Photo by stylist @nubiarezo

Why co-wash instead of shampoo?

Co-washing or “conditioner washing” is washing your hair with a conditioner or specialty formulated product called a “co-wash/cleansing conditioner” as opposed to using a regular shampoo. For those with any kind of texture, co-washing is usually a safer option because it cleanses our hair yet keeps it hydrated. The main benefit of co-washing our hair versus regular shampoo is by co-washing, we are not stripping our hair of natural oils which dries out the hair leading the excess frizz and unmanageability.

How often should you co-wash your hair?

How often should you co-wash your hair is a matter of preference. Some prefer co-washing every single wash and don’t touch shampoo at all; others will co-wash once a week and alternate the next week using regular shampoo. Some may only use regular shampoo once a month. It really depends on your own hair’s specific needs. I usually wash my hair twice a week, co-washing the first wash and using a sulfate-free regular shampoo the other.

The benefits of co-washing wavy hair

If I ever do wash my hair more than twice a week, I always reach for the co-wash for the additional washes. My reason for using a regular shampoo for one wash is I pile and pile products on my hair all week, even the days I don’t wash and I just like that extra clean feeling from the shampoo. Again, it is a matter of preference.

Better hydration, more defined waves and curls

Co-washing allows wavy and curly hair, which is usually dry already by nature, to obtain better hydration which leads to better curl definition, less frizz and more shine. If you color your hair, co-washing can also help maintain your color, keeping it fresh and vibrant where as too frequent regular shampooing can strip the color and cause fading very quickly.

How to co-wash curly-wavy hair

  • Double wash – I personally like to cleanse and repeat as I feel the first cleanse is what is removes dirt, toxins and pollution from my hair and the second is helping to hydrate.
  • Add water – I also like like to add a few additional splashes of water. Co-washes do not lather, and they are not supposed to due to their lack of sulfates, but adding additional water helps to spread the product through the hair and get your hair clean.
  • Detangle to distribute – I can easily detangle my hair with my fingers in the shower while co-washing. You can also use a wide tooth comb to detangle. Doing so helps spread the co-wash through your hair evenly.

Focus equally on the scalp and length

When co-washing, make sure to use enough product. Now is not the time to scrimp. As opposed to regular shampoo where you want to concentrate on the scalp as to not dry out the lengths, it is okay to co-wash your scalp and your hair–it will cleanse and condition in one. Some curly wavies, especially those with finer hair that gets weighed down easily, may be able to co-wash and skip conditioner afterwards depending on how hair feels. You want to make sure to really spend a few minutes thoroughly massaging the co-wash on the scalp, as the friction of your finger pads (don’t use your nails–it can scratch your scalp and/or lead to hair breakage) is helping to loosen any dirt and oil to really get your head clean.

The best co-washes for wavy-curly hair

1. Briogeo Curl Charisma Rice Amino + Shea Hydrating Co-Wash

Aside from that delicious, fresh Briogeo scent, this co-wash is fortified with shea butter, avocado oil, quinoa extracts and aloe with hydrate, enhances manageability, soothes plus cleanses the hair all in one. It’s creamy, nourishing and cleanses without stripping.

2. Nubian Heritage Indian Hemp Co-Wash

This is super affordable and insanely moisturizing. I really like this one because of ingredients like garlic and bamboo which helps hair growth and tamanu oil which keeps hair hydrated.

3. As I Am Coconut CoWash Cleansing Conditioner

This is the NaturallyCurly community’s Best of the Best award-winning cowash for all hair types and has been a crowd favorite for years.  It achieves a balance between cleansing and moisturizing, and works well as a detangler too.

This won the NaturallyCurly Best of the Best Award for Best Conditioner Co-Wash/Cleansing Conditioner for Type 2 hair in 2021 and 2023.

On the hunt for your next Holy Grail? Check out 10 Products For Wavy Hair To Combat Frizz.

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