During lockdown, many people are trying new things. While some are learning new languages and finally getting around to redecorating, I have decided to explore the world of co-washing. Usually adopted by those with curly or afro hair, my hairdresser suggested trying co-washing to help remedy my porous, dry and damaged locks. And the results? Co-washing has transformed my hair. It’s soft, it’s silky, it’s shiny. I love it so much I’m going to share everything you need to know about co-washing your hair.
What is co-washing?
Let’s start from the basics. Co-washing is the process of using a conditioner to “wash” your hair and cleanse your scalp instead of shampoo. This sounds so counter-intuitive but trust me, it works. My fear was that my hair wouldn’t feel *clean* without a shampoo, this is why I put off trying co-washing for so long. After co-washing, my hair is happy, swishy and moisturised.
Shampoos, even the gentle ones, are very harsh and often have sulphates in them. Sulphates like sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate create the lathering effect when you shampoo but they are also very drying and strip away your hair’s natural oils.
I started using sulphate-free shampoos a couple of years ago when I started doing Brazilian Blowdries. It took a couple of washes to get used to not having a lather but I noticed that my hair felt softer when using sulphate-free shampoos.
Co-washing your hair goes one step further by using a lightweight conditioner to cleanse without stripping away natural oils, which leaves your locks soft and hydrated. If you use a lot of heat, bleach or colour, youre hair needs a lot more moisture than you may think and it could benefit from co-washing.
How to co-wash?
The first step is to find a good co-wash – you can’t use your regular conditioner! The reason is normal conditioners tend to be heavier to replace the oils and moisture that shampoos have stripped away. Co-wash conditioners tend to be lightweight and thus cleanse your hair without weighing it down. I use Am I Am Naturally Coconut Co-wash(affiliate link), which is brilliant.
You need to spend a couple of minutes massaging co-wash into your scalp and another couple of minutes rinsing it out thoroughly. Your hair will feel lovely and soft at this stage. I don’t feel like I *need* to use conditioner but I do because I’m a little extra like that.
My co-washing journey
With anything beauty-related, I like to test the products or routine thoroughly before assessing how effective it is and sharing on the blog. I have tried co-washing for six weeks and it has made a noticeable difference. My hair feels smoother, looks shinier and is easier to manage. Although I’ve not been out, my team have commented on how good my hair looks through videos. I really wish I started this journey earlier and had been kinder to my hair.
My hair is highly porous and damaged. I have greasy roots but the rest of it feels dry. My devotion to dye and colour has left it in a fragile state. My hairdresser actually says it’s in good condition but it definitely needs TLC.
When I wash with shampoo, it would feel knotty and course after rinsing the shampoo out. Conditioner would smooth it out and revive my hair. When I’m co-washing, my hair feels silky but clean after washing and *even* better after applying conditioner. I leave it to air dry and it’s less frizzy as well as noticeably smoother and shinier. Over time, I found that I need to wash my locks less frequently as my roots are less oily.
Through trial-and-error I’ve picked up a few tips to help you in your co-washing journey:
- Set aside more time to wash your hair. If you don’t massage co-wash into each inch of your head, it won’t get clean and you’ll be left with patches of greasy hair. It takes me a minimum of 10 minutes to co-wash and shower. Enjoy the mindful ritual of massaging your scalp.
- If you are using conditioner, only apply it to the mid-lengths and ends of long hair otherwise your it will feel too heavy and weighed down.
- Cut down on styling products. Co-washing is a gentle cleanse and may not remove all of the product build-up so go easy.
- Use a clarifying shampoo or apple cider vinegar rinse every 4 weeks to reduce product build-up