Updated November 27, 2021 l by Tara E.
Co-washing not only improves natural hair textures, but also provides an easy way to moisturize and restore vibrant healthy curls. In this article, we will discuss a few co-washing tips to improve your hair texture. While the concept of co-washing is not new, it continues to be a favorite topic of many naturalistas who are looking to improve the texture of their hair or restore proper hydration.
What is Co-Washing?
Conditioner washes or “co-washing” is a method used to clean hair. Most co-washes avoid the introduction of silicones, mineral oils, or petrolatum (1).
While some hair stylists may not be fans of this approach for cleansing your hair, natural hair mavens are singing its praises. Women with wavy, curly, or frizzy hair texture find co-washing to be beneficial. Some report hair growth, dandruff relief and improved curl patterns as a result of co-washing. Let’s take a closer look at these alleged benefits of co-washing your hair.
What are the Benefits of Co-Washing Natural Hair?
Co-washing offers multiple benefits to its followers. It is an excellent solution for those who might have a sensitive scalp or texture-rich hair.
Does Co-Washing Help Hair Grow?
Co-washing may support hair growth efforts because it improves hair elasticity. Hair elasticity allows for hair that does not readily snap every time you decide to use a wide-tooth comb. Hair flexibility allows for hair to thicken and grow in length.
Can Co-Washing Hair Prevent Dandruff?
Co-washing delivers much-need moisture to your hair and scalp. It can relieve dryness and irritation.
If you’re thinking about alternating your suds with a bit of co-washing events, here are a few additional things you need to know about the process of co-washing.
Detangles Natural Hair
Many naturals are a fan of co-washing because it’s gentle cleansing properties. It improves manageability by reducing frizz and detangling your hair. Co-washes contain the perfect blend of ingredients that delivers slippage. Slippage helps to improve your ability to style hair without having to combat the side effects wayward hair strands.
How to Co-Wash Your Hair
Depending on the product, you will find that there are a number of ways to “properly” co-wash your hair. If you elect to use an actual co-wash, cleansing product, the manufacturer of the product will provide very specific instructions for use. However, if using a “regular” conditioner, make sure that you purchase a product that is free of sulfates and parabens for the best results.
Take time to separate your hair into four to six sections. Apply your conditioner to one section at a time and rinse. Re-apply once more then, allow it to sit on your hair for approximately 10 to 15 minutes. You can also choose to apply the co-wash to your hair, then rinse, then follow your usual deep conditioner regimen on the heels of the co-wash.
It is important to note while your instinct may be to apply your co-wash using the same method as you might using shampoo, co-washing follows a slightly altered process. Instead of washing both the scalp and root with conditioner, you can instead apply conditioner mid-shaft of the hair strands and the ends. Applying conditioner in the way that mimics shampoo can actually cause hair to feel weighed down and your scalp to become dry and itchy in some instances.
Allow the Conditioning Process to Happen
How long should you let the conditioner sit on your hair before rinsing? After applying it, allow the conditioner to sit on your hair for anywhere from five to fifteen minutes. Looser textures may require a shorter conditioning time while tighter hair or hair that is damaged may require a lengthier conditioning time.
It is important to note that while you have made the decision to co-wash, it doesn’t mean you have to stick to this process permanently. Don’t be afraid to alternate the regular shampoo process with your co-washing ritual.
Co-Washing Products Available for Purchase
Wondering what products to purchase that best support the co-washing process? There are a number of products to choose from in the co-washing marketplace. You will likely have to test one or more to identify the one that best meets the needs of your hair. Here are five co-wash hair products for consideration.
Eden BodyWorks Coconut Shea Cleansing Co-Wash
Eden BodyWorks Coconut Shea Cleansing Co-Wash is made with organic Monoid de Tahiti, this natural cocktail of Coconut Oil and Vitamin E delivers antioxidants that replenish and rejuvenate dry brittle hair and reduce split ends. Jojoba Monoi Hair Milk leaves your hair soft, shiny, and manageable.
As I AM Co-Wash
As I am Coconut Co-Wash is a light no suds conditioning cream gently removes residue including all of the things you’ve used to style and maintain your coils and curls. Now it’s time for a sparkling new beginning. This co-wash is different from any other because it contains a special blend of natural ingredients that work to promote healthy hair growth from the follicular level.
Gold Series Deep Hydrating Co-Wash
The Pantene Gold Series Deep Hydrating Co-Wash cleanses, conditions, and detangles in one easy step without stripping the hair’s natural moisture. Low lathering formula refreshes unmanageable curls and helps control frizz and when used between shampoos adds shine and softness.
Head and Shoulders Moisturizing CoWash with Coconut Oil
Head and Shoulders Moisturizing CoWash promises to restore scalp health with regular use. Further, it is formulated to relieve dry scalp, moisturize your hair and improve manageability. It boasts being free of parabens, sulfates, and dyes.
This product has received mixed reviews as it relates to treating the scalp and hair. Some users report amazing results for 4c hair types. Minimal flaking issues and it reportedly helps to regulate oil levels. Hair does not appear to look dry and it manages scalp issues. Many recommend you alternate this product with a regular shampoo regimen for best results.
Flawless by Gabrielle Union: Hydrating Co-Washing Cleansing Conditioner
Gabrielle Union’s Flawless Hydrating Co-Washing Cleansing Conditioner is infused with rich, conditioning ingredients such as Brazilian Bacuri Butter, Moringa, and Argan oils. It is advertised as being free of sulfates, parabens, and silicones that may cause dry hair and contribute to breakage.
Reviews are mixed by users. Several 4C hair type buyers report positive results. Pros include its ability to cleanse the scalp and hair, support detangling efforts, and infuse moisture. Those with 3 or 4A/B hair are reporting that their hair is not as responsive to the product as they had hoped.
Co-Washing Tips to Improve Your Hair Texture
So far, we have highlighted the benefits of co-washing. Co-washing can produce positive outcomes for natural hair. For co-washing to be effective and not destroy your hair texture, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. Ideally, most people adopt a co-washing regiment to improve the texture of their hair. However, one misstep can be devastating.
Let’s discuss a few co-washing tips to improve your hair texture and examine the reasons you might avoid co-washing altogether.
Warning! Co-washing may contribute to hygral fatigue. Hygral fatigue is a condition that develops once hair experiences moisture overload. This disaster can occur after several weeks of only co-washing your hair. Hygral fatigue can leave hair brittle and susceptible to breakage. If you suspect hygral fatigue is setting in, you have a few options. Your priority will be to reverse the effects. This can be done with any of the following:
- An oil-rich pre-poo treatment
- Sulfate-free or sulfate rich shampoos
- Protein-rich deep conditioners
Co-Washing and Hair Loss Reports
Can co-washing cause hair loss? Co-washing can contribute to hair loss if the practice of this process is not followed correctly. Other factors that may increase the risk for breakage of those who use co-washes include:
- Natural sebum oil production
- Existing scalp conditions
- Introduction of other products into your hair care regimen
Thus, determining what actually causes hair breakage for those who choose to practice co-washing can be difficult. You will want to monitor for adverse effects of co-washing including:
- Burning, itching or flaky scalp
- Limp or spongy hair
- Dry hair
- Low hair elasticity
Co-Washing and Scalp Problems
There is much debate about avoiding shampoos that contain sulfates and parabens. Reports of dry, frizzy hair and the potential for health issues have created a mad frenzy in the marketplace to deliver sulfate and paraben-free products. Also, it has led to the promotion of co-washing as an alternative. Unfortunately, there is a problem with the messaging. Your scalp thrives on cleanliness. The primary role of shampoo is to clean your hair and scalp. It supports the health of your scalp by removing dirt and harmful bacteria that may cause scalp irritation or infection.
Oily Scalp and Seborrheic Dermatitis
If you have problems with skin or scalp conditions such as psoriasis or scalp dermatitis, co-washing may not be an ideal solution. Excessive co-washing can cause problems with sebum oils and dandruff. It could trigger additional scalp irritation.
Unfortunately, an unhealthy scalp can lead to major problems such as oil buildup and clogged pores. Prolonged problems with clogged pores will disrupt your hair growth cycle. Disruptions in the hair growth cycle can cause thinning hair or even balding. If you use oils in between co-washes, keep them light. Heavy oil use will exacerbate your issues.
Product Build-Up Resulting from Co-Washes
Earlier in the article, we referenced “gentle cleansing properties.” Some co-washes do provide phenomenal cleansing results. However, not all co-washes are created equal. Additionally, many co-washes also have a reputation for causing build-up. Sadly, this build-up not only occurs at the scalp level but on your hair. Co-washing can cause your hair to become weighed down and lifeless. If you have low porosity hair, co-washing will likely not benefit you. Instead, it will worsen the problem. However, should you venture into the co-washing space, be vigilant in your rotation of poo and co-washes.
Should I Co-Wash My Hair?
In closing, these are just a few co-washing tips to improve your hair texture. Whether you should co-wash your hair will depend on who you ask. Your stylist may reject the idea. On the other hand, your favorite YouTube Vlogger will sing its praises. If you decide to co-wash your hair regularly, monitor your hair signs of damage or buildup. If buildup occurs, alternate your co-wash with a sulfate poo wash.
Balking at the idea of using a sulfate poo? Do not worry; You have a few natural alternatives to remove buildup from your hair such as:
You are highly encouraged to consider integrating a poo wash or natural hair exfoliation routine into your hair care regimen every other wash or once a month to ensure your scalp and hair experiences a clean wash.
References for this Article
- Gavazzoni Dias M. (2019). Pro and Contra of Cleansing Conditioners. Skin appendage disorders, 5(3), 131–134. https://doi.org/10.1159/000493588