Can Shower Gel Be Used As Shampoo?

You're in the shower and are ready to clean your hair. You open the shampoo and try to pour it into your hand, but there isn't enough left. Looking around the shower, you see that none of your options are intended for hair, but you have plenty of shower gel left. Can you wash your hair with it?

You can use shower gel as shampoo, but shower gel isn't designed for hair and will dry it out over time. Though they are made out of many of the same ingredients, shampoo is made with hair in mind and helps keep it moist. Shower gel, on the other hand, is meant to help your skin feel refreshed.

Your hair and body are important and should be treated well. That's why we've researched this topic and have put together this guide to help you know how to best take care of them. Please keep reading for an explanation of the properties of shower gel and shampoo, what makes them different, and how to get the most out of your hair.

What Is Shower Gel?

Shower gel is a liquid cleaner designed for the body. It uses detergents or oils to remove dirt, oil, and other undesirable particles from your skin. Generally, it has a lower pH balance than bar soap, hand soap, or dish soap. This keeps your skin from drying out while still cleaning it thoroughly.

These gels are made up primarily of water, but also contain a large portion of surfactants. Surfactants are compounds that help with the cleaning process by breaking up the dirt, grease, and grime. This makes it easier for water and friction (created by rubbing the gel onto your body) to eliminate the dirt. Shower gels also contain ingredients to thicken, color, and create lather and scent.

Body wash is a similar product to shower gel, with the biggest difference being their consistency. Shower gel is exactly as its name describes: a translucent, liquid gel. Body wash is often creamy-looking and is gentler on the skin than shower gel.

Cute child in white bathrobe sniffing shower gel in bathroom, Can Shower Gel Be Used As Shampoo?

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What is the difference between shower gel and shampoo?

Woman hand with liquid soap

Shampoo is made with hair in mind while shower gel is made with skin in mind. This means that while the purpose is the same -- to clean -- the properties and specifications of the two products are different.


Like shower gel, shampoo has surfactants to help break up the oils and dirt in hair. However, shampoo has fewer surfactants than shower gel. This is important so that the shampoo doesn't remove all of the natural oils from your hair, since this would make it feel very dry.

Shampoo also contains conditioning molecules that are charged up and cling to the hair. These molecules help your hair feel soft and silky. It's created to maintain healthy hair follicles by following dermatologists' and experts' advice.

In fact, many shampoos are intended for people with specific types of hair. For instance, if you have consistently dry hair, you might choose a shampoo with glycerol or keratin. Or if you have dandruff, you can choose a shampoo with antifungal agents.

Shower Gel

Shower gel, on the other hand, doesn't have these ingredients. Instead, some shower gels come with specific ingredients for skin. This gel below, for instance, has exfoliating beads to help your skin shine.

Click here to view this shower gel on Amazon.

Others use menthol for a cooling sensation or have extra moisture for consistently dry skin. Or, some are extra-strong and anti-bacterial for those with strong body odor. While these properties are great for the skin, they do not have the same effect on hair and might be damaging.

In a pinch, shower gel will work to get your hair clean. If you've run out of shampoo and forgot to get it at the store, using shower gel won't immediately damage your hair. Over time, however, too much of it will make your hair dry and damaged.

Should you shampoo your hair every time you shower?

It's better for your hair if you don't shampoo it every day. Daily shampooing can leave the hair dry, brittle, and damaged. This is at least partly due to the ingredients in shampoo that create lather, scent, or color. These chemicals, such as sulfates, can take away too many natural oils if you use them too often, and can actually dull your natural hair color.

The number of times you wash your hair per week depends on your individual body needs. Some people have hair that is perpetually dry. If this is your situation, you can get by with only washing your hair once a week to let your body's natural oils condition your hair.

Others need to wash their hair more often because they have exceptionally greasy hair, use styling products, sweat heavily, or work in dirty environments. Even if this describes you, plan on only washing your hair five times a week or less.

Adjusting Your Hairwashing Schedule

If you've been shampooing your hair every time you shower and try to make this adjustment, you might notice that your hair feels greasy very quickly. This is probably because your hair glands are overstimulated and are accustomed to working hard to keep your hair soft enough. Try your new shampooing schedule for a couple of weeks before giving up.

Tried this for a couple of weeks and still have greasy hair? Or, does one of the above frequent-wash situations describe you? Try a gentle, sulfate-free shampoo. This will keep your hair clean without damaging it.

Click here to view this shampoo on Amazon.

Using a hair conditioner is an important part of many people's hair care routine. But like shampoo, too much of this product can be a bad thing. Check out this article for more details: Can I Condition My Hair Every Day?

Can you wash your hair with just water?

Washing your hair with just water -- without shampoo or any type of soap -- will have some effect, but won't give you as thorough a clean. As described above, the ingredients in shampoo are designed to break up the dirt in your hair. Simply rinsing it will not get rid of all of it.

However, you now know that you shouldn't shampoo each day. So on days that you don't wash your hair with shampoo, it's still perfectly acceptable to rinse your hair. In fact, this is a great way to keep your hair somewhat clean without damaging it.

Using water on your hair probably won't damage it. But there are some things you should be aware of when it comes to water and your hair. Read this article for more information: Does Wetting Your Hair Everyday Damage It?

In Closing

Shower gel will get your hair clean because it is made out of many of the same ingredients as shampoo. However, it's designed to work differently and might make your hair feel dry over time. Shampoo uses conditioning agents to help your hair feel soft and sleek.

To help your hair look and feel its best, avoid shampooing it every day. Instead, apply shampoo three to five days per week. Even if you don't shampoo it, feel free to rinse it with water more often. Follow these guidelines to help your hair stay healthy. Good luck!

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