I’ve been a beauty editor for seven years, which means I’ve interviewed more beauty experts than I could count and consider myself mostly up to speed on tips and tricks. Wash makeup brushes with baby shampoo, use hair conditioner in place of shaving foam, groom brows to look like sisters, not twins. Got it. Which is why it gave me pause when my own hairdresser, George Northwood, casually revealed during my regular trim last month that the secret to great hair is double-cleansing it. And that hairdressers have been doing it forever.
Obviously I’ve been double-cleansing my face for years, along with just about everyone else with a passing interest in skincare, but hair? How did I not know about this? The words “lather, rinse, repeat” circled round and round in my mind, reminding me how I’d never really considered them. (In my defense, when I checked my shampoo labels later, none of them instructed me to do this.) When I texted my friends to ask if they were part of this secret club, two of six said they were. One, who has textured, coily hair, said she even triple shampoos sometimes, and is evangelical about the results.
What Even Is Double-Cleansing?
When I got home, I Googled, “Should I shampoo twice?” and got immediately lost in a Reddit thread in which “big shampoo” was blamed for creating double-cleansing as a “ploy to get you to smash through bottles of shampoo faster.” But when I recalled that George said you actually use the same amount of shampoo, just divided between the two washes, I moved on. An Allure feature confirmed my friend’s opinion that double-shampooing was a game-changer for curly, thick hair, but said that those with super-fine hair should steer clear or risk damage and dryness. I wasn’t sure where this left me: With thick, straight hair, I fall somewhere in the middle. I currently wash it every day (I know, I know, don’t @ me) because my roots are super oily, but George suggested that a double-cleanse might actually buy me more time between washes by offering a deeper clean.
This made logical sense to me. The same way double-cleansing my face allows me to first remove surface dirt, and then do a deeper clean, maybe double-shampooing could first remove the grimy film my hair accumulates by living in London, and then go deeper. So the next week, in a bid to break my everyday-washing habit, I resolved to give the new method a try.
The Double-Cleansing Toe-Dip
George said that any shampoo would do, but suggested something gentle and non-drying. I browsed the samples I’d been sent through work and selected Kristin Ess’s The One Signature Shampoo. I’d used it before and it never made my hair feel stripped or dry, plus it gave good lather. I smoothed a dime-sized blob over the surface of my hair, massaged it around a bit, then rinsed. Per my research, the first round can be lighter, while the second is for working up a really good lather and getting deep into the roots, which I did, massaging vigorously. This already felt a lot better than usual: My fingers didn’t get tangled in my bird’s-nest morning hair and the texture in general felt smoother and easier to work with. I rinsed, conditioned, belted out a show tune, and dried off.
Post-shower, I typically hang my head upside down and blast my not-quite-dry hair with cold air from the hairdryer (an attempt to add volume), but it didn’t feel like it needed it this time, so I let it air-dry. Once completely dry, it felt lighter, airier. Normally my hair sits resolutely flat to my scalp, but it was softer and shinier in a way that I for some reason want to describe as baby hair. I added some Kérastase Elixir Ultime oil to the tips, which did feel a little drier than usual, and couldn’t stop touching it all day. The next morning it was definitely less greasy than my regular second-day hair, though it didn’t make it the whole way through the day before starting to look a little lank. I spritzed some dry shampoo on top, twisted it into a bun, and it was mostly fine.
After a couple more weeks trialling the method, I felt mixed. I loved the feeling of my hair on day one, but that didn’t always carry through to day two. And while it gave me a volume boost, my ends felt parched (George warned that a daily double-cleanse would be too drying). Curious to see if changing up products would make a difference, I tried double-cleansing with Kérastase’s Aura Botanica micellar shampoo instead (basically like Bioderma for your hair). A light, nourishing (sulfate-free) gel that works up into a gentle lather, I noticed it was much gentler on my ends, leaving them less dry. The next week, I added a new first step: Christophe Robin’s Cleansing Purifying Scrub with Sea Salt, a citrussy, refreshing exfoliator that makes my scalp tingle and my foggy brain wake up. My scalp was reborn.
Although I haven’t managed to skip everyday shampooing completely, I’ve finally settled into a perfect compromise: I shampoo my hair daily during the week with the micellar shampoo (just once), and abstain from washing over the weekend. Then I kick off Monday morning with the ultimate weekly double-cleanse, using the two above products for the deepest clean possible, which lifts away the prior week’s grime and leaves my hair feeling newborn.
Ultimately, it’s a difference that, on sight, probably nobody other than myself (and perhaps George) would notice. But there’s something in optimizing these small, daily rituals and fine-tuning the ways I look after myself that feels like a worthwhile act of self-care. Feeling like my hair looks good makes me feel good. In the wise words of Fleabag, “Hair is everything, Anthony”.
Have you tried double-cleansing? Is your hair and scalp-care routine beginning to rival your skincare routine, or just me?