Vs Non Conditioning Shampoo

Do you read your product bottles? Have you ever noticed a shampoo bottle that says something like:

Rebuilds hair with 4x the damage prevention*

But four times…what, exactly?

Why does my Shampoo have Fine Print?

If you read the fine print by the asterisk, you’ll almost always find it says something like “vs non conditioning shampoo.”

Non conditioning shampoos are generally sold as clarifying shampoos. It stands to reason that such a product would not deposit something helpful.

In other cases the fine print might read “…when used with system conditioner, vs non conditioning shampoo.”

Hold it right there. Are you telling me that not using conditioner means I might not reap the benefits of using conditioner? Now that you mention it, it’s almost like that might be on purpose. Of course moisturized hair is going to be less breakage-prone than dry, brittle strands. Of course adding fillers to the strands helps hair feel healthier and enhances the appearance of fullness. No one is expecting Ivory bar soap to do these things.

This text used to only be included on what we consider 2-in-1 shampoo plus conditioner products. Now, it can be found on tons of shampoo products…and for what it’s worth, I’ve only ever seen this text on drugstore brands.


Clearly, a bold claim like rebuilding hair with damage prevention is placed to sell product.

Placing that claim on a product that cannot deliver that benefit with some obscure fine print about needing to buy a separate product – or even multiple products – to achieve the desired effects (and even then only maybe), is shady.

Why not just be up front with a, “Hey, the benefits of this system are X, Y, and Z. To reap maximum benefits, you should use this with <companion product>.”

Nonsense, Quantified

Brands are quick to say something is three times more effective at this, or hair is four times some positive quality of that. Saying that a product is however-many times greater at something is worthless without an actual comparison.

Not all non conditioning shampoos are created equal. The composition of and results of using, say, Suave Clarifying shampoo vs. Neutrogena Anti-Residue Shampoo aren’t going to be 1:1.

If brands are going to assign multiples of whatever positive quality they’re trying to sell you on, they need to be explicit about what it is better than.

The Bottom Line

Unfortunately, these claims on the bottles are about as helpful as saying, “This shampoo is 37.5x gentler…vs washing hair with Brillo and lye.” At least that would be entertaining to read.

We let conditioner sit on our hair to give it some time to let some of whatever makes it special sink in. Some are even rinse-free. Shampoo, however, is immediately rinsed away and generally doesn’t have any time to impart any benefits to the hair beyond just cleaning it. It is for that very same reason that a cleanser with salicylic acid doesn’t do as much for the skin as a toner or moisturizer. At the end of the day, most of your benefits are going to come from your conditioner; next time you find yourself swayed by a shampoo’s lofty claims, check the back.

Have you found anything odd on your product bottles? Let me know in the comments below!

2 thoughts on “Vs Non Conditioning Shampoo”

  1. I refuse to buy products whose labels insult my intelligence. Sulfate-free conditioner? There does not exist a single conditioner that would be stupid enough to use a shampooing agent in its formula. Gluten-free shampoo? Now I can add it to my diet! What’s next, cage-free hair spray? Arsenic-free lotion? Thank you for that informative label.

  2. Oh god yes! I hate those stupid comparisons. “Four times more moisturizing than gasoline!” Yeah, thanks for that useful tidbit….. happy to see I’m not the only person bugged by this!

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