If Goldilocks knew about co-washing, we think she’d be all for it. Unlike shampoo, it doesn’t strip your hair and unlike no-poo, it’s not as labour-intensive or messy. It’s just right.
Co-washing, or conditioner washing, has been around for almost a decade. It’s wildly popular with the curly hair community, but everyone can do it. It’s technically part of the no-poo movement, but deserves its own introduction.
Who is this for?
While it’s a favourite method for those with curly hair and natural hair, co-washing can be used on pretty much any hair type. Dry and damaged hair types will take to co-washing especially well.
If you’re opting to co-wash more than twice a week, stay away from anything overly nourishing. It will make your hair greasy.
Oily hair and fine hair types will need to exercise caution. Use lightweight conditioners and refrain from co-washing too often to avoid limp, sad hair.
There are no styling issues with co-washing, though you might want to save your heat tools for the days in between co-washing.
Is co-washing better than shampooing?
Co-washing is better than shampooing for dry, brittle, fragile hair. However, the hydrating nature of conditioner–the lack of surfactants, such as sulphates–may not give you a thorough clean.
You may need to occasionally go in with a shampoo to rid your hair of sweat, product or mineral buildup. Co-washing may not completely eliminate your need for shampoo but can act as a great complement to your hair regimen.
How often would you need to co-wash?
That really depends on the individual–their hair type, lifestyle and environment. Only you know how often you’d need to co-wash. Experiment with the frequency starting weekly–gradually building up to twice (or thrice) a week.
If you live in a tropical climate or are lucky enough to be on vacation, switch to a lightweight conditioner and consider introducing shampoo to your co-wash routine.
After a sweaty session, rinse your hair and dry it before putting it into a braid or pony. Or you can work with your sweat and style it into waves. And consider applying everyone’s favourite gym buddy, dry shampoo, before your next workout!
For anyone who has experienced hard and soft water, you know that soft water can leave your hair wondrously clean; hard water, by comparison, can leave a residue and a “not quite clean” feeling. Co-washing with hard water can exacerbate this. Try rinsing with distilled water, installing a water filter on your showerhead and occasionally using shampoo for a deeper clean.
Using conditioners that are too heavy for your hair can do more harm than good. Avoid product buildup by steering clear from silicones and deeply nourishing ingredients heavy on plant oils and butters.
Co-washing can cause product buildup if you’re not careful or if you’re too enthusiastic. Don’t use this method too often and evaluate your use whenever you come across new conditions–such as seasonal changes, a vacation, a move–and adjust accordingly. If you find your hair not reacting well, use a shampoo to deep clean and pare back on your co-washing.