What’s the Difference Between Shampoo and Conditioner?

Rainbow is curious…I don’t understand, when you apply your shampoo, your hair gets really rough and when you put on conditioner your hair gets really soft. What happened? And also I want to know, is conditioner ACTUALLY being absorbed by your hair?

The Left Brain explains:

The difference is simple. Shampoos contain cleansing surfactants like SLS, SLES or other detergents. These materials surround oil, lift it off and get rinsed away with the water. Shampoos do not necessarily dry your hair. What they do is remove all the oil (unless you’re using a 2-in-1). This makes the hair feel more dry.

Conditioners also contain surfactants, but these are conditioning surfactants. These surfactants have a positive charge on them which makes them “stick” to the damaged, negatively charged proteins on hair. So, when they are rinsed away, things like cetyl alcohol and other ingredients in the conditioner are rinsed away. Conditioners also contain silicones that will stick on hair and are not rinsed away. Conditioners mostly remain on the surface of hair but they do penetrate (absorb) to a small degree.