Why is shampoo sometimes clear, while conditioner is always opaque?

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Ariel Stewart

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Ariel Stewart asked the Naked Scientists:


I was in the shower this morning when I realized something.  Why does shampoo come either translucent OR opaque, when conditioner is always opaque?  Is this due to some chemical that's always in conditioner, or is it just an industry preference?  As an added bonus, is this the same reason why lotion is always opaque?  I know there are antibiotic gels that are translucent, but those are not the same as lotion.

Thank you in advance for your answer :D

writing from San Diego, CA

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 03/08/2008 11:54:56 by chris »


Offline chris

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If the conditioner is opaque this suggests it forms some kind of emulsion a bit like milk. In other words it's forming a suspension of small oil droplets, called "micelles", surrounded by water molecules.

Perhaps other "hair-care" experts here on the forum can explain how conditioner actually "conditions" hair and why it should have this chemical formulation.

I never forget a face, but in your case I'll make an exception - Groucho Marx