Most shampoos are drying (because they contain sulfates that strip the hair of dirt and grime…and its natural oils needed for moisture too). This is why many women of color believe washing their hair frequently would produce undesirable outcomes such as dryness of the hair and scalp and inevitably breakage and/or unnecessary shedding. Well, on one hand–they’re exactly right. Washing too frequently with harsh shampoos can wreak havoc on ethnic hair. On the other hand–it is still COMPLETELY necessary to keep the hair and scalp clean and conditioned. A dirty scalp can lead to build-up of dirt, dust, and product. The hair will look dull and in the worst cases, even begin to smell bad (eEK!!). That is why some women choose co-washing. Instead of washing the hair with shampoo, conditioner is used.
HOW TO CO-WASH YOUR HAIR
- Make sure you rinse your hair with warm (not too hot) water completely to remove loose dust, etc. Take a moment to gently scrub and massage your scalp while rinsing. You want your hair to have been completely saturated with water and rinsed well. Water = MOISTURE. Your hair and scalp will love it!
- Distribute the conditioner through your wet hair concentrating on your ends and working up the hair shaft toward your roots. Depending on the length and thickness of your hair, you may want to divide your hair into sections before applying the conditioner.
- Let the conditioner sit on your hair while you shower allowing the steam to work with the conditioner. It’s not a must, but it’s suggested that you cover your hair with a conditioning cap or plastic shower cap.
- Before leaving the shower, rinse hair well (some women like to leave a little conditioner behind as a leave-in) with slightly warm and then cooler water while de-tangling with a wide-toothed comb (some co-washers like to de-tangle before placing the plastic cap on their head). Also after this step, sometimes I like to apply a deep conditioner for the last few minutes of my shower for extra moisture. This is completely optional and depends on how much time you have.
- After your shower BLOT (DON’T WIPE) hair dry with a towel. Apply a good leave-in conditioner, and style as usual!
HOW OFTEN CAN YOU CO-WASH?
As mentioned above, Water = MOISTURE which is great for your hair. Also, because you are replacing a harsh shampoo with conditioner and adding moisture to your hair, you can guess what a treat it is for your hair. That being said, you can co-wash as often as needed–like after working out (you really want to rinse your hair after sweating), a few times each week, or if you just need a little extra moisture in your life! Whatever you prefer.
Furthermore, if you choose to co-wash, remember this: You still need to cleanse with a gentle shampoo sometimes. Also, a clarifying shampoo is necessary 1-2x per month to remove build-up. Why, you ask? Many conditioners contain “-cones” (e.g., silicone), which can ‘coat’ hair over time and cause hair to lose shine. More importantly, each time you clarify, you’ll need to deep condition afterward. When cleansing with a gentle (preferably sulfate and paraben-free or natural/organic) shampoo, try to avoid doing so more than 1x per week. Remember, you don’t want to over-dry your hair. MOISTURE is key to healthy ethnic hair!
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO CO-WASH?
- A wide-toothed comb. Smaller ones only break the hair.
- Hair clips if you’ve chosen to divide your hair into sections.
- Conditioning cap or plastic shower cap.
- A leave-in conditioner for afterward.
- A moisturizing conditioner. You really don’t need to break the bank on co-washing conditioners. You’ll run through them quickly, and find that you’re spending too much money with high-end products that essentially get rinsed down the drain after only briefly touching your hair. You can find inexpensive but effective ones at your local drugstore. Personally, I like Aussie Moist, Herbal Essences Hello Hydration, and VO5 Moisture Milks (the last of these can be found at many stores for less than $1!). Others also rave about Suave Tropical Coconut Conditioner and Pantene Relaxed & Natural Intensive Moisturizing Conditioner. I plan to try these and post reviews in the near future. So be on the look out!
The funny thing about co-washing is that I had been doing it (without knowing there was a name for it) a few years ago when I last remember my hair actually being healthy. I stopped doing it (for no particular reason), and also started some pretty unhealthy habits in my hair care. Over the years I saw noticeable negative effects. I’ve recently added co-washing back into my routine, and I’ve already seen improvement in my hair’s softness, shine, and less breakage! So how about it? Is co-washing for you?