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4 Tips for Effective Co-Washing

• Oct 8, 2012

By Jc of The Natural Haven Bloom

Conditioner washing is a method that has its ups and downs. Can you wash your hair with conditioner? Yes you can and it is not really because hair conditioner contains surfactants as you will often see written as an explanation. The surfactants in hair conditioner are actually designed to stick to hair while those in shampoo are intended to bind to oil and lift it off the surface. In the grand scheme of things, shampoo will remove more oil and dirt than conditioner, conditioner will remove more oil and dirt than using plain water. It is perfectly acceptable to wash your hair with conditioner but there are key tips and tricks to making it work on a long term basis.

1. Do not co-wash with a deep conditioner

If you are intending to regularly co-wash your hair (3 times or more per week), do not pick a conditioner labelled as a deep conditioner or intensive mask. These tend to contain a higher proportion of ingredients that stick to the surface of hair and give softness for example behentrimonium methosulfate. This is not to say that these ingredients are bad, it is simply that the conditioner is formulated for less frequent use and you can cause build up to form by reapplying it constantly without using a shampoo in between. A simple rinse out conditioner with the same ingredient is more likely to work better as it is made for more frequent use and therefore formulated to be lighter and easier to wash off. Use your deep conditioner when you feel your hair requires additional care.

2. Be aware of silicones in styling products not the conditioner

You do not need to avoid silicones completely to get the most from a co-washing routine. It is the pure silicone serums that generally cause problems. If you use these type of products for daily styling, it may not be possible to benefit from co-washing. Most modern conditioners  use what are known as amine modified silicones usually noted by amo, amino, amine  (for example amodimethicone, bis-aminopropyl dimethicone). These are water soluble silicones and are easily washed off, nothing to be concerned about in terms of blocking moisture to hair.

3. Alternate with shampoo

Having the occasional wash with shampoo is the real trick to being able to successfully manage a co-wash routine. The shampoo will help cleanse hair thoroughly and do note that it is perfectly fine to use a mild sulfate free shampoo or shampoo bar. The idea is that you utilise a cleansing product on occasion to help clear off any build up before it becomes an issue.  The alternation routine is really up to you and your hair. You can shampoo wash once a week, once every two weeks or once a month.….…..just don’t forget to do it.

4. Consider your environment and lifestyle

Regular exercisers who sweat heavily may find that shampooing on a daily basis is too harsh. Conditioner washing is a perfect solution for them. However, if you live in an area of high pollution or your work brings your hair into contact with a high level of dust or dirt, you may find that a co-washing routine actually makes your hair dirtier as hair conditioner has a tendency to attract and bind particles. Finding a mild shampoo may be a better alternative instead of adopting a co-wash routine.

What are your tips and tricks for effective co-washing?

About The Natural Haven

Scientist on a hairy mission!

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32 Comments on "4 Tips for Effective Co-Washing"

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Ugonna Wosu

I didn‘t know that the styling products with silicones are more of a problem than the conditioners with them. I‘ll consider that in the future, thank you.


I like to alternate between conditioner and sulfate free shampoo. I wash my hair once a week with shampoo. If I feel that my scalp needs mild cleaning midweek, I will cowash. It usually takes my hair a full week to accumulate dirt and oil, but my scalp starts to itch and get flaky midweek. I’m not worried too much about build up because I use mainly naturally derived products to moisturize, style, and seal(shea moisture, shea butter, olive oil). I also do ACV rinses once a month or twice in a month if my hair/scalp needs it.

Sabrina Antoinnette

Some people shy away from shampooing, but I’m a weekly washer too! My scalp is completely unforgiving if I don’t… I am also a product minimalist @LM.


Me too. My scalp will let me and everyone around me know that I did not shampoo for the week. I am trying to incorporate co washing, but regular rinse out conditioners won’t cut it,in fact, it encouraged buildup. I am now trying the As I Am coconut cowash and might switch for the cleansing pudding to sub shampoo sometimes.


Very informative article, thank you.


Nice article, great tips!


I alternate between shampooing one week, and cowashing the next. I have started to use shampoo bars and I LOVE them. They do a great job of really cleansing my scalp without stripping my hair. I cowash with Suave Naturals Conditioner, which actually seems to mildly cleanse my hair.

Great article!

Aliza hair breakage

This is very interesting post..and nice review a..this is looking awesome..You doing great job..thanks for sharing here .


I have co-washed my hair with AS I AM Coconut Co-wash and it left residue on my hair. I do not know if I am using it right.

Gustina Jackson

I used products specifically for co-washing and my impression was neutral. I got good results from using EVOO to pre- treat under a heat cap; rinsing with ACV; then co-washing with Suave Shea Butter conditioner. After this I deep conditioned with cholesterol conditioner. I will do this every two weeks alternating Suave co-washes and shampoo washes. My goal is to grow hair.


Hello, can u tell me what steps to do after I co-wash my hair with conditioner, leading up to styling.

Co-Washing Hair

These are great tips. #1 is especially good, I know a lot of people think deep conditioners will be good for co-washing when that’s definitely NOT the case.


Thanx so much, I would have made a big mistake. I’m from NYC and pollution levels are extremely high. I’m glad I read this, now I know co-washing is not for me!


What are some good co washes out there? The only one I’ve seen so far is Pantene



DeVolter Robinson

Hi, i was wondering if you think cold washing is for me. I naturally have a scalp so i have to put oil in every couple of days. I also have color treated hair and i have been drinking alot of water, not very much heat in my head at all. So could you suggest some natural or protective hair styles? How often should i ge?t a protein treatment

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Gosh… I’m just sou confused I dnt know which one to do again,don’t wet ur hair daily,don’t co wash daily, another website wud be satin a different thing. I just cut my hair and I’m lukin 4 a good regime..I washed my hair today,while it was still wet I applied olive oil buh later my hair just felt dry and oily..I just don’t know again;( .. Can I use dudu osun soap as a clarifying shampoo bar. My conditioner doesn’t even lather wen I apply it to my wet hair. I jus tire


I moisture and seal after washing…whether I co-wash or use shampoo and deep conditioner. I moisture and seal with a leave-in conditioner, moisturizer and natural oil (in that order). This method works for me. Try different methods until you find one that works for you.


Yes trial and error is the only way
It’s takes forever but a great way to do it is to buy ‘the basics’
Aloe Vera
Glycerin Evoo, Çold pressed coconut oil Rose water,Shea butter ‚boiled and cooled water for misting and mixing, and honey
It’s a great place to start cos it’s relatively inexpensive considering you can make shampoos conditioners moisturusers and spritsers from these things just but Changing the amount of each combo


[…] Pre-poos (pre-shampoo treatments) and co-washes (conditioner washes) can help protect against moisture loss during the washing process … especially during the cold season.  Pre-poos usually consist of oils, conditioners, or both and are left on the hair for several minutes or hours.  Co-washes typically involve washing with a rinse-out conditioner.  For tips on effective co-washing, read this earlier BGLH post. […]


[…] Pre-poos (pre-shampoo treatments) and co-washes (conditioner washes) can help protect against moisture loss during the washing process … especially during the cold season.  Pre-poos usually consist of oils, conditioners, or both and are left on the hair for several minutes or hours.  Co-washes typically involve washing with a rinse-out conditioner.  For tips on effective co-washing, read this earlier BGLH post. […]


I need some advice, I would like to do my first co wash this week but I also have some itchy dandruff which I read can be treated with an apple cider vinegar rinse. Can I do both on the same day? Or will this be damaging to my hair?

Thank you!


Hey, after I wash my hair (shampoo or cowash), I apply my cantu shea butter leave in conditioner to damp hair. I was wondering if I should let my hair dry before applying my ORS olive oil moisturizing hair lotion and sealant…or should i apply everything while my hair is still damp? Thanks!

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Great article.


Awesome. I’m learning so much.

Valencia Chapman

I alternate shampooing and co washing. I wash once a week with shampoo, but in between about day 3 ( I workout a lot and sweat!) I co wash. On wash day when I shampoo, I preposterous or use a bentonite clay mask to get rid of impurities. And of course deep condition with or without heat.

Pass The Deutschy

More excellent advice especially point number 4! Thank you.

Melinda Kearse

I did the big chop for the third time last week, my edges have become non existing. I am on a serious mission to get my hair back to a healthy state! reading this has definitely helped.

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