Does Conditioner Before Shampoo Give You Perfect Hair?


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 its 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 who was 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, albeit slightly lazy (okay, very lazy), I decided to put the no-extra-effort-required tip to the test.

For my tools, I reached for Davines Love Shampoo ($25) and Conditioner ($25), a lavender-hued set that smells divine and is formulated to smooth coarse or frizzy hair. Yes, I realize the tip was recommended for fine-haired women, but Dimachki also said it would work for “hair that is highlighted, tangles easily after shampooing, or is prone to greasiness”—all things that describe my hair. As I conditioned and then shampooed my strands, I pondered the unexpected nature of life and smiled wistfully at the realization that even the most ingrained rituals and teachings can be learned anew. (Kidding—I sang "Hotline Bling" and then wondered briefly if Lindsay Lohan ever made a second album.)

After showering, I (gently) squeezed my wet strands with a microfiber towel like the good beauty editor I am, and allowed my hair to air dry, eagerly awaiting the results. (I opted not to apply my beloved Reverie Milk ($42), so as to remove excess variables from the experiment—my AP Chem teacher would be so proud. Or is that a math 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, and then undoing it. Nope, still super fluffy. I came to the realization that I probably should have conditioned, then shampooed, then conditioned again, per Dimanchki’s follow-up instructions for those with rough strands, but I also realized that even if I had known, chances are not likely that I’d want to do three steps on a normal basis. (Like I said—I'm lazy, and I have episodes of Jessica Jones to watch).

To get a hairstylist’s perspective, I emailed one my favorites: 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 beseeched him for his take and whether or not he’s ever heard of the method, thinking that if I had done something wrong, he could tell me the answer to all life’s problems. His answer was short: “Typically, I would say no [to this], because if you're shampooing after conditioner, you’ve essentially just reopened 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 realize 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!