girl with curly hair using shampoo and cleanser

The Difference Between Hair Cleanser and Shampoo

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If you’re not a haircare product expert, you might wonder what the difference between hair cleanser and shampoo is. After all, it sure sounds like shampoo and cleanser do the same thing.

However, while shampoo and cleanser might sound like they do the same thing, there are some important differences between these two kinds of products. Here’s what you need to know.

The Difference Between Hair Cleanser and Shampoo: What Is Shampoo? 

Shampoo is essentially a liquid form of soap, which is what we used to wash our hair with before shampoo was invented. They are detergents, which are designed to clean our hair and scalp by loosening and washing away dirt, and by dissolving oil and grease build-up.

They contain foaming agents and usually sulphates, and they tend to be quite harsh on the hair and scalp. Unfortunately, while they are great at what they are formulated to do – clean your hair and scalp – they also tend to strip away a little too much of the natural oils in your hair. This is why you need to use conditioner after you shampoo your hair.

There are some shampoo products on the market that are milder and might be more suitable for people who have conditions like eczema or dermatitis. Usually, those products have less harsh chemicals and no sulfates. For example, Miss Jessie’s has two sulfate-free shampoos, our Harm Me Knot Gentle Sulfate-Free Shampoo and our Honey Harmless Gentle Wash, that offer a deeper and more gentler wash than the average shampoo.

The Difference Between Hair Cleanser and Shampoo: What Is Hair Cleanser? 

To properly answer the question of what the difference between hair cleanser and shampoo is, you need to know what hair cleanser is too.

Hair cleansers do the same job, but they are usually a lot milder than shampoo, don’t contain sulphates, and don’t strip as much necessary oil from your hair and scalp. This not only means your hair will usually be softer after you use them, but also that your scalp won’t over produce oil to compensate!

So, what is the use of hair cleanser? It’s perfect for dry or frizzy hair that needs a gentler touch than what you usually get from your shampoo. As part of our cleanser collection, Miss Jessie’s features two natural hair cleaners, our Don’t Want No Suds Conditioning Co-Wash Cleaner and our Co-Wash For Natural Hair Cleanser.

How to Choose Between Shampoo and Cleanser

Now that you know the difference between hair cleanser and shampoo, you need to decide between shampoo and cleanser for your own hair. Here’s how you can do that:

1. Know Your Hair Type

The first step in deciding which product is best for you is to take a long, hard look at your hair.

Do you have hair that is typically dry and damaged? Do you have frizz? Is your hair damaged by products or heat treatment?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, then the real question is not what is the use of hair cleanser, but why aren’t you already using one?

Damaged, dry, or naturally frizzy hair will almost always respond better to cleanser than shampoo. You will still get clean hair, but without the stronger cleaning elements, which may only make your underlying hair problems worse.

2. Understand What Your Hair Really Needs 

We’ve all been taught that to get really clean hair, we need to strip everything out of our hair or off our scalp. But the truth is, most of us don’t really get our hair that dirty in our daily lives and some of the oil on our scalp is there to protect it. Plus, when you use a shampoo to strip out all the oil on your scalp, your body responds by producing even more. This means you might actually be making your hair greasier by aggressively shampooing it!

The biggest difference between shampoo and hair cleanser is that cleanser is milder and gentler. It will still get your hair clean and wash out the dirt and grime that might be trapped there, but it won’t go so far that your body feels it needs to overcompensate. So, if you find that you have a very greasy scalp, a hair cleanser might actually help to solve the problem.

It might sound weird but using a product that cleans gently might actually give you less to clean!

3. How Often Do You Wash Your Hair?

Because cleansers are milder than shampoo, they’re perfect for everyday use.

It’s usually not a good idea to wash your hair every day, so most people only do it a couple of times a week. But if you would prefer to have clean hair every day without damaging it, you can safely do that with a hair cleanser.

This means if you live in a hot place, have a job that gets your hair dirty fast, or work out daily, you should probably be using a hair cleanser. This will allow you to wash your hair every day without doing any unwanted damage.

4. How Does a Shampoo and Cleanser Work? 

You probably know how to use shampoo. Wet your hair, apply the product, lather while you wash your hair and scalp, and then rinse. Since shampoos do strip out a lot of the natural oils in your hair, you will probably follow this with a conditioner.

Hair cleanser works a little differently. You apply it to hair that is wet with lukewarm rather than hot water. There’s no foaming, but you still work it through your hair and scalp. Once you’ve applied it to every strand, rinse off as you would for shampoo.

5. How Often Should You Wash Your Hair? 

Whether you use shampoo or cleanser, you probably don’t need to wash your hair every day. In fact, if you wash your hair less frequently, you might notice an improvement. Here are some signs that it’s time to wash your hair:

  • Your hair is overly greasy
  • You can see particles of grime or dead skin from your scalp on your hair
  • Your hair has a distinct odor

6. Do You Need to Add Anything? 

If you use shampoo to wash your hair, you will probably need a conditioner to add some of the softness and moisture you stripped out when you washed your hair.

When you use a hair cleanser, a conditioner is not actually necessary. You can add ingredients to your hair care routine though. Lemon juice, vinegar and egg whites are all good for your hair, as are honey and cucumber.

None of these additives is strictly necessary when you use hair cleanser either, but they are natural options to nourish and protect your hair a little more – and we could all use all the help we can get!

Shampoo and Cleanser: Which to Choose?

Now that you know what the use of hair cleanser is, it’s time to decide which one you should use for your own hair.

Our best advice is that if you are considering making the switch from shampoo to cleanser, give it a test run for a week or two first. Switch your usual shampoo for a hair cleanser and see what the results are.

You can even keep your regular shampoo for times when your hair really is dirty and needs a deep cleaning, and then use a hair cleanser when you don’t need a deep clean.

It’s your hair, and you know it best. Hair cleanser is milder and gentler, so it’s best for frequent use. Shampoo is great if you have a lot of dirt in your hair and you really want to clean it all out. There are no rules that say you have to pick only one, so add both to your hair care routine, or choose one that you really love. Here at Miss Jessie’s, we offer both, so check out our collection of cleaners and shampoos. Here’s to beautiful, healthy hair!