Does Conditioner Before Shampoo Give You Perfect Hair?

Faith Xue
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Beau Grealy for Sunday Style

Pinterest is overflowing with beauty tips—some good, some bad, and some just…no (see: kitty litter as face exfoliator). Thus, when I stumbled upon a pin from Refinery29 that led me to a story on their page about the merits of using conditioner before shampoo, I was intrigued. What was this fabled hair-washing method I had never heard of? Was it worth trying? Would it turn my dry, desperately-in-need-of-a-trim hair into spun gold? (Probably not, but one can dream.) According to Nina Dimachki, the artistic director for Kérastase and the expert quoted in the piece, applying conditioner before shampoo adds nourishment to fine hair without weighing it down; it’s also supposed to promote a longer-lasting blow-dry and “prime” the hair for cleansing. Ever the intrepid beauty editor veering onto slightly lazy (ok, very lazy), I decided to put the no-extra-effort-required tip to the test.

For my tools, I reached for Davines’ Love Smoothing Shampoo ($32) and Conditioner ($60), a lavender-hued set which smell divine and are formulated to smooth coarse or frizzy hair. Yes, I realised the tip was recommended for fine-haired women, but Dimanchki also said it would work for “hair that is highlighted, tangles easily after shampooing, or is prone to greasiness”—all things that describe my own. As I conditioned then shampooed my strands, I pondered deeply about the unexpected nature of life, and smiled wistfully at the realisation that even the most ingrained rituals and teachings can be learned anew (kidding—I sang Hotline Bling then wondered briefly if Lindsay Lohan ever made a second album). After showering, I (gently) squeezed my wet strands with a microfibre towel like the good beauty editor I am, then allowed my hair to air-dry, eagerly awaiting the results. (I opted not to apply my beloved Reverie Milk ($64) as to remove excess variables from the experiment—my Chem teacher would be so proud. Or is it a maths thing?) As each minute ticked by, my alarm grew. The ends of my hair were looking especially dry, and the size of my mane seemed to be ballooning—if volume was what this tip promised, it certainly delivered…and then some. After my hair was completely dry, I was looking at a head of hair that had reached new heights—literally. To try and tame my now-huge strands, I employed my lazy-girl tactic of braiding, letting it set for a few minutes, then undoing. Nope, still super fluffy. I came to the realisation that I probably should have conditioned, then shampooed, then conditioned again per Dimanchki’s follow-up instructions for those with rough strands, but also realised that even if I had known, chances are not likely I’d want to do three steps on a normal basis (like I said—lazy, and have episodes of Jessica Jones to watch).

To get a hairstylist’s perspective, I emailed one my favourites: Anh Co Tran, co-founder of Ramirez-Tran and possessor of the magic touch for perfectly lived-in waves (so much so that he’s trademarked the term). I beseechingly asked him for his take, and if he’s ever heard of or used the method, and if perhaps I had done something wrong, and if he could tell me the answer to all life’s problems please? His answer was short: “Typically, I would say no [to this] because if you're shampooing after conditioner, you’ve essentially just re-opened the cuticle and washed out any essentials you put in with conditioner. I've never tried this method, so this is just me logically thinking about it.”

My pulse rate slowed, and I regained normal breathing. I was not a crazy person after all. The world made sense again. Lindsay Lohan might even one day make a second album (here’s hoping). I do realise my own personal experience far differs from most (the comments on Refinery 29’s post are overwhelmingly positive, which is awesome), and someone with fine hair might (most likely will) have a totally different feeling after trying this method. In the meantime, I'll stick to my normal shampoo-conditioner routine, suggest the trick to my finer-haired friends, and go back to Pinning my life away.

Since we're on the topic, shop some Byrdie-approved conditioners below! 

Head on over to Refinery29to read the full story. Have you ever tried conditioner before shampoo? Tell me your experience below!

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