Difference between Shampoo and Conditioner
By Theydiffer - December 9, 2015

Hair is the most attractive part of one’s looks (and the one that is easiest to do something with), and clean and shining hair can add immensely to one’s personality and appeal. There is a huge range of shampoos and conditioners on the market that boast of providing the right amount of nutrients to the hair to add body and volume and make it look healthy and shiny, creating a perfect look.

It is important to first understand the purpose of shampoo and conditioner and their differences before actually deciding on the type of product to buy.


Shampoo is a hair care product which is a special mixture of soap and water, used for removing dirt, oils, skin particles, dandruff, environmental pollutants and other contaminant particles that build up in the hair due to lack of washing.

Shampoo contains detergents and surfactants; a class of chemicals lathers the hair and gets rid of the dirt and oil on the scalp with one end of their molecular structure, and dissolve into water with the other end of their molecule.

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Conditioners are special hair care products which are thick and meant to condition hair. Conditioners alter the texture and appearance of hair. With the use of conditioners, dry and brittle hair can appear moisturized and shiny.

Conditioner contains emollients, such as cetearyl alcohol which is a class of chemicals that reduces evaporation on the skin and hair, making it feel moist. Emollients work by either attracting water to the skin (humectant), reducing water loss by creating a film on the skin (as in mineral oil), or by restoring deficient materials which leave the hair all shiny and soft.

Shampoo vs Conditioner

Shampoos are the hair products that help to remove oil, dust, dirt, pollutants, and dead skin cells that build up on the hair strands and cleanse it thoroughly, giving it a fresh and clean look. On the other hand, conditioners are the hair care products which soften and moisturize the hair strands making it easy to comb and style them.

Due to the difference in their purpose, shampoos and conditioners are manufactured using diverse products which act differently on hair. Shampoos are meant to clean and wash the hair, just like soap washes the hands and body, whereas conditioners are meant to restore shine, body and pH balance to the hair. There are conditioners available that do not require rinsing and can be left in the hair till next wash to keep the hair soft.

While shampoos contain washing agents which are gentle so that the sebum which protects the hair remains intact, conditioners contain moisturizers with proteins to make the hair strong and give it a glossy look.

There is also the difference of pH balance between shampoos and conditioners. It is the higher pH balance in conditioners which helps to promote the development of amino acids which make the hair seem shinier and full of body as compared to shampoo which has lower pH levels.

Comparison Chart

Shampoo is used to clean the hair and scalp and keep it oil and dirt freeConditioners are used after shampooing to make the hair soft and manageable and keep the strands tangle free
Shampoo contains cleaning agents that are found in soap and are slightly acidicConditioner contains moisturizers and glossers which are more acidic that shampoo
Shampoos have to be rinsed out of hair after applicationConditioners can be either washed out or left in the hair, as advised by the manufacturer
Shampoo produces lather as it aims to wash the hair and clean it of dirt and oilConditioner does not produce lather as it does not clean the hair but moisturizes and softens it