The word co-wash is often thrown around quite a lot in the natural hair community and there are lots of schools of thought on if you should or should not be co-washing your natural hair.
Many naturals will have opted to do co-washing for a number of different reasons but the main one being the fact that it is a great way to retain moisture in natural hair which is naturally quite dry.
***Please note that this site uses affiliate links if you would like to read the legal stuff you can find it here
What exactly is a co-wash?
A co-wash (short for conditioner wash) is basically when you wash your hair with conditioner alone and forgo the use of shampoo.
If you struggle with particularly dry hair co-washing is the perfect way to make sure that you keep the moisture levels in your hair up.
It not hard to see why this is the go-to method for many naturals.
But is co-washing really all it is made up to be? Let’s take a look at the difference between a co-wash vs shampoo and conditioner.
What is the difference between a co-wash vs shampoo and conditioner
From as far back as I can remember the only way to ever wash your hair was to start with a shampoo and then follow with a conditioner.
Over time this has changed quite a bit and things have progressed so much so that there are now lots of different ways to wash your hair.
Some people will do water only washing, black tea hair rinses, co-washing and even washing with apple cider vinegar.
The main purpose of shampoo is to cleanse your scalp and get rid of all the product build-up and the nasty stuff that your hair can pick up on a daily basis. These are things that are inevitable no matter how hard to try to avoid it.
Shampooing your hair seems great until you discover that it is extremely drying for natural hair. This is why shampooing is always followed up with a conditioner.
The problem that many naturals face with this method is the fact that even after having used a conditioner after shampooing hair can still be left feeling very dry.
If you know anything at all about natural hair you will now that we need moisture in our hair in order for it to thrive.
So the answer came about to co-wash only.
The problem with co-washing
Although co-washing is a great way to keep your hair moisturised it doesn’t really cleanse your hair and scalp in the same way that shampooing does.
If you allow product build-up to just sit on your scalp the hair follicle cannot breathe, meaning that your hair can not grow properly.
We already know that product build-up is inevitable so if you have resulted to only co-washing your hair are you really “washing” your hair?
Some would argue that co-washing is similar to going into the shower and just washing your skin with no soap and just water only. Are you really clean?
I can definitely get on board with that argument but there are a few things that you should still consider when it comes to co-washing vs shampoo and conditioner.
I wouldn’t disregard co-washing just yet.
Is a co-wash good for your hair?
Co-washing has its time and place. It’s not something that I would ever advise anyone to do forever without ever using shampoo but co-washing is my favourite way to wash my hair.
The beautiful thing about co-washing your hair is that you get to keep some of those lovely natural oils that your scalp produces (sebum), those oils are great for hair growth so you don’t want to be too quick to get rid of those.
Co-washing is also a very good way to refresh your hair without having to deal with a few days of dryness first.
The best part about co-washing for me is the fact that I can do it quickly and be in and out of the shower in a short amount of time.
Let’s be real not everyone has the time to spend washing their hair every weekend with shampoo and then conditioner plus any other ritual that you might use on wash day.
That’s what makes co-washing so great. You can decide to do co-wash your hair mid-week if you feel that it needs refreshing without too much fuss.
Wash and go’s are a perfect example of this. Once you perfect your wash and go system it will be almost as though you can literally wash and go.
If you suffer from dry hair co-washing is a great way to refresh quickly at the weekends or mid-week.
So is co-washing good for your hair? Hell yes!
Best of all manufacturers are now realising the importance of co-washing and are coming out with products to suit those of us with natural hair.
There are now low-poo and no-poo products out there on the market that will allow you to wash your hair without your hair feeling squeaky clean.
You can even get special co-washing hair products that will gently cleanse your scalp like this one.
How to effectively co-wash your hair
When you are co-washing your hair I would advise that you wash your hair in a similar method that you would if you were to be shampooing it first.
Start with putting your hair into sections and work on one section at a time.
Make sure you work the conditioner into your scalp using only the tips of your fingers to wash and not your nails.
Rinse the conditioner off and then give it a second wash with conditioner.
Washing your hair in this way will ensure that at least some of the grime that your hair has picked up during the week is able to be washed away. You can then freshen up with another dose of conditioner.
Repeat this until you have done all the sections of your hair and then style as usual.
How often should you co-wash and shampoo?
That’s up to you. You may find it helpful to co-wash once a week or twice a week depending on what you do with your hair.
If you really are not sure where to start you can choose to co-wash weekly and then once in a month you can shampoo and then use conditioner.
The more you get to know your hair you will notice if you need more or fewer shampoo sessions.
Final thoughts on co-wash vs shampoo and conditioner
When it comes to co-washing and shampooing your hair you can’t really pick one over the other as you need both methods.
What you do need to do is to make sure that you find a good balance in the use of both.
If you have short hair co-washing is very easy and quick to do. I would definitely not disregard co-washing despite the fact that you may not be fully cleansing your hair.
Conditioner vs deep conditioner
How to grow high porosity hair
Should you wash your hair in twists?