How does a cleansing conditioner differ from a normal conditioner? It doesn't. For the most part, the cleansing conditioner contains the same ingredients as a normal conditioner, although I've seen a few with very low levels of foaming surfactants like cocamidopropyl betaine. I have noticed that most of the conditioners with the word "cleansing" in the title tend to stay away from silicones, but that might be because those I've seen also bill themselves as natural or organic. I've also noticed that a lot of them contain mint, perhaps for the tingly feeling it can leave behind?
Please note that I don't adhere to the no-poo method and I don't know much about it. I'm not here to debate the merits of the method and whether it works or not. I'm just sharing information I've learned about the concept.
If we take a look at something like the Wen Mint Sweet Almond Cleansing Conditioner (I've analyzed this product in more detail in this post), you'll notice very little difference between it and a product that isn't advertised as being cleansing. All conditioners will contain a cationic quaternary compound like behentrimonium methosulfate, behentrimonium chloride, cetrimonium bromide, stearalkonium chloride, or stearamidopropyl dimethylamine as the primary conditioning agent. Most will contain a fatty alcohol - cetyl, cetearyl, stearyl, or behenyl - to boost the conditioning of the cationic quaternary compound. All will contain some water and preservatives, and some might contain oils or modified oils. Everything else is just icing on the proverbial cake (for instance, panthenol, protein, silicones, fragrance, and so on).
If you want to learn more about what makes a conditioner a conditioner, click here or check out the hair care section of this blog!
Why do they call it a cleansing conditioner? Because they can. This isn't to say that very dry or African hair types won't benefit from a cleansing conditioner, and this isn't to say a cleansing conditioner isn't a good conditioner, but you can get the same benefits co-washing or going no-'poo with just about any conditioner. (Although some will say to avoid conditioners with silicones because there could be some build up, I'd be more worried about the build up coming from things like polyquats and cationic guar. I wonder if not using heat styling or anti-frizz products is part of the no-poo concept, because those are chock full of silicones? Anyone using this method, can you advise?)
As a note, seriously? We're calling this no-poo? We can't come up with a better name for this process?
You can make a conditioner with behentrimonium methosulfate, cetyl alcohol, water, and preservative and call it a conditioner or a cleansing conditioner. You can make a conditioner with cetrimonium bromide, cetearyl alcohol, water, preservative, mint essential oil, a bunch of botanical extracts, and coconut oil and call it a conditioner or a cleansing conditioner. Or you could make a conditioner with only behentrimonium methosulfate, water, and preservative, and call it a conditioner or a cleansing conditioner. For the most part, the main difference is the description of the product.
So let's take a look at a few cleansing conditioners and how we can duplicate them! Join me tomorrow for a look at Curl Junkie Daily Fix Cleansing Conditioner!
If you wish to make a suggestion for a product we might like to duplicate, please visit this post and provide an accurate ingredient list and link in a comment.