Friday, September 26, 2014

What Is Reverse Hair Washing and Is It Right for You?

Several months ago, one of you tweeted me some info about Reverse Washing (if that was you, please comment below so I can thank you properly!). I found the whole idea of conditioning your hair first, then shampooing, to be absolutely intriguing.

I had never heard of Reverse Washing before (NOTE: THIS IS NOT THE SAME THING AS CO-WASHING, which is when you use conditioner instead of shampoo), but according to Google, Reverse Washing has been around for quite some time. I tried it shortly after I received that tweet and I have been doing it off and on ever since. If you'd like to hear about my experiences, as well as why this might be a good fit for YOU, keep reading!


What is Reverse Hair Washing?

Simply put, it's washing your hair in reverse. You apply your conditioner first, then your shampoo.

Why Would Anyone Ever Want to Do This?

If your hair is thin, oily and/or prone to product build-up, doing these two steps in reverse may help you to achieve better results with your existing shampoos and conditioners (this includes products that perhaps never worked for you in the traditional way of using them, or even products that used to work for you, but stopped working for whatever reason).

My Journey.

Let me begin by telling you a bit about my own hair. For new readers, I have long, naturally wavy hair that's oily at the roots and dry at the ends. My hair is fine in texture, but I have a lot of it. My hair is prone to frizz if I don't use products with silicones (yes, I LOVE silicones and they work extremely well for me). I also color-treat my hair about once a month. You can see photos of my hair in a previous haircare review HERE (although my hair is not that color anymore).

The first time I tried Reverse Washing, I really didn't know what to do, other than get my hair wet, apply some conditioner and then apply some shampoo. I did a LOT of experimenting and I have finally narrowed it down to a system that works best for me (which I'll share with you in a moment). I have tried using this method with many different drugstore and salon brand shampoos and conditioners, and the one thing I really want to stress is that it might take a while to find a combination that works best for you. For me personally, some shampoos and conditioners work MUCH better than others for Reverse Washing.

Which brings me to my own personal winning combo:

image source: tresemme.com
TRESemme Healthy Volume 24 HR Body Shampoo and Conditioner

TRESemme Healthy Volume 24 HR Body Shampoo and TRESemme Healthy Volume 24 HR Body Conditioner Conditioner worked pretty well for me when used in the traditional way. The conditioner in particular is excellent at detangling and it has a lot of slip to it. But these products work even better (I mean, much, much better) when I use them for Reverse Washing.

This was the first shampoo and conditioner duo that I used for Reverse Washing, and it's still the one I keep going back to again and again. Since the conditioner is very moisturizing and has a lot of slip to it, I think that it clings nicely to the hair, which is something you want when you're going to follow up with shampoo. If you use a conditioner that rinses very cleanly and doesn't leave any type of residue or film behind on the hair to begin with, then chances are your hair is going to feel extremely dry if you use it for Reverse Washing. Does that make sense? OK good, let's move on!

Reverse Washing: You're Doing it Wrong. 

If you've tried Reverse Washing and it didn't work for you, or if you've been thinking about it but perhaps are afraid that it's going to leave your hair a dry, brittle, tangly mess, here are the best tips that I can give you based on my own personal experiences:

1) Make sure that you hair is fully saturated with water before you apply your conditioner. If you hair isn't totally soaked with water, it's going to be difficult for you to distribute your conditioner throughout your hair from root to tip. Trust me on that one.

2) After you apply your conditioner, leave it in for the regular amount of time that you would normally use. I like to apply my conditioner, then go about my business (shaving my legs, etc.) before I use my shampoo. This is exactly how I do it when I use shampoo first, followed by conditioner, so nothing changes in terms of the amount of time spent in the shower.

3) When it's time to rinse, DON'T RINSE. This is the fatal error that many first-timers make. If you rinse your conditioner out and THEN apply shampoo, you're very likely going to end up with dry, brittle, tangled hair. Use your shampoo to remove your conditioner. Here's what I do: after my conditioner has been in my hair for several minutes, I quickly tilt my head in and out of the stream of my shower and get it a tiny bit more wet. Then, I apply my shampoo. I use about 25% less shampoo than I would use if I wasn't doing a Reverse Wash, because I don't want to strip my hair of all the conditioner. After I apply my shampoo, I lather and rinse as usual and...that's it!

Results.

Using the method above, I find that right after my shower when my hair is still wet, my hair feels almost exactly the same to the touch as when I use shampoo followed by conditioner (I attribute this to step #3 that I outlined above). But here's the crazy part: my hair looks and feels better after it dries. I don't know exactly why, but my hair consistently looks like a million bucks when I do a Reverse Wash with the TRESemme products I mentioned above, and what's even crazier is that my hair looks way better than it ever did when I used those products in the traditional way. 

If I had to guess, I'd say that Reverse Washing leaves a different amount of conditioner residue on my hair, and that somehow makes all the difference. Using shampoo as that final step does something magical to my hair. I rarely use heat on my hair, and I don't always use styling products. I generally just use a bit of leave-in conditioner or styling cream, give my hair a few scrunches and let it air-dry. And doing this exact routine after Reverse Washing leaves my hair incredibly bouncy, healthy-looking and frizz-free. Also, my natural waves dry into little loose ringlets, which is something I work very hard to achieve (but rarely achieve when I cleanse my hair the traditional way). 

Is Reverse Washing Right For You?

I obviously can't answer this question, but I can pose another question: how will you know unless you try? It sounds strange and counter-intuitive, yes. But does it work? For me, YES, YES AND YES. I had to go through some bad hair days until I figured out the right products and techniques, but I am so glad I hung in there and kept experimenting. 

Will I Ever Go Back to Traditional Washing?

Of course. I just used a shampoo and conditioner in the traditional way the other day. For me, Reverse Washing has become something that I've added to my beauty routine, but it hasn't taken the place of anything. It's not always a good fit for me every day of the week. If I have skipped a few days when it comes to washing my hair, and I need to give it a good, deep cleansing, I don't Reverse Wash. But if I'm washing my hair every single day (which I am prone to do when the weather's warm) then I find that Reverse Washing works exceptionally well. I love to Reverse Wash the day after I've used a clarifying shampoo. I also love to Reverse Wash on days that I want my hair to look extra nice when I let it air-dry (oh it just works so well when I air-dry...I can't stress that enough!). 

I hope this post helps those of you who have been thinking about giving this method a try. I also hope that my tips can help those of you who have tried, but didn't like, Reverse Washing. Hopefully some of you might have better results the next time you give it a shot!

Do you Reverse Wash? I would absolutely love to hear YOUR tips, tricks and experiences!

The products featured in this post were purchased with personal funds. For more information, click here.
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56 comments

  1. I tried this and it made my hair a dry mess. But I rinsed out the conditioner before I shampooed. I will try it your way. Thanks for the tip.

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  2. That's really interesting-- I'll have to try this method and see how it works for my super-thick hair! Thanks for sharing:)

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  3. I tried reverse washing but rinsed the conditioner out before shampooing and didn't notice anything beneficial. I'll try it the correct way when I wash my hair again!

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  4. I have not heard of this method. My hair tends to get oily so I even skip conditioner at times. But then my hair feels a bit dry.

    I'd like to try reverse hair washing though. Why not? :) Thanks for the tip.

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  5. I've also done this with oils instead of conditioner right after I color my hair. It seems to seal the cuticle and keep the color in my hair a bit longer. I haven't really found the right oil for my hair, but my hair looks very shiny after I wash it out.

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    1. What kind of oils have you used? This sounds interesting. Do you apply the oils in the shower or before?

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    2. I've used argan oil and olive oil, and I'll put them in my hair right before I shower a few days after I've colored my hair. Sometimes I'll just put oil on my ends since the ends dry out alot faster and lose color.

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    3. Try coconut oil! It's the only one that worked for me so far and it works brilliantly for me. Also it's pretty cheap which is nice.

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  6. Great article, G. I've never heard of this method but I'll have to try it. I love using a conditioning cleanser so this might be something that will work for me as well. Thanks!

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  7. I did reverse washing for a while, and my hair had more volume, but since my hair is wavy I started co-washing for the past week or so, and I'm liking it so far.

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  8. Your hair and skin type sound like mine. I haven't ever tried Tressame shampoos or conditioners but now I totally want to try. Normally I had to give myself a blow out to achieve silky frizz free hair but I secretly dream of air drying low maintenance hair. Will be trying this for sure!!

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  9. Gonna try it , even that I am not using tressemme

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  10. i haven't heard of this but it's definitely intriguing! thanks for bringing it to our attention!

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  11. This is interesting, I co-wash pretty often, but washing less often (every 4-5 days rather than every day) helped my hair the most, next to not coloring it! How often do you wash your hair?

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  12. Thanks for a great article! I used to use Alberto VO5 heated oil (in the small tubes, heat in cup of water) that way per their instructions, oil treatment first, then shampoo out. I'm going to try this method. Your hair description sounds like mine, so it should work! Thanks for the tips!

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  13. Wow ! your hair is EXACTLY the same as mine.. I need to try this!

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  14. This has been an interesting read. Lately I find my SCALP is too dry but my hair is still fine and healthy. I've been using conditioner only, or co-washing now that I know there's an actual term for it, and my scalp isn't as itchy or full of dandruff as before.

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  15. Wow..I've never heard of this but it sounds very interesting. We have very similar hair types, so I'm definitely going to try it out. Thanks for the detailed instructions!

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  16. I'm going to have to try this and see how it goes!

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  17. I've done something similar to this, applying either conditioner or oil to my ends then shampooing the roots... but I usually follow up with conditioner after. It's generally referenced as "pre-pooing" (lol). It works well to protect the ends, especially in the winter.
    I have hair that sounds very similar to yours: fine, naturally curly, very prone to frizz, dry ends, oily roots, color treated. My routine consists of mixing sulfate and sulfate free shampoos (Aussie moist and Shea moisture), shampooing only the roots, rinsing, conditioning all over (Aussie moist), rinsing very well then adding a generous amount of conditioner back as leave in (a full pump). I don't use any other stylers or products unless I'm going to flat iron in which case I use heat protectant. I only shampoo a couple of times a week and add oil to my ends and cornstarch baby powder to my roots if needed, usually on third or fourth day hair. I air dry. The conditioner styling was the breakthrough for me.. along with mixing my shampoos which gives me enough sulfate to remove build up while not stripping my hair.

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  18. Thanks so much for the information. My hair seems similar to yours although mine is a little closer to curly than wavy (it's somewhere in between?), and this sounds like it might be worth looking into. I typically wash as rarely as I can get away with to avoid breakage and I usually use a deep conditioning mask or something of that sort. I think I'll try to go ahead and use that since it's nice and thick and slippy. Something interesting to try out at any rate!

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  19. I have to try this. My hair sounds exactly like yours. It's very fine, but I have SO MUCH of it, and it has a slight wave that is prone to frizzing into a style similar to a cocker spaniel. Also color treated, oily up top and dry at the bottom. And it is downright ornery. I will try this and report back... I use Aveda exclusively (I know, ouch, the wallet...), so we will see if it works!

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    1. I wish I could report back good news like everyone else, but it didn't work for me. Could be my products though. I had to use more product after washing because my hair felt so dry and crispy.

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  20. I've meaning to give this method a try for a while now! It just sounds so weird though! But I guess I won't know until I try :-)

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  21. I do this!!! I heard about it from Tati from Glam Life Guru on You Tube a couple fo months ago. I have FINE hair and it works great for me even if I rinse out the conditioner before I shampoo. I think doing conditioner last for my type of haor just weighs it down too much.

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  22. I do this about once a week. I use a deep conditioner for colored hair, and regular shampoo for colored hair. It works for me. If I do it often the texture of my hair changes. This is a great idea for winter since the conditioner is still somewhat left in your hair. I use less shampoo to make the conditioner work better in my hair. This works for me. I was surprised to see it in your blog. Thanks!

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  23. I've been reverse-washing for over 6 months or more and my hair is slightly more voluminous than when I washed my hair traditionally! I also cleanse my hair once a week with Lush's Big so there isn't too much build-up. For reference, my hair is fine, oily, and lacks volume. Those with fine & oily hair would definitely benefit from reverse-washing!

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  24. Sounds like a fantastic idea, must give it a go to see if it makes a difference!
    great post, thank you for sharing.

    Vintage Melissa

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  25. I have been doing reverse washing since I read about it, a couple months now. My hair is not oily but it's very thick and frizzy and doing the reverse wash makes it more smooth and shiny and adds a ton of volume! Sometimes I go back to normal shampoo- conditioner order thinking the reverse wash working must be just in my head, but nope- it's definitely worth a try and I love it! Great post topic G!

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  26. I tried this today after reading this. The writer's hair type sounds nearly identical to mine. So far so good. Just letting it air dry I can tell a bit of a difference. I'll keep experimenting with it. Thanks for the tip.

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  27. I'd heard of this but thought you rinsed out all the conditioner before shampooing, which didn't make sense. But using it to wash out the conditioner, that has some logic. I'm going to try it and see...

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  28. I've been co-washing for about a year now since I read about it here and it worked better than what I had been doing, but it left my roots very oily. My hair is wavy and coarse and it used to be thick (thanks lupus) but it is still prone to what I call the 'cousin It' look.

    I tried reverse-washing last night and my hair is shinier and has more volume, which I don't really need now. If it keeps falling out at this rate, maybe I will go back to this method in a couple years.

    The best thing I found for my hair was to only wash every other day and quit coloring it. I try to blend the greys in with highlights, but I have resigned myself to going grey because it was the least-bad option.

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  29. Great blogpost, so helpful especially becausr you included your personal experience ♡

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  30. What clarifying shampoo do you recommend? I will definitely give this a try! I'm actually excited about it! :D

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    1. I THINK G still uses the Suave Daily Clarifying Shampoo. At least, she did last time I remember hearing her mention clarifying shampoo.

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  31. I have never heard of this, I may end uo trying it one day soon because I want to see if it will make my hair better then just normal washing. I have hair like you G. Thanks so very much for sharing G :)!!!!

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  32. I tried this before. Like everyone, I washed out the conditioner before I put in the shampoo. That made my hair so dry and a mess. I didn't understand how and why people did it.
    Then I did this last night, with shampooing while the conditioner was there,and oh my goodness. It was like a whole new world. As soon as I got out of the shower, I felt like it was softer.
    I used a Dove Daily Moisture shampoo + conditioner. I found that it worked well. Thanks for the tips G!.

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  33. Interesting! I've heard of this before, but thank you for all the details on how to do it properly!! I will definitely try this! I shampoo every couple of weeks. (I do co-washing).

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  34. I have colored, curly hair tried last night was totally impressed my hair was much easier to comb out the tangles felt much better. Thanks G for the awesome routine

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  35. I've been doing this method for a long time. Didn't realize it had a name.

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  36. Interesting article. I'm definitely going to try it out!

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  37. Tried this yesterday, and it really made a difference; it reminds me of the softness I get after applying argan oil, without the extra price.

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  38. After doing reverse washing by accident a couple of times and liking it, I finally did it on purpose last night. I just changed it up a little. Condition all over, shampoo, rinse, condition just the ends, rinse. My hair still needs the ends to be moisturized. I think using the conditioner first softens all the junk in your hair and lets it get washed out easier. Soon I'll skip the 2nd conditioner and see what happens.

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  39. This sounds like just what I need! As I am getting older, my hair is getting thinner and always seems weighed down and too oily after my shower. Can't wait to try it!!

    G, you said you re always trying to make ringlets. My daughter is half Puerto Rican and has wavy hair seems similar to how you explained your hair. to achieve ringlets in her hair, after her shower and right after we put some type of leave in conditioner(just a little) when her hair is still wet, I twist smallish pieces of her hair around my finger all over her head nd just let them fall naturally. I basically only do the top parts of her hair and let it dry naturally and it comes out beautiful! Give it a try!!

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  40. BTW, just noticed that the Tresemme shampoo and Conditioner 32oz will only be 2 for $3 this week starting tomorrow at Walgreens after sale and $5 sunday coupon. Woot woot!!

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  41. Follow up on my comment. This morning I decided to try reverse washing. I wet my hair, put on lots of conditioner, did the rest of my shower routine, wet my hair just a little and began to shampoo. My shampoo lathered up, I scrubbed and when I rinsed my hair was silky and soft. I was able to comb through it without tangles. The secret is definitely not rinsing out the conditioner. Thanks so much.

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  42. I tried this for the first time this morning. My hair felt awesome today. Thanks for the tip!!!

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  43. Update.

    Now my fine hair is fuller and stays softer. Before the last three inches of my hair would be dry and brittle at the end of the day. Who knew that was from overconditioning?! Wow! I'm shocked.

    I'll keep using this method this week, then switch back to the old way for a day as a test. I bet I will never condition last again after that. I'll come back later with the details on the products I've been using...

    Thanks so much! This seems to be a life changer sort of tip for me. What else you got???

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    1. Another day with fabulous looking hair all day and night long. Yeah! I woke up this morning and didn't have to wash my hair. I did, but I didn't have to. I won't wash my hair on Saturday to see how 2 days go.

      My conditioner is Carbide Fructis Triple Nutrition (yellow bottle).

      My shampoo is Tresemme Color Revitalize.

      I am so happy and so thankful for you, Miss G.

      Here is a tip.... dry brushing your body. Look it up. Do it daily. Takes 5 minutes... I did it this morning while I watched YouTube and conditioned my hair. Then jumped in shower to shampoo etc.

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    2. Conditioner is fructis, not carbide. Autocorrect.

      My hair is terrific! Miss G's method is so super wonderful words can't do it justice. Happy happy happy!

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    3. Another update.

      Wow, my hair looks great every single day! Full, bouncy, soft, shiny. After doing exactly as G recommended for over a month now I will never go back, not ever. Sometimes I skip a hair wash on the weekend and use powder to reduce oiliness. The next day I'll shampoo, rinse, condition for 5 mins, then shampoo on top of the conditioner.

      My hair is so much thicker now. I mean by a huge amount. It is super amazing. Miss G this seemingly simple trick has had a wonderful effect on my life. I hope all fine hair girls start hair washing this way... and report back. I'm sure all we'll see are flowing reports.

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  44. I'll have to give it a try. When my hair is really dirty I condition, brush out any nasty tangles, then shampoo and then condition again. I'll have to try this when I have free time to pay attention, it sounds like it could be amazing.

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  45. My hair is long, and wavy, and I tried this last night for the first time. It really does work! I still detangled in the conditioner stage like usual.

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  46. I tried this yesterday, and my hair did come out shiny and conditioned, but I also had a feeling that it was not entirely clean. I will definitely try it again, but maybe once a month, when the build up gets too much for my hair.

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  47. Shampoo is designed to open the cuticle so the shampoo agent can get into the hair to clean it. Conditioner is designed to close the cuticle so the hair shaft will not tangle. So, reverse washing makes absolutely not sense.

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