Hey Upfront, Why Don't Your Conditioner Bars Lather Like Your Shampoo Bars?

If you use both Upfront shampoo and conditioner in your hair care routine, you’ve likely noticed this too. Our shampoo bars work up a rich foam in much the same way a liquid shampoo does. The conditioner bars however, don’t have much foaming quality. Instead the conditioner bar works best rubbed directly on and through the hair. If you have longer or thicker hair, this can be more intensive than you’re used to. What gives?

It’s a fair question really, and one we actually get pretty often. The answer is found in how each product works.
The key ingredient in your shampoo is a surfactant, or detergent. It’s purpose is to break down dirt and oils on the hair and carry them away. The lather is how you know the surfactant is doing its job. Conditioner on the other hand, has the job of moisturizing the hair, most commonly with the use of one or more emollients.. Another word for emollient? You guessed it, oil. Exactly what a surfactant is meant to wash off your hair.

In short, if you added enough surfactant to your conditioning formula to achieve a lather, it would wash the conditioning agents right off your hair before they had a chance to do their job!

So there aren’t surfactants in the conditioner, got it! Not so fast, though. Surfactants are quite complicated, chemically; there are multiple categories of surfactants each with different properties. There are some surfactants in the conditioner bars; they fall under the category of cationic surfactants. You can refer back to the blog post about Surfactants if you need a refresher, but the gist is, cationic surfactants don’t lather quite as well as their cousins, and function better as conditioning agents. That’s why the conditioner bars do have a little bit of foaming ability, but not very much. Enough to aid in the spread of the conditioner, but not so much to prevent it from doing its job.

I can break it down even more with one simple, if somewhat cheeky question: Does your liquid conditioner lather, or is it easier to spread simply because it’s 80% liquid?