Co-wash or Cowash is short for conditioner washing. It’s simply washing your hair with conditioner.
Co-washing is a major component of the Curly Girl Method created by Lorraine Massey. Massey encourages that curly & natural hair girls swap that old drying shampoo for your favorite silicone-free conditioner.
Traditional shampoos have harsh detergents such as sodium lauryl sulfate that strips the hair of its natural oils; leaving it dry, frizz and sometime unmanageable.
You can fine this same ingredient in many household products like toothpaste, laundry detergent, and dish soap as a foaming agent.
Many hair products companies have introduced gentler cleansers such as sulfate-free shampoo, shampoo bars, cleansing creams and now there’s an explosion of CoWash Conditioners or Cleansing Conditioners.
CoWash Conditioners (Co-washing Conditioners) or Cleansing Conditioners are marketed as all-in-one cleansers that hydrate and condition the hair in one step. They are typical non-sudsy and sulfate-free products (although most, if not, all conditioners are sulfate-free) that leave your hair soft and frizz-free. Gentle enough for daily use.
Just because the label says ‘cleanse’ or ‘cowash’ doesn’t mean its formulated to thoroughly or effective remove dirt, debris, product build-up from the hair and scalp. Read on for a list of some of the newest cowash products.
5 Things You Should Know About CoWash Conditioners
Watch Those 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 a little bit harder to wash out without harsh detergents. The end result is yucky build-up on your hair and scalp.
Co-Wash As Needed
Depending on your hair 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 the most fragile when it’s wet. Be careful in styling, and allow your hair time to dry completely before washing again. There is a such thing as over-conditioning, so pay attention to your hair’s feel. If it’s spongy or even mushy, you’re overdoing it.
Clarify Occasionally With A Sulfate-Free Shampoo
This is an important step that some people skip. Your hair and scalp still need a gentle shampoo to adequately cleanse. When I skip the shampoo for too long, my scalp itches like crazy. I recommend shampooing weekly or bi-weekly in addition to regular co-washing.
Co-washing Is Not For Everyone
If you suffer from scalp conditions such as 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
I feel like including 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.