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4 of the Best (and Cheapest!) Conditioners for Co-Washing

• Nov 25, 2012

By Christina of The Mane Objective

As far as common natural hair practices go, co-washing is one of the most common. Every natural has their favorite go-to product, ranging from Aussie Moist ($6 for 29.2oz) to Aveda Be Curly ($79 for 33.8oz), and everything in between. With the burgeoning natural product market, it’s all to easy for a transitioner or natural to find themselves slipping into product junkieism — especially when it comes to conditioners.

In the quest for the perfect conditioner that will make hair shine, stronger, feel buttery smooth and spring-loaded, it’s difficult to not let curiosity get the best of you — and break the bank in the process. Keep reading to discover some of the most desired properties in a co-washing conditioner, the active ingredients, and affordable products that get the job done.

Note: This list by no means guarantees that each product works for you. If you have a tried and true co-washing conditioner then by all means, stick with it. Different products work different ways for different people. As with all things natural — do what works best for you and your hair!

Conditioner Property #1: Slip — Tresemme Split Remedy (pictured above)

When it comes to conditioning properties, slip is a must. Whether you’re looking to finger detangle with conditioner, or just cleanse, the product must be workable and able to be distributed smoothly throughout the hair. Emollients in hair conditioners do the best job at creating slip — coating the strands and allowing them to glide past each other. Some of the best emollient ingredients in conditioner are dimethicone, cyclomethicone, cetyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol, cetaryl alcohol, and oils like coconut, jojoba, and olive.

Luckily, the silicones, fatty alcohols, and oils listed above are base ingredients in most conditioners. The more of them that you find in the top five, the better off you’ll be. By far, the slipperiest conditioner I’ve encountered is Tresemme Split Remedy — around $5 for a 25oz bottle. 

Conditioner Property #2: Cleansing — Aussie Moist Conditioner

Thanks to Chaz Dean and a slew of others, there are plenty of folks running around believing that in order to effectively co-wash, they have to buy a cleansing conditioner (which tends to be more expensive than your run-of-the-mill conditioners). Now, as with all things natural — do what works for you. But don’t be duped into believing that the word “cleansing” before conditioner makes it more effective. Conditioners clean in two ways — through cationic (positively charged) surfectants and oil solubility. Some examples of these gentle surfectants areStearalkonium chloride, cetrimonium chloride, dicetyldimonium chloride, behentrimonium methosulfate, behentrimonium chloride, and stearamidopropyl dimethylamine. In terms of oil-solubility, the fatty alcohol crew (cetyl, cetaryl, stearyl) makes another appearance. Each of the ingredients is capable of breaking down sebum and other oils on the hair. An added bonus cleanser present in some conditioners is EDTA — a chelating ingredient that lifts mineral deposits on the hair. If you live in an area with hard water (hello, Los Angeles), a conditioner with EDTA can help lift those dry, damaging hard water mineral deposits.

Again, most conditioners contain any of the cationic surfectants and fatty alcohols above. My favorite fatty alcohol + cationic combo (and it even has EDTA!) is present in Aussie Moist, ringing at the register for around $6 for a 29.2oz bottle.

Conditioner Property #3: Moisturizing — Shea Moisture Raw Shea Butter Restorative Conditioner

In Natural Hair 101, we learned that true moisture comes from water. Obviously, plenty of conditioners (but not all) are water-based — but this isn’t a necessity for co-washing, because your hair is soaked in water anyway. The moisture most naturals look for from co-washing takes place after the conditioner is rinsed away. This is where penetrating oils like Coconut, Olive, sealing oils like Shea or even Jojoba (which is the oil closest to our own skin’s sebum) and humectants like glycerin or glutamic acid come in handy.

My favorite moisturizing conditioner that contains a number of awesome oils and glycerin is Shea Moisture’s Raw Shea Butter Restorative Conditioner, around $10 for a 12oz bottle. You can also aid your hair in the moisture retention process by pre-pooing with a penetrating oil, like Coconut.

Conditioner Property #4: A Positive Charge — Trader Joe’s Nourish Spa Conditioner and Giovanni Brazilian Keratin & Argan Oil Ultra-Sleek Conditioner

Hair generally carries a negative charge. This negative charge is exacerbated with chemical, environmental, and heat damage. Even if you don’t have any of the above, a conditioner that carries a positive charge and deposits onto the hair (and in some cases, fills in the gaps in the shaft) is instrumental in creating that soft and smooth feel we all love. Ingredients that get the job done are again, those fantastic fatty alcohols, cationic surfectants (go back to #2), and polyquaternums.

In this area, I have two favorites — Trader Joe’s Nourish Spa Conditioner ($2.99 for 16.9oz of almost completely organic ingredients…can’t beat that!) and Giovanni Brazilian Keratin & Argan Oil Ultra Sleek Conditioner, around $9 for an 8.5oz bottle.

This is by no means a comprehensive ingredient list. I definitely encourage everyone to check out their conditioner ingredient labels.

What are your favorite co-wash conditioners?

About Christina Patrice

Born, raised, and living in Los Angeles, Christina is BGLH's resident transitioning expert and product junkie. In addition to loving all things hair, she is a fitness novice and advocate of wearing sandals year-round. For more information on transitioning, natural hair, and her own hair journey, visit maneobjective.com. Or, if you like pictures follow Christina on Instagram @maneobjective.

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73 Comments on "4 of the Best (and Cheapest!) Conditioners for Co-Washing"

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Amber Huffmon
Guest

I use infusium 21- moisture, and it works really great on my natural stlyes!

Zee
Guest
I just bought As I Am CoWash and Hydration Elation. This winter is not messing around and I need extra moisture for my 4b/c hair. I tried the Herbal Essences, silicone laden route for about a month and it didn’t agree with my hair plus I would itch immensely whenever I used it. I try to avoid glycerin where possible due to the fact that the climate I live in is cold and there is not much moisture in the air usually. I struggle with cons and DCs because they rarely make my hair soft. Oil rinses offer more chance… Read more »
J
Guest

Skala Shea Butter Condtioner is brilliant it is paraben and silicone free.

Jasmine
Guest

I really needed this post because I was just thinking to myself how I wanted to start cowashing every other week and not use shampoo every week but couldn’t think of a good conditioner to buy. I think I am going try Aussie.

Monisola
Guest

I use the shea moisture conditioner because it need the moisture badly! I have dry 4c hair and yet somehow, I have an oily scalp that needs frequent cleaning (2x) a week. It is a war between my scalp and my hair sometimes! My hair loves a little buildup but my scalp will itch like crazy if I go more than a few days without cleaning it. Shea Moisture is the go to for me 🙂

Ja9
Guest

Have you ever tried using witch hazel on your scalp? It’s an astringent, so it will clean your scalp without you having to go through the whole wash process.

Ashley
Guest

+1. Witch hazel is also great for toning the skin. Thanks for tip for using it to “tone” your scalp as well. Makes sense.

B
Guest

Tresemme Natural Moisturing no silicones hands down is the best for me

Jo Somebody
Guest

Ditt to the o!

Inf
Guest

I agree about Tresemme Naturals Moisturizing Conditioner being the best for co-washing. I like that it doesn’t leave “anything” behind, so I can use it all the time without buildup.…but I must follow with a decent rinse-out conditioner or leave in because it’s not moisturizing enough for my hair.

B
Guest

I can use it & need nothing else but I also use a leave in.…my hair is so soft an mosturized after using it, its my staple for co washing an conditioning after shampoo!

Ashley
Guest

Tresemme Naturals Moisturizing condish used to be holy grail for me as well. You know that I’ve found (surprisingly) to be more moisturizing to my hair? The Tresemme Naturals Radiant Volume conditioner with Sweet Orange. I tried it on a whim once when Target was out of the Moisturizing one. I don’t know why or how, but the Radiant Volume definitely supplies my hair with more moisture. Just something to try the next time you might be thinking of picking up the Moisturizing condish!

PB
Guest

+1

Natalee
Guest

I really liked Trader Joe’s nourish spa because it was effective, versatile and cheap, but I heard there were parabens in it that caused cancer so I stopped using it.n I wish they’d remove them.

Natalee
Guest

Hhmmm, I may change my mind about using this. Methylparaben and propylparaben are apparently found in fruits like blueberries and plants, respectively. Does anyone else have more in depth information on parabens?

Ev`Yan
Guest
I believe parabens are a preservative, & without it, the conditioner (& other products that use/need parabens) would be a hot bed of bacteria — which would threaten your life more so. I use this conditioner — have ever since I was natural. My opinion is that because these are the last two ingredients in the conditioner, the amount is so minute that it wouldn’t cause any problems. Now, if they were the first 5 (or even the first 10) ingredients, I’d be wary. I don’t have any credible sources to back this up, but I’m hoping someone will chime… Read more »
Natalee
Guest

Thanks for the info! I’m definitely going to start using it again because the parabens are naturally derived which seems better than artificial chemical parabens. Time to stock up!

kyla
Guest

i freakin love love love aussie moist conditioner and the 3 minute miracle. i live by them.lol

desireeb
Guest

I LOVE V05 Moisture Milks… I should say, my hair loves it! At only $.78 a bottle I was thinking this is just too inexpensive to do my hair justice and give it enough love.… But no matter what other more expensive brands I try, I always end back up using the V05 to get my hair to what looks and feels right. So cheap, yet so moisturizing.…it’s amazing!

eyeconic1
Guest

People sleep on Vo5. You can buy at the $1 store, its thick. For those who says its watery because its so cheap you can just use more.I have extremly thick hair that sucks up everything. I use this and coconut oil for my preo-poo. I let the two sit on my hair then detangle, twist hair then rinse and wash. I use a better conditioner once I wash my hair.

B
Guest

V05 is too watery for me and it left my hair hard & dry…and I brought several bottles ’cause I had a coupon.…I will donate them to my local shelter.

Nic
Guest

Yes yes yes to Aussie Moist and Shea Moisture conditioners. Both work wonders and smell great!

laughing808
Guest

I’ve always suggested Aussie to my friends when they ask for recommendations for a conditioner.

I also use: Isoplus Instant Conditioner, Silk Elements cholesterol conditioner and lastly Herbal Essence Drama Clean refreshing conditioner.

Inf
Guest
I can’t use silicons and my hair seems to prefer to not be shampooed or it’s dry for days after. The Shea Moisture conditioner in this post is a decent rinse out, but I don’t co-wash with it. If I’m trying to remove product, it’s not gonna get the job done. Tresemme Naturals is my co-wash, I have a couple of cleansers including As i Am coconut co-wash ( which I ALWAYS keep in rotation) and then I have conditioners that I use to restart the moisturizing process when build-up isn’t an issue.…Oyin’s Honey Hemp Conditioner and Curl Junkie’s Curl… Read more »
Felicia
Guest

I have tried Aussie Moist on my thick wavy hair and on my daughter’s thick tightly curled hair and I don’t find that it works for us. I really like Nexxus Frizz Defy conditioner. I apply it when the shower is done, comb out the hair, and leave it in to air dry. I find it defines the curls but doesn’t make it stringy. It keeps the hair so soft.

Felicia
Guest

I have tried Aussie Moist on my thick wavy hair and on my daughter’s thick tightly curled hair and I don’t find that it works for us. I really like Nexxus Frizz Defy conditioner. I apply it when the shower is done, comb out the hair, and leave it in to air dry. I find it defines the curls but doesn’t make it stringy. It keeps the hair so soft. But maybe I will try Aussie as a co wash like many of you.

LowEndTheory
Guest

Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Tingle(3.99) is also pretty nice and does not contain the parabens that Nourish does. (If you are concerned about that type of stuff)

Ev`Yan
Guest
I love, love, love, LOVE TJ’s Nourish Spa conditioner. This is the only conditioner I have found that gives me THEE best slip. I love the price, & I love that I can read & recognize all of the ingredients, which are 90% organic. I use this mainly for detangling & a first co-wash (I co-wash twice in the shower, once for cleansing/light detangling, twice for conditioning). I’ve tried others, but nothing compares. (And no, I don’t work for Trader Joe’s, just hopelessly in love with this conditioner.) I just bought the Shea Moisture restorative conditioner, & I really like… Read more »
ladyluo
Guest

I have a lot of these conditioners but only use V05 and swear by it.

Landry
Guest

I wish I could cowash, it would be such a time saver, but my hair crosses its little curly arms and says “No mommy.” 😉

Cowashing leaves me with weighed down hair and an itchy scalp. I use shampoo bars and they do a wonderful job of cleansing my hair and scalp without stripping my hair.

Mia
Guest

my hair crosses its little curly arms and says “No mommy.” ;)”–too cute!

My hair doesn’t like cowashing either.

eleriero
Guest

As a transitioning college student, I thoroughly appreciate anything that’s going to be light on my budget! I’ll be sure to check these out!!

imluvinmycurls
Guest

Hello there thank you! I have the Tressemme Naturals conditioner i like it alot . But receved with my boots several trial sizes of the split remedy, I will definately try this.
Blessings

VM
Guest
LOVE Trader Joe’s Nourish spa and Tea tree shampoo & conditioner lines! SO delicious for my hair. Then I always finish with a kimmy tube enhanced Giovanni Direct leave in-my hair is growing like a wild fire. I use Giovanni smooth as silk conditioner for my deep conditioning. I’ve tried a LOT of products.…that either dried my hair out or made it SHED like crazy. None of those experiences anymore, just gorgeous, moist, healthy, thick, growing hair. I will NEVER change my regimen. NOPE, not doing it lol. So happy some of the lines I swear by were mentioned in… Read more »
meowmix
Guest

I like the Organix line. I try to get it BOGO.

Cindy Snyder
Guest

I love As I Am co wash. I’m a white girl but I have hair that’s differing textures throughout, I find some products marketed to black women work well on my hair
Also Palmer’s Coconut shampoo and conditioner, they are about $5.

lululuvs...
Guest

That’s really good to hear that the condish that I’ve been using for the past year for co-washing is already on your list. I swear by Trader Joe’s Nourish Spa and I like their Tea Tree Shampoo for clarifying.

Diana M Lyerson-Breland
Guest
Diana M Lyerson-Breland
Does any one use Giovanni leave in conditioner? I use it and so far my 3c-4a hairs seems to love it..as for co-washing I use Vo5(fits my budget) but I want to know more about Aussie(which I used many many years ago and did not like it, but I was not natural then) I also want to hear more about trader joes conditioner. What are folks using to define curls. I need a great deal of help here. I have what I use to call really weird hair..what it is really..I have two different textures and thicknesses on my head.… Read more »
nigeria
Guest

-for style 50 and older, maybe see pinterest?

Kameela
Guest

I’ve LOVE Aussie Moist, cheap, has amazing slip, and I also use the shampoo.

Michelle @Radiant Brown Beauty
Guest

Dove Nourishing Oil Care is the bomb. It has great slip too.

Ciara
Guest

I like Herbal Essence Hello Hydration (good slip)

JulesP
Guest

Suave Naturals Tropical Coconut and V05’s Shea Cashmere were my cowash conditioners of choice before I started using As I Am. If I felt like splurging, I would purchase Giovanni Brazilian Keratin & Argan Oil Ultra Sleek Conditioner. Stuff is awesome. No Trader Joes near me, so I haven’t been able to try their line. 🙁

kiara
Guest

my favorite cheap co washing conditioner is suave humectant moisture. its very good on making ur hair soft and manageable. i get great slip and with this i dont have to cowash every other day. my second favorite is the hello hydration by herbal essence.

MissJ
Guest

What? No Hello Hydration? this is a great co-wash conditioner too

trackback
[…] Some product lines are getting hip. They are adding key words used within the natural hair community on their bottles and confusing early naturals and those who are unaware that Co-Washing is an action, not a product. You don’t need to waste your money buying an expensive or even cost friendly “Co-Washing” conditioner. Co-Washing is simply washing with conditioner products only. Although SWB doesn’t agree with naturals only co-washing their tresses we certainly wont sit back while you’re taken for a ride. Find a good conditioner for your hair and know that it doesn’t need to say “Co-Washing”  or… Read more »
trackback

[…] Here’s some other co-wash conditioner suggestions: http://bglh-marketplace.com/2012/11/4-of-the-best-and-cheapest-conditioners-for-co-washing/ […]

trackback

[…] you, or else you wouldn’t have done it that way for so long. Why spend the extra money now? Click here for my recommendations on super cheap and super effective conditioners for […]

VM
Guest
LOVE Trader Joe’s Nourish spa and Tea tree shampoo & conditioner lines! SO delicious for my hair. Then I always finish with a kimmy tube enhanced Giovanni Direct leave in-my hair is growing like a wild fire. I use Giovanni smooth as silk conditioner for my deep conditioning. I’ve tried a LOT of products.…that either dried my hair out or made it SHED like crazy. None of those experiences anymore, just gorgeous, moist, healthy, thick, growing hair. I will NEVER change my regimen. NOPE, not doing it lol. So happy some of the lines I swear by were mentioned in… Read more »
VM
Guest

Oh and I clarify with ACV before my shampoo every two weeks! Also.…I think shea butter SUCKS. K. bye lol!

Heidi
Guest

I co washed for the first time today. I am an occasional wen user but wanted something cheaper. I used tresemme keratin smooth conditioner and it worked!

Cori
Guest

As a white girl with thick hair that became more wiry and kinky after my daughter was born I was desperate for smoothness. I find the advice for black hair to be by far the best. I have been using Tresseme anti breakage conditioner and love it. Thanks for the great advice and saving my hair.

Chrystal
Guest

Hello!
Great article. Question about one of the suggested conditioners. TRESemmé Split Remedy. It has silicones in it, I thought we were supposed to avoid cones because they block out moisture??? I’m super new to this natural journey so I’d love as much info as possible.
Thank you.

Angela Pennie
Guest

Where can you get Giovanni products,I am a fitness instructor so I sweat a lot I want to keep my hair healthy and growing

maryann
Guest

I have seen this line at Walgreens

Lucky
Guest

Angela, Giovanni products can be found at WalMart, Whole Foods, Target and many drugstores.

deb
Guest

Protein sensitive naturals, check out suave naturals juicy green apple conditioner!

Rhea
Guest

I use As I Am Coconut Cowash. My hair seems to respond well to it.

Angel
Guest

I can not believe that As I Am is not on this list. I have that super difficult (doesn’t work with any popular product) hair and that is my saving grace! Expecially with the moisture butter.

Twopointfive
Guest

As I am may not have existed (if you’re talking about their co wash specific product) long enough to gain popularity before this article was published in 2012.

Darlyne
Guest

VO5 are good conditioners too. You can get them for $1 or less

Africa
Guest

pantene relaxed and natural conditioner is awesome and defines curls…u use to co wash with it and NOT COMB MY HAIR, and that allowed the curls to clump

Mel Stevens
Guest

I think the pro naturals shampoo would be great for this too. chekc it out, it’s made freom argan oil

Tiffany
Guest

I had an old HUGE bottle of really cheap Tresemme conditioner and I added EVOO to it. It is now perfection. ^_^

QueenEyeCee
Guest
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article, especially the breakdown of certain/particular ingredients and the purpose that they serve! Along this natural healthy hair journey of mines,in the quest for the perfect product, I’ve wasted a lot of money unnecessarily on exorbitantly priced products…foolishly believing that they contained and possessed superior quality & ingredients, as opposed to just sticking to what is tried & true and I know works. I’m still trying to decipher cones and determine which ones are good (allows moisture to penetrate) and which ones are detrimental (blocks moisture from entering) to the health of natural hair…if at… Read more »
Kandibee
Guest

from my own research id know that dimethicone is the heaviest cone which cannot be removed from the hair without surfactant based shampoos i.e. lauryl sulfate etc. there was another cone i cant remember..

lauren ryder
Guest

I was very dissapointed to learn that the traderjoes formula now contains dimethicone. Bad news bears,especially for cone-free and low porosity naturals.
I would not recommend the new Nourish and Spa Conditioner.

Michelle
Guest

The TJ’s Tea Tree Tingle conditioner doesn’t contain any silicone and I love it!

3 in 1 trike
Guest

Hey there! Someone in my Facebook group shared this site with us
so I came to give it a look. I’m definitely enjoying the information. I’m bookmarking and will be tweeting this to my followers!

Outstanding blog and wonderful style and design.

tO2OAmAzon
Guest

I really like the rwsults I get from prepooing with Herbal Essence moisture conditioner then using Suave almond and shea butter conditioner followed by Aussie 3 minute Miracle Moist and finishing with Hollywood Beauty olive oil cholesterol with a few drops of olive oil and Jamaican black castor oil added to it right before applying. My hair is strong and soft and well moisturized. If I suspect build up then I use apple cider vinegar with honey to wash it.

Keisha G
Guest

My hair does not like any of the Shea moisture line. I Finally tried the herbal essence hello hydration. I am in love!!!! Instant moisture and detangling. My days of being a product junkie are over!

trackback

[…] Co-washing: Another way to combat dry hair or retain moisture while washing is by co-washing your hair. Co-washing is the act of washing your hair with conditioner only so that it is not stripped of its natural oils. It is often done on dry, damaged hair. This method can be used daily and is often referred to as conditioner wash. Here’s a good list of co-washing conditioners. […]

Ane Na
Guest
Thank you for the great article and thanks everyone for the responses, I did not realize that co-washing was something that I should do… I have been a natural all of my life but the only products I used were shampoo and conditioner. Recently my hair had gotten so dry so I began using hair masks and the LOC method…and I did not know that my hair could become so hydrated. So after reading this article I will keep my hair on fleek with co-washing. I just found out that my hair is a grey and 3b type neither which… Read more »

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