April 28, 2014

What is Co-Washing?

what is cowashing

Co-washing is hitting a trend at the moment with drugstore cleansing conditioners popping up left and right. But what is co-washing? What does that even mean? And how do I co-wash my hair?

Wanna learn more about the mysteries of co-washing your hair?

Jump ahead for more details!

Although co-washing sounds like an intimate shower experience with a significant other it’s actually a one on one with you and a cleansing conditioner in your shower with your hair.

Co-washing your hair is a reference to shampooing and conditioning hair with a cleansing conditioner formulated for the task. Most cleansing conditioners lack sulfates which tend to strip hair especially color treated hair. if you have drier hair co-washing is an excellent way to cleanse your hair so it looks smoother, less frizzy, and softer.

I’ll let you in on a secret….you don’t technically need a cleansing conditioner to do this job. You can actually co-wash hair simply by skipping shampoo and using your conditioner daily! Of course, make room to shampoo your hair at least once or twice a week.

The downside of co-washing means you might run into build up as many of the newfangled cleansing conditioners contain a ton of silicones which aren’t water-soluble so they end up sticking around in your head causing major build up. I do recommend a detox and clarify with a good clarifying shampoo weekly to rinse away any build up that may occur during your co-washing adventures. Read your labels carefully if you wish to avoid silicones and the like. I don’t really have too many recommendations for cleansing conditioners sans cones as a majority of the ones I run across do indeed have them unfortunately!

I know my own hair is drier with curls and waves. My experience with co-washing is a good one as it refines my curls, I see less frizz, and my hair is softer and smoother. But co-washing isn’t really for everyone as oily hair does need a good shampoo to remove excess oil and co-washing can add extra oil where it is NOT needed.

I typically co-wash five days a week and give my hair a break for two days. One of those two days I use a clarifying shampoo and conditioner and the other day I use a shampoo and conditioner of my choice.

What is co-washing is a question I commonly get so I hope this helps you understand what it is and if it might be for you!

Do you currently co-wash?

What do you use to do so?

How do clarify after co-washing?

Do share!

About the Muse

Isabella MuseIsabella is just an average everyday geeky girl who doesn’t blend her eyeshadow correctly, wears too much blush, and hopes she never finds her holy grail products because she likes the thrill of the chase so much. Her mission is to bring you super honest reviews on makeup, skincare, fragrance and all things beauty. She’s in no way an expert on the topic and she sure as hell isn’t a super model. But she’s passionate about makeup and is seeking like-minded individuals that like pina coladas, getting caught in the rain, and ones that enjoy spending hundreds of dollars at Sephora without feeling buyer’s remorse. If you’re that person feel free to reach out and leave a comment or follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Bloglovin‘.

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  • Xero

    I have curly hair and I have co-washed with regular old conditioner for about 5 or 6 years now, having shampooed only a handful of times since then. I haven’t noticed any bad side effects and my hair is much less oily than it used to be. Maybe I should wash with a calrifying shampoo one of these days and see what happens.

  • Rachel

    Hi Muse,
    Thanks for this as I have just gotten very into cleansing conditioners. Can you recommend a good clarifying shampoo?

    • Isabella Muse

      my pleasure rachel. there’s a link right in the post for recs on detox/clarifying conditioners. Hope this helps!

  • wingadings

    Had never heard of this before. Having what I gently refer to as “indecisive hair” aka “Curly? Wavy? Straight? All in one day! At the same time!!” It gets oily AND dry- like having combo skin. So I chucked out the shampoo and conditioner…

    I do the “No Poo” (which totally sounds like you’re afraid of your own bodily functions) and my hair has calmed. Its super budget friendly and I can play with my hair now because its actually soft!

    I love reading about alt ways of caring for skin and hair.

    Thanks for sharing this Muse!

  • melissa

    i have just recently seen these products & had no clue what or why lol, thanks for the info ! i have oily hair so this is probably not for me..also cleansing oils, i have yet to study on those i have acne issues so it doesnt sound appealing ? but i am gonna read up on that ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Gillie

    Hi Muse! I’m enjoying the Herbal Essences Color Me Happy cleansing conditioner, so far. It does have silicones, but not as many as a typical ‘coney conditioner would, so build up doesn’t seem to be too bad.

    As for silicone free – it doesn’t come in a pretty bottle with a convenient pump like the ones you’ve reviewed recently, but cheap-o conditioners like Suave Naturals or VO5 do an excellent job at co-washing without the silicones. Some formulas have soy protein, though, which my hair hated.

    Occasional rinsing with a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar diluted in about a quart of water helps with build up, and smooths the hair shaft.

  • Ashley

    Very informative! I hadn’t heard of this before. Thanks for the inside scoop!

  • Theresa

    So it’s like Wen? I’ve read good and bad. The bad is how it builds on your hair. The good is it doesn’t strip the color out, and has none of the icky ingredients our hair doesn’t need. I’m speaking only of Wen, since that’s the only one I’ve ever heard of!

  • Annie

    I am willing to try it I guess. My hair is naturally wavy/curly and does frizz but then I get oily at the root and usually need a dry shampoo midway through the days I don’t wash. But I wonder if I’m producing the oil at the root because my hair tends to run dry? AGH! So confusing LOL

    • Michelle Luna

      Are you shampooing every day? Our scalp is just like our faces in that if you wash too often, your oil glands will overproduce oil in an effort to rehydrate the skin. If you cut back on shampooing, say to every other day, you’ll notice within a few weeks that your scalp produces much less oil. (I shampoo once a week and have noticed through the years that I am much less oily then when I used to shampoo every other day, I don’t start showing oily roots until day 4 or 5 now.)

  • Christine Joy Luikuo

    Ooh! I didn’t know I was co-washing all along, although I’m using whatever conditioner we have at home. I only do every other day, say one day, I’ll be using shampoo. The next day, I’ll be using conditioner. I have wavy/curly hair too, oily at some part and dry at the tips. I don’t know if co-washing does a difference to my hair.

  • MJ

    Thanks for the recent focus on affordable cleansing conditioners!

    I’m currently using the Herbal Essences Naked co-wash and I like it a lot. It leaves significantly less build-up than the others I’ve tried (L’Oreal Ever Curl and Renpure’s Ren). This week I’ve used it for three showers in a row – that’s about every two to three days or my dry skin goes nuts – and my dryish wavy/curly hair looks pretty damn good. I can’t use either of the others for consecutive showers or my hair is just limp.

    If I really need to clarify, we have a Suave kids’ 3-in-1 that I use to wash the dog too, and that does the job. However, most of the time, I find that if I just use something different – Organix Tea Tree Mint and whatever curly hair formula Pantene is making at the moment are usually in the rotation – it gets rid of the buildup.

  • Susan

    It is definitely possible to buy a conditioner without silicones to cowash. Suave Naturals and Vo5 conditioners are really popular, and the Tresemme Naturals Nourishing Moisture conditioner that I use is silicone-free. I shampoo once a week with a sulfate-free shampoo and cowash during the week as needed.

  • anuradhaforever

    wow this is the first time I have heard about this :O !!! My hair is soft and I don’t get much frizz but I will surely share this one with my frieds who have rough curls ๐Ÿ˜€ thanku for posting this ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Emily W

    Thanks, Muse!

    I’ve loved trying the new cleansing conditioners at the drug stores (L’Oreal’s is my favourite so far!). Thanks for the explanation/suggestions for detox/clarifying!

    The more time I can sleep in/less time spent in the shower, the better!

    • Isabella Muse

      my pleasure emily ๐Ÿ™‚ LOL I hear that I hear that! I’m so not a morning person!

  • Kathia

    Intelligent Nutrients has a silicone free conditioner which already has a label that suggest you can use it as a cleansing conditioner. Or in Intelligent Nutrients land, everything is exchangeable so technically you can wash your face with the conditioner too. Having said that, I have washed my face with the shampoo and it is much better than 99% of facial cleansers out there. I use it head to toe at the gym.

    • Isabella Muse

      interesting thanks for the rec kathia! ๐Ÿ˜€

  • Sassy Mommy

    Love this post, co-washing is so beneficial for curly hair girls like me. I am so gonna try the cleansing conditioners.

  • ruthlessrocks

    If you have straight hair I’d say dry shampoo is a better option than co-washing. Makes me wish I had curly hair though.

  • Hima

    If you live near a trader joe’s, their tea tree tingle conditioner is an amazing co-washing conditioner. I used to do that before I became a modified curly girl. My scalp is very finnicky so I have to use a shampoo for my itchy scalp, but I use tea tree tingle as my conditioner. My curls love it a lot. ๐Ÿ™‚