Co-washing, what the heck is that? Glad you asked. The simplest explanation, it's washing your hair only with conditioner, not shampoo. Co-washing is also known as “no-poo” or the “Curly Girl” method, created by Lorraine Massey. It’s a tried and proven method for managing curly, thick and coarse hair.
Other key ingredients of the Curly Girl (no-poo) method are
- Sulfate-free* shampoo - sulfates tend to strip the hair of natural oils
- Silicone-free** (check ingredients - anything ending in ‘cone’) - as these are not water soluable and overtime build up on the hair
- No heat - hair dryers, styling wands
How to Co-Wash
1. wash your hair with conditioner, as you would a shampoo
Massaging your fingers on the scalp to loosen the dirt, oils, dandruff. Remember, choose a product that is silicone-free** (avoid ingredients ending in ‘cone’). Rinse thoroughly.
2. Condition your hair
After washing your hair with conditioner (as above), remove excessive water by squeezing hair and/or lightly and gently towel-drying it. Be careful, hair is most fragile when it is wet. Apply the conditioner, concentrating on the ends first, not the scalp. Work it through the hair with your fingers detangling as you go and massage it into the scalp. Leave for about 5 minutes, or as instructed on the product packaging.
It’s suggested rinsing your hair in cool or cold water to decrease frizz and retain shine. Gulp, that doesn’t sound tempting, especially in cooler months! It’s okay to leave some conditioner on the hair, especially in areas where your hair needs it most.
Squeeze out water and gently towel-dry, patting the hair rather than rubbing it. I always put my hair straight in a towel turban and leave it until the excessive moisture is out. There’s a suggestion of using a t-shirt instead of a towel, a towel can be a little too harsh and leave your hair frizzy.
Important: detangle your hair with conditioner and your fingers when the hair is wet, don’t wait until it’s dry because the curls will separate and cause the frizz-effect.
3. Apply extra conditioner AND/or styling products
Once your hair has most of the moisture out (don’t dry it out too much though), you can add a leave-in conditioner, just at the ends or where the hair is extra dry and needs the nourishment. Avoid the scalp area, the natural oils will take care of that. Don’t apply too much product otherwise your hair will look heavy and lack-lustre. And/or use styling products like hair serum or mousse.
4. Style your hair
Using the cup of your hand, gently scrunch the hair up to form the natural curls. Or twist individual curls in your fingers. My hair is more wavy than curly so I choose to twist my hair into ringlets.
5. Drying your hair
Go natural if you can, it’s best to keep excess heat away from your hair. If you need to use a hair dryer, use a diffuser to avoid frizz. Check out this video tutorial on how to use a diffuser.
One of my private clients, who has very tight curls, recently adopted the method. Co-washing, together with a great cut specifically catering for my client’s very tight curls (by Krissy from Kristina Raffaele), has been a winning combination. My client swears by co-washing and can’t believe what a difference it has made - her hair looks fantastic on the day of washing, not 2-3 days later!
A few things to note
- Be patient. It may take 2-6 weeks for you to see any encouraging visible signs that co-washing or the Curly Girl method has worked. Your hair may even look a little worse before it rights itself.
- Co-washing is not for everyone. It will work wonders for some, but not for others. For example:
- if you have oily hair you’re likely to need a shampoo to get rid of the excess.
- it won’t be good for people with fine hair either because the conditioner, over time, will leave the hair looking heavy, limp and possibly dull.
- if you have a hair or scalp condition, e.g. psoriasis or dandruff, co-washing may not be the answer for you.
- Sometimes you might need shampoo. Over time, you may end up with a product build up leaving your hair looking dull, lifeless and heavy. Although Co-Wash Conditioners often state they have cleaning properties, that may not be enough. From time to time you may need to give your hair a wash with a gentle (sulfate-free) shampoo, followed by conditioner. How often you should do this really depends on your hair type, and how it responds to Co-washing in general.
Sources included: wikihow.com & naturallycurly.com
- Some common sulfates are Alkylbenzene sulfonate, Ammonium laureth or lauryl sulfate, Ammonium or Sodium Xylenesulfonate, Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate, Sodium cocoyl sarcosinate, Sodium laureth, myreth, or lauryl sulfate, Sodium lauryl sulfoacetate, TEA-dodecylbenzenesulfonate, Ethyl PEG-15 cocamine sulfate, and Dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate.
- Some mild cleansers, less drying and included in modified Curly Girl, are Cocamidopropyl betaine, Coco betaine, Cocoamphoacetate, Cocoamphodipropionate, Disodium cocoamphodiacetate or cocoamphodipropionate, Lauroamphoacetate, and Sodium cocoyl isethionate.
- Silicone compounds that are not soluble in water and build up on the hair: Cetearyl methicone, Cetyl Dimethicone, Cyclomethicone, Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethicone, Dimethiconol, Stearyl Dimethicone, Amodimethicone (and) Trideceth-12 (and) Cetrimonium Chloride, and Trimethylsilylamodimethicone. Note: Trideceth-12 and Cetrimonium Chloride are only considered a silicone when both are combined with Amodimethicone.
- Silicone compounds that are slightly soluble in water and will build up on most types of curly hair: Amodimethicone, Behenoxy Dimethicone, and Stearoxy Dimethicone.
- Silicone compounds that are soluble in water and safe to use (they are not listed with PEG in front of them): Dimethicone Copolyol, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein Hydroxypropyl Polysiloxane, and Lauryl methicone copolyol.
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