure what to do with your hair once it's clean, check this out

Image credit: Esteban Rivera

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