4 Tips for Effective Co-Washing

By Jc of The Natural Haven Bloom

Conditioner washing is a method that has its ups and downs. Can you wash your hair with conditioner? Yes you can and it is not really because hair conditioner contains surfactants as you will often see written as an explanation. The surfactants in hair conditioner are actually designed to stick to hair while those in shampoo are intended to bind to oil and lift it off the surface. In the grand scheme of things, shampoo will remove more oil and dirt than conditioner, conditioner will remove more oil and dirt than using plain water. It is perfectly acceptable to wash your hair with conditioner but there are key tips and tricks to making it work on a long term basis.

1. Do not co-wash with a deep conditioner

If you are intending to regularly co-wash your hair (3 times or more per week), do not pick a conditioner labelled as a deep conditioner or intensive mask. These tend to contain a higher proportion of ingredients that stick to the surface of hair and give softness for example behentrimonium methosulfate. This is not to say that these ingredients are bad, it is simply that the conditioner is formulated for less frequent use and you can cause build up to form by reapplying it constantly without using a shampoo in between. A simple rinse out conditioner with the same ingredient is more likely to work better as it is made for more frequent use and therefore formulated to be lighter and easier to wash off. Use your deep conditioner when you feel your hair requires additional care.

2. Be aware of silicones in styling products not the conditioner

You do not need to avoid silicones completely to get the most from a co-washing routine. It is the pure silicone serums that generally cause problems. If you use these type of products for daily styling, it may not be possible to benefit from co-washing. Most modern conditioners  use what are known as amine modified silicones usually noted by amo, amino, amine  (for example amodimethicone, bis-aminopropyl dimethicone). These are water soluble silicones and are easily washed off, nothing to be concerned about in terms of blocking moisture to hair.

3. Alternate with shampoo

Having the occasional wash with shampoo is the real trick to being able to successfully manage a co-wash routine. The shampoo will help cleanse hair thoroughly and do note that it is perfectly fine to use a mild sulfate free shampoo or shampoo bar. The idea is that you utilise a cleansing product on occasion to help clear off any build up before it becomes an issue.  The alternation routine is really up to you and your hair. You can shampoo wash once a week, once every two weeks or once a month……….just don’t forget to do it.

4. Consider your environment and lifestyle

Regular exercisers who sweat heavily may find that shampooing on a daily basis is too harsh. Conditioner washing is a perfect solution for them. However, if you live in an area of high pollution or your work brings your hair into contact with a high level of dust or dirt, you may find that a co-washing routine actually makes your hair dirtier as hair conditioner has a tendency to attract and bind particles. Finding a mild shampoo may be a better alternative instead of adopting a co-wash routine.

What are your tips and tricks for effective co-washing?

The Natural Haven

The Natural Haven

Scientist on a hairy mission!


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31 thoughts on “4 Tips for Effective Co-Washing

  1. Pingback: Co- Washes… Everyone does it right? | naturally90

  2. I alternate shampooing and co washing. I wash once a week with shampoo, but in between about day 3 ( I workout a lot and sweat!) I co wash. On wash day when I shampoo, I preposterous or use a bentonite clay mask to get rid of impurities. And of course deep condition with or without heat.

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