Co washing is short form for “conditioner washing” or cleansing your hair with conditioner instead of shampoo. It was coined by Lorraine Massey, author of Curly Girl: The Handbook, and creator of Curly Girl Method.
Due to the structure of curly hair, it has a natural tendency to be drier than straight hair types. The glorious turns and twists of our curls and coils make it hard for the natural oil (sebum) created by the scalp to reach the ends of the hair. Since curly hair is often dry, and shampoo has a drying effect, Massey therefore suggested that conditioners should be used more in cleansing curly hair than shampoo, because it has a small amount of gentle cleansers.
Co washing is part of a no shampoo movement which is becoming very popular such that companies are creating co washing cleansing conditioners alongside gentle sulfate-free shampoos. Before you start co washing your hair or adding it to your regimen, there are a few things you need to know.
1. Co washing is not for everyone:
Yeah, I know, you are probably looking at me with side eye but the truth is if you have certain scalp conditions such as dermatitis (skin inflammation) or you have naturally oily hair then co washing is not for you because failure to shampoo your hair frequently may aggravate the condition but If you have frizzy and dry hair, coloured, relaxed, straightened and highlighted then co-washing will definitely make your hair more manageable.
2. Check the ingredients:
Watch out for ingredients such as mineral oil and silicones (made in the lab and are non-water soluble). These ingredients trap moisture within the strands and prevent it from entering the hair shaft. Thereby, making them hard to wash off without using hard detergents, such as sodium lauryl sulfate, leaving you with buildup on your hair and scalp. So if you are going to include co washing as a regular part of your regimen, then you will have to watch out for mineral oil and silicones because the cleansing agents in conditioners are too gentle to wash them off. However, you can easily identify silicones by checking for ingredients ending in -cone.
3. Clarify with sulfate-free shampoo when need be:
You may want to clarify your scalp and hair with sulfate-free shampoo occasionally in order to avoid any major issue that may occur. This is because if you skip shampoo for long, your scalp might start to itch you, when that happens a mild and sulfate-free shampoo should be used to relief the itching. Sulfate-free shampoos are gentle enough to cleanse your scalp and hair without drying it out.
4. Do not use a deep conditioner to co wash:
Go for a rinse out conditioner when co washing instead of deep conditioner. This is because deep conditioners can cause build up if applied continuously without shampooing often, unlike rinse out conditioners which are lighter and easier to rinse out of the hair. And you don’t want to end up with Hygral fatigue (over-conditioning) so pay attention to the way your hair feels. Only use the deep conditioner when your hair needs some extra TLC.
5. Your environment matters:
You may have to take your environment into consideration if you live or work around an environment with a lot of air pollution and dust. You could use a sulfate-free shampoo and then apply your conditioner and as a supplement instead of co washing.