What is co-waching
Image: Shutterstock/ Lena Ivanova

If you have spent any time researching the best methods to keep your natural hair not only clean, but soft, supple, and frizz free, you have bound to have come across the term “co-washing” as a preferred washing method for natural hair, but what is co-washing?

What is co washing?

what is Co-washing? It is short for conditioner washing; using conditioner to cleanse and moisturize your hair in place of shampoo.

Many advocates of co-washing feel that regular along with sulfate-free shampoos can cause natural hair to become dry and frizzy. That is because natural hair is more porous. As we all know, when hair is consistently dry, it is prone to breakage; and who wants frizzy, flyaway, broken hair?

The bottom line is that you should do what works best for your hair and scalp. There are lots of really good brands out there that are formulated to meet the needs of natural hair.

How to Co-wash

You can either apply the conditioner directly to the scalp from your hands, or dilute your conditioner with a little water. If diluting, use a squeeze bottle or a cup by adding your normal amount of conditioner based on your hair length to one part water. You may need to double this mixture if you are washing your hair twice. You can add more conditioner or water based on your preferences. There are lots of conditioners to choose from or use your favorite.

Wet your hair first by rinsing well; just as you would if you were about to shampoo. Apply the conditioner mixture to the scalp and gently rub your scalp clean using your fingertips. Gently pull the conditioner mixture from roots to the ends.

You will have to experiment with your co-washing routine in order to determine whether or not directly applying the conditioner works better than diluting it or vice-versa.

What is Co-washing: Things to know?

Watch the ingredients

If co-washing is a regular part of your hair regimen, stay away from silicones. Many of these ingredients are easy to identify on product labels. Look for ingredients ending in ‘cone’. Many silicones are synthetic additives that are not water-soluble, making them harder to wash out without sulfates. The end result is build-up on your hair and scalp.

Co-wash as needed

Depending on your hair type and other factors — such as your schedule and the climate — you can co-wash as frequently as you like. Keep in mind that your hair is most fragile when it is wet. Be careful in styling and allow your hair time to dry completely before washing again. There is such a thing as over-conditioning, so pay attention to how your hair feels; if it is spongy or mushy, you are overdoing it.

Clarify occasionally with a sulfate-free shampoo

This is an important step that some people tend to skip. Your hair and scalp still need a gentle shampoo to adequately cleanse. We recommend shampooing weekly or bi-weekly in addition to regular co-washing.

Co-washing is not for everyone.

We discussed about what is co-washing and what you need to know. We will briefly discuss what it is not. If you suffer from a scalp condition like dermatitis, co-washing occasionally is okay. But a strict no-poo regimen could make this condition worse. Also, depending on your hair type, you may not see the benefit of co-washing. If you have oily hair, a shampoo is needed to remove excess oil, as co-wash can add extra oil to the hair.

A co-washing cleansing conditioner might not be enough

The term “cleansing” or “cleanser” on the bottle of co-washing conditioners can be a little deceiving. There are certain properties that shampoos or cleansers have that are absent from some co-washing conditioners. For example, many shampoos are formulated with a low pH. The acidity of shampoo raises the hair cuticle, making it easier to remove dirt and product buildup. Shampoos also have detergents that clean the hair and scalp. Some co-washing conditioners exhibit some of these properties, but not all, so check labels for what you want.

Valerie Stitt lives in New York as a professional freelance writer, blogger, and content marketer. Follow Valerie on her health blog, Halfmile Fitness