Wash Hair with Conditioner

Woman with wet hair checking out a bottle with conditioner
Photo: Bogdan Sonjachnyj/Shutterstock
Q: I am a hairstylist and I was told something that makes no sense to me. I was told by a client of mine that she has only washed her hair three times since July, and she "washes" it with conditioner only. She scrubs her hair with conditioner and then applies it again.
I’m not sure if she was telling me the truth but that doesn’t make any sense to me on how it would work or how her hair would not be greasy, or her head would not be irritated by using only conditioner. And it’s Suave or VO5 that she uses - conditioner only. I don’t get it. If you could agree with me or tell me how this doesn’t make sense to you either, I would greatly appreciate it.

A: I would love to be able to help you out, but in this situation, your client is actually not in the wrong. While I’ve not heard of attempting to “lather” the hair using a conditioner, it is perfectly reasonable to use “conditioner only” for your daily cleansing routine.
When you realize that most conditioners are quite alkaline in their pH levels (particularly compared to skin and hair) the conditioner is quite capable of removing dirt and oils from the hair that may accumulate in the typical day’s routine.
This has the added benefit of being without additional surfactants which could strip too much oil away and fail to leave behind sufficient moisture elements. That, of course, would result in damage to the hair. I’ve actually long been an advocate of moderation in shampoo use.
I urge my clients to remember that shampoo should be used when the hair has become soiled, not necessarily as a daily routine. I find that very few people live such lifestyles as would require daily shampooing; most of the people who shampoo daily do so more out of habit than for any real need to clean their hair on a daily basis.
See also:
Hair care
How to wash your hair and use the right amount of shampoo
Can shampooing your hair every day dry it out?