What comes 1st: shampoo or facial cleanser?


I could be too presumptuous here but I’m guessing most people shampoo their hair and wash their face during a shower. Well, at least a couple of people I know do. So which should come first? Should we shampoo our hair first or should we wash our face first? And is there a difference?

The reason why I pose this question is because I’ve been thinking about this process lately during my shower.

I’ve always been washing my face first, before shampooing my hair. However, since I’m more concerned about what I use on my face like trying to avoid skin care products containing SLS, chemical preservatives and artificial fragrance as far as possible, I thought about my shampoo too. I haven’t found an SLS-free shampoo that can work for me or rather I haven’t looked hard enough. So my shampoo is just the normal commercial type that contains most of the ingredients that I try to avoid on my face.

Washing hair with head tilted down
It isn’t much of a concern to me except that during a shower, my shampoo will somehow get into my face especially since I’ve always wash my hair with my head tilted down and not backwards. So one way or another, my face will come in contact with the shampoo residue.

Shampoos and conditioners can cause breakouts
It hasn’t affected my skin but I’ve heard and read stories of how some women have breakouts on their foreheads due to their choice of shampoos. One of my readers Tracy had a breakout with her shampoo and ParisB of My Women Stuff also had a similar experience.   Now most shampoos contain Sodium Laureth Sulfate and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate although the percentage may vary for different shampoos but the latter is highly comedogenic and known to cause acne for some people. Silicones like Dimethicone is another potential culprit for some people with ultra sensitive skin.

Better to leave facial cleansing to the last
I’m not going to discuss the other types of ingredients here but the point is that if you’re washing your hair in the shower and not  tilting your head backwards like me, it might be better to wash your face afterwards.  Which means, it maybe better to shampoo our hair first then wash our face to avoid any shampoo or conditioner residue on our skin.

Well, these are just my thoughts and it could all be entirely baseless and I’m just being paranoid.  So feel free to disagree.


  1. Domestic Goddess says:

    I always thought it is the most intuitive to wash the face last cos I am sure I will get shampoo or conditioner on my face if I do it the other way around. In fact, my last wash is always my face, first with the cleanser, then rinse off with cold water to close the pores!

    Domestic Goddess: It isn’t so for me. Somehow I always wash my face first before shampoo. I need to unlearn my old habits!

  2. Florence says:

    I always wash my hair backwards & face will be the last ?

    Florence: Oh oh…looks like I maybe the odd one washing my face first. ?

  3. pf1123 says:

    Yeah. Previously, I wash my hair, then face then body. But my beautician told me not to use the hot water in the shower and spray on my face. She says its harmful to the skin.

    So, I changed to first wash hair, then body then face at the wash basin.

    Do you wash your face first because its logical after removing makeup, you wash your face straight away?

    I was a bit uncomfortable that I don’t get to wash my face with my cleanser right after I remove makeup. But once my new routine becomes a habit, its fine.

    pf1123: I wash my face either way; first after removing makeup but also first thing in the morning when I step into the shower. I think I have a need to keep it clean. Sometimes I wash my hair first but usually what I do is to leave the shampoo on for a few minutes but I still wash my face clean first before rinsing off my hair shampoo! It’s a very strange thing for me I guess since all the ladies wash their hair first before cleansing their face…

  4. Cyndi says:

    I ahte the oily feeling of conditioner sticking on my face when I wash my hair so I always put washing my face the last. It cleans away the oily feeling and keeps my face clean

    Cyndi: I don’t use any conditioner so perhaps that’s why I never get that sticky feeling…

  5. karen says:

    i wash my face last, due to the concerns you mentioned above. but i always wonder if it’s any use at all doing that, because the shampoo gets on my face anyway.

    Karen: I also share the same thoughts as you initially that it might not help too much but I think it might keep the residue off especially since some of the gals had breakouts from their shampoo…so I think it helps.

  6. ParisB says:

    I can’t wash my hair with my head tilted back – knowing me I’d probably lose balance and fall over hehe… So after my experience which you highlighted, I now wash hair then body then face. So far, so good! ?

    ParisB: You’ll fall over? Haha…that’s funny! But I find it strange to wash my hair with my head tilted back; in fact, when I do that, my hair becomes flatter afterwards…

  7. Dee says:

    Wash my hair first then washing my face last! I usually tilt my head back slightly. And yes, most conditioners that I use gave me breakouts. Except for The Body Shop, Olive Oil shampoo range… they don’t give me breakouts but is quite dry for my hair even using the conditioner.

    Dee: You also had breakouts from using some of the conditioners? Might be the silicones…

  8. Leon says:

    I wash my hair first and my face last. I completely agree with you on the fact that shampoo and conditioner can cause breakouts and even a small residue on your face can irritate your skin.

    Leon: I seem to the odd one here washing my face first…I really need to break this habit!

  9. Blair says:

    Yeah, I read an article about this topic recently (in Yahoo if I’m not mistaken), so I’m learning to wash my hair first instead of my face haha.

    Blair: You also wash your face first? Finally I found someone who is alike! What a relief!

  10. Lydia says:

    That’s exactly the same what I’ve been thinking lately!! It’s so funny to read that I’m not the only one with this concern! ?

    I switched to organic skin care products and was quite bothered about the fact that I wash my face first and then follow with washing my hair using a “normal” shampoo. I’m not paying too much attention to the ingredients of my shampoo and was afraid that the silicone and whatever it contains may clog my pores thus causing breakouts. I’m still cleaning my face first but when I wash off my shampoo then I will take the shower head into my hands and like you mentioned, tilt my head backwards. Up until now it works. ;D

    Lydia: Ah, you also wash your face first! Thank goodness I’m not alone. ? For me, I’m not so concerned that the shampoo will break me up but rather getting those “unnatural” residue which defeats the purpose of me using the natural/organic stuff on my face…

  11. Aimee says:

    I wash my hair first for another reason—I like to have the steam steam up my face and open up my pores first before I wash my face.

    Aimee: That’s a brilliant idea! I’ve never really thought of it that way.

  12. happyfeet says:

    I’m like you. I wash my face first before everything! Well, seems like it takes two of us to break that habit……:P

    happyfeet: Great! Got another partner! I was beginning to feel alone and odd…

  13. pf1123 says:

    A few years back I saw an article which says that shampoo and conditioner might cause acne on the back of the body. Therefore, don’t wash the hair with the head tilted back or let the hair lay straight on the back while showering. The residue of the shampoo and conditioner would cling on to the skin.

    What I do is that right after I wash my hair with it flipped to the front (and trying to keep minimum foam and water from touching my face), I immediately wrap my hair in a towel on my head. Then I proceed to wash my body.

    pf1123: Wow, that would take more effort but it’s definitely something to do if one’s shampoo causes problems for the back. My shampoo doesn’t cause acne or breakout for me but I just don’t want the residue on my face.

  14. elleve says:

    i read that before too, that it’s better to wash your face after shampooing to remove the SLS. i also noticed later on that my face (especially the forehead area) improved gradually after that!

    elleve: Ah…all the more I must enforce this new habit! Thanks for sharing with me your experience!

  15. prettybeautiful says:

    i too, wash face before shampooing, but i wash my head backwards. and hey, the only shampoo that gave me acne was the ‘tresmee’. after a couple of use and i became a walking acne!!!

    Prettybeautiful: That’s the same one that Paris used isn’t it?

  16. Elaine says:

    I shampoo with my head tilted back first and after conditioning I wash my face but don’t let it touch the shower stream directly.

    Elaine: That must require some conscious effort on your part… when you say you don’t let it touch the shower stream you mean your hair or your face?

  17. prettybeautiful says:

    yeap! its the same as she had. eeeeek!

  18. pf1123 says:

    Wrapping towel on my head becomes an easy habit to have because I used to have very long hair. The hair gets in the way of washing my back anyway. So, its better to wrap my hair up.

    pf1123: I see…I’ve not kept long hair for a long long time and have forgotten how I used to wash my hair when it was longer.

  19. GabrielLe says:

    None of the above, I don’t even bath! ahahahah…J/K! Well, my doings are somewhat similar to pf1123 methods. Shampoo my hair 1st, wrap with a shower cap then working from face down again after conditioning/treatment. It really take some skills to shampoo the head tilted!

    GabrielLe: ? no bath? Hee…I’ve tried shampooing with head tilted but don’t like it. I think I’m just lazy to attempt anything that requires too much effort on my part.

  20. prettybeautiful says:

    yesterday i saw a brand of shampoo – nu er, it is written on the box that it is SLS free. have u tried it before? it is said to be manufactured in the US. i have taken a photo for u if u need to see it ?

    Prettybeautiful: Never came across this…couldn’t find on the Net too. I wonder if it helps with oily scalp conditions? But don’t think I’ll go for it unless it’s readily available here (but thanks for taking the pic!). I have very specific hair concerns and that’s why I don’t go for natural and organic brands. Those I’ve tried didn’t work for me. The SLS help to keep my scalp clean. Do I remember correctly that you also have oily scalp?

  21. prettybeautiful says:

    i have oily + itchy scalp. i recently discovered selsun, it is very cool for me but making my hair dry. so now i have to reduce the use of it to 1 or 2x a week. Now for other days, i am using head and shoulder itchy scalp. it has been pretty ok so far. and oh yeah, herbal shampoo (eg himalaya) just wont help with our itchy scalp!

    Prettybeautiful: My scalp is not itchy but very oily and very limp. I have to put on dry shampoo before I leave the house… I agree with you – those shampoos for oily scalp make hair very dry.

  22. Synaesthesia says:

    I always wash my hair & body b4 face. If I’m not mistaken / remember wrongly, I heard someone told me there r residue may stay on ur skin after shampoo especially. Thus we need to wash our face as the last procedure to ensure ingredients in shampoo won’t stay on face. These ingredients may not irritate our skin but still not good to our face though. Maybe bcoz my makeup remover din feel oily so I dun feel much b4 cleanse wif normal facial foam. Just my 2 cents opinion, pls correct me if i’m mistaken any facts.

    Synaesthesia: No, you’re absolutely right! I’ve not been doing the right thing by washing my face first.

  23. Naz says:

    I used to wash my face during the shower, usually the time I let the conditioner soak into my hair. Then a year ago, I started to wash my face once I am completely out of the shower, with my hair wrapped up in a towel. What a difference it made! My skin drastically improved in all ways imagineable! Until two months ago, when I started to use Herbal Essence Hello Hydration. It has cause my entire cheeks and hairline to breakout. These weren’t my once a month menstrual type of acne, but worse. There are no cleansers or acne products which I haven’t tried to clear this up. I love what this shampoo does for my hair. I’m torn in the middle.

    Naz: It didn’t help that you wash your face afterwards? The ingredients must be really disagreeable to your skin. Do you wash with your head tilted backwards to ensure it doesn’t drip to your face? If this still doesn’t do the trick, I think it’s time to look another shampoo…there must be other shampoos that can help your hair and not wreak havoc to your face.

  24. Kathleen says:

    I always wash my face first because I feel like it needs to be clean and allow the steam in the shower to work on my face while I finish up everything else in the shower.

    Kathleen: Seems that washing our face last maybe better long term…or at least take a cold rinse after you’re done with everything else.

  25. Tine says:

    I’ve always been washing my face last. Never really gave it a thought to why I do that; I just prefer to leave the face to the last. Now that I think about it, I reckon it’s to remove all the residue shampoo and conditioner which falls onto my face.

    Tine: My problem has always been that I need to leave my shampoo on for awhile. But now I make a conscious effort to rinse it off and then wash my face last.

  26. Jo says:

    I came across sukin SLS free shampoo at watson. I thought its shld be as great as their skin care series. Any comments?

    Jo: I don’t know cos I’ve not tried their shampoo.

  27. TGG says:

    Trader Joe’s grocery stores sell “Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Tingle” shampoo, with all natural and mostly all organic ingredients. It really tingles (think Paul Mitchell Tea Tree products minus a little tingle) and leaves my hair and scalp feeling very fresh. Here’s the Trader Joe’s website; check to see if there is a Trader Joe’s in your area: http://www.traderjoes.com/

    I personally like to use the shampoo (since it’s so natural) as face wash (and sometimes body wash too) when I’m in the shower. But I’ll let you know that it’s even more tingly on your face and body! It has helped to clear up my acne. And while I don’t use it every day on my body and face (I think it might dry my skin out a tad, so I use Kroger’s equivalent to Cetaphil cleanser), it’s a real treat at under $5.00 for a large bottle.

    Hope this helps!

  28. Jay says:

    i have little little hair on my face do you send me how can i get free from my hair.

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