Here’s the short answer: While some traditional shampoos can contain harsh detergents or sulfates to create a foamy lather, hair cleansers skip both ingredient categories and tend to be far gentler on the scalp and strands. Of course, you can find plenty of sulfate-free shampoos on the market, but the term “shampoo” refers to a much broader category.
Hair cleansers, on the other hand, pinpoint non-stripping formulas–in fact, some of them do not include any sort of surfactants at all. For example, the Hairstory New Wash features a blend of essential oils, like peppermint and evening primrose oil, to gently cleanse and stimulate the scalp. You could also opt for an all-natural option, like this DIY apple cider vinegar hair rinse to increase shine and manage oil or this rosemary water rinse for healthy hair growth.
Although, that doesn’t mean you have to fall squarely within one camp or the other; you can incorporate both sulfate-free shampoos and hair cleansers into your hair care routine. Think about it: If you have any sort of texture to your hair, you might not want to shampoo every single day, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid the rinse altogether. Just alternate a wash day or two with a cleanser!