Lather, rinse, repeat

Practically all shampoo bottles have these timeless instructions on them but I wonder if it’s truly effective in making your hair cleaner or just a way to double your shampoo consumption. I generally do repeat and the lather is certainly more, um, latherous the second time through, but on those occasions I just wash once, my hair doesn’t seem to to get grotty faster than after a double-session.

So, how about it? Are there any independent studies that demonstrate two washings are better than one, or is it all from marketing?

Depends on how dirty your hair is, I find. I have very long hair which I only wash once or twice a week to prevent damage. It’s also oily (I have a collection of scarves and barrettes to spare the world a look at my oily mane before hairwashin’ day), and gets oilier and oilier as time goes on. When it’s really dirty - especially if I’ve been exercising and sweating or just outside a lot - I need at least two shampooings. (Although it should be noted that I don’t actively shampoo the ends at all - I concentrate on the scalp, and whatever soapy water runs over the ends gets them clean just fine.) One step still leaves gunk behind. OTOH, if you shampoo every day, you probably need only one go 'round.

But think about washing your dishes: for most of them, a little swipe with a soapy rag will do it. For the really greasy ones, you may want to squirt extra dishsoap on that particular dish, as well as using the soapy rag. Dishsoap and shampoo are really very much alike - both detergents, both about the same dilution. They just smell different.

My hair is really dry, so I use a small amount of shampoo and a lot of conditoner. I don’t think I’ve ever shampooed twice, I’ll just use more if my hair is funky for some reason (sweating etc). I will repeat the conditoner or use a lot if I will be wearing my hair down so it won’t look so crappy.

If you wash your hair every day I can’t imagine needing two washings. I hit the gym 3 days per week, sweat like a pig, and have never needed more than one washing even in the summer and even when I had hair to the middle of my back. Exception: while working on my car once, I got a lot of transmission fluid in my hair. Took three, count 'em, three washings.

I’m not saying you couldn’t find “lather, rinse, repeat” if you looked hard enough, but practically all? No way. Most say something like “work into hair and rinse thoroughly, repeat if desired”. The lather, rinse, repeat bit got joked to death decades ago so few shampoos actually use it anymore. Check at a supermarket or pharmacy.

The instructions even back then were aimed at women, not men. Women use a variety of sprays, gels, and other chemicals to hold hair in place and they are tougher to wash out than ordinary dirt. If you were a woman with hard beehive hair, repeating a wash wouldn’t seem strange to you. Again, this is something less prevalent today than in previous decades, which is why so few shampoos make a point of it.

A UK journalist, Andrew Marr, recently wrote an article about his experiment on giving up shampoo.

Somewhere in the article he quoted someone as sayng that ‘rinse and repeat’ were the most wasteful words in the English language - I think he was quoting a chemist in the industry.

@WhyNot, my grandmother had very long hair when she was young (about 1910) and she used to give it 100 swipes with a bristle hairbrush once a day and wash the brush in ammonia once a week.

Ditto what WhyNot said, except that I’m a guy who uses no scarves or barrettes. I have very oily hair, and on the rare occasions that I tried to shampoo only once, I regretted it the next day.

My theory is that not only is this question related to how naturally oily one’s hair is, but this also refers to using conditioner. myskepticsight’s hair is dry any needs a lot of conditioner, whereas mine is oily and I never use any. For a long time, I couldn’t figure out why people would wash their hair only to get it greasy again immediately afterward, but then I came to realize that people with naturally dry hair do need to avoid overdrying it. In contrast to me, who finds it harder and harder to find a shampoo that doesn’t have conditioner in it.

Yep. I’m with you in the shampoo-with-no-conditioner hunt! Suave is still my favorite - cheap shampoo that smells yummy and you can still get it without conditioner!

I use conditioner starting around my shoulders and working down, because the “ends” (over a foot of hair) can use the extra wax to stay nice, but I don’t need more than a token swab up top. (I probably don’t even need that, but I like my hair to all feel nice and slick when I get out of the shower.)

FRDE @WhyNot, my grandmother had very long hair when she was young (about 1910) and she used to give it 100 swipes with a bristle hairbrush once a day and wash the brush in ammonia once a week.
This made total sense back in the day before good hair conditioners. Basically, she was spreading her own hair oils down the whole shaft of the hair to act as conditioner, sealing any damage temporarily. She probably also wore her hair up or braided most of the time, which reduces day-to-day damage. Nowadays, between hair conditioners and wearing hair down a lot, it’s recommended that you NOT brush 100 strokes, as it causes unnecessary wear on the hair shaft and can increase split ends.

Ammonia…ammonia…well, it makes a good floor stripper! It dissolves fats, so she was probably trying to “freshen” her brush by removing accumulated oils on the bristles so it didn’t get gunky.

I could be mistaken, but I seem to remember that Consumer Reports addressed this issue several years ago. IIRC, the conclusion was that the only reason to do a repeat shampooing was if you had started with extremely oily hair.

I am an advertising copywriter and it is an urban legend in our industry that ad guru David Ogilvie was approached by bhis clients at Proctor & Gamble who said that they were considering pulling the advertising budget they had with his agency and pour it all into direct and other channel marketing which seemed to have more effect on sales of their products.

Ogilvie replied that he guaranteed to double the consumption of all their soap and shampoo products if they kept the account with his agency - and pay him some percentage of the vastly icnreased sales.

Intrigued, they agreed and asked him how much this vast rise in consumption would cost. he said; ‘Nothing’. He showed them a bottle of P&G shampoo that had ‘Lather then Rinse’ on the lable. he crossed it out and wrote: ‘Lather. Rinse. Repeat’.

The P&G boys cried ‘Hallelujah’! The accoutn was saved. Ogilvie became a millionaire. etc etc.

I doubt the story is true but it has a nice dynamic.

Same reason you use two Alka-Seltzer instead of one.

I doubt this story too, mainly because Ogilvy (the correct spelling) never had Procter & Gamble as a client. They were his competitors.

Of course, the story could have just stuck in a more famous firm to make it sound better. But there isn’t a single shampoo ad shown in either of his books, Confessions of an Advertising Man or Ogilvy on Advertising, nor is there a listing for shampoo in either index.

Never happened.

Shampoo is detergent. It does a very efficient job of removing the dirty oil on your hair. Would you “wash rinse and repeat” your dishes? Didn’t think so. Conditioner just replaces your old smelly dirty hair oil with new nicely scented oil. I can’t imagine having hair so greasy that a daily washing wouldn’t control it. And you need to replace the oil after washing or you will damage your hair when you brush or comb it.

This is continuing debate in my house. Shampoo and clothes washing detergents have an interest in increasing sales. The more you use the more money they make. I use less than they say in washer. I figure they recommend the most they can get away with. My wife contends they are telling you what makes the best wash. One time and your hair is clean. They want to increase sales. That is all.It is detergent that they add perfume to and stupidly vitamins.