|Jamila of ForTheFabulousandFrugal
If you have been natural for longer then 1 week, I am sure… no I am absolutely certain that you have heard someone say “Co-wash“.
If you were clueless about the whole natural thing like I was, then you
probably thought this was how someone with an accent says “cold wash”.
A co-wash is easy to do, just wash your hair with conditioner instead
of shampoo. It sounds really bizarre, and it may take you some time to
wrap your head around how is it that a product that is meant to restore
and add moisture to your hair can also cleanse your hair at the same
It really depends most on the ingredients in the conditioner and the
state of your hair at the time you plan to use the conditioner. Let’s
break down both.
Cleansing Ingredients in your Conditioner
There is actually science and logic to support this hair care regime.
Shampoos are typically composed of about 10-15% detergent. They use
surfactants like Sodium Laureth Sulfate or Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate which
do an excellent job of cleaning and removing oil from hair.
Conditioners also have detergents, but they are different than those
found in shampoos. They use cationic surfactants (or quats) which have
the tendency to stick to the hair, which is how they
provide conditioning. Common quats are Cetrimonium Chloride or
Distearyldimonium Chloride. They’re used at levels between 1% and 5%.
Although they do stick to the hair, these ingredients also have the
ability to cleanse the hair, which is why the no-poo washing system can
If you turned your conditioner over you may find the following
ingredients amongst a list of oils and other hard things to pronounce:
glycerin, cetyl alcohol,
behentrimonium methosulfate, cetearyl alcohol,
stearamidopropyl dimethylamine (SADMA), and amodimethicone
These are very common conditioner ingredients. Here’s what they do:
Glycerin can provide moisturization in a leave on product, but it
doesn’t do anything for hair when it’s rinsed out. Cetyl and
cetearyl alcohol are thickening and emulsifying agents are are used to
make a conditioner rich and creamy. Because they`re oil soluble they
could, in theory, help lift some of the sebum of your hair and scalp.
Behentrimonium methosulfate, SADMA, and amodimethicone are very
effective conditioning ingredients because they deposit on the hair.²
How dirty is your hair?
If you’ve recently used gels or
products with silicones, petroleum, mineral oil, and/or lanolin, then
you may want to use shampoo to effectively cleanse your hair, because
conditioners just don’t have the same cleansing detergents as shampoo.
If you did decide to use a conditioner only method after using a combo
of these ingredients, you could end up with buildup, itchy scalp, lack
luster hair and your hair may even feel weighed down.
However, if you’ve managed to avoid all of these ingredients, rest
assured, that conditioner alone will do the job. You can use any
conditioner you prefer. Some of my favorite conditioners are
Design Essentials Natural Moisturizing Conditioner, Giovanni Smooth as
Silk Deeper Moisture Conditioner, Herbal Essence Hello Hydration
Conditioner, and Shea Moisture Yuccaa & Baobab Volumizing
Why not just use shampoo?
Shampoos have harsh detergents that can leave the hair stripped and
dry. Depending on the products you used, you may feel the need to
shampoo to thoroughly cleanse your hair. I find that shampoos labeled
“moisturizing” work great in my hair even if they contain sulfates.
Using shampoo or no-pooing is a personal preference based on your hair
care needs. When I first went natural I used shampoo every other wash
day. The wash days in between, I used conditioner only. I also co
washed mid week to give my hair a moisture boost. There are many
shampoos on the market with absolutely no sulfates, these are great
alternatives to shampoos with sulfates. It’s your hair, use what you
want. Just be informed.