Co-washing is short for conditioner washing, and means washing your hair with your choice of conditioner instead of shampoo. The trend started among women with thick, curly locks who found that shampoo didn't do much good for the look of their hair. It's now caught on among women with a range of hair types, and specialist cleansing conditioners have come onto the market designed to very gently clean hair that is being co-washed.
But a lot of women aren't sure whether co-washing actually works. In fact, if you talk to a group of women who are sceptical about co-washing, you are likely to find three main points of concern among them:
1. Some women question whether co-washing actually does anything to make your hair healthier or better-looking.
2. Rumours suggest that co-washing is actually harmful for hair, and can create a range of problems.
3. A lot of women are simply unhappy with the idea of rarely or never using shampoo, and fear this won't make their hair very clean.
Does Co-Washing Help Your Hair?
Co-washing can help your hair to look and feel better – but it does depend what kind of hair you have. The idea was first developed among women with thick, curly locks – especially those from certain ethnic backgrounds where this kind of hair is common – and these are the women who will benefit most. If your hair is quite thick or naturally curly, co- washing can improve the look and the texture. If your hair is naturally fine and smooth, you will notice little if any difference in this department.
Co-washing can also be good for your hair's health. It can help to fight the effects of over- washing, which strips away the natural oils which help protect and nourish your hair. Just skipping the shampoo for a single wash each week can really benefit hair and scalp.
Are There Problems with Co-washing?
One of the concerns about co-washing is whether your hair will really get clean if you don't use shampoo, but this is basically a misunderstanding. You shouldn't co-wash exclusively. Start with once a week to avoid shocking your hair and help it acclimatise (otherwise, you will need to struggle through a greasy phase as your hair adjusts). As time goes on, start co-washing after normal days when your hair doesn't feel too desperately in need of a wash, and shampoo on more intensive days. A cleansing conditioner gives you a bit more flexibility as it helps clean your hair even without shampoo, though it does this very gently.
However, there can be some other disadvantages to co-washing. Even women who love co-washing report that it sometimes leaves their hair smelling less fresh than shampoo does, and it may even be a little musky. It can also prevent your hair from growing quite as vigorously because it makes it harder for follicles to breathe, so it may not be the best idea if you are aiming for longer locks at the moment.
The bottom line, though, is that co-washing does work. Depending on your hair type, it could have some very attractive benefits – even if you only do it occasionally.