Woman is taking shampoo on hand

Shampoo or Conditioner? Which Product Should You Use First on Your Hair? 

Even if you’re new to hygiene, you can probably tell just from scanning the hair care aisle at the store that there are two types of hair products: shampoo and conditioner. But something’s still bugging you—how are you supposed to know what order to use them in? It’s a question that boggles the mind. It feels so obvious you might be afraid to ask: “Do you use shampoo or conditioner first?” 

No need to worry. In this post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the topic. Read on to learn all about shampoo vs conditioner. 

Difference Between Shampoo and Conditioner

Girl is applying shampoo

What does shampoo do? Well, it’s a vital component of any hair care routine. It cleanses your hair and scalp by removing dirt, excess oil, and product build-up. Shampoo contains detergents that create a lather to lift impurities from your hair, allowing them to be rinsed away with water. The primary purpose of shampoo is to keep your hair clean, fresh, and healthy.

The benefits of shampoo don’t stop with scalp hygiene. It also enhances the effectiveness of other hair care products. For this reason, shampoo traditionally comes before conditioner, but we’ll touch on this more later on.

Conditioner is the yin to shampoo’s yang in your hair care regimen. While shampoo cleanses, conditioner adds moisture and a layer of protection to your hair. It contains ingredients like silicones, oils, and proteins that smooth the hair’s cuticle, making it softer and shinier. In addition to its moisturizing properties, conditioner also helps to detangle hair, reduce frizz, and prevent breakage.

To summarize, the main difference between the two is that shampoo cleanses, while conditioner moisturizes and smooths. 

Shampoo or Conditioner First? 

Girl is washing her hair

The question of whether shampoo or conditioner comes first is often a topic of confusion. Most recommend shampooing first, but it actually depends on your hair type and goals. Let’s explore the pros and cons of both approaches.

Option 1: Shampoo First 

Shampooing first ensures a thorough cleansing of your hair and scalp. This is particularly beneficial for those with oily scalps or a significant build-up of products. Shampoo is also able to penetrate deeper when it’s applied first. For this reason, shampooing first is a good method for volume. It helps with this by removing excess oils and build-up that weigh your hair down. Specific shampoos designed to treat scalp conditions like dandruff or lice should also be used first, as they require a deep cleanse.

Option 2: Conditioner First 

Woman is applying conditioner

Concerned about moisture retention? Applying conditioner before shampoo might be your best bet. Using conditioner firsts works like a shield against the potentially drying effects of shampoo. This approach is ideal for those with dry or damaged hair. If your hair is tangled, conditioner is also helpful for detangling. A dollop of conditioner beforehand makes your hair easier to manage during the shampooing process. Those with color-treated hair may also prefer conditioner first. Again, shampoo is both potentially drying and stripping, so using it after conditioner will help preserve the color.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, the decision of which to use first  should ultimately be based on your hair type and specific concerns. If you have an oily scalp, prefer more volume, or want a deep cleanse, shampoo first is your best choice. If you have dry or damaged hair, or you want to protect your hair color, applying conditioner before shampoo might be more suitable.

Tips for Best Results 

Woman is drying her hair with towel

Now that we’ve established different techniques, let’s get into how to use conditioner and shampoo. Here are a couple of general tips to keep in mind: 

  • Before you start washing your hair, wet it with warm water. This makes it easier to spread the product through your hair, and also allows you to lather the shampoo. 
  • Use the pads of your fingertips to gently scrub the shampoo into your scalp in circular motions. You should spend 2-3 minutes on shampooing. 
  • Once you get to the conditioner, Apply it to the mid-lengths and ends of your hair. These areas tend to be drier and in greater need of moisture.
  • Refrain from applying conditioner directly to your scalp, as it can make your hair appear greasy. The natural oils produced by your scalp are usually sufficient for this area.
  • Allow the conditioner to sit in your hair for a few minutes. This “soak time” ensures that it can penetrate and moisturize your hair effectively.

For more tips on everything hair care, check out Ninth Avenue’s blog!  Don’t forget to shop our online store for all the hair shampoo and conditioner brands you know and love.   

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