Is Co-Washing Good for Your Hair?

What is Co-Washing?

Co-washing is short for conditioner only washing and basically means to wash your hair using conditioner instead of shampoo. Too-frequent shampooing can seriously dry out your hair and scalp. Constantly dry hair is prone to frizz and breakage, especially if your hair is curly, coarse, or color-treated. Conditioners are designed to add moisture back into your scalp and hair. All conditioners contain a tiny amount of gentle cleansing ingredients that have the ability to cleanse the hair without the stripping effects of a shampoo. Co-washing improves the natural moisture balance of dry, frizzy and colored or chemically treated hair. Conditioner washing leaves textured, 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 clarifying shampoo.

What are the Benefits?

Here are a few of the benefits that come with co-washing:

  1. Conditioner washing is much gentler on the hair than shampooing and can be used more frequently
  2. Prevents the depletion of your hair’s natural oils, keeping hair soft, more manageable, and less frizzy
  3. Allows for better hydration for your hair and scalp, so hair stays moisturized and nourished
  4. Makes hair softer and easier to detangle, which means there are less tension and breakage during the detangling process
  5. Helps create beautifully defined curls and waves
  6. Co-washing is gentle on color treated hair and keeps hair color looking fresh and vibrant between coloring services.

How to Co-Wash Your Hair

Before beginning to co-wash, clarify your hair and scalp by using a sulfate free shampoo to remove dirt, oils, and product buildup.

Completely soak your hair with water before applying conditioner, because wetter hair is better able to release debris and other impurities. Apply a generous amount of a moisturizing conditioner to your hair 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 formula from roots to ends. Apply more product on the ends, which tend to be the driest part of your strands and need additional moisture. Let the conditioner sit on 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. Too hot water can be damaging to hair. Cold water will leave you with a film on your hair and take away the shine.
Adding co-washing into your routine about 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, debris, dirt, and other impurities.

Co-Wash & Clarify – Video

Dry and Dehydrated 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 from the conditioner.
If you have moderately dry hair, try to alternate between co-washing and shampooing.

Curly Hair

Conditioner washing is a great solution for textured hair, as too-frequent shampooing can strip curly hair of much needed natural oils and moisture.
Washing with conditioner helps refresh your curls without stripping hair of precious natural moisture. Co-washing infuses curly hair with moisture and helps with detangling and combing. It makes curly hair more manageable and helps create beautifully nourished waves and curls.

Co-Washing Colored Hair

Conditioner washing keeps the colored hair from over-drying and slows down the fading process. Using conditioner for washing instead shampoo prevents stripping away pigments and leaves your hair shiny and healthy looking.

Relaxed Hair

Co-washing is a good 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 for Every Hair Type

Fine and Straight Hair

If your hair is thin and fine, co-washing will make it appear flat and more oily. If your hair is fine and thick you can try alternating first. Focus conditioner on the mid-shaft and the ends. Applying conditioner to the scalp can weigh hair down.

Oily Hair

If you have oily hair, you may not see the full benefits of co-washing. Oily hair needs a shampoo to remove excess oil, and co-washing won’t do it.

Scalp Conditions

If you are experiencing scalp problems, co-washing may irritate or worsen them. If you’re prescribed any shampoo that is designed for severe scalp conditions, stick to your regular shampooing routine and check with your doctor before starting co-washing.

Product Build-up

If you use styling products with silicone, mineral oil, and petroleum, shampooing is essential to thoroughly cleanse your hair and to prevent build up issues.


Medical Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.

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1 thought on “Is Co-Washing Good for Your Hair?”

  1. I have fine, straight hair and I’ve been cowashing only for years now. The key is you just don’t use a really heavy thick conditioner.

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