Cowashing: Is it right for your hair?

Incorporating co-washing into your hair care regimen can be a game-changer, especially if your hair tends to become dry and brittle. However, it's important to note that co-washing isn't suitable for everyone. To demystify this practice and determine if it's right for you, delve into our comprehensive guide.

Unveiling Co-Washing: What's It All About?

Co-washing, once a niche technique for curly girls, involves using a lightweight conditioner or “cowash” to cleanse the hair.  As numerous conditioners contain mild cleansing agents they’re an excellent and gentler solution for mid-week hair cleansing between regular shampoos. With its surging popularity, brands have introduced dedicated co-washing products, making it easier to find a conditioner that effectively cleanses your hair.

Why would someone need a cowash instead of shampoo?

While cowashes can be used by all hair types prone to dryness, they first entered the scene as a great alternative for curly hair. The tighter the curl, the less likely natural oils can make their way down the hair shaft, leaving curly hair to feel drier at the ends than other hair types. By using a conditioner or conditioning wash, instead of shampoo that can be harsh and drying, those with dry hair can still get the gentle cleansing needed while adding moisture rather than stripping it.

Is Co-Washing Your Best Choice?

Co-washing is particularly beneficial for individuals with curly, coily, or naturally textured hair that tends to suffer from dryness and damage caused by regular shampooing. While those with straight or wavy hair can also embrace co-washing, it's most recommended for individuals with excessively dry or damaged hair prone to breakage. If your hair turns greasy within 1-2 days of washing, co-washing might exacerbate the issue.

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Co-Wash vs. Shampoo: The Distinctive Edge

It's important to understand that co-washing is not a substitute for shampooing. Therefore, it's essential to alternate co-washing days with a sulfate-free shampoo and even incorporate a clarifying shampoo to eliminate build-up. Co-washing products fail to remove certain impurities that can way the hair down and negatively affect scalp health, including oils, dirt, silicones, petroleum-based ingredients, and dead skin cells.

Mastering the Co-Washing Technique 

To make the most of co-washing, select the right conditioner or invest in a specialized co-washing product like Cult & King Creampop Conditioning Wash or Davines Love Curl Cleansing Cream.

If you opt for a conditioner, ensure it's lightweight and free from silicones that can cause buildup on both hair and scalp.

We love Rahua Classic Conditioner or Innersense Hydrating Conditioner. Avoid using heavy hair masks as a cowash. They usually do not have enough cleansing agents and will just weigh the hair down.

Cult and King Creampop


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Davines Love Curl Cleansing Cream


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Rahua Classic Conditioner


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How to co-wash:

Follow these steps for effective co-washing:

  • Step 1: Wet your hair thoroughly.
  • Step 2: Apply conditioner from roots to ends, gently massaging as you go.
  • Step 3: Detangle your hair meticulously using a delicate detangling brush such as Step 4: Tangle Teezers Ultimate Detangling Brush.
  • Step 5: Rinse out the conditioner thoroughly, ensuring the water runs clear. Extend your rinsing time for optimal cleansing results. Proceed with your usual styling routine.

Top Picks for Lightweight Co-Washing Conditioners Explore these options for achieving perfect co-washing results:

Innersense Pure Inspiration Conditioner


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100% Pure Honey & Coconut Conditioner


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Co-Washing Pitfalls to Avoid

Steer clear of these potential pitfalls to make your co-washing experience a triumph:

  • Exclusive Co-Washing: Don't rely solely on co-washing. Use a regular shampoo between co-washes to adequately cleanse the hair. 
  • Say No to Silicones and Petroleum: Refrain from using products containing heavy oils, silicones, and petroleum ingredients. These substances can hinder effective cleansing and weigh down your hair.
  • Regular Clarifying: Regularly incorporate clarifying shampoos or detox masks into your routine to prevent unwanted buildup on your hair shaft.
  • Thorough Scalp Cleansing: Don't overlook scalp care. Dead skin and impurities can accumulate, leading to hair loss and scalp issues.

Consider using a weekly scalp scrub like Innersense True Enlightenment Scalp Scrub or juliArt Liquid Exfoliating Shampoo to maintain a healthy scalp

O&M The Original Detox Hair Shampoo


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Innersense True Enlightenment Scalp Scrub


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Davines The Purity Circle Hair mask


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When practiced correctly, co-washing can breathe new life into your hair, enhancing softness and hydration. Remember, adapting co-washing to your specific hair type and needs is the key to reaping its benefits.


Natalie Palomino is a Master Stylist, educator and Founder of North Authentic. Through advanced education and commitment to her craft, she built a vast clientele providing haircare education and hair services. In 2020, she created North Authentic, a conscious haircare retailer that puts the health of its customers and the planet at the forefront.

Natalie Palomino
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