By now you may have learned a thing or two about shampoo formulation. You have heard of the co-wash technique and I’m sure you’ve studied a bit on deep conditioning. The more we learn the more our thirst for knowledge and understanding increases. For that reason, there are more products that perform differently on our hair. For example, have you tried a co-wash conditioner? Or do you use your daily conditioner as your co-wash? Let’s take a look at the differences between the two formulations to see how to best incorporate them into our regimen.
Before we begin we must understand the nature of our hair, which holds a negative charge. Shampoos typically contain negative charged detergents making them effective at removing dirt and oil. Conditioners hold a positive cationic charge that attracts to the hair and does not completely rinse off. These conditioners replace the healthy oils and moisturizing lipids that are removed by the shampoo process. The remnants of the conditioner add a smidgen of weight and make the hair easier to comb through.
Why use daily conditioner?
The purpose of your daily conditioner is to bring your hair back into a healthy strength and moisture balance after cleansing with its accompanying shampoo. The daily conditioner will contain ingredients that will moisturize your hair and prepare it for styling. Daily conditioners will not create a long-term buildup on your hair when used according to its instructions. They are typically gentle enough to use daily without strong risks of breakage or damage. For this reason many naturals who are looking for a gentler approach to hair care use the daily conditioner, which some is also known as a cream rinse or regular conditioner.
Daily Conditioner Formulation
Here is a sneak peek at the ingredients within the Ouidad Whipped Curls Daily Conditioner and Styling Primer (the first five ingredients have agent indicators):
Water/Aqua/Eau, Cetearyl Alcohol (conditioning agent), Glycerin (conditioning agent), Behentrimonium Chloride (conditioning agent), Cetyl Esters (thickening agent), Polyquaternium-37 (conditioning agent), Lanolin, Hydrogenated Olive Oil, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Hydrolyzed Keratin, Cocodimonium Hydroxypropyl Hydrolyzed Keratin, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Olea Europaea (Olive) Oil Unsaponifiables, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Dicaprylyl Carbonate, Panthenyl Hydroxypropyl Steardimonium Chloride, Amodimethicone, Hydroxyethyl Urea, Citric Acid, Tetrasodium EDTA, Ceteareth-20, Lauryl Glucoside, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane, PPG-26-Buteth-26, Ethylhexyl Salicylate, Benzophenone-4, Trideceth-12, Cetrimonium Chloride, Butylene Glycol, Isopropyl Alcohol, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate, DMDM Hydantoin, Triethanolamine, Benzyl Salicylate, Fragrance/Parfum
Why use a co-wash?
Hair product companies saw how the general public grew concerned with the less than desirable hair care options available to us. As the companies listened intently on what the direct needs of the consumers were, they found that many women desired gentler options for caring for their curls. Desiring to live a more natural lifestyle, curlies realized there was less of a need for a heavy-duty shampoo. So, back to the drawing board the companies went and delivered us co-wash conditioners. When these products first arrived, many thought it was simply a marketing ploy to get women to purchase something that they thought was gentler. However, the truth is that the formulated co-washes are indeed gentler! They are designed to gently cleanse your hair and scalp and provide conditioning benefits without taking away the necessary oils that keep hair healthy. In essence, they provide a light cleansing and light conditioning of the hair and scalp. In fact, it is so gentle (yet effective) that product companies like Ouidad and As I Am recommend finishing with a leave-in conditioner, especially for thicker hair that may need more conditioning. This blend will contain both elements of cleansing and nourishing agents.
Take a sneak peek at the ingredients in the Ouidad Curl Co-Wash (the first five ingredients have agent indicators):
Aqua (Water/Eau), Sodium Lauroamphoacetate (cleansing agent), Cetearyl Alcohol (conditioning agent), Behentrimonium Chloride (conditioning agent), Hydroxypropyl Starch Phosphate (thickening agent), Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, Nigella Sativa Seed Oil, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Oil, Salvia Officinalis (Sage) Oil, Fragrance/Parfum, Citric Acid, Hydroxyisohexyl 3-Cyclohexene Carboxaldehyde, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Limonene, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone
Expert opinion: When to use what
While it would appear that the formulated co-wash would be a better choice than the latter, both concoctions will rinse away most of the product, therefore taking dirt and debris with it, leaving some nourishment behind. However, I am a firm advocate of using your hair products the way they were designed to work. Product companies put their best foot forward when communicating to the consumer the best practices of a particular product, as this is most beneficial to the company. While a daily conditioner can absolutely suffice for your gentle wash, its cleansing capabilities are a by-product of what it is designed to do, which is to condition. Over time, conditioner washing exclusively can result in product buildup and will likely a shampoo depending on the solubility of the ingredients in your daily conditioners, moisturizers, and styling products that were used to maintain your styles between washes. Are you noticing that your hair is becoming drier no matter how much you co-wash? Check out Signs that Co-Washing is Not Enough. Due to the cleansing agent in the co-wash conditioner, it may take much longer to develop product buildup. According to Ouidad, their co-wash can be “used as often as desired.” When abiding by a healthy hair care regimen, I believe it would be beneficial for curlies and coilies who like to co-wash to cleanse with a sulfate-free shampoo every 4-8 weeks to prevent product buildup from forming on the hair, and more importantly the scalp.
As you can see there are benefits to using either formulation. Be careful to look at the ingredients in these two products. In this example, only the Ouidad Curl Co-Wash has an intentional cleansing agent within the formulation. The Ouidad Whipped Curls Daily Conditioner and Styling Primer on the other hand is chock-full of conditioning ingredients. Whichever route you choose to take, consider a product that fits with your lifestyle and works for your texture.
- Women who exercise frequently sweat profusely from their scalps and may want to use a product formulated with a cleansing agent.
- Short hairstyles have more freedom and flexibility due to frequent cutting than women who want to retain length.
- Be sure your choices fit within a holistic hair care regimen complete with suitable cleansing, conditioning, moisturizing, styling, and trimming.
Do you prefer to co-wash with a daily conditioner or co-wash conditioner?