If you’re like me, a summer spent in the garden or reading the latest thriller with my toes nestled in the sand makes me feel more zen. The only downside? All of that exposure to harsh UV rays sure do a number on my hair. As summer winds down, I’m usually sporting a messy bun as my signature look because my hair is simply wrecked by the sun and heat. And no matter how much conditioner I apply to my hair, my strands still look and feel parched. So, I went in search of a remedy to quench the thirst my straw-like strands had and came across the viral trend of reverse hair washing.
Before trying the reverse hair washing trend
There were heaps of videos that gave me hope, like the one below from colorist and TikToker Michelle Bricem. And on TikTok alone, reverse hair washing has 609 million views and counting!
I mean, that many views must mean there’s something to this trend, right? My only worry was that most of the beauty influencers who raved about reverse hair washing and how their hair had never felt softer, lighter and more full of body were so much younger than me.
Full disclosure: Now in my 5th decade on this planet, I also have lots of grays that stick out more than my other strands of hair, and I just wish they blended in better. While I like the silvery streaks of color threaded throughout my hair, I can’t stand those rogue grays that stick straight up as if signaling an S.O.S.
So, although I wasn’t sure if reverse hair washing could help with this beauty bother, I was game to give it a try anyway. But before I dipped my toes, or rather my strands, into the pool, I reached out to hairstylist turned trichologist Tabitha Fredrichs for some insight.
What is reverse hair washing?
Naturally, I first wanted to know what exactly reverse hair washing was. Fredrichs explained that it’s basically turning your usual hair washing routine upside down and starting with conditioner. That’s right, you condition your hair first and then shampoo right after.
The benefits of reverse hair washing
As it turns out, there are quite a few benefits to shaking up your shampoo routine.
1. It keeps hair looking voluminous
“The benefit to conditioning first is that you can put some moisture back into the hair without weighing the hair down,” says Fredichs. “In fact, since fine and thinning hair can be weighed down easily, most women do not apply conditioner, but without conditioner, some clients find that their hair becomes dry, brittle and frizzy.” In essence, by adding the moisture first this re-hydrates hair so it won’t look limp or lifeless.
2. It cuts down on frizz
“The conditioner will help to close the cuticle of the hair,” says Fredrichs. This prevents moisture loss that can lead to pesky frizz and flyaways that make hair look messy and unkept.
3. It prevents hair from looking greasy
Harsh detergents and chemicals in shampoo can strip the scalp of natural oils that keep skin hydrated. And when the scalp becomes parched, oil glands go into overdrive to restore moisture, creating excess oil that makes hair look oily fast. So using moisturizing conditioner before shampoo keeps the scalp hydrated and balanced to ward off greasy-looking roots. (Click through to learn more on why does my hair look greasy so fast.)
4. It keeps curls looking bouncy
Even when it comes to curly hair, this method can offer plenty of benefits, since curly hair always needs more moisture to prevent frizz. The boost in moisture also ensures that coils maintain their body and bounce. However, Fredrichs notes that this hair trend might need tweaking based on your hair type. Those with curly hair might want to start off by switching between regular washes and reverse washes to see what works best for their hair type as different hair types have different needs.
How to use conditioner with reverse hair washing
What I found most fascinating with reverse hair washing was that it’s okay to apply conditioner on your scalp. “Yes, even at the roots,” says Abigail Yung, YouTuber and trichologist-in-training, in the below all about reverse hair washing.
Most of us have known for years that the “correct” way to apply conditioner to our hair is from mid-length to ends, where the hair is older and therefore much more prone to dryness. But when it comes to reverse hair washing, you can go ahead and apply the conditioner starting at the scalp. The reason: Since you’ll be washing out the product, there will be very little build-up on your scalp, so it won’t feel too oily.
In fact, with reverse hair washing you might need to leave conditioner on your scalp a little longer than usual. “I always compare conditioner to moisturizer,” explains Fredichs. “What would happen if you put your face moisturizer on and then rinsed it off right away? Not much, right? You need to allow the moisturizer—or in this case, conditioner—to stay on for a couple minutes for the ingredients to repair and hydrate.” As a rule of thumb, Fredichs says the dryer the hair, the longer the conditioner needs to stay on.
How I tested reverse hair washing
My hair is medium-thick and wavy, but sizzling temps and UV rays — and heck, sometimes even a dash of chlorine — have given my locks a dull, weathered look. Armed with the knowledge from Fredrichs, along with my favorite shampoo, It’s a 10 Miracle Shampoo Plus Keratin (Buy from Sally Beauty, $24.99), and conditioner, OGX Smoothing + Liquid Pearl Conditioner (Buy from Amazon, $8.54), I was ready to give reverse hair washing a go!
I saturated my hair in the shower and then applied the usual amount of conditioner that I always use. I like to comb through my hair with my fingers, but Fredrichs says you can use a wide-tooth comb, detangling brush or nothing at all to get the job done. After letting the conditioner sit for 3 minutes, I rinsed it out and lathered up with shampoo. I concentrated on my scalp rather than the ends of my hair. And I finished with one final rinse — so simple!
The results after reverse hair washing
After just one wash, I noticed that my dried out ends looked much healthier and my hair had so much more bounce— all due to reverse hair washing.
And after two weeks of testing out the trend even my husband — mind you, the man who doesn’t even notice when I get inches cut off my hair — commented on how soft my strands felt. What’s more, I no longer need to add any products like hair oils to my hair. In the past I’d always dab a bit on in the hopes of imparting some shine and taming some frizz, but it only ended up making my hair look oily.
The final verdict? Yep, I’m all in when it comes to remixing my hair washing routine, especially since reverse hair washing feels like it’s helping reverse the clock when it comes to my hair. I even noticed when pulling my hair into a ponytail or bun that my crazy grays actually behave themselves and lie flat. While I might revert back to just shampooing my hair once in a while, I’ll be sticking with reverse hair washing for the most part. Call me a convert!
Click through these stories for more super-lush hair tips:
Woman’s World aims to feature only the best products and services. We update when possible, but deals expire and prices can change. If you buy something via one of our links, we may earn a commission. Questions? Reach us at email@example.com