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Can You Use Shower Gel as Shampoo?

So, you run out of shampoo one day. It happens. Do you just skip your shower altogether until you can run to the store? Or can you use your shower gel as shampoo? Should you?

In the case of an emergency, when you find that shampoo bottle empty and you start looking for shampoo alternatives within the shower, it’s tempting to just reach for the shower gel. But, if you can wash your body with it, then shower gel could work for your hair too.

But it’s not that simple. Although some ingredients in shampoos and shower gels are the same, each has its own unique components. Generally, it’s safe to use shower gel as shampoo if it’s your only option. But before you reach for that bottle of shower gel to wash your hair, be aware of the possible consequences.

shower gel

Shower Gel and Shampoo – What’s the Difference?

Both shower gel and shampoo were indeed made to clean your body and hair, respectively. So, it doesn’t seem surprising that the two have some common ingredients. Shower gels and shampoos are both based on surfactants. They lather when combined with water and will remove dirt and oils from your skin and hair.

But there are differences between shower gel and shampoo, mainly in the amount of surfactant they contain. Shower gels contain higher levels of surfactants than shampoos, which are designed to remove more natural oils from your skin. Meanwhile, the lower levels of surfactants in shampoos allow your hair to stay healthy and moisturized after a shower.

So, you can use shampoo in exchange for shower gel. But it will require you to scrub more or use additional products to effectively remove dirt and oils from your skin. On the other hand, using shower gel as shampoo will remove dirt from your hair. But that also includes removing beneficial natural oils from your hair and scalp, which has negative effects.

So, Can You Use Shower Gel as Shampoo?

The short answer is yes, you can. But you should only do so if you have no other option. Please don’t make a habit of it. While you can use shower gel as shampoo, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you should. Here are the reasons why.

They Have Different Cleansing Strength

Shampoos and shower gels have different cleansing strengths. Generally, shower gels are milder, while shampoos are acidic or slightly acidic.

Shampoos were designed to remove the trapped dirt, sweat, and pollution from your hair and scalp. Hence, they are usually stronger, making them more effective at cleaning than products you use on your skin and body.

Shampoos are effective at cleaning dirt and sweat, but they don’t strip your hair of its natural oils. On the other hand, shower gels were formulated to remove oils and stickiness from your skin.

Shampoo Tackles Hair Problems, Shower Gels Don’t

All shampoos are specifically designed to tackle hair problems, whereas shower gels were not made for hair. When brands formulate shampoos, the process usually includes hiring dermatology experts to create high-quality products to help maintain healthy hair follicles.

In short, shampoos were designed to meet the specific needs of your hair. For instance, if you have particularly dry hair, there’s a certain shampoo for that. The same goes for calming an itchy scalp or letting your new hair color last longer—all of which is not the case for shower gels.

They Have Different pH Levels

Most soaps and shower gels have a pH level of 9.0 to 10, while some cleansing gels can sit at neutral pH of 7.0. Meanwhile, shampoo pH values can range between 3.5 to 6.0, with 3.6 being suitable for your hair and 5.5 and up for your scalp.

Using shower gel as a shampoo once won’t cause a lot of harm, but there will be negative effects when you do it regularly. When using shower gel as shampoo, there will be a pH imbalance that can negatively affect your hair, especially your scalp. It may lead to a sensitive scalp and dandruff.

Other Shampoo Ingredients Make a Big Difference

While both shampoos and shower gels are surfactant-based products, shampoos contain additional ingredients to help nurture overall hair health. For example, some shampoos have added keratin or glycerol for healthier hair follicles. They can also contain silicones to give your hair a silky smooth finish.

Citric acid, an acidic ingredient, may also be added to the shampoo’s formula to improve the pH levels of the product, which helps your hair retain moisture. Shampoos also contain detangling ingredients and hair proteins, all of which are not present in shower gels.

Other Shampoo Alternatives

Instead of using shower gel as shampoo when you run out, there are other shampoo alternatives you can use. These options are far better for your hair health and won’t get your hair frizzy, dry, and tangled after the shower.

Use Dry Shampoo

Instead of skipping a shower because you’ve yet to buy a new bottle of shampoo, grab a trusty bottle of dry shampoo. It is the perfect product for quickly cleansing your scalp and freshening up your hair at the same time.

Use Baking Soda

If you don’t have dry shampoo, don’t worry. Grab a box of baking soda from your pantry. You’ll only need a tablespoon mixed with a cup of water to make a cloudy rinse solution, use less if you have dry hair.

This secret ingredient from your kitchen is a natural exfoliant, which can remove dirt, sweat, and dead skin cells from your scalp. It can also remove excess oils without leaving your hair dry and frizzy afterward. Lastly, baking soda will get rid of the itchiness and scaliness on your scalp.

Rinse with Apple Cider Vinegar

Rinsing your hair with apple cider vinegar doesn’t sound fun or fragrant, but it’s an effective tip if you run out of shampoo. A teaspoon of apple cider vinegar, or any vinegar, mixed with a liter of water, is a good cleansing rinse for your dull and dirty hair.

Besides cleansing your hair and scalp of dirt and sweat, an apple cider rinse will also give your hair some bounce and shine. Don’t worry about the vinegar smell as it wears off after a while. If you’re not comfortable with your hair smelling sour after the shower, you can always spritz a little perfume on your hair.

Use a Lemon Rinse

If you hate the smell of apple cider vinegar on your hair, even with the perfume, you can use lemon instead of vinegar. It’s another pH adjuster and an excellent cleanser, especially if you have frizzy and dandruff-laden hair. Plus, it contains anti-microbial properties, perfect for keeping your scalp and hair clean even without shampoo.

Hair Care Tips If You Need to Use Shower Gel as Shampoo

As mentioned above, there are many shampoo alternatives you can use. But if you need to use shower gel as shampoo, just this one time, here are some tips to help take care of your hair.

  • Use a conditioner. Shower gel will remove a lot of natural oils from your scalp and hair, leaving you with extra dry and frizzy hair. So, if you need to use shower gel as shampoo, don’t forget to use a conditioner afterward. It’s a must to moisturize and liven up your hair.

  • Apply coconut oil. If you run out of conditioner, you could use a drop or two of coconut oil as a leave-in conditioner for your hair.

  • Use a hair serum. Besides drying out your hair, shower gels will also get rid of your hair’s natural shine. Using a hair serum after a shower can help transform your dry hair into an image of shining glory.

  • Brush your hair after a shower. Using shower gel as shampoo can tangle your hair, so brushing after the shower can help with that.

  • Set the blow-dryer on a cool setting. Make sure to switch the blow-dryer setting to cool instead of warm to avoid drying out your hair even more.

Final Thoughts

Shampoos and shower gels may have some things in common, but they are different products made of different ingredients to suit your hair and skin needs, respectively.

Using shower gel as a shampoo once in a while is fine and won’t cause a lot of damage to your hair and scalp. But shower gel is by no means a great substitute for your shampoo as it can disbalance your scalp’s pH, making your scalp prone to dryness and dandruff and leaving your hair parched.

Chantelle Farrell

Chantelle is a professional cosmetologist who runs her own skin care clinic Amaranthine Aesthetics. She specializes in anti-aging treatment and natural skin care procedures that restore skin beauty and keep it healthy over time.

As a skin care expert, Chantelle enjoys sharing her advice about reliable skin care products, techniques, and aftercare procedures. She believes that everyone should take care of their body and skin and can do that effectively when armed with proper knowledge.

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