3 Ways Daily Co-Washing Can Damage Hair

Via The Beauty Brains

Illegal fireworks asks…I have really dry curly hair. Will it damage my hair if I condition it everyday?

The answer depends on HOW you condition your hair. Rinse out conditioners are the worst – not because the conditioner itself does any damage but because of the processes of washing,  rinsing and drying.

Three ways conditioning is bad:

First, if you used any shampoo prior to conditioning you may be stripping your hair of moisturizing oils.

Second, just wetting and drying your hair (even without shampoo) causes the cuticle to expand and contract which can be weakening because it creates radial cracks in the outer cuticle layers.

Third, towel drying your hair always involves some degree of frictional abrasion that can crack and scrape off even more cuticle.

Leave in conditioners can be less damaging

If you’re not washing and wetting your hair, leave in conditioners are just fine. At most they require just a little combing to smooth them through your hair.

If you’re washing your hair anyway (or at least getting it wet for some reason) it’s better to go ahead and condition. But if you can skip a shampoo-wet-dry cycle and use a leave in conditioner instead, you’ll avoid opportunities for damage.

Ladies, have you experienced damage from daily co-washing? How did you prevent against it?

Black Girl With Long Hair

Black Girl With Long Hair

Leila, founder of Black Girl with Long Hair (April 2008). Social media, pop culture and black beauty enthusiast. bell hooks' hair twin...


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99 thoughts on “3 Ways Daily Co-Washing Can Damage Hair

  1. My hair used to be very dry from frequently cowash. this acricle is not supposed directly to anyone, because everyone is different. My hair only got damaged because when i was natural in abt 1st week I didn’t know how to handle cowash or how to do it properly. But later as I got tutored abt it better, my hair is so moisturzed by it . Comparing to shampoo- I don’t use shampoo alone because sometimes it can be drying or tangle your hair up , no matter if it don’t have bad ingredients. It is just at natural to have drying ingredients with high ph. So I always add condition and honey if I remember then olive oil. Conditioner is a must to add everytime for me. small shampoo then more conditioner and dilute with water. But after that i did spirtz with aloe juice to just balance ph. Because I used to have black tea 3x a week but my hair sheds badly, somebody said it can be great to stop shed but you don’t have to use that too much. It has caffine , remember? So I do it only once a week. Since I already did black tea, I replace it with aloe juice . My hair is not shedding that much like before. I remember after add shampoo with condition..of course it tangle up , I am not surprised. But Spirtz with aloe right away..It soften down! I mean in a sec! then I added conditioner more to soften down extra. and wait for 5 or 15 min before rinse out and seal with oil.

    Next time I will be use conditioner on my rest hair and add shampoo to conditioner that way , it will not tangle up.

  2. I just recently (about 2 weeks ago) started co-washing and I really love the way it makes my hair feel! I think it definitely makes a difference in the texture and overall feel of my hair… But there’s ONE problem: I have a feeling my scalp HATES it! I don’t know if I am going through the “adjustment” period, or if my scalp is just being a diva? Or maybe I am not doing something properly… If anyone could please give me some tips or maybe share a similar experience so I know that this is completely normal, that would be great! I use the TRESemmé Naturals conditioner and I co wash mid-week and then shampoo on weekends. I am not sure why my scalp is being so sensitive. Or maybe co-washing isn’t for me? (I HOPE NOT). I hope someone will be able to enlighten me! Thank you

    • I am sure it is just “adjustment” stuff. it is same with me when I got first bc in few weeks , somebody told me to do co-wash like abt 3x a week then my hair got too dry. I did a researching that co-washing can dry out natural oil for some ppl that can’t handle it.

      Later on I can handle frequent co-wash (just because I was abt a year older bc) Needless saying it is really adjust thing…because when we first got bc, bc will be dry and in shocking. But we co-washing frequently too soon that take out natural oil.

      If it ain’t your case, might you got wrong conditioner because I want purchase it but I spotted it has Isproply Achohol …If I am spelling right? means it has acohol that we should stay away, it is as danger as sls . REALLY drying ingredient. So when you use it along with shampoo, it gets tangle horribly or damage as if you are using bleaching with perm.

      It is just adjustment like learning your error/trail. Hair is only warning that is not product they wanna use , they hope you pay attention. It need more moisturezer. Pick something extra natural like GIVONNA conditioner. It beat Tresseme natural cond.

      • Very detailed answer! Thank you very much… I guess i’ll just keep monitoring this itch and if it persists i’ll switch conditionner?!

        • I didnot know you are experiencing itchy scalp..yes it is defiently from using a lot of diff. products. Not just co-wash.
          That is what I said adjustment period, it happened the same to me I would not say I was hair junkie but I was using abt 5 or 6 products in my hair. When you used that much , scalp would not know how to get used to the cycle such as ph, and start to build up as well dranruff.

          Nobody can go on without co-wash , it is a way of retain moisture. Hair can’t be disliking co-wash. It must be particular products you are using. Because one time when I was using Mane N Tane Conditioner and Shampoo (you see their ingredients) it aint so good …so when I used it , it was acting CRAZY! BREAKING and DRYNESS. I stopped and start to use conditioner (it has natural ingredients) “Nate’s Gate” Shampoo/Conditioner…It loves it. You see the difference? I was just learning my errors that my hair dislikes chemicals such as sls, cones,parabean, etc. I cant sugarcoat it by buying something cheap. I had to get $7 .00 organic and hair loves it. They stay moistured all week.

          My itchy scalp used to come from a lot of products I used and it used to come from Givonna shampoo because of changing ingredients too. Then one girl taught me to be sure you wash out REALLY good ..it can be another reason for itchy. Right now, it is okay with Givonnai shampoo it has frequently changing ingredients. It defiently love shea moisture line.

          I don’t know what work for you. A lot ppl come to me with same problems , in yahoo answers! They thought Head and Shoulder shampoo would stop itchy or draduff. It never did. I said to simply change your diet, shampoo, conditioner, and everything you did to see where it goes wrong. Just drink more water. If you know who Kimmaytube is? She is on youtube with long natural hair, she experiencing the same issue as me using Givonnia shampoo. Because it changes ingredients, she stops and her itchy went away. That was how she knew it was the particuar product.

          By way use Apple Vingear Cider when you co-wash once a week (weekly) AVC is common for itchy scalp to relieve. It has ingredient that is antifungual. I like use Braggs or Organic

    • Response to Mel re: your scalp hates cowashing.

      My question is what are you experiencing? Extra dryness, breakage or does hair feel dirty after a cowash. It’s hard to say with out that extra information but I can tell u of my experience and what I think it might be.

      1. The conditioner that your using may not be right for your hair type. Your hair may be responding to the cowashing by a) drying out or b) becoming really limp and hard to style b/c you could not wash all the products out by cowashing alone, therefore you have product build up in your hair. Whatever the case may be its all about finding the right conditioner that suits your hair.

      2) you said you just big chopped not long ago??? Well there is always that initial time it takes to get used to how your natural hair feels. When I first b/c my hair always felt so dry! I would load it down with oils b/c I thought that’s what it needed until I met a woman with very long natural hair, she had been natural for 7 years and she told me her stylist said you hair is not dry unless its dry when wet. I immediately went home and did the test. It was not dry when wet, she also said its importan to use minimal products on your hair. She suggested olive oil or cocoanut oil, I use them both and I have seen tremendous growth.

      The key to natural hair sometimes is to just relax and not worry about it soo much b/c natural hair is something you have to learn to take care of. It’s really trial and error but you will get it, just be patient. If you still don’t like cowashing I suggest you just cut it out of your routine for now and see how that works for you.

      • Hi Elizabeth!

        Thank you for your response! I actually big chopped in July of 2012 :)! Im sorry I didn’t make that very clear… But I added co-washing in my regimen about two weeks ago.
        As for what I am experiencing, there’s no dandruff or flaking, it’s just a really itchy scalp! My scalp has always been sensitive, even when I was relaxing(especially). But maybe it is the conditioner I am using, like you said? I probably need something extra natural?!
        You’re right, it is very “trail and error”. I love how co-washing makes my hair feel. Cutting shampoo out (or using it less often) has really made a difference. I’ll keep track of the progress and on how my scalp feels.

        I am also a recovering product junkie :D! I have had a few relapses but I’m doing better now (HAHAHA). I think my itchy scalp could also be coming from and overuse of different products and a mix of different things… Its really frustrating not knowing, but I just noticed that it has gotten worst since co-washing.

        Thanks again for your tips Elizabeth :)

        • I know my scalp used to itch so bad I used to bruise my scalp by itching so much specially when I used certain conditioners…Dove made me itch horribly…I switched to Herbal Essence “Hello Hydration” and it’s awesome…i was still a little itchy though but then I discovered rinsing my hair with cool/cold water..and Bingo!!! The itching has stopped!!!! I don’t know what it was but now I wash in warm water and rinse off my hair in cool water and I don’t have problems anymore. Try that maybe.

    • Hmm.. Idk I have to co-wash my hair everyday because if I don’t it will worsen my dandruff problem so Idk why your scalp is sensitive maybe you should try to co-wash only a couple times a week.

    • If you are African American it’s not good to shampoo your hair every week because as black women our hair is sooo dry that we need moisture try co washing it each week as much as you need and only shampooing every two weeks or go a month without shampoo like me unless you use a lot of products that’s clogs up your pores but usually just conditioner does the job but if you are straightening your hair you should shampoo or while you are pressing your hair it will be more prone to heat damage and split ends but condition and water is always your best friend :)

  3. I think that like you said, if you shampoo every single time and don’t leave some conditioner on your hair, that might damage it and cause it to get more dry. But since my hair is damaged right now I can’t go too long without deep conditioning it, it gets too dry no matter how much I moisturize it. So I try to skip one or two days and I try not to shampoo every time, but I don’t want my hair to get so much build up that it cannot get any new moisture. My hair is low porosity and for so long I was doing cold water rinses, Shea butter, conditioner only washing, only to find my hair break off badly and look frizzy. I was not putting a warmed up leave-in on damp/dry hair like I should. I also started doing catnip tea rinses to prevent more split ends and my hair has to be pretty clean for that to work. It keeps my tangles so well under control that when I apply my product to damp/dry hair I don’t need to rake which could break up my curls and cause frizz which could create room for more split ends.

  4. The Shielo Leave in Protectant was recommended to me by my hairstylist a few months ago after my hair suffered major heat damage due to excessive flat ironing and blowdrying. In just a few minutes, the Shielo Protectant transformed my hair completely and I definitely noticed a difference after just one use. I cannot stop touching my hair – it went from dry, damaged, and dull to shiny, healthy, and super soft. It is a little expensive, but it is a great investment and this product lasts for a long time ( I only use it 1-2 times a week because that is plenty).

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  7. i wash my hair once every two weeks like our mom’s did in the 1950’s you don’t have to wash your hair every day less is more bye and yes i’m a natural it’s helped so much bye

  8. This is an ambiguous article. It’s suppose to be the bad things about Co-washing but shampooing your hair, drying it with a towel, and wetting and drying your hair, aren’t truly about co-washing. Those are just choices that you choose to make when involving ANY type of washing of the hair.

    If I co-wash without shampoo is that fine? If I dry my hair with a tshirt is that fine? And if I wet my hair use a leave-in conditioner and then let my hair air dry is that fine?

    I’m sorry but this article should have hit the notes of actually using conditioner as a “wash” and the effects that will have on the hair because Co-washing is known as “washing hair with conditioner” no shampoo involved.

  9. I disagree with this article. I experienced length retention and moisturized hair when I co-washed daily. I did not use a Shampoo. I did however fortify my conditioner with olive oil. At night, I locked in moisture with coconut oil, or whatever you want to use. It’s up to you. Tied my hair down and experienced little to no shedding. When I stopped this, listening to others that co-washing daily was a bad thing, I’ve had nothing but shedding hair and now single knots.
    So i’m going back to my original regimen.
    It really depends on the person. Everyone is different.
    I shampooed maybe once a month. My hair stayed clean. The conditioner had enough suds in it to clean my hair. No dandruff or flaking. Ladies, learn your hair. trial and error is a must.
    God Bless.

  10. I love co washing everyday. My scalp loves it. I never get dandruff. My hair (4a) rarely breaks or feels like hay. Everyone’s hair is different. Im glad my hair loves it.

  11. It all depends on the conditioner you use. Daily co-washing is good for the hair it adds the much needed moisture to your hair. As you know hair must be moisturized daily. The damage done to the cuticle can be fixed with a protein treatment. So the weekly protein treatment could fix the damage done to the cuticle. Our hair loves water and it thrives when watered daily. I remember when I had my hair natural one time I washed it daily and I retained most of the length. all I did was wash it with soap and water added nothing else and I retained most of the length. Now it is relaxed and I wash it weekly and deep condition weekly. It breaks after 6 days of the treatment or sometimes after one day, but I use leave in conditioner as needed.

  12. i’m getting into washing my hair everyday with condish, and so far i must say that i’m loving it. i wet my hair under the running water when i’m showering and get it drenched, and then i go through and work through any tangles i feel with my fingers, and then apply condish to the drenched hair. i put in a generous amount so that every strand gets coated about half the way down the shaft. i try not to get it on my scalp, bc past experience has taught me that condish irritates it. then when i get out the shower i don’t even hafta dry my hair because the condish itself soaks up the excess drippage, so it no longer is dripping by the time i get out. then when the curls dry they’re nice and soft from the conditioner and maintained, frizz free, because the condish holds them in place, acting as a mousse. about every two weeks or so i’ll throw in shampoo, to start over, but i’ve been cowashing everyday for a minute now, and haven’t had issues. my hair is shoulder length and very bouncy and healthy and elastic. what i’m curious to know is if there’s anyone who grew their hair out to a long length while actually cowashing consistently on a daily basis?

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  15. I tried co washing daily years ago in the beginning of my hair journey. My hair thinned out and I lost length. While I heard all the good of co washing I never heard the bad. I have type 4hair and once water hits it I have to detangle it or it will shrink up and tangle. all of that manipulation cause breakage.it didn’t matter if i was using shampoo or conditioner I cant wash everyday. I figured I could co wash with twists or braids to avoid excess manipulation, still made my hair a tangled mess along with a frizzy mess. Once a week for a wash is good enough for me

  16. IDk exactly how long to say i have been natural. I flatironed my hair for years and wore weaves. But i wasnt really taking care of my curls. But i havent flatironed it for about 3 months now and i find that cowashing my hair daily is very beneficial. It stays moisturized and i have very minimal shedding. When i dont cowash my haor sheds bad and get really dry. Hope this helps. My hair is type 3c

  17. I’ve been co washing for a few months now. I washed with a sulfate shampoo and then rid myself of products with silicons. The first time I co washed, my hair was soft; it felt great. The second time, was a few days later. My scalp was itchy after the first time, and worse after the second time.

    Long story short, I learned massaging conditioner onto scalp is bad. And that apple cider vinegar rinse following my co wash effectively stops the itch. Also, I still shampoo with a sulfate-free product, at least once or twice a month. I don’t know if this helps anyone, but I’d thought I share.

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