Last Updated on January 3, 2023 by Gaga
What is Co-Washing?
Co-washing is short for conditioner-only washing and basically means washing your hair using conditioner instead of shampoo.
Too frequent shampooing can seriously dry out the scalp and hair. Dry hair is prone to frizz and breakage, especially if it is texturized or color-treated.
Co-washing helps to improve the natural moisture balance of dry, frizzy, and chemically treated hair. Conditioner washing makes thick, and coarse hair softer and easier to style.
Co-washing can be done in addition to your current hair shampooing routine, or it can be used in place of shampooing with the occasional use of a clarifying shampoo.
What are the Benefits of Co-Washing?
Here are a few of the benefits that will go with co-washing:
- Conditioner washing is much gentler on the hair than shampooing and can be performed more frequently.
- Prevents the depletion of your hair’s natural oils, keeping hair soft, more manageable, and less frizzy
- Allows for better hydration of your hair and scalp, so your hair stays moisturized and nourished
- Makes hair softer and easier to detangle, which means there are less tension and breakage during the combing
- Helps create beautifully defined curls and waves
- Co-washing is gentle on color-treated hair and keeps hair color looking fresh and vibrant between coloring services.
Even though co-washing can be really beneficial, it’s not advisable to only co-wash for extended periods of time. You need to use an actual shampoo (sulfate-free or not) to cleanse your scalp and strands every so often. Try to use shampoo after every 2 co-wash wash days. If you don’t use any shampoo, you’ll likely experience product buildup, which will make your hair feel dry and keep it from being able to absorb products properly, making your products ineffective.
How to Co-Wash Your Hair?
Before you start with your co-washing routine, clarify your hair and scalp by using a sulfate-free shampoo to remove dirt, excess oil, and product buildup.
Completely soak your hair with water before applying conditioner, because wet hair better releases debris and other impurities. Apply a generous amount of a moisturizing conditioner in the same way you would apply your shampoo. Use your fingers to massage the conditioner into your scalp, and then scrub your strands working evenly through your hair in a downward motion. Use a wide-tooth comb to distribute the conditioner from roots to ends.
Apply more product on the ends, which tend to be the driest part of your hair that needs additional moisture. Let the conditioner sit on your hair for three to five minutes before rinsing (five to 10 minutes for extra curly and frizzy hair). It is important to thoroughly rinse your hair to remove the co-washing product because the conditioner residue can leave your hair looking dull and lifeless. Use warm water to rinse. Hot water can be damaging to hair.
Adding co-washing into your hair care routine once a week will be just enough to reduce the drying effects of over-washing. Be sure to clarify every few weeks to remove product build-up, mineral deposits, debris, dirt, and other impurities.
Hair Types that May Benefit from Co-Washing
1. Dry and Brittle Hair
If your hair and scalp are on the drier side, co-washing will soften your hair and keep your scalp moisturized. If your hair is very dry, you can use a cleansing conditioner in place of regular shampoo, every time you wash your hair. Be sure to use sulfate-free clarifying shampoo once a week to remove any buildup that can accumulate on your hair and scalp.
If you have moderately dry hair, alternate between co-washing and shampooing.
2. Curly Hair
Conditioner washing is a great solution for textured hair, as too-frequent shampooing can strip curly hair of much-needed natural oils.
Washing with conditioner helps refresh your curls without stripping hair of its precious natural moisture. In addition to infusing curly hair with moisture, co-washing helps with detangling and combing. It makes curly hair more manageable and helps create beautifully nourished waves and curls.
3. Colored Hair
Conditioner washing keeps the colored hair from over-drying and slows down the fading process. Using conditioner for washing instead of shampoo prevents stripping away pigments and leaves your hair shiny and healthy-looking.
4. Relaxed Hair
Co-washing is an excellent way to restore the moisture in your hair and scalp after chemical treatments like relaxers. Co-washing keeps relaxed hair from drying and falling off.
Not Suitable for Everyone’s Hair
The following are some hair types and conditions when co-washing is not the best choice:
1. Fine and Straight Hair
If your hair is thin and fine, co-washing will make it appear flat and oily. If your hair is fine and dense you can try alternating first. Apply conditioner to the mid-shaft and the ends. When applied close to the scalp, the conditioner can weigh your hair down.
2. Oily Hair
You may not see the full benefits of co-washing if you have oily hair. Oily hair needs shampoo to remove excess oil, and co-washing won’t do it.
3. Product Build-Up
If you regularly use styling products with silicone, mineral oil, and petroleum, occasional shampooing is essential to thoroughly cleanse your hair and prevent product buildup.
4. Scalp Problems
If you are experiencing scalp issues, co-washing may worsen existing problems. If you’re prescribed a shampoo that is designed for severe scalp conditions, stick to your regular shampooing routine and consult your doctor before you start experimenting.
Gaga is a blogger and founder of the Softer Hair website. She often says that insomnia is to blame for her first blogging attempts. Being the night owl, she hated the morning alarm. She left her office job and returned to what she loved most - writing.