What Is Co-Washing for Hair?

Comb conditioner through when co-washing.

Photo: Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images

Maybe you've heard all the hype about co-washing and wondered not only what it is, but whether you need it. Some women simply balk at the idea of not using shampoo, but if your hair is naturally dry, you may want to consider the idea of conditioner washing. Also known as "no 'poo" because there's no shampoo involved, this method of cleansing your hair may be what your thirsty tresses need.


Many commercial shampoos are full of cleansing agents designed to strip the natural oils from your hair. If your hair is already dry, stripping its precious oils away is only drying it even more. Co-washing eliminates potentially drying shampoo agents and relies on conditioner alone to cleanse your hair and scalp. Ladies, if your tresses need all the moisture they can get, this gentle cleaning can help keep in the natural oils. For women who can't use shampoo on a daily basis, try co-washing to refresh your mane. You won't strip it, and when you cut out the shampoo step, you also save time.

Best Hair Types

Co-washing isn't the best choice for women whose hair is fine or has a tendency toward being oily. However, it's an optimal choice for those ladies who constantly battle frizz and dried-out curls. If this is your hair profile, you know that daily shampooing is a no-no, but how else can you refresh your ringlets? Co-washing preps your curls for styling without the drying effects of shampoo. Wavy, curly and coily hair are all suited for co-washing.

What to Use

Do you really need a high-priced conditioner to co-wash? Not really. If you conditioner wash every day, you may want to skip the expensive products and go with more budget-friendly selections to save a few bucks. What's more important than the brand name are the ingredients, so skip conditioners with high amounts of alcohol and choose those with moisturizing agents such as panthenol and propylene glycol.


Co-washing is simple. Once you get the hang of it, you can quickly co-wash in the shower and prep your hair for the day. Completely saturate your tresses with water and apply your conditioner. If your hair is long and/or thick, you may want to apply your product in sections to make sure it's all covered. Work it through with your hands, then comb or brush through with a paddle brush. Concentrate the conditioner on the ends of your hair because they tend to be the driest parts. Use your fingers to rub your scalp clean; just use the balls of your fingers and not the nails. After a few minutes, rinse the conditioner out of your hair and you're all set to apply your regular styling products.

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