Recently, the beauty industry has seen an incredible evolution in natural hair care and styling products. It’s all about chemical-free, sulfate-free, paraben-free and basically, anything that helps those locks reach their most amazing and authentic state. And that’s where co-washing, as opposed to traditional shampooing and conditioning, comes in.
From shiny strands, to fine hair, to every type of curl and twist, co-washing provides numerous hydrating benefits — all of which we’re getting into here.
Co-washing, or conditioner washing (the ‘co’ being short for ‘conditioner’), is the act of washing your hair with conditioner only. If you haven’t heard of it before, yes, you read that right. But we’re not talking about a normal conditioner, we’re talking about a conditioner specially designed to also cleanse. But why would one do such a thing, you might be wondering?
It’s simple. Moisture, moisture, moisture. Typical shampoos can be harsh — made with detergents and chemicals — which strips hair of its natural oils. And if there’s one thing that hair needs, especially textured hair, it’s natural oils. Removing traditional shampoo from the equation helps maintain those natural oils, keep hair hydrated and ultimately, assist those curls in looking their absolute best. Switching to a co-wash, specifically one that is right for your hair type, offers a gentler alternative to traditional shampooing. If you’re still not convinced, we urge you to try the method for yourself, because real results are the real game-changer.
There are numerous benefits of co-washing — all of them lead to beautiful, natural curls that thrive due to all the damaging stuff being cut out. Instead, co-washing focuses on cleansing, conditioning and natural hair styling.
Curly hair comes with (beautiful) built-in body and texture, but with that, also comes a lack of hydration and the dreaded ‘f’ word. That’s right, frizz. That’s why any formula you put on your hair must contain moisturizing ingredients, which is exactly what an effective co-wash has. As we already mentioned, traditional shampoos contain detergents (sulfates) which are effective at cleansing, but almost too effective. They can strip hair of its natural moisture, leaving it dry and prone to breakage. Alternatively, co-washing uses a conditioner-based formula to gently cleanse and nourish the hair, making it a really great choice for anyone with dry or curly hair as it helps retain that much-needed moisture.
If you’re looking for a time-and money-saving solution, and one that truly simplifies your hair care routine, co-washing is it. Co-washing products are often less expensive than traditional shampoo and conditioner. After all, you’re trimming your routine from two products down to one, making it a cost-saver no matter how you slice it. Since you’re also cutting down on the steps, it’s a time saver, too.
Unlike traditional shampooing, co-washing uses a gentle cleansing agent to remove dirt and buildup while still leaving the hair hydrated and nourished. This gentle cleanse action helps to prevent breakage and damage, which can impede hair growth. Co-washing, with a focus on massaging the product into your scalp, helps stimulate blood flow to the scalp, which — you guessed it — promotes hair growth and overall scalp health. A win-win in our book.
One of the most common mistakes of co-washing, and something that can actually hinder your results, is not properly cleansing the scalp. That’s why it’s imperative to choose an actual co-wash conditioner (as opposed to a regular conditioner that some unwise ones opt for) that gently busts up the buildup.
Using too much product, or the wrong product for your hair type/texture, or not rinsing thoroughly enough are other major faux pas that can leave your hair feeling heavy or greasy = less than optimal results.
Remember, no two heads of hair are created equal, so it’s also important to pay attention to how your hair responds to the co-wash you choose. Just because it works for some, doesn’t mean it will work for you. Sometimes it takes a bit of trial and error to land on what will work best.
Though co-washing can be a great way to cleanse your hair while still keeping it hydrated, choosing the right conditioner that will get the job done properly is key. Regular conditioners may not provide enough cleansing power, so make sure what you’re choosing is specifically formulated for co-washing.
Once you find the right product, the next step is using it properly. First, apply the conditioner to wet hair and massage it into your scalp as much as the hair itself — paying special attention to the roots. Your scalp needs to be shown some love if you don’t want to end up with dandruff and that dreaded itchy feeling. Massage the co-wash into your scalp thoroughly to loosen any grime, then detangle and rinse thoroughly.
It’s also important to use a clarifying shampoo every week or two to remove any sebum, dirt and dust particles that co-washing may have missed. Again, make sure you’re choosing the right one since we’ve already learned that all shampoos are not created equal.
With the right approach, and the right products for your hair type, co-washing is a great addition to your hair care routine. Especially for those with textured tresses, co-washing can bring you one step closer to your healthy, happy hair goals. If you’re still wondering if it’s right for you, or which products to choose, our salon locator can put you in touch with someone to help.
by Morgan Hanson, featured contributor