March 19, 2010

A trial: Co-washing

Tsst, tsst, guys - cowashing has nothing to do with washing your hair together with a friend!
It means washing your hair using conditioner.
Why on earth would we do that, you'll ask...

Yes, that's my very own hair :-)

Shampoos are loaded with a kind of product called sulfates (the most common being Sodium Lauryl Sulfate); what these do is make the shampoo look milky and foam when you use it. Now the foaming isn't what really cleans your hair: it's the rubbing movement that does remove the dirt from your scalp.
Why that foam is pleasant, the sulfates strip your natural oils, so they are very drying for your skin and scalp, and eventually for your hair. If you have dry hair already, most shampoos will make it worse because of the sulfates.

Now conditioner, on the other had, is more moisturizing. It doesn't foam because it doesn't contain any sulfates, but a lot of the other ingredients in them are similar to what you is contained in shampoos, so conditioners do have some washing properties. This is why cowashing is popoular among people with dry hair, particularly with thick curly hair or afro hair for example.

Being kind of a hair-washing addict (I wash my hair daily, will sometimes skip a day in the week-end but not often), I thought I would give this a try in order to give my hair a break from all those chemicals. I must say that my hair used to be very greasy, which is why I got into the habit of washing it daily like 16 years ago. It now leans towards normal-greasy, with the ends being dry because of me straightening like crazy.

Most people will use a cheap conditioner, because you need more product than when using a shampoo since there's no foaming. Using a cheap product keeps the costs controlled when you use up your bottle quickly. Since I had 2 conditioners at home that I had not really been using, I decided to use those.

How I did it: under the shower, I soaked my hair and massaged my scalp as if I were shampooing, to get rid of the dirt. Then I put on the conditioner, added a tiny bit of water to help it spread, and massaged the hair again as if I was using a regular shampoo. Then I rinsed.

Verdict: the first time, I found my hair a bit heavy and greasy, but I think that's because I used a thick conditioner and didn't rinse it long enough. My hair did get styled easily, though, and kept volume. But at the end of the day (I wash my hair at night, so 24 hours had passed), I really felt the need to wash my hair, as it was getting really to heavy at the roots.

So I washed again with a lighter conditioner and rinsed better. This time I felt my hair was lighter, but I also found it was kind of dull, although the conditioner I used is supposed to protect color. Now I know that what makes your hair shiny is often the silicones in shampoos, which aren't great for your hair on the long term, but I use professional silicone-free products so I 'm sure it's not what usually makes my hair shine. As the day was going on, my scalp became really itchy and felt not clean.

So that night, I gave up and used shampoo again. But I must say that after that shampooing, my hair looked better and softer than it had in a long time, and I think it's because of all the moisture it had gotten from the conditioners.

My conclusion: I don't think co-washing would work for me on a regular basis, and it wouldn't help me reduce the frequency at which I wash my hair. That's probably because my scalp gets greasy easily and this technique works better for dry hair. However, as I found it did nourish my hair quite well, I think I'm going to start co-washing once or twice a week for that purpose. I'm also thinking of co-washing my hair first and then lightly and quickly shampooing and see how that works. I'll keep you updated!


  1. Thanks for sharing, that was good to know ;)

  2. That's funny I am co washing too ! I started 2 months ago...I used to wash my hair with shampoo every day and as my hair is pretty long the length were burnt !!! I can't do the true cowashing : using shampoo once a week and cowash every day but I do the conditionner one day and the shampoo the other day and it seems to help for the shine !

    Caro xxx

  3. I have never heard about that before!?!
    The concept sounds really weird to me... A conditioner is not suposed to wash at all even if the ingredients in shampoo and conditioner are quite similar the way they are mixed influence the efficiency a lot. Maybe on really short hair it is enough to expel all the dirts but on longer one it will just slide on the length.

    I'd rather go for a sulfate free shampoo that will prevent most of the dryness due to overwashing. But if it works for some people why not after all?

  4. @cbsg5861 : you're welcome!

    @ Caro: that sounds like a good deal indeed

    @ Lambda: ah! you're the one I wanted an opinion from, this is the info I got but I don't know how scientifically accurate it would be. Anyway it looks like it's working for some people even with long hair, but not for me (and my hair is now almost as long as yours).

  5. This post was really interesting - i'd never heard of such a thing! My hair's really dry so i think i will try this even though i'm a little sceptical. I like to really scrub my scalp with shampoo and i think i'll miss the really clean feeling:-) However - it's definitely worth a go! X


I love getting comments, thanks for sharing your thoughts!