Shampoo Vs Conditioner [Key Differences, Types & Unique Functions]

Everything is different about shampoos and conditioners. Although, both are meant for hair both of these play separate roles. Most people are not even aware of the benefits of applying conditioner. Some use it on days when they don’t intend to wash hair with shampoo.

On the other side, some people have never used conditioners and continue to clean hair only with shampoo.

In this article, we will discuss all the possible facts and differences between shampoo and conditioner. We hope to solve most of your queries and concerns related to their usage, ingredients, purpose, and benefits.

What are Shampoos?

Our scalp produces sebum oil that is essential for hair growth and hair health. However, when the sebum oil increases on the scalp than its desired limit, it is when you need to clean the scalp with a good moisturizing shampoo.

Other than the oils, shampoos also work to prevent/clean pathogens, pollution, bacteria, and dust on the hair and scalp.

Only water cannot perform the role of cleaning as shampoos do. These are specially formulated to cleanse your hair and scalp thoroughly. Gladly, there are oodles of shampoos to choose from as per the hair quality and type.

What are Conditioners?

Conditioner falls more on the hair care product category than the cleansing one. It is also in liquid form with a different objective. Conditioners are always to be applied post shampooing.

The agents present in conditioners help to maintain smoothness, shine, thickness, and overall hair health. Conditioners also repair the hair from the damages caused due to chemicals present in shampoos and other hair treatments.

Conditioners also help to reduce static electricity present in the hair. Another benefit to look at if you compare the two is that a conditioner prevents split ends and hair fall.

Now that we know the meaning of both these hair products, it would be easier to understand their differences in detail.

Difference between Shampoo and Conditioner

In simple terms, shampoo is a hair cleansing agent whereas conditioner acts as a hair care product. Conditioner is mostly applied after shampoo.

Shampoo removes the dirt, chemicals, and excess or unwanted oil from the scalp as well as hair. It also helps to clean the dead skin and treat dandruff.

Let’s consider the separate roles a shampoo and a conditioner play in the hair cleaning process. The explanation will help you to understand how they are different, their various types, features, and purposes.

1. Role

The role of shampoo as most of us know is of a hair soap to wash hair, whereas conditioner is a thick creamy liquid that is used to condition the hair after washing hair with shampoo.

2. Usage

We cleanse our hair by forming a lather of shampoo. We massage the shampoo on the scalp too.  After rinsing the shampoo with water, we use a hair conditioner. However, a conditioner is not massaged on the scalp; it is only applied on the hair especially on the tips.

3. Objective

As we discussed, shampoos help to remove the unwanted oil, buildups, dirt, etc… from the scalp and hair. Conditioners help to moisturize the hair and hair strands resulting in silky, smooth, and shiny hair.

4. Foam

Shampoos produce foam or lather whereas conditioners don’t. The formula for making both the products is different.

5. Main ingredients

Shampoos contain sodium lauryl, sulfate, and more… Conditioners contain silicone, plant oils, mineral oil, and more.

Few more Visible Differences between Shampoo and Conditioner

  • The shampoo has a liquid texture whereas the conditioner is slightly thicker and creamier.
  • Shampoos can be used on the scalp whereas conditioners need to be applied on the hair tips only.
  • Shampoos help in removing the dead skin cells and conditioners help in nourishing the hair.

Now that we know their existence and purposes, let’s understand the unique functions of shampoo and conditioners.

Types of Shampoo and their Unique Functions

If you read most packages of shampoo bottles, these contain 10 to 30 ingredients. These ingredients in shampoo act like thickeners, cleansing agents, preservatives, and other natural ingredients to cleanse hair and scalp.

Shampoos can be categorized based on your hair type, usage and ingredients:

1. Regular shampoos

Daily use shampoos are mild on the scalp and hair. These are designed to prevent hair dryness due to regular usage.

2. Chemical-free shampoos

Chemicals like sulfate and paraben could be bad for hair. Thus, the harsh chemicals and cleaning agents may result in itchy scalp and hair dryness. You may go for sulfate-free shampoos.

3. Shampoos for specific hair type

People with specific hair types such as oily hair, dry hair, or dull hair can choose respective shampoos for hair cleansing. You will find a plethora of brands online in specific types.

4. Dry shampoos for dry wash

The days when you don’t wish to wash your hair, dry shampoos work the best! These are similar to hair sprays that clean your hair and leave a nice fragrance on the hair.

5. Shampoos for Colored Hair

You also get color protection shampoos for hair. Colored hair is exposed to more chemicals and harsh materials present in the dye.

Moreover, the process of hair color itself makes the hair weak, dull, and dry. Thus, one needs a good moisturizing color protectant shampoo to prevent further damages to the hair.

6. Shampoos based on Hair Volume

Some people have thin hair and some have thick. If you wish to add volume to your thin hair, switch to volumizing shampoos that are specifically designed for thin hair.

7. Oil-Control Shampoos

The oil control shampoos are meant for those with oily hair and oily scalp. Those who work out more sweat more and thus the level of sebum oil increases in the hair. You need a sebum oil control shampoo that is easily available in the market or online.

All these roles and objectives cannot be achieved by a conditioner but a shampoo. Thus, shampoo and conditioner have major differences.

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Types of Conditioner and their Unique Functions

Conditioners could be of various types too. We shall discuss the main 5 different types of conditioners to understand their role better. With the support of a conditioner followed by every hair wash with shampoo, you can expect smooth, shiny, and healthy hair.

 The various types of conditioners and their functions:

1. Deep protecting conditioners

Deep protecting conditioners come with higher levels of amino acids and protein. These ingredients go deep in the hair cuticles making the hair soft and shiny. These are also excellent to bring more elasticity to the hair.

2. Conditioner for colored hair

Color protecting conditioners help you to step out of the house confidently. These contain moisturizing agents that keep your hair healthy and shiny for longer periods.

3. Conditioner for thermal protection

Conditioners help your hair to heal from heat damages. Heat products like blow dryers, irons, steam, and other tools damage the hair cuticles.

Thermal protection conditioner acts as a mask to the hair preventing any damages caused due to exposure to heat.

4. Moisture retaining conditioners

Moisturizing conditioners work like filters that moisture the hair. These filters the unwanted and leftover dirt particles which the shampoo failed to clean.

5. Hydrating (Acidifying) conditioner

You will also find conditioners with low pH levels. The innovative technology balances the pH levels and restores hair.

These can be safely used on colored hair too. You may take a second opinion with your hair expert on their usage.

All the above types of roles cannot be performed by a shampoo and so, it is essential to complete the hair cleaning process with a conditioner post shampoo.

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Shampoo Vs Conditioner:  Usage Related Questions

Before we conclude, here are answers to some of the most sought questions on the web related to shampooing and conditioning:

Do you need both shampoo and conditioner?

Certainly! Just like our body needs oil, moisturizer, and soap to keep the skin clean, smooth, and hydrated, you need shampoo and conditioner for your hair.

There will be times when you would wish to use dry shampoo or dry conditioner. However, for regular cleansing, you surely need both.

Which is more important between shampoo and conditioner?

If you have to choose between the two, sticking to shampoo than the conditioner is a wiser option. Unless you clean your hair, moisturizing won’t do much good to your hair.

However, both have an important role to play in hair cleansing and so we suggest you keep both handy always.

Can you use only the conditioner to wash my hair?

Some people are tempted to only use conditioner on the hair. But, if you have oily or sticky hair, you must avoid it.

Using conditioner only can make your hair look thinner. Conditioners are anyway advised to be applied only on the ends of the hair.

What happens if you use conditioner every day?

As we suggested your hair needs both, shampoo and conditioner. One good fact about the conditioner is unlike shampoos, it can be used every day.

You just need to be careful of choosing a conditioner for your hair if you intend to use it every day.

For instance, overuse of conditioner will lead to greasiness, and using it less often will make your hair rough and dry.

Which one to use first shampoo or conditioner?

Conditioner should always be applied post shampoo. If you are thinking to shampoo your hair, then applying conditioner becomes essential post shampoo rinse.

Conditioner helps to bring back the natural oils washed off by the shampoo. Conditioners also act as a protection shield post shampoo.

When to use shampoo and when to use conditioner?

Shampooing every 2 to 3 days is the ideal thing.  The other best way to check if your hair needs a shampoo is when you notice itchy scalp, visibly oily hair, or flaking due to the dirt and dust settled.

You can use conditioner every time you shampoo and immediately. Technically, hair experts advise conditioning your hair 2 to 3 times a week.

Final Words:

Both shampoo and conditioner are essential for healthy hair and scalp. Both have different formulas and thus, these cannot be treated as alternatives.

It would be wise to know our hair quality and type before you choose a shampoo and conditioner. Seek an appointment with your hair expert and check what type of these you must go for.