By Christi­na of The Mane Objec­tive

As far as com­mon nat­u­ral hair prac­tices go, co-wash­ing is one of the most com­mon. Every nat­u­ral has their favorite go-to pro­duct, rang­ing from Aussie Moist ($6 for 29.2oz) to Aveda Be Curly ($79 for 33.8oz), and every­thing in between. With the bur­geon­ing nat­u­ral pro­duct mar­ket, it’s all to easy for a tran­si­tion­er or nat­u­ral to find them­selves slip­ping into pro­duct junkieism — espe­cial­ly when it comes to con­di­tion­ers.

In the quest for the per­fect con­di­tion­er that will make hair shine, stronger, feel but­tery smooth and spring-load­ed, it’s dif­fi­cult to not let curios­i­ty get the best of you — and break the bank in the process. Keep read­ing to dis­cov­er some of the most desired prop­er­ties in a co-wash­ing con­di­tion­er, the active ingre­di­ents, and afford­able prod­ucts that get the job done.

Note: This list by no means guar­an­tees that each pro­duct works for you. If you have a tried and true co-wash­ing con­di­tion­er then by all means, stick with it. Dif­fer­ent prod­ucts work dif­fer­ent ways for dif­fer­ent peo­ple. As with all things nat­u­ral — do what works best for you and your hair!

Con­di­tion­er Prop­er­ty #1: Slip — Tre­sem­me Split Rem­e­dy (pic­tured above)

When it comes to con­di­tion­ing prop­er­ties, slip is a must. Whether you’re look­ing to fin­ger detan­gle with con­di­tion­er, or just cleanse, the pro­duct must be work­able and able to be dis­trib­ut­ed smooth­ly through­out the hair. Emol­lients in hair con­di­tion­ers do the best job at cre­at­ing slip — coat­ing the strands and allow­ing them to glide past each oth­er. Some of the best emol­lient ingre­di­ents in con­di­tion­er are dime­thicone, cyclome­thicone, cetyl alco­hol, stearyl alco­hol, cetaryl alco­hol, and oils like coconut, jojoba, and olive.

Luck­i­ly, the sil­i­cones, fat­ty alco­hols, and oils list­ed above are base ingre­di­ents in most con­di­tion­ers. The more of them that you find in the top five, the bet­ter off you’ll be. By far, the slip­peri­est con­di­tion­er I’ve encoun­tered is Tre­sem­me Split Rem­e­dy — around $5 for a 25oz bot­tle. 

Con­di­tion­er Prop­er­ty #2: Cleans­ing — Aussie Moist Con­di­tion­er

Thanks to Chaz Dean and a slew of oth­ers, there are plen­ty of folks run­ning around believ­ing that in order to effec­tive­ly co-wash, they have to buy a cleans­ing con­di­tion­er (which tends to be more expen­sive than your run-of-the-mill con­di­tion­ers). Now, as with all things nat­u­ral — do what works for you. But don’t be duped into believ­ing that the word “cleans­ing” before con­di­tion­er makes it more effec­tive. Con­di­tion­ers clean in two ways — through cation­ic (pos­i­tive­ly charged) sur­fec­tants and oil sol­u­bil­i­ty. Some exam­ples of the­se gen­tle sur­fec­tants areStear­alko­ni­um chlo­ride, cetri­mo­ni­um chlo­ride, dicetyldimo­ni­um chlo­ride, behent­ri­mo­ni­um metho­sul­fate, behent­ri­mo­ni­um chlo­ride, and stear­ami­do­propyl dimethy­lamine. In terms of oil-sol­u­bil­i­ty, the fat­ty alco­hol crew (cetyl, cetaryl, stearyl) makes anoth­er appear­ance. Each of the ingre­di­ents is capa­ble of break­ing down sebum and oth­er oils on the hair. An added bonus cleanser present in some con­di­tion­ers is EDTA — a chelat­ing ingre­di­ent that lifts min­er­al deposits on the hair. If you live in an area with hard water (hel­lo, Los Ange­les), a con­di­tion­er with EDTA can help lift those dry, dam­ag­ing hard water min­er­al deposits.

Again, most con­di­tion­ers con­tain any of the cation­ic sur­fec­tants and fat­ty alco­hols above. My favorite fat­ty alco­hol + cation­ic com­bo (and it even has EDTA!) is present in Aussie Moist, ring­ing at the reg­is­ter for around $6 for a 29.2oz bot­tle.

Con­di­tion­er Prop­er­ty #3: Mois­tur­iz­ing — Shea Mois­ture Raw Shea But­ter Restora­tive Con­di­tion­er

In Nat­u­ral Hair 101, we learned that true mois­ture comes from water. Obvi­ous­ly, plen­ty of con­di­tion­ers (but not all) are water-based — but this isn’t a neces­si­ty for co-wash­ing, because your hair is soaked in water any­way. The mois­ture most nat­u­rals look for from co-wash­ing takes place after the con­di­tion­er is rinsed away. This is where pen­e­trat­ing oils like Coconut, Olive, seal­ing oils like Shea or even Jojoba (which is the oil clos­est to our own skin’s sebum) and humec­tants like glyc­er­in or glu­tam­ic acid come in handy.

My favorite mois­tur­iz­ing con­di­tion­er that con­tains a num­ber of awe­some oils and glyc­er­in is Shea Moisture’s Raw Shea But­ter Restora­tive Con­di­tion­er, around $10 for a 12oz bot­tle. You can also aid your hair in the mois­ture reten­tion process by pre-poo­ing with a pen­e­trat­ing oil, like Coconut.

Con­di­tion­er Prop­er­ty #4: A Pos­i­tive Charge — Trader Joe’s Nour­ish Spa Con­di­tion­er and Gio­van­ni Brazil­ian Ker­at­in & Argan Oil Ultra-Sleek Con­di­tion­er

Hair gen­er­al­ly car­ries a neg­a­tive charge. This neg­a­tive charge is exac­er­bat­ed with chem­i­cal, envi­ron­men­tal, and heat dam­age. Even if you don’t have any of the above, a con­di­tion­er that car­ries a pos­i­tive charge and deposits onto the hair (and in some cas­es, fills in the gaps in the shaft) is instru­men­tal in cre­at­ing that soft and smooth feel we all love. Ingre­di­ents that get the job done are again, those fan­tas­tic fat­ty alco­hols, cation­ic sur­fec­tants (go back to #2), and polyquater­nums.

In this area, I have two favorites — Trader Joe’s Nour­ish Spa Con­di­tion­er ($2.99 for 16.9oz of almost com­plete­ly organ­ic ingredients…can’t beat that!) and Gio­van­ni Brazil­ian Ker­at­in & Argan Oil Ultra Sleek Con­di­tion­er, around $9 for an 8.5oz bot­tle.

This is by no means a com­pre­hen­sive ingre­di­ent list. I def­i­nite­ly encour­age every­one to check out their con­di­tion­er ingre­di­ent labels.

What are your favorite co-wash con­di­tion­ers?

Christina Patrice

Born, raised, and liv­ing in Los Ange­les, Christi­na is BGLH’s res­i­dent tran­si­tion­ing expert and pro­duct junkie. In addi­tion to lov­ing all things hair, she is a fit­ness novice and advo­cate of wear­ing san­dals year-round. For more infor­ma­tion on tran­si­tion­ing, nat­u­ral hair, and her own hair jour­ney, vis­it Or, if you like pic­tures fol­low Christi­na on Insta­gram @maneobjective.

Leave a Reply

72 Comments on "4 of the Best (and Cheapest!) Conditioners for Co-Washing"

Notify of

I’ve always sug­gest­ed Aussie to my friends when they ask for rec­om­men­da­tions for a con­di­tion­er.

I also use: Iso­plus Instant Con­di­tion­er, Silk Ele­ments cho­les­terol con­di­tion­er and last­ly Herbal Essence Dra­ma Clean refresh­ing con­di­tion­er.


Yes yes yes to Aussie Moist and Shea Mois­ture con­di­tion­ers. Both work won­ders and smell great!


I LOVE V05 Mois­ture Milks… I should say, my hair loves it! At only $.78 a bot­tle I was think­ing this is just too inex­pen­sive to do my hair jus­tice and give it enough love.… But no mat­ter what oth­er more expen­sive brands I try, I always end back up using the V05 to get my hair to what looks and feels right. So cheap, yet so moisturizing.…it’s amaz­ing!


Peo­ple sleep on Vo5. You can buy at the $1 store, its thick. For those who says its watery because its so cheap you can just use more.I have extrem­ly thick hair that sucks up every­thing. I use this and coconut oil for my preo-poo. I let the two sit on my hair then detan­gle, twist hair then rin­se and wash. I use a bet­ter con­di­tion­er once I wash my hair.


V05 is too watery for me and it left my hair hard & dry…and I brought sev­er­al bot­tles ’cause I had a coupon.…I will donate them to my local shel­ter.


i freak­in love love love aussie moist con­di­tion­er and the 3 min­ute mir­a­cle. i live by


I real­ly liked Trader Joe’s nour­ish spa because it was effec­tive, ver­sa­tile and cheap, but I heard there were parabens in it that caused can­cer so I stopped using it.n I wish they’d remove them.


Hhm­mm, I may change my mind about using this. Methyl­paraben and propy­l­paraben are appar­ent­ly found in fruits like blue­ber­ries and plants, respec­tive­ly. Does any­one else have more in depth infor­ma­tion on parabens?

I believe parabens are a preser­v­a­tive, & with­out it, the con­di­tion­er (& oth­er prod­ucts that use/need parabens) would be a hot bed of bac­te­ria — which would threat­en your life more so. I use this con­di­tion­er — have ever since I was nat­u­ral. My opin­ion is that because the­se are the last two ingre­di­ents in the con­di­tion­er, the amount is so min­ute that it wouldn’t cause any prob­lems. Now, if they were the first 5 (or even the first 10) ingre­di­ents, I’d be wary.  I don’t have any cred­i­ble sources to back this up, but I’m hop­ing some­one will chime in &… Read more »

Thanks for the info! I’m def­i­nite­ly going to start using it again because the parabens are nat­u­ral­ly derived which seems bet­ter than arti­fi­cial chem­i­cal parabens. Time to stock up!


Tre­sem­me Nat­u­ral Mois­tur­ing no sil­i­cones hands down is the best for me

Jo Somebody

Ditt to the o!


I agree about Tre­sem­me Nat­u­rals Mois­tur­iz­ing Con­di­tion­er being the best for co-wash­ing. I like that it doesn’t leave “any­thing” behind, so I can use it all the time with­out buildup.…but I must fol­low with a decent rin­se-out con­di­tion­er or leave in because it’s not mois­tur­iz­ing enough for my hair.


I can use it & need noth­ing else but I also use a leave in.…my hair is so soft an mos­tur­ized after using it, its my sta­ple for co wash­ing an con­di­tion­ing after sham­poo!


Tre­sem­me Nat­u­rals Mois­tur­iz­ing condish used to be holy grail for me as well. You know that I’ve found (sur­pris­ing­ly) to be more mois­tur­iz­ing to my hair? The Tre­sem­me Nat­u­rals Radi­ant Vol­ume con­di­tion­er with Sweet Orange. I tried it on a whim once when Tar­get was out of the Mois­tur­iz­ing one. I don’t know why or how, but the Radi­ant Vol­ume def­i­nite­ly sup­plies my hair with more mois­ture. Just some­thing to try the next time you might be think­ing of pick­ing up the Mois­tur­iz­ing condish!




I use the shea mois­ture con­di­tion­er because it need the mois­ture bad­ly! I have dry 4c hair and yet some­how, I have an oily scalp that needs fre­quent clean­ing (2x) a week. It is a war between my scalp and my hair some­times! My hair loves a lit­tle buildup but my scalp will itch like crazy if I go more than a few days with­out clean­ing it. Shea Mois­ture is the go to for me :)


Have you ever tried using witch hazel on your scalp? It’s an astrin­gent, so it will clean your scalp with­out you hav­ing to go through the whole wash process.


+1. Witch hazel is also great for ton­ing the skin. Thanks for tip for using it to “tone” your scalp as well. Makes sense.


I real­ly need­ed this post because I was just think­ing to myself how I want­ed to start cow­ash­ing every oth­er week and not use sham­poo every week but couldn’t think of a good con­di­tion­er to buy. I think I am going try Aussie.


Skala Shea But­ter Cond­tion­er is bril­liant it is paraben and sil­i­cone free.

I just bought As I Am CoW­ash and Hydra­tion Ela­tion. This win­ter is not mess­ing around and I need extra mois­ture for my 4b/c hair. I tried the Herbal Essences, sil­i­cone laden route for about a mon­th and it didn’t agree with my hair plus I would itch immense­ly when­ev­er I used it. I try to avoid glyc­er­in where pos­si­ble due to the fact that the cli­mate I live in is cold and there is not much mois­ture in the air usu­al­ly. I strug­gle with cons and DCs because they rarely make my hair soft. Oil rins­es offer more chance… Read more »
Amber Huffmon

I use infu­sium 21- mois­ture, and it works real­ly great on my nat­u­ral stlyes!