By Toia Barry
If you have curly hair, you’ve probably heard about co-washing, but maybe you’ve never tried it for yourself. So, it’s time to talk about co-washing—and how to not be afraid of it.
What is co-washing hair? Co-washing stands for “conditioner washing,” and it simply means that you wash your hair with a conditioner or natural hair products formulated for co-washing called—you guessed it!—a co-wash.
Today, we’ll discuss the benefits of co-washing hair and why it could be a fabulous addition to your hair routine.
You may be wondering how a co-wash can possibly stand a chance against your tried and true dirt-busting shampoos.
The first thing you should know is that co-washing is less effective than shampooing at washing your hair.
But that isn’t a bad thing.
While not all shampoos are created equal (shampoos full of sulfates tend to be more oil-stripping), shampoos can be very harsh on your hair and scalp.
So, how can a conditioner make your hair clean? Here’s a very simple comparison of how shampooing works vs. how co-washing works:
Most conditioners and all co-washes have surfactants like shampoos. They’re much gentler but still effective at washing your hair.
If you ask anyone who co-washes about the biggest benefits of co-washing curly hair, they’ll probably say one thing—moisture.
When you wash your hair with shampoo, you are removing the yucky stuff like excess oils, dirt, and grime from your scalp. So, is shampoo bad for your hair? Traditional shampooing can take away the bad stuff, but it also removes some of thegoodstuff from your hair. So you wind up throwing out the baby with the bathwater, so to speak.
What’s the good stuff? Sebum! Sebum is the oil that comes from your scalp. As it travels down the hair strand, keeping hair soft, protected, and moisturized.
That doesn’t always happen for curly hair.
Curly hair bends, curves, and zig-zags (which is why we love it!), but all of those gorgeous curves make it difficult for your sebum to travel all the way from your scalp to your ends.
Because sebum often doesn’t make it to the end of a curl, curly hair tends to be drier than straight hair. You may be experiencing dryness if your hair:
Co-washing is a gentler wash that helps you retain that good stuff while still clearing away the bad stuff.
Why does hair have to be moisturized anyway? Here’s a list of how proper moisture can benefit your hair:
Is it bad to wash your hair every day? To avoid over-stripping your hair (and spending an hour detangling your hair, let’s be honest), you probably wash it once a week? Maybe twice? Some curly girls regularly wait two weeks before washing their hair all to retain that much-needed moisture.
By incorporating co-washing into your cleansing routine, it’s very unlikely that you’ll over-strip your hair. It’s called “conditioner washing,” after all. That means you’ll probably feel comfortable washing your hair two to three times a week. This can be convenient if you exercise often or if you tend to have a sweaty scalp and you can’t wait the whole week to refresh.
Not only can your hair fall in love with all the extra conditioner, but it will also swoon over all the extra water you’re giving it through frequent showers. You know better than most how thirsty your curls are for the foundation of moisture—water!
Right now, you may be thinking, “Wait, you said co-washing would make me want to wash my hair more often, but who wants to detangle three times a week?”
Detangling is often a chore for many naturals because of the length of time between washes. When your hair goes a week or more without conditioner and water (or very little water if you’ve been good about spritzing), your tangles multiply.
Five to seven days is plenty of time for your curls and coils to link up and get cozy in tangle after tangle.
Co-washing several times a week allows you to put your fingers through your hair every so often, so your detangling sessions become shorter.
But even if you stick to a pretty moderate washing schedule, introducing more conditioner to your routine will reduce friction between your strands, making it easier for you to detangle.
Lack of definition or “frizz” is a natural part of curly hair, and you probably can’t eliminate it completely—nor should you! Be proud of the volume your hair can achieve!
However, if you feel that your curls just aren’t popping to their full potential, a major reason for this could be dryness.
Now, we won’t dive too deep, but there are two scientific reasons your hair may be lacking definition:
Ultimately, introducing more conditioner into your routine can address the underlying issues that keep your beautiful curls in hiding.
Healthy hair starts in the shower, and a good wash day can create several good hair days throughout the week.
So, with all the moisture you are getting from co-washing, you shouldn’t have to pack on the moisturizers once you get out of the shower.
Because co-washing is so moisture-intensive, it can also ensure that your curl definition is in tip-top shape. When it comes to styles that depend on the definition of your natural curl pattern (like a wash-and-go), your curls should be in good hands.
Still, if you enjoy the weight and lasting hold you get from a gel or heavy curl cream, consider switching off equally between co-washing and shampooing to clear away product buildup.
Alright, not to be a party pooper, but as the saying goes, “everything in moderation.” You can definitely have too much of a good thing—like brushing or protein treatments or protective styling (to whoever needs to hear this: it’s been eight weeks, it’s time to take down those twists). So that brings us to how to co-wash hair.
Co-washing is the same way. If you’re constantly asking how often should you wash curly hair, co-washing might be a great alternative for you. Here’s what to know to ensure you’re getting the most out of your co-washing practice.
Co-washing incorrectly can put your hair at risk of moisture overload, also known as hygral fatigue. This is caused by wetting the hair too often. When you wet hair, it swells, then shrinks as it dries. Doing this too often can damage your hair’s elasticity.
Some people may be able to co-wash every other day or even daily with no problem, but everyone’s strands are different. Keep an eye out for these signs of moisture overload:
Some signs of hygral even look a lot like the signs of dry hair:
You can avoid hygral fatigue by:
If you’re now a co-washing convert, welcome to the crew, and we hope you enjoy your stay. But, you can’t just leave without the tools for success.
Conditioners are one of the most important products for a curly girl. Mielle Organics knows that and provides a variety of curl-loving conditioners that feature sweet almond oil, jojoba oil, coconut oil, and many more of nature’s best ingredients.
If you’re looking to get all your co-washing needs in one bottle, take a look at Mielle Organics’ best co-wash for curly hair, the detangler for natural hair, and reap all the best benefits of co-washing.
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