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Does More Conditioning Make Your Shampoo Best?

Posted May 25 2009 11:36pm

Lucy in the sky wants to know… I’m curious to know what shampoo isn’t conditioning these days. Most of them have some kind of ingredient that does something. I’d be more impressed if, say, Pantene said that their smoothing shampoo smoothed better than *the leading national smoothing shampoo* or something like that. Its like they’re comparing apples to bananas and saying bananas are better because they don’t have seeds. Well no kidding, your shampoo moisturizes better than a non-conditioning shampoo…. It’s by definition non-conditioning. Oh well. funny-picture-1368270200

The Right Brain responds:

It warms the bottom of our hearts to see that the Beauty Brains community is paying such close attention to the commercials for hair and skin care products. That kind of scrutiny helps keep the cosmetic industry on its collective toes. But before we talk more about advertising honesty, let’s address your question about the conditioning qualities of shampoo.

Conditioning act

It gets confusing with so many brands selling so many products, but there are really only about 4 basic types of shampoos. Although shampoos are primarily intended to clean, over the years formulators have evolved the products to include ingredients that remain on the hair after rinsing to give a conditioning effect. In the early days of this technology this kind of shampoo was called a  “2-in-1″ because it combined two functions (cleaning and conditioning) in one product. Pert Plus was the first successful conditioning shampoo in the late ’70s/ early ’80s.

Since then companies have found out that providing some level of conditioning is helpful for a variety of hair issues, not just for people who want to skip using a conditioner. So, 2-in-1 type formulas began showing up in moisturizing, dry damaged, and color treated shampoos. (Pantene was one of the early pioneers of this approach.) Today many shampoos do provide conditioning even if the label doesn’t tell you that.

However, that doesn’t mean that ALL shampoos are conditioning. Low cost formulas like VO5 and Suave typically can’t afford to include significant levels of conditioners - they’re just good cleansers.  And shampoos designed for clarifying or deep cleansing are also usually conditioner-free. Here are a few examples of non-conditioning shampoos:

Pantene Pro-V Clarifying Shampoo

AG Hair - Renew Clarifying Shampoo

Suave Shampoo, Daily Clarifying

Nature’s Gate Rainwater Clarifying Shampoo

BTW, if you’re not sure what kind of shampoo you have just do this simple test: pour the entire bottle into the toilet and flush. If the foam looks like today’s picture, then it’s a non-conditioning shampoo.

Advertising angst

As you pointed out, advertisements for conditioning shampoos frequently contain a disclaimer that looks something like this: “*compared to non-conditioning shampoo.” If all the company claims is that their product provides conditioning, then it’s perfectly honest and legal to compare against a shampoo that doesn’t have any conditioning. However, when you stop to think about it, that kind of claim isn’t really very compelling.  As you suggest, it would be much more impactful to test against the “leading national brand.” But it’s also much harder to prove that and it opens the company up to potential legal challenges from whoever makes the the leading brand. So that’s why you see the “non-conditioning” claim used to often.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

Most shampoos contain some level of conditioning agents, but if you look carefully you can still find the old school non-conditioning kind. And if you want your hair to be soft but you don’t want to use conditioning agents you can always use meat tenderizer shampoo.

What do YOU think? Have you ever used a 2-in-1? Do you use conditioning shampoos in general? Or are you a squeaky clean kinda gal? Leave a comment and share your shampoo savvy with the rest of the Beauty Brains community.

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