Will Washing Your Hair With Conditioner Work?
However, this idea is not new. Clarence Robbins, a well known expert on the science of hair, wrote about the damaging potential of shampoo in his book, Chemical and Physical Behavior of Human Hair, in 1979.
But, there’s an even newer method that’s gaining popularity: washing hair with conditioner. But does it work? Yes…sort of. Conditioners do contain ingredients that have the potential to cleanse hair because of their detergent-like qualities, meaning when combined with water, they can help rinse away dirt and bacteria.
However, these ingredients, which are called cationic surfactants, are positively charged and are therefore attracted to the negative charge carried by the protein in your hair. This means they are more likely to stick to your hair, rather than rinse away. Translation: Conditioner probably won’t rinse gunk out of your hair nearly as well as shampoo, but it might leave your hair feeling nice.
Even knowing this I still had my doubts. I anticipated that my hair wouldn’t feel as clean as it does after my normal regimen, but I was wrong. After washing with conditioner, my hair looks and feels clean, soft, and smooth. I also expected that the conditioner would weigh my hair down, but my locks still had plenty of body and volume.
Interested in trying it out yourself? Here’s how:
1. Pick a no-frills conditioner.
Inexpensive conditioners make better cleansers because they lack the softening ingredients that are packed into costly conditioners. They also typically contain more of those conditioning ingredients that can have cleansing potential.
2. Be prepared to scrub for a while.
After you soak your hair in the shower, put a big pile of the conditioner on the top of your head and start scrubbing it in. Since it won’t create any lather, you really have to work at rubbing the conditioner into your hair. Focus on the roots and hairline where hair tends to be the greasiest. After scrubbing, I applied more conditioner and piled my hair at the top of my head for the rest of my shower.
3. Rinse the conditioner out completely.
For an extra boost, I then applied my regular fancier conditioner to the ends of my hair, and rinsed that out.
A Word of Warning
This trend is not recommended for anyone with very oily or greasy hair, or if you haven’t washed your hair in a few days. Also, if you start using this method, I’d alternate with shampoo every once in awhile for a more stringent cleaning.
Kate is the founder of Learn and Grow Books, which is a website for parents and teachers of pre-K children.