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The Cut Down: Should You Use Shampoo or Conditioner First?

October 20, 2021

1 Min read

When it comes to wash day, it’s important to keep in mind that the purpose of cleansing our hair is to remove excess oil and product build up from the scalp and hair. With so many different products to choose from, getting the order of use exactly right can be confusing. You may have heard various opinions and are now asking yourself questions like: should I use shampoo or conditioner first? 

In this video, Director of Education and veteran hairstylist, Faith Armstrong breaks down the right order to use your haircare products, including the step you didn’t even know you needed (but is crucial): a pre-shampoo mask.

Step 1: Treat your hair with custom pre-shampoo hair and scalp masks

Prose has two pre-shampoo masks up for grabs: the pre-shampoo hair mask and the pre-shampoo scalp mask. Both are hair treatments designed to be applied to damp hair before cleansing. The purpose of these products are to immediately address any hair and scalp issues or concerns before hair ever comes in contact with shampoo—be it split ends, fiber repair, sensitive scalp, flakes, color protection, and so on. Depending on your unique hair, you may be recommended to use one (or both) of these pre-shampoo masks to address your concerns.  

Their highly concentrated formulas, which contain fresh, active ingredients, differ greatly from a conditioner’s formula because they use a pH slightly higher than water to gently open the hair’s cuticle layer to deposit these ingredients, while most conditioners are instead designed to close the hair’s cuticle. After rinsing out your pre-shampoo mask(s) your hair or scalp will be  fully prepared to withstand the cleansing process without hair feeling dry or tangled.

Pro tip: Apply your pre-shampoo mask before a workout, spending time in the sauna, or running a quick errand before showering. This product can flow seamlessly in your daily routine when multitasking  which can eliminate it feeling like an extra step!

Step 2: Cleanse with custom shampoo

Prose’s shampoo is designed to cleanse the hair and scalp of excess oil and build up. While shampoo in general has been vilified on the market for quite some time now, it is truly the key to proper hair health and scalp balance. The type of shampoo you use will differ depending on your hair type and desired outcome. Enter: custom shampoo. Prose’s custom shampoo is designed to address all of your hair needs and concerns without the dryness and over-stripping feeling of harsh sulfates. This sulfate-free cleanser is designed only with the individual’s needs in mind—whether your hair is oily, dry, needs volumizing or not much at all. Most wash routines will begin with shampoo first but depending on your formula it may actually come second (only to the pre-shampoo mask.)

Pro tip: To reduce tangling, especially on curly hair, be sure to shampoo your scalp and lengths in the same direction that hair naturally falls/grows!

Step 3: Finish with custom conditioner

Prose’s conditioner is designed to pH balance hair and close the outer cuticle layer, leaving it soft and tangle-free. Most conditioners on the market are intended to be applied on damp hair after shampooing and this one is no exception to the rule. However, if you’re familiar with detangling sprays, then you may be excited to learn that using a custom leave-in conditioner before shampooing can help to release hard to manage tangles and knots. This step doesn’t replace the benefits of the custom pre-shampoo masks, but it can greatly help with releasing trapped hair and overall manageability before shampooing.

Pro tip: Leaving in your rinse out conditioner is not the same as using leave-in conditioner! Rinse out conditioners are too concentrated for styling and the build-up can negatively impact the performance of your styling products, not to mention the health of your hair. 

It is important to consider the purpose of each of your products when it’s time for wash day. Knowing when to use shampoo or conditioner first, whether you’re pre-treating, detangling, or going straight for your wash, let a custom formula and routine help you to achieve your best hair yet.


What does your hair need to thrive? Take the consultation to find your formulas.



Faith is a NYS licensed cosmetologist with over 15 years in beauty. Starting her career as a master colorist, Faith spent years expanding her skills to include styling, editorial, blogging + media, along with working under some of the top names in beauty and fashion, such as Patricia Field and Rachel Zoe. By 2015, she stepped from behind the chair into salon management & education – always leading from the viewpoint of the stylist. This unique transition launched her into working with beauty start-ups as an industry expert to strategize their brands. Prior to her position at Prose, Faith worked alongside celebrity stylist Jen Atkin as Sales and Education specialist at OUAI haircare.

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