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 maneobjective.com. Or, if you like pictures follow Christina on Instagram @maneobjective.

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

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Inf
I can’t use silicons and my hair seems to prefer to not be shampooed or it’s dry for days after. The Shea Moisture conditioner in this post is a decent rinse out, but I don’t co-wash with it. If I’m trying to remove product, it’s not gonna get the job done. Tresemme Naturals is my co-wash, I have a couple of cleansers including As i Am coconut co-wash ( which I ALWAYS keep in rotation) and then I have conditioners that I use to restart the moisturizing process when build-up isn’t an issue….Oyin’s Honey Hemp Conditioner and Curl Junkie’s Curl… Read more »
laughing808

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.

Nic

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

desireeb

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!

eyeconic1

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.

B

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.

kyla

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

Natalee

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.

Natalee

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?

Ev`Yan
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… Read more »
Natalee

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!

B

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

Jo Somebody

Ditt to the o!

Inf

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.

B

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!

Ashley

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!

PB

+1

Monisola

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 🙂

Ja9

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.

Ashley

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

Jasmine

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.

J

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

Zee
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!

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