with the cold weather upon a lot of us, keeping our hair, scalps, and skin moisturized is important! switching your hair routine might be your answer if you’re experiencing dry scalp, dry hair, or just if you just have curly hair that needs extra moisture.

co-washing is a method i highly recommend, and have directed many people towards, but for some reason it’s never been featured on AE. well crunchies, if you haven’t heard of co-washing yet, here’s rough guide for the method!


what is co-washing?

co-washing is washing your hair with conditioner (conditioner-only washing), whether it be homemade or store-bought. we’ve always been taught to only apply conditioner to the length of our hair, so as to not make our roots oily, but we were also taught not to put oil on our face and that’s a lie, too (see: OCM). by washing your hair with conditioner, you’re still washing your hair, but stripping only excess oil away, leaving behind super moisturized hair from root to tip.

who can/should use the co-washing method?

co-washing can really be used  by anyone with any hair type. you should assume a transition period if you are switching over from traditional shampoo-ing, as well as if you have over-oily hair. you can expect little to no transition period at all if you have normal to dry hair. more specifically speaking, you should try co-washing before no-poo-ing if you have:

  • curly hair
  • dry hair
  • frizzy hair
  • dry scalp
  • damaged hair (especially severely damaged hair)
  • color-treated or processed hair (perms, keratin treatments, etc)
  • sensitive scalp
  • dandruff-prone scalp

what can you use to co-wash?

  • homemade conditioner – can be made out of any/all of the following (and of course other ingredients):
    • pure aloe vera
    • raw honey
    • plain yogurt
    • coconut milk
    • gelatin
    • etc.
    • coconut oil/shea butter/argan oil/grapeseed oil/etc. can be added to your mixes in SUPER small amounts mixed with other things so the oil doesn’t stick and make your hair greasy.
  • store-bought “safe” conditioner – examples:
    • shea moisture’s conditioners
    • dr bronner’s conditioning rinse

if you’re buying a store-bought conditioner, you may find that you don’t need to use it at full strength. you can put a little dollop into a squirt bottle or one of those hand soap pumps, fill the rest up with filtered water, and use that. no sense in powering through a product and wasting money if you don’t have to!

besides avoiding the typical ‘big offenders’ of toxic hair chemicals added to products, just ensure that whichever conditioner  you find doesn’t contain any ingredients that end in -xane, -zane, -cone, or -conol. these are silicones that will coat your hair and not allow moisture to further penetrate your hair shaft without another (harsher) cleanser that will lift it back off.

how do you co-wash?

(this is going to be a very simplified version of the co-wash method. depending on your hair type, your routine should be tweaked. i’ll list some great co-wash resources below!)

co-washing is like washing your hair in the traditional sense. once wetting your hair in the shower, gently squeeze excess water out of your hair. apply your conditioner either through the length of your hair in addition to your roots (for curly/dry/damaged/frizzy hair), or just the roots (dandruff-prone/dry scalp/’normal’ to oily hair). gently rub your scalp with the pads of your fingers, as you would with a ‘shampoo.’ rinse well. voila!

you might find you only need to wash your roots every wash day, and apply it on your ends half the time (or you might find you need full coverage conditioning every time). “listen” to your hair and go with it. it might take a few tries, but you certainly won’t be drying your hair out, so don’t worry!

AND –  you don’t need to co-wash exclusively! you can certainly do this in addition to your current routine just to add a little moisture back into your scalp and hair!

want to start co-washing?

if you’re already low-poo, no-poo, make your own shampoo, etc. you will NOT need to re-clarify or do anything special to switch over. whenever your next wash day is, make it your first co-wash 🙂 easy peasy!

if you use traditional shampoo (think: dove, pantene, etc.) you will need to clarify your hair, ridding it of silicones and waxes, before beginning. you should also expect a transition period, where you will experience greasier-than-normal hair. this period can last anywhere from 1 week to a couple months. this discrepancy in time is caused by hair type and how often you wash your hair (the more often you wash, the longer your transition period will be until your scalp learns to produce less oil over time). to learn how to clarify, please see this post. the whole post won’t apply, but steps on clarifying are there.

what is your favorite co-wash mix or product? what type of hair do you have and what is your routine? OR

will you be switching to co-washing now?? 🙂


starting points for the co-wash method research:

33 thoughts on “co-washing

  1. Hi there, I’m really hoping someone can help me out! I have thick, coarse, waxy hair that was “ombred” two years ago. I really wanted to get away from conventional shampoos so I clarified my hair and tried the Baking Soda/ACV thing and it didn’t work at all. I tried it for 2 months and there was no improvement in my hair. I then switched to Raw honey with water (1 tbsp raw honey mixed with 3 tbsp water). I’ve been doing this for about 2 months now and again, no big improvement. My hair constantly looks wet, I seem to have more dandruff than before and my hair is just limp and very dry looking. I use filtered water, dry my hair with a bamboo towel, use a boar bristle brush and yet my hair is still a mess!!! I’m frustrated but I don’t want to give up!! My next move is co-washing. Can someone PLEASE suggest a green brand for me to try. I’ve looked up both the Shea and the Dr.Bronner’s and there a huge mixed reviews about it.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated 😀 😀 😀 Thank you in advance

    1. Brianna – I’ve had really good luck using Trader Joes Tingle conditioner as a co-wash. It’s cheap so I don’t feel guilty about using a lot of it, the tea tree in it helps with dandruff, it feels cooling and soothing on my scalp, and it degreases better than most other conditioners I’ve tried cleansing with. It’s also a dupe for the Giovanni tea tree triple threat conditioner, which is more expensive but easier to find if you just want yo try it out. The key is to use a fair amount, rub it in to your scalp everywhere and let it sit a few minutes before rinsing. If you need more moisture on the ends of your hair use a teeny tiny bit of oil (coconut, sweet almond, jojoba, whatever) and spread it evenly across both palms before scrunching it into the ends and then smoothing it down the midlenths to finish.
      For anyone suffering from dandruff that is more oily than dry (seborrheic dermatitis is the actual name of this condition) try massaging pure aloe into your scalp, leaving it on for an hour before water rinsing/co washing it out. There is no cure for seb derm, but after years of rubbing toxic shampoos, treatments and trying every otc product I could find onto my scalp (including a cream meant for vaginal yeast infections) aloe has been the only thing that works for me. I’ve used Trader Joes aloe, but it has thickeners in it so I feel better using the drinkable, watery aloe that is 100% pure and has to be refrigerated.

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