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Hair is huge on TikTok. If you're looking for haircut inspiration, you're bound to find it here, with trends like the midi flick and the U-shape haircut achieving viral status. But lately, TikTokers are more interested in how to ensure hair is as healthy and happy as possible, regardless of the style it's in.
Not too long ago I learned that a glug of glycolic acid (typically used in skincare to exfoliate and even out skin tone) is a brilliant quick fix for dandruff. Then came reverse hair washing, which involves switching the order of your shampoo and conditioner to reduce frizz, and blasting lengths with cold water at the very last minute to impart shine. This month, TikTok is obsessed with upside-down hair washing.
What is upside-down hair washing — and what are the benefits?
Upside-down hair washing does exactly what it says on the tin. Instead of washing your hair upright in the shower or bath, it involves tipping your head forward and washing your hair that way. This includes the conditioning step, especially when it comes to rinsing it out.
"Sometimes I wash my hair upside down," TikToker @audreyvictoria_ captioned a video with an impressive 13 million views. "My hair feels the most clean when I do this," Audrey revealed. Similarly, TikToker @moniquemrapier listed the many benefits they have seen since switching to upside-down hair washing. These include: making it easier to get the shampoo under your hair and close to your scalp (arguably the area which needs washing most, thanks to the everyday dirt, oil and sweat which accumulate here), giving hair more volume, making hair smooth and focusing on the parts that really need a deep clean.
TikTokers with multiple different hair lengths and textures are extolling the virtues of upside-down hair washing, proving that it works across the board. @sw33tsparkl3 explains that they wash their natural hair upside down over the sink, for example, so that it's easier to detangle upside down, too, while @ilanadegann swears that upside-down hair washing has given their curls extra volume and definition at the root (something their hair was lacking before trying the technique).
Before I go any further, I know that upside-down hair washing is nothing new. People have been washing their hair this way for centuries. On top of the promise of healthy, bouncier hair, one other potential benefit caught my attention: a reduction in back breakouts aka bacne. TikTok claims that when conditioner is applied and rinsed away, it has the potential to slip down your back and clog pores — particularly when not washed out properly. As someone who experiences rather painful eruptions of back spots, this sold me on upside-down hair washing.
How do you wash your hair upside down?
I found that this technique is a lot easier if you have a shower or a bath with a handheld shower head. So as not to soak my entire bathroom, I chose to lean over the bath and do it this way, first drenching my hair upside down until every single strand was soaked for an intense lather. I reached for Grown Alchemist Damask Rose, Black Pepper, Sage Shampoo, $44 for 500ml, which has made my parched, frizzy hair feel so soft and shiny lately.
As soon as I started working in the shampoo, I noticed that the suds were concentrated to the scalp, mainly the underside. For me personally, it's this section which tends to get the greasiest throughout the day or the sweatiest during a workout. Washing my hair upside down meant I could really concentrate on this area, as well as the rest of the scalp. Typically, most of the suds would end up on the ends of my hair and I'd focus here. But I do remember a hairstylist telling me years ago that I should be gentle with the lengths and ends — areas that don't need too much attention compared to the scalp.
After squeezing out most of the moisture, I raked Grown Alchemist Damask RoseConditioner, $44 for 500ml, through my mid-lengths and ends and took the excess up to my roots — a method Adam Reed, hairstylist and founder of ARKIVE hair, always recommends. Why? If you avoid conditioning your roots (and your hair is particularly dry), you'll need to condition the ends even more thoroughly in the long run as your hair grows. Put simply, regular conditioning keeps all hair — from root to tip — in great condition.
Hairstylist Luke Hersheson recently told me to apply my favourite hair products to wet rather than towel-dried hair, which helps to coat more strands. So I flipped my head over, went about scrunching and let my hair air-dry naturally.
I asked Laura Elliot, head of education at haircare brand Neal & Wolf, for her take on upside-down hair washing — and there definitely is method to it. "Alongside double cleansing to really give your hair a healthy glow, washing your hair upside down can be great for not only reaching those stubborn areas (like the nape of the neck) but also if you lack volume." Laura says this trick will give your roots a lift, as TikToker @ilanadegann shows in their before and after pictures. "This technique is especially beneficial to those with curly hair," adds Laura, "as when washing your hair, the pressure of the water can often flatten curls and waves. Washing hair upside down is the perfect technique to give curls an added boost."
Despite washing upside down for two weeks, I didn't notice much of a difference in the volume of my wavy hair. But it did wonders for my flaky, oily, itchy scalp. So much so, I didn't need or want to wash my hair as often as usual. "When it comes to the scalp, most people complain about oily roots," says Laura, "but what most don't realise is that this is due to product buildup and it not being properly washed out." Laura adds that washing your hair upside down allows you to get rid of that unwanted buildup. Interestingly, I remember trichologist Hannah Gaboardi telling me that buildup can stunt hair growth.
"I would suggest using a non-stripping shampoo," adds Laura. "Flip your head over and massage your hair from the nape to the hairline, then repeat for a better cleanse."
I was most interested to see if the spots on my back and neck would let up — and they really did. Can I put this down to upside-down hair washing or a change in hormones? Well, Dr Amiee Vyas previously told Refinery29 that occlusive products can absolutely cause breakouts on the skin where the hair falls. "I see this commonly on the tops of the shoulders and back," said Dr Vyas, who recommends always rewashing your body in the shower after rinsing conditioner out of your hair.
Laura agrees. "Conditioners containing oils such as butters and other rich substances could contribute to back acne," she says, also citing dirty, soapy water as a culprit if it's not washed away properly. "Rinsing your hair upside down lets the suds and conditioner run off easily, avoiding contact with skin." In other words, yes, conditioner is certainly a culprit in back breakouts so it makes sense that mine got so much better.
What are the downsides of upside-down hair washing?
My only real gripe in regard to upside-down hair washing is that it's a pain in the neck, literally. And the back, actually. If you have neck or back issues, it's best to avoid something like this completely. Instead, continue washing your hair in a way that's comfortable for you.
For this reason, upside-down hair washing isn't something I'd try every single time my hair needs a clean. But it is expert-approved and it certainly does have some serious benefits.