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...
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!