The Benefits of Co-Washing and Why It Protects All Types of Hair

Brittany Kline
By: Senior LetsTalkBeauty Editor  |  Brittany Kline

Co-washing is the practice of washing your hair with only conditioner, also known as Conditioner-only Washing or No ‘Poo Washing. Sounds gross, right? No shampoo? Then how do you get your hair clean? Well, there’s a little bit of science behind it, and this article will explain why co-washing works, and how to co-wash for your hair type.

Human hair is made up of proteins called keratin, and each hair strand spends several years growing out of a hair follicle, or pocket in the skin. It needs a rich supply of blood and nutrients to grow.

In this article:

  1. How to Co-Wash Your Hair
  2. Co-Washing for Normal Hair
  3. Co-Washing for Color-damaged Hair

Over-washing your hair- whether untreated, bleached, or colored- can damage your hair in a variety of ways. Over-washing can cause premature fall-out, weaken the keratin within your hair, make it brittle, and cause breakage more easily.

Co-washing serves as a safe barrier for your hair by nourishing it and adding to the already naturally existing oil in your hair instead of stripping it away. 

How to Co-Wash Your Hair

Start by rinsing your hair with water. Take special care in ensuring that every strand is wet, which helps evenly coat and lock in the hair conditioner, making it more effective.

Use a generous amount of conditioner, enough to coat all of your hair from the roots to the ends. Massage all of the product into your hair.

Leave the conditioner on for a few minutes, but keep it on longer if your hair is drier.

Then, all that is left is to rinse, dry, and style, and you are finished!

Make sure you use shampoo every two to four weeks to clean out any excessive buildup of sebum or other products as too much of a good thing can be bad!

Co-Washing for Normal Hair

Hair needs nutrients to grow, both inside and out. Biotin is important for hair growth, and there is naturally occurring oil called sebum that accumulates in the hair to help strengthen it and protect it from mechanical damage as it is growing. Because hair can look greasy with too much of these oils, shampoo is necessary to clean the hair. However, it can sometimes be too abrasive.

Continually stripping the hair of its protectants by over-washing can leave your hair vulnerable to breakage and fall-out. Dry, curly or wavy hair is most at risk for these damages, but it can occur with any hair type. Co-washing can be a good alternative to help moisturize as well as protect your hair.

Co-Washing for Color-damaged Hair

Not only can over-washing with shampoo strip your hair of its nutrients, but color treating your hair will strip it of its pigments as well. Bleach lightens hair by breaking the chemical bonds in your hair, which enables the pigments to be stripped away. Toner and color can add some pigmentation, but these chemicals are activated by peroxide, another type of bleaching agent.

This entire process can take a major toll on the integrity of your hair. Your hair’s luster and strength are depleted when you bleach and color it.

You have likely spent a lot of time and energy bleaching or coloring your hair to achieve your current color. The bonds of keratin are therefore weak from this process, so you do not want to expose it to even harsher processes. Conditioners generally have cationic surfactants, or positively charged surfactants, that bind tightly to the hair to retain its moisture.

Therefore, co-washing is a good alternative in order to help preserve your hair’s smooth texture and lock in its nutrients, avoiding stripping any additional oils from your hair.

Co-Washing for Color-damaged Hair
Human hair needs nourishment to remain strong and continue to grow.

Choosing the Right Conditioner

It can be hard to let go of your shampoo.

If your hair is on the drier or thicker side and you do not develop as much sebum or oil, a normal conditioner should be just fine.

If, however, you have finer hair that easily becomes greasy, you may want to consider a more robust conditioner that contains stronger cleansers, also known as cleansing conditioners.

The cationic surfactants in most conditioners bind too tightly to make them effective cleaners, so a cleansing conditioner can be the way to go if you want to have a gentle way to clean your hair while you are co-washing it.

Co-washing & You

Everyone has different hair, so experiment with what conditioners work for you. Whether it’s a normal conditioner, cleansing conditioner, or both. Trial and error can help you find the perfect combination of co-washing with conditioner and washing with shampoo.

If you want even more information on hair care, check out our other articles!

Brittany Kline
Senior LetsTalkBeauty Editor
We sent Brittany to venture across the world in search of discovering basically the world's best products and then bringing those back to you. She has documented all her research so you can receive the most vital information and latest innovations in beauty.

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