Does Order Matter? Debating Shampoo Before Conditioner

When it comes to hair care, the age-old debate of whether the order in which we use shampoo and conditioner truly matters has raged on for years. Some swear by the mantra of “shampoo before conditioner,” while others argue that it’s time to challenge this conventional wisdom. In recent times, the popularity of shampoo and conditioner bundles, often marketed as a package deal for hair health, has added fuel to this debate. So, does order really matter, and what role do these bundles play in the ongoing discussion? Let’s dive into the science and art of hair care to explore this question.

The Basics: Shampoo vs. Conditioner

Before we delve into the debate, let’s understand the fundamental purposes of shampoo and conditioner. Shampoo is designed to cleanse your hair by removing dirt, excess oil, and product buildup. It typically contains surfactants that create a lather and break down these impurities, making it easier to rinse them away. Conditioner, on the other hand, is formulated to hydrate, nourish, and detangle your hair. It often contains moisturizing ingredients, oils, and proteins that help improve hair texture, reduce frizz, and enhance manageability.

The Traditional Wisdom: Shampoo Before Conditioner

For decades, the common practice has been to shampoo one’s hair before applying conditioner. The rationale behind this order is rooted in the cleansing properties of shampoo. By starting with shampoo, you can effectively remove dirt and oils from your scalp and hair, creating a clean canvas for the conditioner to work its magic. This approach is believed to maximize the absorption of conditioner, ensuring that it can penetrate the hair shaft more effectively and provide deep hydration.

Proponents of this traditional order argue that conditioning before shampooing can lead to less effective cleansing. The conditioner might create a barrier on the hair’s surface, preventing the shampoo from reaching the scalp and roots, where cleansing is most needed. This could result in residual dirt and oil, which might leave your hair feeling weighed down and less fresh.

The Rebel’s Perspective: Conditioner Before Shampoo

In recent years, a counter-narrative has emerged, suggesting that reversing the order and applying conditioner before shampoo can be a game-changer for certain hair types and concerns. This unconventional approach is often referred to as “pre-poo” conditioning. The idea is to protect the hair from the potential harshness of shampoo by applying conditioner first.

Proponents of this approach argue that conditioning before shampooing can help maintain moisture levels in the hair. Shampoo, especially if used frequently, can strip the hair of its natural oils and leave it feeling dry and brittle. By pre-pooing, you create a protective barrier that prevents the shampoo from completely stripping away these oils. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals with curly, coily, or dry hair types, as it helps preserve natural moisture and maintain hair health.

Moreover, conditioner-before-shampoo advocates claim that this method can make detangling easier. Applying conditioner first can help smooth the hair cuticle, making it less prone to knots and tangles when you later shampoo. This can be a significant time-saver for those with long or easily tangled hair.

Shampoo and Conditioner Bundles: A New Perspective

Now, let’s introduce the concept of shampoo and conditioner bundles into this debate. Shampoo and conditioner bundles are often marketed as a perfect pairing for optimal hair care. Manufacturers claim that these products are formulated to work seamlessly together, providing the best results when used in tandem. But how does this fit into the order of application debate?

Shampoo and conditioner bundles typically come with specific instructions for use. These instructions often recommend applying the shampoo first and following it with the conditioner. This aligns with the traditional wisdom that shampoo should cleanse the hair before conditioner adds moisture and nourishment. However, the rise of pre-poo conditioning has led some individuals to wonder whether using the bundled products in reverse order might yield different results.

It’s important to note that the formulations of these products are designed with a specific order in mind. Shampoos are formulated to remove impurities and create a clean slate for conditioning. Conditioners are crafted to add moisture and manageability after the hair has been cleansed. Therefore, using these products in their recommended order is likely to provide the intended benefits.

However, there is room for experimentation within these guidelines. Some individuals have reported positive outcomes from using a small amount of conditioner before shampooing, especially if they have dry or damaged hair. This approach can help protect the hair while still allowing the shampoo to do its cleansing job effectively.

Ultimately, when using a shampoo and conditioner bundle, it’s advisable to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the best results. These products are often formulated to complement each other and offer a holistic approach to hair care.

Hair Type Matters: Personalizing Your Routine

While the debate over the order of shampoo and conditioner application continues, it’s crucial to recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Hair type, texture, and individual preferences all play a significant role in determining the ideal hair care routine.

  1. Straight and Fine Hair: Those with straight and fine hair may benefit from the traditional shampoo-before-conditioner approach, as it helps prevent their hair from feeling weighed down.
  2. Curly and Coily Hair: People with curly or coily hair may find pre-poo conditioning to be more beneficial. This can help retain moisture and prevent excessive dryness.
  3. Dry or Damaged Hair: If your hair is dry or damaged, experimenting with a small amount of conditioner before shampooing could help protect and nourish your strands.
  4. Oily Scalp: If you have an oily scalp but dry ends, focusing the shampoo on the roots and applying conditioner primarily to the ends can be an effective compromise.
  5. Thick and Coarse Hair: Thick, coarse hair may benefit from pre-poo conditioning, as it can make detangling easier and reduce frizz.
  6. Frequency of Washing: How often you wash your hair can also influence your routine. Those who wash their hair daily may want to be gentler with their routine, while those who wash less frequently may need a deeper cleanse.
  7. Personal Preference: Ultimately, your hair care routine should align with your personal preferences and the results you desire. Experimentation can help you find the routine that works best for you.


In the grand debate of “shampoo before conditioner” versus “conditioner before shampoo,” the answer is not a one-size-fits-all solution. The order of application should be tailored to your hair type, texture, and individual preferences. While shampoo and conditioner bundles offer convenience and often come with specific usage instructions, there is room for experimentation within these guidelines.

The most crucial aspect of hair care is understanding your hair’s unique needs and responding to them accordingly. Regular maintenance, a balanced diet, and protective styling can all contribute to healthy, beautiful hair. And remember, the art of hair care is not just about the products you use but also about how you care for your hair on a daily basis. So, whether you’re a staunch advocate of the traditional approach or eager to try something new, the key is to find the routine that makes your hair feel its best.