Covering the Basics | Co-Washing Natural Hair

I remember hearing about the concept of co-washing early on in my natural hair journey. I was a few years in as a natural and was frustrated by the normal effects of shampooing my hair. I just could not understand why my hair was a dry mess most times despite my moisturizing (albeit poor back then) efforts. In hindsight, I was shampooing way too much to compensate for my heavy use of styling product (aka oils, gels, and butters) while not conditioning/moisturizing my hair enough. Go figure! Nevertheless, I learned a lot about co-washing and have been incorporating this process in my regimen for a good while now. 

What is co-washing?
It is primarily "washing" the hair with conditioner (hence conditioner washing).

What are the benefits of co-washing?
Although keeping our heads clean is important, shampooing can be an abrasive process to our natural hair especially if it's done more than once a week. Sometimes, our hair simply needs a boost in moisture or a rinse to remove surface debris and sweat from our scalps. This is where co-washing can be a great option! Some benefits of co-washing include:
  • gentle on hair: most conditioners don't have the cleansing agents that lift the hair cuticles and strip hair of its natural oils. For this reason, co-washing can be done more often than shampooing the hair.
  • boosts moisture: naturally our hair is drier than looser/straighter textures because our natural oils from the scalp (sebum) cannot travel as quickly along the length of the hair. A quick co-wash can immediately restore the hair's moisture levels from root to end.
  • revives wash n go's: after wearing a wash n go for a few days, the style can become frizzy and dull looking. A co-wash can help bring it back to life and re-define curls.
How to co-wash?
The process is very simple and easy!
  1. Divide hair into 4-6 sections.
  2. Wet hair with warm water.
  3. Apply generous amount of conditioner to each section.
  4. Detangle each section from tip to root. Fingers work well but a wide tooth comb or denman brush will work.
  5. Twist each section to prevent re-tangling
  6. Rinse hair thoroughly with warm water to remove conditioner entirely.
Tips to keep in mind:
  • Choose a light conditioner rather a deep conditioner, which contains ingredients designed for heavier conditioning. Using a deep conditioner too often may cause the accumulation of product build up on scalp and hair.
  • Be aware of using conditioners containing water insoluble silicones. Silicones are chemical addictive that bind to the hair shaft to create slip, lock in moisture, and smooth down cuticles thus giving us that shine we can desire for our natural hair. Water insoluble silicones do not wash away easily without shampoo and can build up on the hair over time with repeated application. On the other hand, water soluble silicones wash away fairly easy with rinsing alone. Here is an great list of both water insoluble and soluble silicones to look for in your conditioners: {source}
  • Continue to incorporate shampooing or some type of cleansing process in your regimen. Co-washing is gentle for multi use throughout the week but does not get the scalp clean on its own. I know there are cleansing conditioners out there now but never tried any; maybe someone can chime in with some experience with this particular type of conditioner. Nevertheless, shampooing/cleansing will help keep your scalp and hair clean and, in turn, actually help your hair benefit more from co-washing.
  • Pay attention to your moisture-protein balance. Co-washing too often may lead to overly soft, mushy hair which is indicative of moisture overload. If you choose to co-wash regularly, make sure to balance it out with either a protein based conditioner or a protein treatment.
  • If you have really oily scalp or scalp issues such as dandruff, co-washing may exacerbate the condition. Listen to your scalp and discern whether or not co-washing is a process to include in your regimen
I generally co-wash my hair and Z's on a bi-weekly basis while shampooing on the other weeks to help keep things balanced. My favorite conditioners include Aubrey Organics GPB Conditioner and Giovanni Smooth as Silk Deeper Moisture Conditioner. 

Do you incorporate co-washing in your wash regimen? How often? What are your favorite conditioners?

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