You may have heard of co-washing, but what is it? Why is everyone talking about it? And, most importantly, should you be doing it too?
Co-washing is the act of washing your hair solely with conditioner. If your hair is afro, mixed-textured, very curly or extremely dry, there’s a good chance that your haircare routine could benefit from it.
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.
Raring to co
If you’re eager to give it a ‘co’, you’ll need to find the right conditioner. Your personal favorite 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 lackluster.
Ingredients that will really benefit your tresses are emollients (shea butter, oils, wheat germ, etc.) which help to soften and smooth the cuticle and reduce frizz; proteins (wheat, wheat germ or soy protein, etc.) that will coat the hair shaft and help protect it; humectants (honey, panthenol, vegetable glycerin, etc.) that will absorb water and lock in moisture; and moisturizers (amino acids, aloe vera, etc.) that will add softness and shine. Happy Happy Joy Joy, for example, has almond milk (protein), glycerin (a humectant) and jojoba oil (a moisturizer).
Once you’ve found a conditioner you’re happy with, it’s time to co. Wet hair, then take a small amount of conditioner (about a teaspoon) and massage your entire scalp, using your fingertips to rub gently just like you do when shampooing. The conditioner coupled with the friction of your fingertips will loosen any dirt and residue on your scalp without stripping away naturally beneficial oils.
Next, take your regular amount of conditioner and condition as usual, carefully removing tangles with your fingers or a wide-tooth comb, and spread the conditioner throughout the length of your hair. If your hair is particularly coarse or curly, you might want to try leaving the conditioner in, or just rinsing for a few seconds so your hair is still coated with a light film, rather than rinsing out completely—this is where you can experiment with what works best for your hair.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat sparingly.
Depending on the styling products you use and how often you’re co-washing, you might find that you get a bit of product build-up. If that’s the case, it’s recommended that you cleanse hair with a clarifying shampoo like Rehab or I Love Juicy, as necessary (usually about once every three weeks). Many devotees of co-washing have eschewed shampoo permanently and find they’re able to exclude most styling products from their routine, thereby eliminating the problem of build-up altogether.
Not ready to completely swear off shampoo? We get it, and so we’ve created something that’s really the best of both worlds: Avocado Co-wash. This solid shampoo/conditioner is roughly 80% conditioner and 20% shampoo; a blend that gives hair a weightlessly clean feel without stripping away oils. It contains fresh avocados and a nourishing mix of cupuacu butter, cocoa butter and olive oil to give it all the power of a conditioner to keep hair looking and feeling its best.