What Is Co-washing, And How Does It Benefit Your Hair?

What Is Co-washing, And How Does It Benefit Your Hair

Washing hair is an important part of hygiene. While the traditional way of washing involves using shampoo, followed by conditioner, reverse hair washing and co-washing techniques are gaining popularity equally. 

The latest fad, co-washing, is baffling people due to various reasons. While some are wondering if this technique actually cleans hair, others are questioning if this is just a marketing gimmick. 

Let’s learn more about co-washing and understand its process.

What Is A Co Wash For Hair?

co wash for hair

The process of washing hair using only conditioner is co-washing, also called conditioner-washing. Besides conditioner, co-washing can also use cleansers that contain moisturizing agents and lack sulfates. 

Co-washing is highly beneficial for people with coarse, porous, dry, and brittle hair. This is mainly because shampoos usually contain detergents and surfactants for intense cleansing. These ingredients strip off natural oil from the scalp as well as hair shafts, making them drier after every wash and more prone to breakage.

On the contrary, conditioners contain natural oils, botanical extracts, and other components that create a film around the hair shafts, shielding them from environmental damage. Conditioners lock in the moisture content of hair, improving its texture and overall health. 

It is when a hair care regime of co-washing is adopted the use of a conditioner that locks in moisture and keeps hair well-hydrated and nourished. Thus, they grow healthy and more resilient. 

How Do You Co Wash Your Hair?

How do you co wash your hair

The first step to co-wash hair is to find the right conditioner. So, before we delve into the co-washing technique, let’s know what ingredients to look for in a conditioner. 

A: Finding the Right Conditioner 

The foremost thing one should be aware of is that co-washing means avoiding the use of shampoo and replacing it with conditioner. Since we are focusing on a gentle and mild way of hair cleansing, the conditioner should possess mild ingredients only. The presence of silicones, sulfates, detergents, etc., is a complete NO.

While sulfates make the hair drier, silicones add temporary glossiness to them. Gradually, silicon builds up a waxy coating on hair, making it feel heavy.

So, what ingredients should be available in a conditioner? Here is a list of components with their benefits-

  1. Emollients: They help to soften the tresses, smoothen the cuticles, and thus reduce the frizz. Shea butter, coconut oil, and argan oil are some popular emollients that you can look for in the conditioner.
  2. Proteins: It is one of the essential components that every conditioner must have. They shield the hair from damage and add natural volume. Some ingredients that offer protein include almond milk, wheat, wheat germ, and soy.
  3. Humectants: Known for absorbing and sealing moisture, humectants such as honey, aloe vera, and glycerine are the best.
  4. Moisturizers: To keep hair nourished, hair care products should contain moisturizers, which can be attained from ingredients like amino acids, jojoba oil, and aloe vera.

B: Right Technique Of Co-washing 

Once you have selected the perfect conditioner, it’s time to start co-washing. Here are the steps involved in the process-

Cleaning the scalp

  1. Damp your hair with slightly warm water.
  2. Take a small quantity of conditioner and apply it to the scalp. Massage gently.
  3. Let all the dirt, grime, and oil buildup loosen, leaving the scalp without stripping off the natural oil. 
  4. Rinse off the scalp with lukewarm water.

Cleaning the Hair

  1. Now, again, take a small quantity of conditioner and apply it evenly through the hair, spreading along the middle towards the end of the hair. Do not apply on the scalp. 
  2. Take a wide-toothed comb to detangle the hair. It will spread the conditioner evenly to each strand. 
  3. Let the conditioner stay for 2-3 minutes, and then rinse with lukewarm water. 

If you feel the hair is still greasy and dirty, repeat the process. 

Is Co-washing Enough To Cleanse Hair?

Co-washing often comes under scrutiny and becomes a subject of debate as hair experts have different opinions about it. 

Many people believe that even though co-washing is useful, especially for coarse, color-treated, and brittle hair, the results are not long-lasting. In fact, it may cause other scalp and hair issues. 

At the same time, it is a highly time-consuming practice. 

People who do not support co-washing suggest using sulfate-free shampoo instead of regular ones. They believe that the function of shampoo cannot be attained by a conditioner such as getting rid of:

  • sweat
  • dead skin cells
  • sebum
  • hair product
  • dirt
  • dust
  • atmospheric pollutants

At the same time, people who advocate co-washing count the benefits like:

  • hair hydration 
  • reduced stripping
  • reduced frizz
  • shine and softness
  • color preservation 
  • improved manageability
  • improved scalp health 

Since co-washing has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, it is completely a personal choice. People who have coarse and porous or dry and brittle hair should definitely try co-washing and see if the results are fruitful in the long term. If yes, they should continue co-washing or using shampoo only once in a while. 

How Often Should I Co Wash My Hair?

The ideal co-washing frequency depends on several factors, including your hair type, scalp condition, and styling habits. Here’s a breakdown to help you find the sweet spot:

Hair Type

  • Dry or curly hair: Thrives on frequent co-washing, 2-3 times per week.
  • Fine or oily hair: May benefit from less frequent co-washing, 1-2 times per week, or alternating with clarifying shampoos.

Scalp Condition

  • Oily scalp: May require co-washing every other day or daily, but use a gentle, clarifying co-wash to avoid build-up.
  • Dry scalp: Can stick to 1-2 times per week co-washing with a moisturizing formula.

Styling Habits

  • Heavy styling products: May necessitate more frequent co-washing (1-2 times per week) to remove residue.
  • Minimal styling: Allows for less frequent co-washing (1-2 times per month), with occasional clarifying washes.

General Tips

  • Start slow: Begin with 1-2 co-washes per week and adjust based on your hair’s response.
  • Clarify regularly: Even with co-washing, use a clarifying shampoo once every 2-4 weeks to remove build-up.
  • Listen to your hair: If your hair feels greasy or limp, co-wash more often. If it feels dry or straw-like, reduce frequency.
  • Experiment and personalize: Find the co-washing routine that works best for your unique hair needs.

Remember, co-washing is a journey, not a destination. Be patient, experiment, and enjoy the healthy, happy hair you deserve!

Who Should Avoid Co-washing Their Hair?

Co-washing is not recommended for people with-

  • Contact dermatitis– The excess use of conditioners in co-washing increases the chances of its buildup on the scalp. Since people with contact dermatitis are more susceptible to irritated skin, conditioner buildup can worsen their condition. 
  • Itchy scalp– If the scalp gets irritated, it becomes itchy and flaky. It could be a result of a dirty scalp that is not cleaned properly due to co-washing. If you often experience itchy scalp, it is better to avoid co-washing and start using sulfate and silicone-free shampoo and conditioners. 

Besides these two reasons, if the product has started becoming less effective, maybe it’s time to switch back to shampoo. It happens because regular use of conditioner leads to forming layers on the hair cuticle. Thus, preventing it from functioning on the scalp. 


Whether co-washing is your game or not depends upon your hair type as well as your preference. Usually, people with dry, brittle, color-treated, and damaged hair are suggested to co-wash often and shampoo once in a while. On the contrary, if you have oily skin and your scalp is more prone to oil buildup, sticking to shampooing is advised. 

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