Difference between Hair Conditioner and Shampoo

Key Difference: Hair conditioner and shampoo, both are hair care products. Shampoo is used for cleaning hair by removing dirt, pollen and other such types of particles. Conditioner is generally used for improving the condition of hair. Typically, they are used for moisturizing hair and also for obtaining smooth and shiny hair.

Shampoo is a product which is widely used for cleaning hair. The word Shampoo has been derived from a Hindi word champo which refers to head massage with some kind of hair oil. Shampoo has become an integral part of personal hygiene. Long time back, before the invention of shampoo, people used to take care of their hair by using products like soap and oils. Soaps were not able to gain popularity as a hair care product as most of the people felt that they leave hair looking unhealthy and irritating.

English hair stylists used to boil shaved soap with water and also added some herbs in order to make a cleansing solution for hair. However, commercially shampoo started to be sold from the turn of 20th century. Earlier, shampoo used to share many products like naturally derived surfactants. However, Drene  is credited for being the first shampoo made by using synthetic surfactants. It was introduced in 1930. This formed the base for modern detergents.

Formula of shampoo generally includes, water, detergents, foam boosters, thickners, conditioning agents and preservatives. The exact formula may differ from one company to another.

Hair conditioner is another hair care product which is generally used for improving the condition of the hair. It also helps in detangling hair. People prefer using conditioner as hair tends to be softer and less dry after using hair conditioner. During 1900 the first conditioner was invented in the form of Brilliantine which was presented by Parisian perfumer Edouard. It was basically a formula invented for softening men’s hair. However, the first rinse off conditioner was marketed in 1970.

Shampooing loses sebum, and therefore some conditioners are also applied after shampooing to make up for this loss. There are many types of conditioners which are available in the market. They focus on general or particular problems. Types of conditioners include moisturizing conditioners, deep conditioners, acidifying conditioners, color protection conditioners, etc. The ingredients of hair conditioner includes moisturizers, acidifiers, detanglers, thermal protectors, glossers, oils (EFAs - essential fatty acids), surfactants, lubricants, sequestrants, anti-static agents and preservatives.

Herbal based shampoo and conditioners are also gaining popularity as they do not contain any chemical based products which can be sometimes dangerous for hair. Herbal or natural based hair care products generally use dry herbs like amla and shikakai. Many shampoos also contain ingredients which work as both cleanser and conditioner.

Comparison between Hair Conditioner and Shampoo:


Hair Conditioner



Hair conditioner is another hair care product which is generally used for improving the condition of the hair.

Shampoo is a product which is widely used for cleaning hair.

Main purpose

Moisturizing conditions are very popular; used for retaining moisture in dry hair

Removal of dirt, pollen and other articles

Some common ingredients

  • Proteins which tend to be one of the essential ingredients of hair conditioners
  • Water
  • Trace amounts of compounds like glycerin
  • Oils from herbs and fruits
  • Silicon oils like dimethicone are generally added as they help in hair softening
  • Mineral oil is normally used as a base
  • And many more
  • Water – almost 70 to 80 percent of the entire formula
  • Detergents – primary cleansing ingredients
  • Foam Boosters – usually contains betaines or alkanolamides for foam creation
  • Thickeners – Materials like Methylcelluslose are added for increasing the thickness
  • Conditioning Agents –  agents like Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium are added in shampoos which provide additional features of conditioners
  • Preservatives – Preservatives like DMDM Hydantoin are added for avoiding contamination from bacteria and other microbes
  • Some other ingredients may also be added for providing additional characteristics like fragrances, dyes, etc.
  • And many more
  • Types
  • Crème rinse – contains a chemical group called quats
  • Instant conditioner – like crème rinse. They coat the shaft.
  • Deep conditioners – need to be left on the hair for 30 inutes
  • Body builders – these are thin solutions of water and some polymer
  • Hair repair – are applied after shampoo

Cleansing Agents –are generally mild and are used for removing dust and excess oil from the hair

Antidandruff Agents – used for treatment of dandruff

Antiseborrhoeic Agents - they reduce corneocyte production

Keratolytic Agents – remoce ointment, pastes, etc.



Depends upon the quality of hair, one can also skip conditioner if hair are already moisturized, smooth and shiny.

2-3 times a week, a mild shampoo may be used everyday

Image Courtesy: aloeindustry.com, ashleysgreenlife.com

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