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This Could Be The Best Decision You Ever Make For Your Hair

Co-Washing

During one of our recent team meetings, our production manager Brittany happened to mention that she had started using a new hair care method called “co-washing.” I had never heard of such a thing, but Brittany explained that it’s a relatively new trend that’s been especially popular for people with curly or wavy hair.

Since my hair has always been stick-straight, I knew that meant I was probably not the right candidate for this particular method. But since I’m sure many of you out there have curly or wavy hair, I felt it was my duty to find out what co-washing is all about so I could pass it along to you.

So today we’ll go over all the important details about co-washing, including what it is, who should use it, and how it just might be the best thing you can do for your hair!

Related: The One Ingredient You Need To Avoid If You Have Dry Skin

Co-Washing

What Is Co-Washing?

Co-washing is short for “conditioner-only washing,” meaning you wash your hair only with conditioner rather than the traditional duo of shampoo and conditioner. The ideal results for co-washed hair fall somewhere between squeaky-clean and second-day hair: still clean, but softer, smoother, and easier to manage than freshly shampooed hair.

Co-Washing

Who Should Use It?

The best candidates for co-washing are those with curly or wavy hair types. Co-washing is perfect for combating the dryness that often affects curly hair types.

Color-treated hair can also benefit from co-washing. Shampoo can quickly strip the pigment from color-treated hair, so this conditioner-only method may help you retain your hair’s color longer.

But not every hair type is a suitable candidate for co-washing. Those with fine, straight hair have found that only using conditioner can weigh their hair down. And those with oily hair or scalps may find that conditioner alone isn’t enough to get it truly clean.

Co-Washing

How Does It Work?

Conditioners contain detergents called cationic surfactants, or “quats.” Quats pick up dirt while the conditioning agents smooth and soften your hair. Unshampooed hair retains natural oils better than hair cleaned with shampoo, so co-washed hair comes out clean, soft, and manageable.

Co-Washing

How To Choose The Right Conditioner

If You Have Thick Hair: You can use just about any conditioner for co-washing! Just make sure to avoid conditioners with silicones and dimethicone in their ingredient lists. (These ingredients have a smoothing effect, but will leave behind buildup in hair that isn’t shampooed regularly.)

If You Don’t Have Thick Hair: You’ll get the best results using a conditioner designed specifically for co-washing. EverPure Cleansing Balm by L’Oreal is a popular and affordable option!

How To Co-Wash Your Hair

Co-Washing

Step 1: Soak your hair with water, which will loosen debris and make it easier to rinse out.

Co-Washing

Step 2: Apply a generous amount of conditioner to your hair and scalp. Make sure to use enough to coat your hair from root to tip.

Co-Washing

Step 3: Massage the conditioner into your scalp, then let it sit for 3-5 minutes.

Co-Washing

Step 4: Rinse, dry, and style your hair as usual.

You can use co-washing to replace or supplement your current hair care routine. Some people live and die by their twice-a-month co-washing routine. Others alternate between co-washing and shampooing. Everyone’s hair is unique, so do whatever works best for your hair! :-)

Have you ever tried co-washing your hair?

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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.
I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee

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Beauty Tips

  • I see people commenting about cleaning your scalp well with the pads of your fingertips. That is no secret. THAT is the way you should always have been washing your hair. Years ago a stylist told me that if you wanted your hair to get the MOST benefit possible, START with that product on DRY hair. When you wet your hair first, the hair shaft absorbs all of the water and then cannot actually take on anything else. I know that it sounds weird but it actually makes sense and is worth a try. When I actually had enough hair worth working with I did this and my hair was so much thicker and more manageable because the hairshaft had actually absorbed the product, not just the water. Before you call me a crazy ol’ bat, maybe just give it a try once or twice and see how it works for you. Also, WEN is a very good line of haircare. Take care and God bless… :-)

  • I’ve been doing Co-Washing on my naturally curly hair for years! Didn’t know it was called that….lol Great results! Love my curly hair!!

  • I have been cowashing for about 5 years now. I never use shampoo. It was a little difficult at first because I just couldn’t wrap my head around not using soap to get clean. A solvent (water) and friction (finger tips) is all you really need for clean. I not only use conditioner to wash my hair, I use an argon oil conditioner that the directions say to rinse, as a leave in conditioner. My hair is colored, curly, and clean and soft. Oh and it smells good too!

  • Hi Hi……Im also a dry curly haired gal and I wanted to tell you I actually have to wash my hair daily because over night from night sweats which are a side effect of a medication my hair looks horrible. I was actually told to condition then shampoo and OMG I no longer have heavy or dry hair it worked wonders.

  • Your hair changes as you age, especially when you add hair colour, thus I found daily shampooing was too drying. And I’d noticed too many women 50+ with dry hair which tended to make them look older. So 4 years ago I ditched the chemical shampoo & made my own shampoo bar thanks to “Mummypotamus”. I now shampoo 1-2 times a week (I work outdoors) and double condition using a chemical-free Argan Oil Conditioner on the other days. An apple cider rinse is what mummypotamus replaced conditioner with, but I could not adapt to this. Your hair is your “mantelpiece” so one should not begrudge spending money on keeping this feature looking youthful once the big 50 comes around.

  • I co-wash my hair. Your article was great, however it is worth mentioning that curly hair needs to be cotton dried…no towel, just tied up in a cotton t-shirt. Don’t agitate the hair beaus ever it causes frizz

  • I’m SOOOO glad to see this posted. I have very thick, coarse hair. I’ve NEVER washed my hair more than about once a month (and I’m almost 60 years old). I KNOW, I KNOW, I KNOW….many of you are saying….EWWW, YUCK!!!! BUT…..I’ve had many hairdressers tell me over the years that with my hair texture I’ve actually done the right thing!!!

    What most people don’t realize is that HAIR doesn’t actually usually GET DIRTY. It’s the oil from the scalp that distributes through the hair from brushing or combing that causes “dirt” to attach throughout the hair.

    My scalp is normal….NOT OILY. SOOO…… that means, by washing it every shower….or even once a week, or two, or even THREE during the winter months…..will only DRY IT OUT by OVERWASHING the oil out that keeps it NATURALLY nourished!!! And with already thick, coarse hair…..THAT’S WHAT WILL HAPPEN with OVER-WASHING!!!!

    With my hair, I need what little oil from my scalp to penetrate through my hair over the month.

    Of course…..during the summer months…..when I tend to sweat a little more, I have to sometimes actually wash it once a month or two. BUT….for the most part…..NO MORE THAN ONCE OR TWICE A MONTH!!!! I’ve been doing the conditioner thing in those cases for years. TRUST ME Y’ALL…..THIS IS THE KEY!!!! TRY IT….YOU’LL BE AMAZED!!!!

    LOL….I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE THIS PLACE!!!!!!!!!

    LOVE YOU JILLEE!!!!!

  • I too did co-washing for years… used everything from Wen to Suave to homemade. Very good for hair, but I never felt like my scalp felt or smelled clean (which is very oily even now, many years post-menopause). About five years ago I switched back to washing my hair daily or every other day using only inexpensive baby shampoo, and using a simple conditioner (suave ‘professional’ lines are good). The baby shampoo removes styling and heat protectant products and oils without stripping my hair. It did take a few months before my hair and scalp really showed the difference, but it was worth it. I get many compliments on my hair now. So soft and shiny.

  • I, also, have been doing this for years. My hair isn’t dirty, because there are enough surfactants in conditioner to clean the scalp. Really helps my coarse, frizzy wavy hair in FL’s humidity!

  • I did this for years on shoulder length wave hair and it worked very well. There are peoplr at Yosh in Palo Alto who have not used shampoo for over 10 years. Since I grew out to my natural color and cut it short, my hair more readily gets dirty and smelly ( likely because it’s harder to brush the natural oils to distribute them). So the method seems to not work well based on length, natural wave, and thickness.

  • Been doing this for years, hands down the best decision I ever made to do with my hair. I have thick coarse curly hair and this has helped immensely with the frizz. I follow the Curly Girl method and this is part of it.

  • Thanks for this, Jillee! I had tried it, but was afraid to do it regularly, and I sure didn’t know anyone else did it. Even when I do use conditioner for shampoo, my hair is still extremely frizzy. The only thing I have found that works is Wen Anti-Frizz Styling Cream. If I use any kind of oil, by the time I get enough to stop the frizz, it’s too oily. If you or anyone has a cheaper solution than Wen, please let me know!

  • I have coarse, curly oily hair. I can’t imagine not shampooing my hair at least twice a week. I used to do it almost every day, but i moved to a drier climate and it got too dry being color treated and using an iron at times. More than one beautician has told me you shampoo the scalp only and just let it run over the ends, then condition midway down to the ends. I use dry shampoo on the roots on day 3 an wash day 4. You need to wash the lose dead cells and debris from your scalp. To each his own but I side with sanitation more than trends.

    • You should try using a scalp brush/shampoo brush. I bought a cheap one on Amazon and you use it to massage scalp while shampooing which cleans follicles, gets rid of build up and feels super awesome.

    • Water cleans hair, clothes, etc. Soap, surfactants(also found in conditioners), facilitate the wetness of water to allow it to do its job. Sanitation is not the same as cleansing the scalp. Drying out the scalp with too many strong drying chemicals found in shampoos which are overused bc of advertising can actually lead to oily scalps or overdryness resulting in dandruff that is a part of the dirt you find in your house. Different hair types require different care and they are no less clean than you.Understanding the science of clean would help you understand the idea behind co-washing, soap, detergents, properties of water and unnecessary chemicals we inundate ourselves with everyday. Dermatologists, specialists in hair and skin will tell you the same.

  • I have slightly wavy, oily hair and I often use conditioner only to clean it. My go to is Costco’s Kirkland brand conditioner but I’ve used many others as well. I still scrub my scalp with my fingers, rinse and it turns out great!

  • YUP — been doing this for YEARS !! I have fine, wavy/ curly hair and shampoo takes ALL the natural oils out. I only cleanse my hair once a week now as I’m retired. I mean, if my hair needs to be rinsed/ washed/ conditioned I do it, but other than that…A spritz of water from a spray bottle gives me back my curls after brushing it out every morning and its shiny and feel nice !!

  • Love your blog, Jillee. when you talk about co-washing are you talking about using a cleansing conditioner like WEN or just a regular conditioner that typically used after shampooing? Please clarify.

    Thank you. Steven

      • My daughter and daughter-in-law use Wen for the last 3 years. Their hair was thinning and now looks thicker. I tried it with no problem, but I have a problem with itchy scalp and have to use a medicated shampoo periodically. I wear my hair short and if I don’t wash it every 2-3 days, the ends want to curl out as I have some soft wave to my hair. Have to use a circular brush and hair spray.

    • Hello! A cleansing conditioner is best – the conditioner photographed in this post is very affordable and works wonderfully! Although lots of people do use a regular conditioner and have great results. :-)

  • Dear Jillee, thank you so much for this post! Just this morning I looked in the mirror and scared myself at the state my hair is in. Having just turned 59, it’s dry, dull and frizzy and I look like a sad terrier dog. I’ve read all the posts and comments (thank you to all you lovelies!) and I’m trying this out today before the husband comes home from the office (to see if he notices anything different…).
    I just love you Jillee, you are remarkable lady with the best advice and the coolest readers! Hugs to all!!

    • Hi Janeth. Maybe smile at yourself and you’ll at least look like a happy terrier…I just about burst out laughing when I read that line!! I am 65 and have always had big ears. Even our family would make fun once in a while at reunions and stuff. If only they knew how that affected me and how many times as a child I would go find somewhere to cry. Anyway, now that I am older (still got the ears!) and my hair is SO thin and my brows are GONE, I guess I resemble a frightened chihuahua! So, don’t be too hard on yourself… there are a few of us out here. Actually, I did comment here to tell you something more important. Have you ever heard of the “WEN” haircare line? It is a product sold online and on QVC. It is a little pricey, but it is a great product. If I was not disabled and on Medicare and so low on money all the time I would still be using it. It is a line of cleansing conditioners that provide MANY women with absolutely beautiful results. Maybe just take a look online. Take care and God bless…

  • I have also used this method for years however my hair is thinning with age (57) so I have begun to use Apple Cider Vinegar before co-washing and it has made a world of difference!! I rub a liberal amount of ACV into my hair and scalp and put on a clear shower cap for about 15-20 minutes before co-washing then rinse lightly and co-wash as usual. I have found that Infusium regular hair conditioner is a great product for my hair and use it now almost exclusively, however I have also used Suave products in the past with good success. Along with the ACV pre-rinse then co-washing with the Infusium hair conditioner being sure to rinse very well, my hair has so much volume and shine that no one can tell its thinning so for me that is a huge plus! I also dilute some conditioner to keep things from frizzing in between c0-washing. I have also used this same method on both of my Granddaughters, one is mixed race and has super thick and kinky/curly hair and the other one has stick straight hair. This same method works wonderfully and leaves the same beautiful results on both hair types. I think that the secret to using this method on any type of hair is to use the pads of your fingers to scrub the scalp during the washing process to loosen dirt, debris and hair product, as was mentioned above, then to also RINSE, RINSE, RINSE very well each time so there is very little to no build up, Jillian thank you for sharing this on your site!

  • My method is to wash twice a week with shampoo and co wash the other nights. It helps to use a conditioner with low or no silicones to prevent build-up.

    • Use some kind of protectorant from the chlorine, many companies have ‘pre- beach’ hair protector. Put that on and then conditioner and go in the pool . Use a cap if you must…

  • Has anyone actually read the ingredients in both shampoo and conditioner? Can you pronounce all the words? Do you know what those chemicals are? I make my own shampoo both bars and liquid. Vinegar to restore Ph, or BTMS.

    • I have been on this planet for nearly 49 years and have used those shampoos and conditioners the whole time. I wish people would stop getting so bent out of shape over things that have been used forever. This kick that people are on about panicking over chemicals is really annoying.

      • Actually, the chemicals have not been used forever. Has anyone ever wondered where the surge of cancer and other diseases came from? Wasn’t this bad 100 years ago.

      • People didn’t live as long 100 years ago so there is no way to know if they would have developed cancer and/or other diseases had they lived longer.

      • Tonya, I have been here almost 70 years and I completely and wholeheartedly agree with you. People get hung up on these fads and it gets on my last nerve too, so I understand exactly what you mean.

      • I have been around for almost 84 years and I say let people complain, it leads to new ideas. I still have all my hair.

      • Tonya, I’m nearly 60 and in my youth, I had soft, shiny, normal hair. As I’ve aged my usual hair routine isn’t giving the same results and once I began dyeing my hair, it was always dry looking. Add the fact that I am one of the women who suffer hair loss with aging. Switching to chemical-free gave me back the softness and shine my husband of 40 years adores along with the bonus of hair growth. So I’m not preaching as such, such defending the believers for valid reasons.

  • I’ve been using the L’Oreal EverPure Cleansing Balm for a couple of years now and I love it. I wash my hair every 5 days and I use around 4 pumps of the cleansing balm. My hair is wavy and colour-treated and it comes out great every time. I order it on Amazon and it is very reasonable and does a great job.

  • I have very curly hair. For years I use conditioner first, rinse then use very little shampoo, rinse again. I only use this method once a week, the rest of the week I wash my hair with conditioner only. Afterwards I use a little almond or coconut oil and rub it in my hair, then dry. Every morning I wet my hair with water, then rub a little oil in it. My hair does not frizz, and I have manageable soft curl. When you wash curly hair too much you are washing out essential oils that curly hair needs.

  • I didn’t know it had a name, haha! I’ve been doing this for at least 15 years. It’s eliminated about 90% of my frizz issues. The last 10% could probably be wiped out with products, but I’m sensitive (mostly to scents) and avoid all but 1 brand of gel. A little smoothing with a few drops of olive oil rubbed into my palms finishes me off.

  • As someone who’s been CGM (CurlyGirl Method) for years, your summary rushes over an important part of the actual ‘cleansing’ part of the process.

    While the cationic conditioning agents, which some, but not all quaternium chemicals are also able to function as low level cleansers, a large part of the process is manual. You need to ‘scrub’ the scalp with the pads of the fingers to remove dead skin cells, dirt, excess oil, and hair products. If you just slap conditioner on and don’t ‘cleanse’ you’re going to end up with product build up over time.

    A side note, before I started making my own co-wash and conditioner, I found the 97 cent Suave Essentials brand to be perfect. No cones, no waxes or mineral oils, and it rinses cleanly. It’s light enough to use as a leave-in on coarser hair types, too.

      • Hey Gina, (and those 7 likes)

        They’re not my fomulations, but a blog called Humblebee & Me is the one I use for the base of my recipes. I started doing them as written, and as I learned more I began to tweak them and formulate my own.

        They’re not ‘grocery store’ DIYs. They use professional materials, but those are available online. Once you learn the basics, you can twaek your recipes for what your hair likes. Example; my hair LOVES Shea Butter and a cationic emulsifying wax called BTMS-50. I use those in nearly EVERY formula.

        That said, it will cost you a bit up from, but once you invest supplies and ingredients, you’re set for a while. As you’ll see when you read the recipes, they’re mostly water. That’s 90 cents a gallon (use distilled, please)

        These are my current favorites.
        Cowash: https://www.humblebeeandme.com/sugar-plum-cleansing-conditioner/
        Condish: https://www.humblebeeandme.com/monoi-de-tahiti-hair-conditioner/
        Styler/end sealer: https://www.humblebeeandme.com/conditioning-super-nourishing-hair-balm/

        As Marie says on her blog all the time, HAPPY MAKING!

      • I wonder if Jillee can add “click to subscribe to comments” when a comment is made, so that if Nichole had done so she’d get an email notification of your request?

      • I’ve tried several times to post the links but the comment always says ‘awaiting moderation’ so I’ll do it without links and hope that works!

        The website I used to start learning is Humblebee & Me. Marie, the owner, has categories up top (just open the one for hair) and a search option. she has several cleansing conditioner and conditioner recipes.

        I will note these formulas are not grocery store DIYs, but Marie does include links to the materials in every formula, and information about subbing things out (which I nearly always do)

        Fingers crossed this comment will go through!

      • I don’t need this stuff, personally, but Jillee…you’re a good egg! (isn’t that how the saying goes? I hope I am not insulting you!) You are always willing to help in any way you can and I don’t think you always get the credit you deserve for it! Thanks so much for caring about us loupy groupies! :-)

  • I have curly hair and only wash my scalp once a week. When I rinse my scalp that shampoo goes down the rest of my hair to gently clean it. What really helps curly hair is leaving the conditioner in your hair. Gently squeeze your hair dry but leave it fairly wet when putting on creme, gel or moose. Then leave it alone. My hair does not frizz and the curl stay defined for days. Even on a bad hair day for me, I still have women stop me to tell me they wished they had my hair. Read Lorraine Massey “Curly Girl, The Handbook”. It is a must. Oh, and find a hairdresser who actually does know how to cut curly hair instead of just saying they do. Huge difference

    • This ^
      If you use a styler you can not touch it until it’d fully dry or it will frizz.
      I just discovered yesterday The Original GG handbook is free to Amazon Prime members on kindle.
      Also, regarding a sylist, DevaChan trains stylists. I found my current, who has worked wonders for my hair and taught me so much about CGM, though the site
      https://www.devacurl.com/finder

  • Her waves would be more defined and less frizzy if she used products made for curly hair such as Deva Curl. They also have non shampoo cleansers

    • I bought the deva curl products (no-poo, conditioner and arc angel gel) and my hair is still quite frizzy. I was so disappointed considering what they cost. :-(

      • I’ve not had success with those products either. I co-wash with suave conditioner. I also found to refresh, spray with water with a bit of conditioner mixed in. Garnier has some nice products that help with frizz and don’t break the bank ☺️

  • I haven’t washed my hair for 14 years, as such. After losing my all my hair twice (chronic diseases), I found the new hair was delicate, and I didn’t want to put any more stress than I had to, on it. I now have waist length, thick, poker straight, hair. Once a week I ‘wash’ with conditioner only, or use two beaten egg yolks if my hair is feeling icky. Rub them through wet hair, rinse ( in tepid water, not hot, or you get scrambled egg hair!lol) then wash with conditioner. At 55, my hair has never been better.

  • Thanks for the tip! I only wash every few days anymore because I have thick hair and there’s just not enough time. LOL. But I’ll try this.

  • I haven’t tried this yet.My current method I’ve done for years. Wet hair. Then I apply conditioner and comb it through without rinsing. Then I add shampoo on top of it and rinse. I’d read about a celebrity that uses this method. It works for me. I have thick, coarse hair and it makes it easier to get the tangles out.

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