Reverse hair washing: what is it? should you be doing it?

Posted by Kayce Sebree on

We nominated a Verb team member to try reverse washing for a week and talked to a hair product chemist about the benefits. Here's what happened...

First, what is reverse washing?

Well, exactly what it sounds like, the buzz as of late is that possibly switching up your routine and conditioning first and shampooing second could reap some hair benefits. Whoa. Have we been doing it wrong this whole time? 

We nominated Claire, marketing guru and Verb Founding Member, as office guinea pig to give this whole reverse washing thing a try. 

Hi Y'all, Claire here. 

Out of curiosity I gladly accepted the challenge to see if this reverse washing would help my fine hair in any way. For a week I tried it with our Hydrating Shampoo and Hydrating Conditioner

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I have fine hair and I wash every 3 days(ish), it mostly depends on how sweaty I get at yoga but I like my style best when it's a bit dirty. So, that's my hair and this is how the experiment went...

Day One: I switched it up and conditioned my hair first

Post yoga and my hair needs a bit of help, I can feel the 3 day product build-up and it seemed appropriate to start with a clean slate, so clarifying was a must for me. One of my personal favorites is dpHue's Apple Cider Rinse. PSA: Love this formula but it is a bit smelly (but once your hair dries there's no residual vinegar smell). 

After clarifying, I reached for the shampoo instinctually and had to remember to use the conditioner first. This was a bit weird. It kind of felt like putting clothes on after you have been sweating but haven't showered yet. I know a lot of it is psychological from years of doing something a certain way but I missed my suds first routine.



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Shampooing second was oddly similar to what it is normally like, so I don't have a ton of complaints there. It suds up great and didn't re-tangle my hair (which was my first concern). 

Big tip here: DON'T rinse the conditioner after you apply it, instead use the shampoo suds to rinse away the conditioner, I read this tip somewhere (thanks internet) and I think it helped keep my hair from being too dry. 



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I did need my Leave-In Mist more than usual after the shower to detangle my hair. It is my FAVE product in the Verb family so giving it a few extra mists wasn't a problem. 

Day Two: Results of reverse washing in action

My second day hair was interesting. I got two compliments on my hair which is about 200% more than normal in the office... everyone has great hair. Around 4pm it got a bit greasy around my face which is unusual but could have also been a plethora of other reasons... excessive use of my favorite face cream (SW Basics) is likely a top candidate. Association does not equal causation, that stuff is amazing when I don't go overboard. 

Day Three: Round two of reverse washing started to feel more comfortable

In the shower I started thinking about whether it was actually good for my hair though. Maybe there is a real formulaic reason we shampoo then condition? I figured I would go straight to the source and just ask the chemist that developed the hydrating shampoo and conditioner. More on that below.

I tried a "no styling, sleep on wet hair, go to yoga in the AM, don't shower and go to work" approach. Normally that would mean a top knot all day but my hair looked oddly good and had lots of texture. I managed to keep it down and it lasted me through the night. I definitely thought it had more volume and my natural wave had a nice shape.

Day Four: My reverse washed hair still looked great

In the AM, I (re-)styled my hair with a wand and lots of texturizing products. We have a few in development that I was testing but my favs here (Oribe Texturizing Spray and Living Proof Amp2). 

Pros of reverse hair washing

  • Hair felt more textured after the shower, not too clean (which I like)
  • My fine hair had more volume
  • Got compliments on my hair! 
  • Reminded me I need to be clarifying more than I am

Cons of conditioning your hair first

  • I simply miss the suds first
  • Need to experiment a couple of times to find the right amount of product for best results
  • Felt like I needed to put more styling product in my hair on non-wash days

The science behind reverse washing

After experimenting, I sat down with our Verb chemist to get his thoughts. He explained a few things to me and for those of you who are ingredient buffs- read on. 

First, he made it seem like a common fact that people with fine hair do this to give their hair more texture. I felt lame and very behind. He explained you don't want to do it with just any shampoo and conditioner and that our Hydrating Shampoo and Hydrating Conditioner are formulated to work independently of one another so they are perfect for this reverse situation.

Hydrating Shampoo actually has a ton of conditioning ingredients like natural guar gum, panthenol and an amino acid blend. Even though you are shampooing second you are still getting tons of benefits that leave your hair feeling soft, conditioned and moisturized. On the flip side, Hydrating Conditioner has double the amounts of these ingredients so even more moisture is staying with your hair. We added argan oil and meadowfoam seed oil to smooth + shine + hydrate. Then you have a natural polymer working overtime to lock in all those benefits. So even though you are technically cleansing the hair after, you are actually still getting plenty of hydration (hence the name of the formulas!). His only warning if you were to adopt this routine was to make sure you start from scratch with a clarifying shampoo on a regular basis. 

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