Hair care products conventions

Shampoo is (virtually) always clear – conditioner is (virtually) always cloudy/opaque.

I’m guessing that, at least originally, this was about the different kinds of ingredients in the two products. At this point, however, I’m guessing manufacturers could come up with a clear conditioner if they wanted to.

Is this about either a) customer convenience [you can tell which bottle you’ve got at a glance], or b) customer expectations [you wouldn’t expect conditioner to “do the job” if it were clear]?

This is pretty mundane and stupid – mods, feel free to move it…

But I’m curious.

Probably due to the constituents and production process.
Customers expectations have powerful effects on sales. Can’t have that, can we?

About 20 years ago there was a brand of clear conditioner. I can’t remember what it was called, but I bought it because even as a teenager I was a hair-product whore, and for the record, it was awful.

I’m not sure it would be easy to make a completely transparent conditioner. I’m just WAGging here, but conditioners contain rather oily, greasy emollients that are designed to stick to the hair shaft. I imagine that they are held in suspension in the conditioner’s watery base, with small droplets of oilier, hydrophobic chemicals dispersed throughout the product. Such materials are called “colloids”, and they tend to disperse light that passes through them due to the Tyndall Effect - the little droplets bounce light around, making the mixture translucent or opaque rather than transparent. Milk and mayonnaise are examples of that effect.

Thanks, Excalibre – that makes sense.

Does no-one believe me about the clear conditioner in the '80’s? Maybe it was just a Canadian thing …

We believe you – it just sounds like there may have been sound scientific reasons why the product sucked.


The tendency twickster has noticed sure seems true to me. There’s opaque shampoos out there, of course - but they tend to be “moisturizing” shampoos or 2-in-1s. And I’ve never seen a clear conditioner. I don’t doubt that it existed, but I have to wonder what was in it. Maybe one of the more chemically-inclined people can tell me whether silicone is miscible with water; a lot of conditioners contain things like dimethicone and cyclomethicone (along with a couple other *methicones) and those are silicones; they’re common in conditioners and I could believe that a product that contained essentially nothing but water, thickeners, and silicones could be transparent and work as some sort of conditioner. I think it was in the 80s that silicone commonly began to be used in hair products.

Thanks. I will stop pouting now. :smiley: