Like most women, my hair-washing ritual has always been hugely important to me. For as many years as I can remember, I have shampooed twice, then massaged conditioner from roots through to tips and waited two minutes before rinsing.
A few woefully short, bouncy, glossy hours would follow before my hair would revert back to its default setting of lank and limp. Now, it seems, that limpness was all my own fault.
Fans of a hot new trend called ‘reverse hair washing’ told me this revolutionary method would leave even my fine hair looking as if I’d been for an expensive volumising blow-dry, but without a professional or pricey product in sight.
So what did I need to do? Simple. Apparently I should condition, then shampoo.
Why? Well, the theory is that, no matter how well you rinse your hair after conditioning, you never quite manage to get it all out and the residue weighs your hair down, making it lacklustre and flat.
Reversing the order in which you wash your hair is meant to give you all the detangling and glossing benefits of conditioner – along with extra volume – but without any residual side-effects.
It goes against everything I thought I knew about how to look after my hair, but could it actually work?
There was only one way to find out: a week-long challenge, changing nothing about my normal hair-washing routine, except for doing it backwards. Simple. And the results were astonishing.
On day one I washed my hair the old-fashioned way – shampooing then conditioning – as a control for the photographs.
To make sure that any difference to my hair during the week was caused by the reverse hair-washing method rather than any other pricey products, I used exactly what I usually do – the very modestly priced Boots Fruit Essence Magnificent Shine shampoo and conditioner
No other products were allowed, and I blow-dried my own hair after each wash using the same barrel brush, with no sneaky trips to my local salon in between.
So far, so normal. After washing and drying my hair as usual it looked like it always does – as if I’ve made an effort with it, yet still a little flat – and no matter how hard I tried to style it, my ears still stuck though my ‘do’.
The day after next it was crying out for a wash. This time I followed the reverse washing rules – and found it much harder than I expected.
The method itself is simple: wet your hair then work in your favourite conditioner, concentrating almost solely on the ends of the hair, with just a tiny bit at the roots. Leave the conditioner in for five minutes, then rinse thoroughly. Only now should you shampoo, rinse, and repeat, making sure you don’t use more product than you need.
Having used conditioner after shampoo for the past 30 years, doing it the other way around felt completely wrong. Like trying to eat with my knife in my left hand.
Slathering conditioner onto dirty hair felt awful and I was paranoid that I’d be left with a thoroughly greasy mop. It took a real effort to leave it on my hair for the full five minutes and I spent ages rinsing it out afterwards.
Once I was finally convinced that it was all gone, I added a squirt of shampoo to the crown of my head. I found that I didn’t need to use as much as I usually would to get a good lather – apparently because some of the dirt had been removed with the first rinse.
After the second shampoo, my hair felt squeaky clean. But the moment of truth was yet to come. I towel-dried as gently as I could, worried that without the final smoothing of conditioner I’d be left with a mass of tangles which would explode into a haze of split ends the moment I tried to take a brush to it.
My hair was definitely looking thicker – as though I’d used a volumising mousse, but without the dulling effect that many styling products leave behind
To my immense relief, however, my wide-toothed comb went through my hair as easily as it normally does – with not a tangle in sight.
I blow-dried it as normal and immediately noticed a difference. My hair definitely looked shinier than normal.
All that rinsing might have taken me longer than usual in the shower, but the extra time seemed to be worth it.
Two days later I repeated the process – and the difference was just as pronounced. My hair was definitely looking thicker – as though I’d used a volumising mousse, but without the dulling effect that many styling products leave behind.
There were also some unexpected benefits to reverse washing. Because I was paying attention to conditioning before shampooing I found I was taking greater care about where I was putting the product, meaning more of it than usual was being concentrated at the dry ends of my hair. And I was leaving it in for at least twice as long as I usually would.
By the end of the seven-day challenge, I could see a marked difference in my hair. Not only did it leave hair shinier, it helped combat frizz caused when particles of dirt stick to the residual product. Best of all, it felt softer yet thicker. Not a sticking-out ear in sight.
So, will I keep up the reverse washing trend? Absolutely – the only trouble is that shampooing before conditioning is such an ingrained habit that I keep doing it by mistake when it’s early in the morning.