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Co-Washing – Your Solution for Unlocking Heavenly Hair


You may have heard the term co-washing tossed around in regards to hair care, but what does it mean? Should you be doing it too?

One of the most wonderful and diverse things about the ever-changing landscape of beauty, hair, and self-care is that every individual is unique, meaning that the processes, products and methods that work for some people may produce varying results for others.

However, it’s all about experimenting to figure out what works best for you and your various hair, skin and makeup needs. In other words, it’s all part of the fun!

Haircare can be a particularly finicky beast to tackle, especially with the various assortment of textures, densities, colours and hair types out there.

Still, co-washing could propose a promising solution to multiple hair quips and quarrels, especially for those with mixed-textured, curly or dry hair types.

If you’re still unclear as to what co-washing is, don’t worry. We will break it down for you and outline its benefits, how to do it effectively and why it’s some people’s best kept go-to hair secret.

Let’s get started!

What is Co-Washing?

what is co-washing

We’re glad you asked. Co-washing is the shorter form of the phrase conditioner-only washing. It’s a term used to describe the practice of washing your hair using conditioner only, no shampoo necessary.

More specifically, co-washing involves replacing your regular shampoo with a cleansing conditioner that plays the role of both shampoo and conditioner packaged up into one convenient product.

In this way, it works not only to cleanse the hair and rid it of excess oils and product buildup, like a shampoo, but it also serves to infuse hair with moisture and nourishment as a conditioner would.

The term cleansing condition is a critical term because if you try to co-wash with any run-of-the-mill conditioner in your routine. Instead, you may not get the desired results, and you likely won’t be properly cleansing your hair.

Using regular conditioner will probably have the opposite effect, creating product build up serving to make hair flat and bring it down. Thus, you should specifically seek out products that say cleansing conditioner or co-washes on the label to avoid this mistake.

Although co-washing can work year-round, it is particularly beneficial to switch during the warmer parts of the year. 

The reason for this is because people are more likely to wash their hair more frequently due to the hot weather causing us to sweat and participating in warm-weather activities, such as being out in the sun and being exposed to UV rays and swimming in chlorine or saltwater.

These endeavours can cause a lot of damage to your hair. Still, co-washing can help rectify it by supplying an ideal compromise of providing an efficient method for washing hair and getting it perfectly squeaky clean without potentially drying it out too much from regularly shampooing more than you usually would.

The danger of a lot of shampoos is that they include potentially harmful ingredients, such as sulfates. Sulfates are chemicals found in multiple beauty products that serve as cleansing agents. They can also be found in other products as well, including household cleaners and detergents.

Two of the most common sulfates found in shampoo are sodium lauryl sulfate, or SLS, and sodium laureth sulfate, also referred to as SLES. Their purpose is to create that familiar foaming lather you associate with the old homage: rinse, lather and repeat.

It may come as a surprise,  but your hair products do not need to foam or create bubbles to work or be effective. 

In fact, many manufacturers will often add foaming agents into these products afterwards for the sole purpose of making bubbles.

Ultimately, it comes down to psychology. According to Professor Ray Dagastine, a research scientist from the University of Melbourne’s School of Engineering, people don’t typically believe their hair is being cleansed unless they see foam appear. However, it’s not actually necessary.

These components can also be incredibly drying when used regularly, stripping your scalp of its natural oils and causing hair to become dry, damaged and brittle.

However, there are undoubtedly sulfate-free products out there. You just have to know what to look for. Specifically, items that spell this out on their label.

So, if you’re wondering why your hair isn’t as lustrous as it could be, sulfates in your shampoo may be the culprit. In this way, opting for co-washing instead may be the ideal pep your scalp care routine needs to allow healthier, stronger hair to grow.

What are the Benefits?

Co-washing your hair can be an incredible game-changer for individuals with dry, wavy, curly, mixed-textured or coarse hair. It can also be beneficial for colour-treated hair as well.

Anyone with this type of hair texture or makeup will know that it can be challenging and frustrating to style appropriately and effectively after washing with shampoo.

As we said before, many opt for co-washing as means of ditching their shampoo altogether. However, this isn’t necessarily the only solution, and entirely ridding your routine of shampoo won’t be as useful for some.

With particularly curly, wavy and textured hair types, frizz and dryness are common issues. Many shampoos will likely strip the hair of its natural oils and only further facilitate these issues while also potentially promoting breakage.

Unideal, to say the least.

One of the benefits of co-washing is that you’re still gently rubbing your head, hair and scalp with a cleansing conditioner as you would with shampoo to eliminate any build-up, dirt or product residue from the scalp. Still, co-wash’s primary benefit is that you are working to hydrate as you cleanse your hair.

Is Co-Washing Suitable for all Hair Types?

The answer to this question is yes, and no.

Like we said, co-washing hair is an ideal method to wash your hair if you have curly, wavy, dry or mixed textured hair types to keep hair well moisturized. However, it may not be suitable for everyone.

If you are prone to oily or greasy hair or have fine hair, co-washing may not be for you. The reason for this is because using only a cleansing conditioner may weigh your hair down and cause it to appear flat or make it more greasy, which is the opposite of what you’re likely going for.

However, while some may opt to quit shampoo cold turkey, there is a way to find a compromise. Most people who choose to embrace co-washing will still need to free their scalp and hair follicles of excess product build-up, oil and dirt. So, you will likely need to use a clarifying shampoo occasionally.

Co-washing will likely not be an effective process to begin with, either. You will probably have to power through some weighed down, greasy hair days before your scalp has time to adjust to the new regimen. Be strong and power through!

Initially, start by using a clarifying shampoo once a month. If that still isn’t enough and your hair continues to feel and look oily, switch to using it once every two weeks.

How to Co-Wash Effectively

Regarding the actual process of co-washing, it’s relatively straightforward.

Eliminating or decreasing your use of shampoo will take some time to adjust to, so we’re here to describe how to co-wash appropriately to ease the transition.

Get Your Hair Completely Wet

As you would do when you normally wash your hair, you need first to saturate it with water fully. The water will help loosen up the hair follicles and any present debris, which will make it easier to rinse out later. It will also serve to help the product penetrate your hair evenly.

Use a Decent Amount of Cleansing Conditioner

With regular conditioners, you should use roughly a dime to quarter-sized dollop, enough to coat your ends. 

When you co-wash, you’ll need to use more, enough to coat your hair from root to tip, which may be a lot more than you’d think, depending on how much hair you have. 

It may seem like overkill, but remember that you are using the product to both cleanse and condition, so you’ll need enough to perform both actions.

Massage it in & Distribute Evenly

The action of massaging the product in with your fingers will work to break up any build-up, dirt or oil that is present on your scalp. After you’ve evenly distributed the product from roots to end, let it sit on your hair for three to five minutes to let it appropriately penetrate. 

If you are susceptible to dry hair, leave it on for even longer if you have the time. Once the time is up, rinse, dry and style as you normally would.

Even as you co-wash effectively, you may still need to integrate a clarifying shampoo into your hair care routine every once in a while to remove excess product build-up, oils and sweat that accumulates. 

How frequently you will need to do this will depend on your hair type and will likely require some experimentation and trial and error before you settle on a regimen that works best for you.

Co-Washing – Healthier Hair Awaits

Co-washing your hair can potentially serve to make your hair dreams come true, especially if you have dry, coarse, wavy or curly hair.

By switching out your regular shampoo for a cleansing conditioner, you can have one product perform the work of two through cleansing and ridding hair of excess debris while also working to hydrate, moisturize and enhance shine and volume.

Of course, the co-wash technique may not work for everyone, particularly if you are more prone to oily or greasy hair or if you have more of a fine hair type as a co-wash regimen may only serve to worsen these conditions and leave hair flat and cause product build-up.

In this case, you can still opt for other conditioning treatments, such as an argan oil hair mask or a rice water treatment, to help hair grow while boosting strength and shine.

Ultimately, it will take some getting used to for your hair and scalp to adjust to the co-wash method, so don’t be too discouraged if you don’t see your desired results right away.

As they say, patience is a virtue, and luscious, lovely locks take time.

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