Shampoo or Conditioner First: Does the Order Matter?

If it’s a hair-washing day when you jump in the shower, it feels natural to grab your shampoo bottle before you reach for the conditioner. After all, it makes sense that we would want to cleanse our hair and then seal in hydration. 

When we shampoo our hair, the shampoo gently lifts the cuticle of our hair strands to remove dirt and oils on our scalp and hair. A lifted cuticle can equal tangled hair, especially if we have hair that is on the drier side. 

Most of us who go through the aging process will have dry hair to contend with at some point or another. This means that the use of conditioner is a requirement! Conditioner smooths down the cuticle of our hair strands, sealing in moisture. 

Now that we have covered how shampoo and conditioner work, this is where things get interesting. Could there be a positive effect of using conditioner before we shampoo our hair?

Much like most queries in the beauty world, whether or not we use shampoo before conditioner or vice versa does not have a one-size-fits-all answer. Today, Better Not Younger looks into who could benefit from using conditioner before shampoo and if the order of your hair wash regimen really matters.

What Happens if You Use Conditioner Before Shampoo?

Shampoo is a product used to cleanse hair and scalp. We all know it quite well! Shampoo can remove excess dirt, oils, and buildup on our scalp and hair using surfactants and detergent. The lathering effect of shampoo opens up the cuticle of our hair, allowing it to be cleansed before conditioning.

Once we shampoo our hair, we should always apply conditioner. Conditioner is a product that will moisturize and provide nourishment. Conditioning provides nutrients and hydration that may have been naturally lost or stripped away during the shampooing process. 

Conditioners don’t have any cleansing properties, but on the other hand, some shampoos may have mild conditioning elements. As we get older, a good rule of thumb is to gravitate towards products that are moisturizing — both shampoos and conditioners alike.

The idea of shampoo before conditioner is that shampoo will first clean your hair and remove dirt, debris, and excess oil. Once the shampoo has been lathered, massaged on the scalp, and rinsed, conditioner is applied. 

The conditioner will provide vitamins and oils to bring back moisture and body to the hair. Take note: conditioner should be applied only to the hair strands, as conditioner on the scalp can lead to buildup. Conditioner is washed out; hair should be blotted dry for best results.

Using conditioner before shampoo will have different results depending on the person. This variant is how your hair and scalp normally react to the traditional method of shampooing before applying conditioner. 

If your hair becomes greasy, oily, weighed down, or lacks volume, you may be up for a change. Try switching from shampooing and then conditioning to reversing the order: using your conditioner first. 

Using conditioner before a shampoo can be beneficial for aging hair. Aging hair is particularly dry and brittle, making it easily breakable and prone to split ends. That means during each shampoo, dry hair can become even drier if it isn’t properly hydrated during and after. 

This drying effect can be amplified when using products not designed to be gentle on aging hair. Adding conditioner on top of hair that has become dried out will not be able to fully rescue the damage done. Using products specialized to be gentle on aging hair is a key component in having healthier hair.

Are There Benefits To Reverse Washing Your Hair?

For those who find that the traditional order leaves their hair greasy and weighed down, reversing has many benefits. However, reversing the order to conditioner before shampoo should only be used about once a week. The typical method of shampooing should be used any other time you wash your hair during the week.

One of the biggest reasons to reverse the order to conditioner first for hair washing is to protect strands. Brittle and dry hair prone to breakage may be stripped of any natural oils that prevent it from worsening. Stripping the oils further by using shampoo can compromise the integrity of your hair. 

Using conditioner first can create a barrier around your hair strands. When shampoo is applied with this method, it will not take away the natural oil like it may have been before. Instead, you’re left with hair cleaned of dirt and debris while still being conditioned and nourished.

Conditioning first can also help shampoo become evenly distributed across your hair strands instead of localized to one spot. When you’ve showered using conditioner, you may notice that it takes a little bit of time to fully rinse out. 

Conditioners have properties that easily coat and distribute it throughout the hair. A little conditioner can go a long way when compared to shampoo! Shampoo tends to not spread out as easily and stays more localized. 

Using conditioner first can allow the shampoo to distribute evenly across all parts of the hair strands. This method primes your hair for more even cleaning.

How Do I Reverse Shampoo?

Reversing the order of shampoo and conditioner has some special considerations that separate this technique from the normal shampoo-first method. 

First, you’ll want to apply just enough conditioner to cover your hair strands, avoiding the scalp. Too much conditioner on the scalp can cause irritation and blockages in the hair follicle. This can inhibit hair growth and has the possibility of causing a rash. 

Next, apply the shampoo on top of the unrinsed conditioner and lather. Once lathering is complete, the final step is to rinse your hair as you normally would. If you need to dry your hair, it’s best to use a towel and blot it dry. It’s never a good idea to ring out your hair or to be rough with it!

Using a gentle shampoo and conditioner also means being gentle with your hair afterward as well. Remember that this method of conditioning first should not be an every-day or every-time approach. Instead, the conditioner-first method should be used as needed while still using the shampoo-first method about 90 percent of the time you wash your hair.

Best Shampoos and Conditioners for Shiny Hair

We recommend considering your hair type and needs before choosing the best shampoo and conditioner for you. Our personalized Hair Quiz can be a great place to start! 

Some of our favorites for shiny hair include our Full Transparency Collection. Our Full Transparency Pure Revitalizing Shampoo is fragrance-free and hypoallergenic. It is a gentle cleanser suitable for even the most sensitive scalps and it will add luster and liveliness to your locks. It’s made of naturally-derived ingredients, such as chia seed, yuzu, and green tea. 

Like its shampoo counterpart, Full Transparency Shine Revitalizing Conditioner is also fragrance-free and hypoallergenic. It’s a restorative conditioner that adds moisture and luster to aging hair without weighing it down. Our Full Transparency conditioner also includes some of the same natural-derived ingredients as the shampoo and also Rosemary oil and mongongo oil which are deeply nourishing. 

For damaged hair needing extra care, we have our Second Chance Repairing Shampoo and Conditioner. The Second Chance line will help revive even the most damaged hair strands.

This new formula can hydrate even better than before. Even hair that has been colored and treated can gently be restored back to a shiny and healthy state with this shampoo.

When you pair the Second Chance shampoo with the conditioner, you’ll get even more hair repair benefits — perfect for the conditioner-first method. Our Second Chance conditioner helps repair your hair, thanks to saw palmetto, green tea, and biotin. This conditioner will help you make your hair moisture-rich and shiny again.


The order of shampoo and then conditioner, or conditioner and then shampoo, makes a difference. Many people can reap the benefits of changing up their hair-washing routine by adding a night or two of conditioning first into their week. 


A Comment on the Science of Hair Aging | PMC

Shampoo and Conditioners | PMC

Aging of the Hair Follicle | Wiley Online Library

Hair Cosmetics: An Overview | PMC