Is Reverse Hair Washing Really a Shortcut to Better Hair?

Before you try reverse washing your hair, find out how the simple adjustment can impact your strands.

Reverse Hair Washing
Getty Images.

How and when you wash your hair is very personal. While some people are picky about ingredients and wash their hair once a week, others use whatever happens to be in their shared shower on a daily basis. One subset of people rejects the order of a traditional two-step hair-washing routine in favor of a practice called reverse hair washing.

Although reverse hair washing is currently trending, it's actually been around for decades, and can be beneficial for fine, damaged, or over-processed hair, according to experts. Here's everything you need to know about the trend and how to figure out if it's right for you.

What Is Reverse Hair Washing?

In short, this concept is just what it sounds like. It calls for using conditioner on your strands first before shampooing your scalp when washing your hair in the shower. "Similar to a pre-oil or hot oil treatment (applied to dry hair before washing), [reverse hair washing] will nourish hair, increasing its strength and elasticity," says Philip Berkovitz, hair expert and founder of Philip B. Haircare. Reverse washing is thought to help bolster the hydration of hair before subjecting it to shampoo, which can be drying, he explains.

Lliguin remembers reverse hair washing spiking in popularity in the '80s when damaging perms were popular. The "ritual morphed into modern day reverse washing as an adaptation in the Black hair community, along with the idea of co-washing," says Berkovitz. "Curl patterns are fragile and more delicate and most often require more moisture."

On the other hand, some people turn to reverse hair washing to avoid weighing their hair down when washing it. "Since some types of conditioner can weigh hair down — especially fine, limp, or otherwise more oily or greasy hair — [reverse hair washing] can be more gentle [than traditional washing] and offer more shine, volume, and softness as well as bounce and body," says Berkovitz.

Who Is Reverse Hair Washing Best For?

This trend is perfect for people with flat, fine, or chemically processed hair. "This method can help to remove [heavy] oils and silicones on thinner hair types to promote more volume and help to prevent breakage and further damage to chemically treated hair by imparting a protective layer," explains Nunzio Saviano, stylist and founder of Nunzio Saviano Salon in New York.

Reverse hair washing is also beneficial for anyone who's prone to dry, damaged ends, says Fabian Lliguin, hairstylist and co-founder of Rahua Beauty. "Regular shampooing of hair may unintentionally dry hair further, by stripping hair from oils and nutrients and in some cases even creating split ends," says Lliguin. The theory is that by applying conditioner first, you'll prevent the shampoo from making your hair even drier.

Bottom line, this trend can be useful to anyone who feels like their hair needs a bit more moisture or has been looking dull, dry, or lifeless lately.

How to Try Reverse Hair Washing

For those with fine hair, thin hair, and oily hair and scalps, it is best to use reverse hair washing "once a week, for about a month, to notice changes in your hair," relying on regular hair washing the rest of the time, says Berkovitz. It can even be an effective hair hack for people with thin or thinning hair, who don't like how a conditioner weighs down their hair, he adds.

To try reverse hair washing, apply the conditioner of your choice, rinse, and then use a "clarifying or mild, gentle shampoo to cleanse your hair from the scalp out through the ends," says Berkovitz. "For those with oily hair or scalp, using a clarifying shampoo is best as a more [moisturizing] shampoo is really going to make hair heavier. [Someone with] this hair type should keep the scalp clean and clear of too much conditioner, regardless of whether it is the first or second step."

If shampoo and conditioner are already part of your routine, reverse hair washing is a hack that you can try without having to part with additional money or free time. Whether you have fine hair that is easily weighed down or damaged strands, adjusting the order of your hair-washing routine might prove helpful.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles