If you’re one of the lucky curl-gifted women out there, you know how difficult it can be for one to manage them and make the natural waves stay as luscious as they were during childhood. If your hair is afro, mixed-textured, very curly or extremely dry, there’s a good chance that your hair care routine could benefit from co-washing, which is the act of washing your hair solely with conditioner.
Since around 2014, some women have become champions of the ‘no-shampoo’ movement which involves ‘co-washing’ – otherwise known as ‘conditioner washing’ – using a cleansing conditioner to wash hair, leaving it feeling softer, easier to manage and healthier. The method was coined by Curly Girl Method creator and author of Curly Girl: The Handbook, Lorraine Massey.
Why Leave Behind Shampoos?
Many shampoos are formulated to include sulfates—detergents that clean hair thoroughly but can actually strip natural oils and moisture from the strands of your hair, leaving them dry and more prone to breakage. By cutting down on the use of shampoo via a co-washing regime, your hair is able to maintain its natural moisture levels, so it can grow healthier and more resilient.
However, co-washing isn’t just about skipping shampoo and applying conditioner as you normally would; it assumes you will use your conditioner in place of your shampoo.
You do not need to shampoo every day. Usually between 3-4 days after co-washing is enough time for dirt and products to start building up on your scalp.
There are major health benefits that come with co-washing. For instance, it allows the natural oils to cleanse and condition the hair and scalp. Using shampoo too often can strip the hair due to the harsh chemicals. Therefore, co-washing provides a great conditioning treatment for your hair while also providing mild cleansing agents.
It doesn’t just benefit health, but also helps with styling purposes. We’ve all experienced the difficulty of styling squeaky-clean hair. It can be limp and keen on slipping from the pins. Moreover, with added moisture to your hair, you’ll find your curls more defined, frizz free and bouncy!
How to Add it to Your Regimen?
When starting off co-washing your hair, Celebrity hairstylist, Christine Symonds warns you to be aware of the effect this transition may have on your hair. She explains that it may take a few days for your scalp to adjust to a co-washing treatment and could feel oily at the start. So you’ll want to work it into your routine gradually.
All the experts agree you should add it into your routine about once a week. It won’t shock the hair but will be done just enough to minimize the effects of over-washing. For example, after a night out or a heavy workout, a shampoo may be more desirable but after a regular day with light product a co-wash would be great.
If you are going to give it a go about once a week, apply the conditioner starting at the ends of your hair, and then work your way up to the scalp. Your personal favorite conditioner is probably fine, but you’ll want to make sure it doesn’t contain silicones. Silicones are added to many conditioners because they add shine, but that effect is temporary and, over time, silicone builds up coating your hair and making it feel heavy, dull and lack luster.
However, there has been a lot of back and forth discussion on the true benefits of co-washing as the trend has gone mainstream. The technique has been rumored to cause a lot of build-up if not properly done, or even possibly lead to hair falling out.
When there is too much product on your head, this can stunt the growth of hair. The conditioner builds up on your hair and scalp; it disables your scalp from getting the proper oxygen and clean environment that promotes healthy hair growth. If your looking to keep your hair at the same length, then continuous co-washing is the way to go.
But if you’re like the others of us with waist length hair goals, we’ll pass on stunted growth.
Helpful Tips to Co-Washing
If you are going to co-wash here are some useful tips on how you can enjoy all of the pros and none of the cons.
Tip #1 Shampoo your hair when you start to feel the Product Building up
You do not need to shampoo every day. Usually between 3-4 days after co-washing is enough time for dirt and products to start building up on your scalp. If you feel residue when you run your fingers through your scalp or hair, it is probably time to shampoo.
Tip #2 Find the Right Conditioner for your Hair
There are so many conditioners out there, and it can sometimes be hard to choose the right one.
Try out different products and find what works for you. There are conditioners that help with volume, protects color-treated hair, and adds shine. If your looking for one to define your curls and your current conditioner is not getting the job done, get a new one.
Tip #3 Don’t be Afraid of Change
In the natural hair community you will come to learn that just because something works for one person, it will not always work for you.
So be flexible and change hair care techniques when needed. You know your hair best, trust yourself! Co-washing might not be what your hair needs, and that’s okay. There are so many other techniques out there to help you reach your hair goals.
Read more: Men and hair loss – an unavoidable animosity
This conditioning cleanse is at the forefront of the natural hair craze and said to be great on kinky and curly textures, locking in the scalp’s natural oils. Of course, while some swear by this method, others frown upon the low-maintenance regimen, comparing co-washing to washing dirty clothes in fabric softener.
But with the right balance and conditioner, you can own your curls and revitalize them just like they were when you were 10.