If you've had cable TV over the last few years you've probably seen the infomercials for Wen, the conditioning hair cleanser line. Finally, the drugstore brands have started to roll out their own versions, so you'll be seeing them on the shelves soon, if they're not already.
A cleansing conditioner is just what it sounds like - a conditioner that cleanses. With all the talk these days about not washing your hair every day, a cleansing conditioner makes it easy to skip the shampoo. Shampoo can be filled with harsh chemicals, drying and irritating your hair and your scalp, and the natural oils of your hair are actually good for your hair, yet it can be difficult to go without it as when unwashed, hair can look oily, hang limply, and feel heavy. Cleansing conditioners can make your hair look just as clean as shampoo does, but without drying or irritating. They are conditioners, so they are very conditioning. Which is all good for helping to maintain your colour and chemical-treated hair, and encourage your natural curl.
Plus, it's two products in one, so it will likely save you some money.
Cleansing conditioners are especially good for people with dry hair, those with thick hair, and those with curly hair. But anyone can use cleansing conditioners. Depending on your hair type, you might find that you can't use just a cleansing conditioner all the time. You should still use shampoo to do a reset on your hair. Shampoo will get rid of any product build-up and depending on your hair, you might want to do it every few days, or once a week or perhaps once a month.
I picked up a bottle of Pantene's Cleansing Conditioner (part of their Colour Preserve line) recently. It cost me about $10 and comes in a 500 mL pump bottle.
The consistency is quite thick, more like a conditioning mask than a conditioner and the directions say to use 3-4 pumps each time. If your hair is thick, you may need more. It doesn't lather like a shampoo, and you really have to work it into your hair, down to your roots. That massaging motion will help to lift the oil and residue from your scalp and work the conditioner into your hair. The directions also say to leave the conditioner on for a few minutes after massaging. It's tingly and refreshing but not like I've experienced with say the Body Shop's Ice Blue shampoo. It's not an intense sensation.
The aroma is quite nondescript but not unpleasant. Sort of sweet and slightly minty, and not unlike the scent of most drugstore hair products.
I've been using the Cleansing Conditioner for a week now. I've washed my hair with shampoo three times, twice without really feeling the need to, and once to get rid of a lot of styling product that I'd had in my hair the day before. I've tried the trick of washing my hair with conditioner in the past, really massaging it into my scalp, with varying success. Sometimes it works and my roots aren't overly greasy, and other times it doesn't work to clean my hair much at all. But using this Cleansing Conditioner, I don't need to use shampoo everyday. My hair looks and feels clean, with the added bonus of being softer and more manageable. I think that a cleansing conditioner is one of those products that improves your hair over time, so one week isn't going to show much difference. I will continue to use it and see if I like it, but so far so good. I've never been able to really go without washing my hair with shampoo before and this has allowed me to, for the first time.
My hair is on the fine side of normal and it easily can look flat. I find that the Pantene Cleansing Conditioner, despite being heavy, rinses away and doesn't leave my hair looking weighed down. I'm able to use my regular styling products afterwards without any ill effect as well.
I colour my hair red about every 5-6 weeks, and red hair colour fades very quickly. Shampooing speeds up this process. With longer use, I hope to see that the Cleansing Condition helps to maintain my colour longer.
One quibble I have is with the size of the bottle. If you're using 3-4 pumps or more for each use, it won't take long at all to get through 500 mL of packaging. I'd happily pay more for a larger size.
In summary, I recommend trying the Pantene Cleansing Conditioner, especially if you have thick hair, dry hair, or chemically-treated hair. Or if you, like me, has wanted to stop shampooing their hair but haven't figured out how to make it work.