WHAT IS IT?
Conditioner washing/co-washing has been a staple for many kinky and curly-haired beauties over the years. If you aren't familiar with the concept, it is the act of washing your hair and scalp with a conditioner instead of a shampoo. To do this, you’d generally wet your hair, apply the conditioner all over your hair and scalp, massage your scalp with your fingers, and rinse under warm water. There are plenty of women who swear by co-washing, saying that it improves curl definition and makes their hair feel more moisturized than it does when using a shampoo. It has become increasingly popular as more women decide to embrace their natural hair textures, since those with kinky & curly hair often struggle with dryness. Many women with naturally straight or wavy hair also co-wash to reduce excessive sebum/oil production, and ease detangling.
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR
Sounds like a perfect solution if shampoo is too drying for your hair, right? Not so fast. The likelihood of scalp irritation & product build up increases when co-washing completely replaces shampoo. This is because most conditioners do not contain any cleansing agents, even the ones marketed as “cleansing conditioners.” Some conditioners can actually increase product buildup, depending on their ingredients. Why would a company company label their conditioner as "cleansing" if it doesn't contain any cleansers? Simply because they can. The FDA does not regulate what goes into cosmetics, therefore they wouldn't know which conditioners contained cleansers and which ones didn't.
The act of massaging your scalp with the conditioner and rinsing with warm water helps lift some sebum off the scalp, but does not completely remove product buildup from your hair. If you are co-washing with a conditioner that contains mineral oil, petroleum, or silicones, then you are actually adding more product buildup than ridding your hair of it. These synthetic ingredients coat the hair and are hard to remove with water, or homemade clarifying treatments (ex. baking soda or apple cider vinegar rinses). The added coating prevents moisture from penetrating your strands, which can lead to dryness and breakage. These ingredients can also increase build up on your scalp, which often leads to dandruff and itchiness.
So, should you avoid co-washing? Not at all. Co-washing is great for increasing moisture and manageability. However, you must keep in mind the importance of using surfactants/cleansers occasionally to remove product buildup from your hair. If you’d like to nix the shampoo forever and strictly co-wash, make sure you are using a cleansing conditioner that contains gentle cleansing agents that will remove build up from synthetic products without stripping your hair.
Not all cleansing conditioners are created equally. If it doesn’t have cleansing agents, it's not an effective long-term shampoo replacement. Terrene Fusions Green Tea Cleansing Conditioner contains Cocamidopropyl Betaine & Cetrimonium Chloride. Both are coconut-derived cleansers that are proven to move build up from synthetic products, including silicones. I’ll go into more detail about plant-derived, sulfate-free cleansers in a future post.
If you have a favorite co-washing conditioner that does contain silicones, there is no need to throw it out. You’ll just need to use a clarifying shampoo to remove product build up. I recommend clarifying at least once a month if you use many heavy butters or styling products. Terrene Fusions Olive & Aloe Clarifying Shampoo is a non-drying, sulfate-free option with gentle cleansers derived from coconuts & sugar beets. It also contains scalp-stimulating Eucalyptus Oil, which encourages hair growth while fighting dandruff and other scalp ailments.
Will you begin shampooing your curls? How often?
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