When it comes to haircare, you likely have your rinse-and-repeat routine down pat—a deep-cleanse with shampoo, followed by a conditioner to moisturise and close down the cuticles. But if you have fine hair that gets limp and weighed down every time you condition it, you may want to flip the process. Reverse washing, according to the pros, could be the trick to more voluminous hair. Here’s how to do it.
What is reverse washing?
“When you shampoo first and then condition, along with the dirt, grease and sweat, the shampoo also washes away the natural sebum or oil in the hair. Most of us try to overcompensate by adding more conditioner afterwards but the result is dry, dull and limp hair,” says Dr Rinky Kapoor, consultant dermatologist, The Esthetic Clinics. Reverse hair washing, or conditioning your hair before your shampoo, will preserve the hair ends and nourish the hair cuticles, she says. Proponents of this method claim that the conditioner will act like a primer before washing, and protects the hair strand so that the shampoo doesn’t strip it of its natural oils.
“The logic is to let the conditioner soak in to protect hair and lock the moisture and natural oils. The surfactants in the shampoo rinse out the residues [that would normally be] left by the conditioner on your hair, which could be the reason behind its limp texture,” says Loic Chapoix, creative art director, Dessange Mumbai.
How can you reverse hair wash?
For the best results, wet your hair. Ensure that it is fully soaked, because putting conditioner on damp or dry hair makes it difficult to spread. Squeeze out a dollop of conditioner on your palm and apply it evenly, starting from the ends, working towards the mid-lengths. Avoid the roots and scalp. Leave it on for five to 20 minutes, and then wet the hair again. Apply the shampoo and suds up while the conditioner is still on. Then, rinse it all off. This will prevent the hair from getting too dry, or ends too straggly.
You can do this every time you wash your hair, or just when you need a little texture. According to Dr Kapoor, this method can prevent your hair from being too silky when your hairstyle calls for a little “hold” in your hair.
Who shouldn’t try reverse washing?
It is important to note that reverse washing may not work for all hair types and textures. Shampoos usually have a high pH, which helps them cleanse the grit from your hair but also makes the surface of the hair shaft swell up. Conditioners, with their lower pH, help bring your hair back into a healthy moisture balance and closes the cuticle.
Using conditioner before shampoo may leave the cuticles open and swelled, especially if you have frizzy or very thick strands. In this case, it is best to stick to the lather, rinse, conditioner, rinse routine, says Dr Kapoor.