The curly girl’s guide to co-wash: How to keep your curls healthy and hydrated

As you’ve been doing research and learning how to properly take care of your curly hair, you’ve probably come across the term co-wash. It is one of my favorite ways to keep my hair fresh between wash days! It helps to keep my curls shiny, defined, and smelling amazing! This article will explain what co-washing is, how it can benefit you, and how to do it so your curls can flourish properly!

Before I started learning how to take care of my hair correctly, I rarely used conditioner. As a result, my hair was dry and rough, and my curls were extremely frizzy and lacked definition. As I learned how to properly take care of my hair using the Curly Girl Method, I also learned about co-washing!

What is co-wash?

Co-wash, also short for co-washing means “conditioner only washing,” is when you use a conditioner to wash your hair instead of a traditional shampoo! Washing your hair too often with shampoos can strip your strands of their natural oils, leaving behind a brittle, frizzy, tangled mess!

Co-washing is an excellent way to gently remove dirt and debris from your scalp and strands without stripping it of too much moisture. Because it’s gentle and doesn’t completely strip your hair of its natural moisture, it’s the perfect way to refresh your hair.

If you work out and sweat a lot, I think that you’ll find co-washing to be an excellent way to keep your hair fresh and clean in between wash days! Or, if you suffer from dehydrated curls, it’s a perfect way to inject some moisture mid-week before you can do your weekly deep condition.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Can’t I just replace my shampoo with co-wash?” In short, the answer is no. You shouldn’t eliminate shampoo from your hair care regimen. The shampoo contains surfactants essential for breaking down excess sebum and product build-up. Failure to thoroughly cleanse your scalp and hair over a prolonged period can lead to itchiness, irritation, and limp curls! Instead, incorporate co-washing into your regimen as an added step to keep your hair hydrated in between washes!

How should you co-wash your hair?

While there’s no set way how to properly co-wash your hair, these are the steps that I use that I’ve found work best for my hair!

First, wet your hair! Water is a curly girl’s best friend, and it is the actual source of moisture that your hair needs to stay elastic and healthy. Make sure that you completely saturate your hair from roots to ends with water. Depending on your hair’s porosity and thickness, it may take a couple of minutes of standing under the streaming water to penetrate your hair thoroughly.

After you wet your hair, apply a generous amount of conditioner to your wet hair. You should use enough that the conditioner completely coats your strands from root to tip. Next, gently massage the condition into your hair at the scalp to loosen up any dirt and debris. Then lather the rest through your hair. Let it sit for at least a minute, and if your hair is on the drier side, let it sit longer!

I like to take this time to detangle my hair. You can use your fingers to detangle or a wide-tooth comb with a gentle hand. The conditioner will provide a slip to work out any tangles or knots easily. It also helps to clump your curls to get some fantastic definition.

When you’re finally ready to rinse it out, use cool water to seal the cuticle, so it’s smooth and has a beautiful shine!

What is the difference between a co-wash conditioner and a regular conditioner?

While you can use a regular conditioner to co-wash your hair, you might want to consider investing in a conditioner explicitly designed for co-washing!

Regular conditioners are designed to condition, soften, and nourish the hair follicle and contain many moisturizing ingredients. However, while most conditioners contain trace amounts of cleansing agents, they may not be enough if you have a lot of product build-up of excess sebum on your scalp!

Co-washes are formulated with a higher concentration of surfactants. However, they will not have as many as traditional shampoo. These surfactants will penetrate and dissolve excess dirt, debris, and product build-up and leave behind clean, soft hair.

If you find that you have a lot of build-up in between washes, but your hair strands quickly dry out, I recommend choosing a co-washing conditioner. On the other hand, if your struggle is simply dryness, it might be alright to stick with your regular conditioner. Ultimately, it is up to you whether you prefer to use a co-washing conditioner or stick with your favorite! I recommend trying both and seeing how your hair responds to each product!

Is co-washing good for every type of curly hair?

No, co-washing is not appropriate for every curly girl! Co-washing is best for preserving the hair’s natural oils and is not effective enough to rid the scalp of excess sebum. Co-washing may weigh your hair down if your curls are fine, resulting in flat, stringy curls instead of volume and bounciness. Also, if your hair is prone to moisture overload, I highly recommend skipping co-washing entirely so you don’t disturb your hair’s moisture and protein balance.

If your hair is not suitable for co-wash, don’t worry! There are other ways to keep your scalp and hair refreshed in between washes with scalp cleansing sprays!

Take care of your curls!

I hope that you found this article on co-washing helpful and that you can incorporate it into your hair care regimen to unlock your hair’s potential! Need some help creating your perfect hair care regimen? Don’t you worry – I’ve got all the tricks and tips you need here!

Profilbild Laura
About the author

I've been a curly girl since I was little. 💝 But it wasn't until I discovered the right curl care for me that I learned to understand my curls. I'm happy to pass all this on to you - so that you too can learn to love your curls.

How did you like this article?