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Co-Washing: What Is It And Should You Be Doing It?

photo of woman with curly hair co-washing
When the natural hair movement took off a few years ago, it was about embracing your texture as well as exploring new products and techniques to make your hair look and feel its best. One of the most popular techniques to come out of the natural hair movement is co-washing. The co-washing technique was hailed by naturalistas as the saving grace for their dehydrated strands.

Not exactly sure what co-washing is and who should be doing it? You came to the right place. We’re answering your most pressing questions about co-washing and how you can incorporate it into your hair care routine.

 

What is co-washing?

Co-washing is the act of cleansing your hair with conditioner instead of shampoo. It became popular several years ago after many women began to feel like their shampoos were too harsh, leaving their hair feeling stripped of oils and moisture. To combat the feeling of dry strands, women began to skip the shampoo step altogether and go straight to conditioning.

While the term co-washing has the word “wash” in it, it is a bit misleading because conditioner can’t actually cleanse your hair. A conditioner is not formulated to remove dirt, oil, and product buildup from your scalp and strands—it’s formulated to make your hair look and feel moisturized.

 

Is co-washing good for your hair?

The answer to this question is a bit complicated. Co-washing can sometimes make your hair look and feel great—however, you should only enjoy it in moderation. While co-washing can sometimes make your hair look and feel more moisturized, too much co-washing can lead to major product buildup. Over time, the product buildup can create a barrier of sorts. If conditioner buildup starts to prevent water from entering your strands, your mane will begin to look and feel parched—no matter how many times you condition it.

 

Does co-washing take the place of your regular shampoo?

No, co-washing cannot take the place of your regular shampoo. Conditioner is not formulated to wash away dirt, oil, and product buildup; only shampoo can do that.

 

Who should co-wash their hair?

Co-washing is great for anyone with very dry strands who likes to wash their hair very frequently. If you like to wash your hair every day but the constant scrubbing leaves your hair feeling dry, consider alternating between shampooing and co-washing. The shampoo will ensure you are keeping your scalp and strands clean, while the co-washing may help make your strands look and feel moisturized longer.

 

Is there a way to wash your hair with conditioner?

Yes, you can wash your hair with some conditioner formulas, but not all conditioners are created equal. Beauty brands began to see women transition from washing with shampoo to washing with conditioner and decided to come up with a solution: cleansing conditioner.
Cleansing conditioner is the best of both worlds. It is formulated with many of the same cleansing ingredients you’ll find in shampoo but also has all of the moisturizing properties of conditioner. This allows for a gentle clean that is less likely strip your hair of moisture. While ladies with dry strands often favor cleansing conditioners, there are now cleansing conditioners on the market for almost every hair type and texture. If you’re looking to replace your shampoo with a cleansing conditioner, we’ve rounded up five from the L’Oréal portfolio of products.

If you have fine hair:

Matrix Biolage Cleansing Conditioner For Fine Hair

Formulated with a combination of soap-free cleansers and superfruit, Matrix Biolage Cleansing Conditioner For Fine Hair helps to slide away dirt and residue without stripping the hair. The low-lather cleanser infused with citrus provides thorough cleansing and lightweight conditioning to enhance shine, suppleness, and anti-static control.
Matrix Biolage Cleansing Conditioner For Fine Hair, $12.97 MSRP

If you have medium hair:

Redken Genius Wash For Medium Hair

Redken Genius Wash For Medium Hair is one step with double benefits: gentle cleansing and extra conditioning. The gentle wash also protects your hair color from fading and increases hair manageability.

Redken Genius Wash For Medium Hair, $14.97 MSRP

If you have coarse hair:

Mizani True Textures Cream Cleansing Conditioner

Gently cleanse, and condition in one step with Mizani’s True Textures Cream Cleansing Conditioner. The cleansing conditioner helps aid in retaining moisture and helps maintain the natural curl pattern for touchable texture.

Mizani True Textures Cream Cleansing Conditioner, $24.00 MSRP

If you have dry hair:

Shu Uemura Essence Absolue Cleansing Milk Conditioner

Shu Uemura’s Essence Absolue Cleansing Milk Conditioner is infused with camellia oil and is formulated for very dry hair. The soft milky cleanser envelops the fiber to condition and gently smooth away impurities.

Shu Uemura Essence Absolue Cleansing Milk Conditioner, $58.00 MSRP

If you have curly hair:

Kérastase Discipline Cleansing Conditioner Curl Idéal

Kérastase Discipline Cleansing Conditioner Curl Idéal is a shape-in-motion cleansing conditioner for unruly curly hair. This gentle cleanser has no silicones or sulfates and is formulated specifically to treat and define the look of curls.

Kérastase Discipline Cleansing Conditioner Curl Idéal, $47.00 MSRP

Interested in personalized advice about the best co-washing products for your hair? Use our salon locator to book an appointment with a stylist near you.