Cleansing conditioners vs. two-in-one shampoos

The other day I was having a casual conversation with my bff/wife for life* Sarah about shampoo, like you do, and she was complaining that two-in-one shampoos are garbage. She tends to lean toward drugstore products marketed to men because she likes the way they smell; I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but products “for men” seem to be lower quality than those for women, as if dudes don’t actually care about their hair or skin. When I was single, I occasionally had the need to shower in a man’s house unexpectedly. This resulted in using plenty of Head & Shoulders two-in-one shampoo and Irish Spring body wash. Ick.

So Sarah was complaining about being too lazy to wash AND condition her hair in the morning, because effort is exhausting, but her hair always feels dry and gross when she tries to use a combo product. I suspect it’s because combo shampoos have too much shampoo and not enough conditioner, but chemistry was never my strongest subject so I really have no idea.

What I do know is that cleansing conditioners are pretty awesome. I’ve only been on the co-wash train for a year or so, but it’s been a pretty good hair year. I’m the kind of person who has oily everything so I generally wash my hair every day, or every other if I’m feeling lazy and don’t have anything important to do. I’ve been using cleansing conditioner on days when my hair is feeling a bit dry but still needs to be cleaned. I’ve tried a whole bunch of different brands; here are some to try and a few to avoid.

Biolage Cleansing Conditioner for Fine Hair


This is my absolute favorite co-wash; I’ve never liked a Matrix product in my life, and I only bought this because it was on sale for $10, but I love it. It smells so good, like eucalyptus and minty freshness. The consistency is a little thin but it still makes my hair feel clean and the bottle has lasted quite a long time. No complaints about it.

WEN by Chaz Dean

We’ve all seen the infomercials. I’m not one for “As Seen On TV” products, but I like this one. I hadn’t ever tried it until Dan’s niece left a travel size of the Sweet Almond Mint in the shower when she visited Michigan. Since it was there I used it. It smelled bomb and my hair looked really good afterward, so I’m a fan. A reporter from Bustle did a week trial of this shampoo a couple years ago and documented the process, and overall she was a fan as well.

L’Oreal EverPure 6-in-1 Cleansing Balm


This is a really good drugstore option. I generally like L’Oreal’s hair products and this is no exception. There are two other versions for different hair types, but I haven’t tried them. This smells similar to the Biolage version but it’s a little thicker. It seems like I needed to use a little more to make my hair feel as clean, but this did an excellent job of moisturizing and detangling.

Unwash Bio-Cleansing Conditioner

This is a slightly more expensive option; I purchased it in a trial size pack with two other Unwash products, and it was… ok. It’s not the worst thing I’ve ever used, but it’s also not the best. At $28 it’s almost three times the price of the L’Oreal version and $10 more than the Biolage. You also get less product for the money. If we were rating these on a scale from 1 to 10, I’d give this one a 5. It’s a totally “meh” product.

DP Hue Apple Cider Vinegar Hair Rinse


This isn’t actually a co-wash, but it’s supposed to take the place of your shampoo and conditioner so I think it counts. First of all, it is spendy: $35 for 8.5 oz. Whaaaaa? That seems like a lot. It also smells TERRIBLE. I mean, I expected it to smell like apple cider vinegar, obviously, but this is strong. It’s supposed to have other ingredients in it so I wasn’t expecting it to smell like vinegar and nothing else. I had several samples sizes of this and was able to use them for a little over a week, and my hair looked disgusting; oily, stringy, like it hadn’t been washed in weeks. I can handle it looking gross or smelling gross, but not both simultaneously.

Basic Apple Cider Rinse


A few years ago when the “no ‘poo” thing started, a basic apple cider vinegar rinse was all the rage, so I tried it. The smell was just as gross as the ACV rinse and I really couldn’t handle it. My hair looked ok, but it wasn’t anything spectacular. I didn’t use it for long because I hated the smell that much.

Hair Food Hair Milk Cleansing Conditioner

I haven’t tried this but I really want to. I like all of the other Hair Food products I’ve tried and it’s relatively inexpensive, so I figure it’s a pretty good product. Also, it smells so incredibly good. I was creeping the shampoo aisle in Target and just had to smell it, but I’m waiting for some kind of BOGO sale to purchase it.

Do you use cleansing conditioners? Are there any that you like that I didn’t mention, or one I should try?

*Obviously she’s not actually my wife, as she’s engaged to a beautiful, patient, understanding woman (hi Jess!), and I’m shacked up with a dude.

4 thoughts on “Cleansing conditioners vs. two-in-one shampoos

Add yours

  1. Oh god my hair does not do no poo, either. I just use bar shampoo and stick some coconut oil in if it starts to get frizzy.

    Hair dressers don’t really know what to say to me. Whoops.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. JR Liggett’s! Doesn’t dry my hair out and lathers nicely. I’ve been using them for probably a year at this point. Coconut oil is for when I have to bust out the scary prescription shampoo for my scalp.

        Liked by 1 person

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