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The Ultimate Guide to Cowashing

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Do you wash your hair multiple times in the week? Curly hair requires special care and attention, and one of the best ways to keep those curls looking juicy is through cowashing. But what exactly is cowashing, and why should you consider trying it? Let’s explore cowashing techique and explore some of my personal favorite conditioners

What is a Cowash?

Cowashing, short for “conditioner washing,” is the practice of using a conditioner to cleanse the hair instead of a traditional shampoo. This method is especially popular among those with curly or textured hair, as it helps retain natural oils and moisture.

Benefits of Cowashing Curly Hair

  1. Moisture Retention: Traditional shampoos can strip the hair of its natural oils, leaving it dry and frizzy. Cowashing helps maintain moisture, keeping curls hydrated and defined.
  2. Gentle Cleansing: Conditioners are not alkaline like shampoos, making them ideal for sensitive scalps and fragile hair.
  3. Reduced Frizz: By preserving the hair’s natural oils, cowashing can help reduce frizz and increase manageability.
  4. Improved Curl Definition: Hydrated curls are happy curls. Cowashing can enhance the natural pattern of your curls, making them more defined and bouncy.

But is cowash better than shampoo?

Cowashing moisturizes curls while cleaning it gently. This is a great alternative to using shampoo multiple times during the week. If you workout, travel, or just prefer to wash hair 3-4 times a week, then cowashing is better than using shampoo 3 times a week.

Who Should Cowash?

Cowashing is particularly beneficial for those with:

  • Coarse Curly or Wavy Hair: These hair types are naturally drier and benefit from the extra moisture cowashing provides.
  • Color-Treated Hair: Cowashing can help extend the life of your hair color by reducing the frequency of strong shampoos.
  • Dry or Damaged Hair: If your hair is brittle or damaged, cowashing can help restore its health by providing gentle cleansing and intense hydration.

Can you co wash with any conditioner? 

No, please don’t. Always use cowash-conditioner that is meant for cowashing. Recommendations below.

But why Liz? I see Facebook groups suggesting otherwise. Listen to them then! No really, hair products meant for cowashing have “cleansing agents” like Coco Betaine or  Behentrimonium Methosulfate while regular “rinse-out” conditioners do not. Besides,  regular conditioners have large molecules formulated to “coat” your hair for conditioning function.

Wikipedia says “Their molecules have a tendency to crystallize easily to form a lamellar structure, giving the conditioner higher viscosity, and they tend to form thicker layers on the hair surface.” So just imagine “coating” your scalp with thick goop. This goop will not let your scalp breathe. Such suffocation when not cleansed frequently leads to scalp issues.

How often should you cowash? 

I cowash between my shampoo days. It could be two cowashes or one, depending on how dry my hair feels. To maintain the moisture quotient in my hair I cowash atleast once in between two shampoos. Using shampoo back to back dries out my thick coarse hair. 

Remember that any change you bring to your routine will usually take a while before your hair starts to accept it. You can Shampoo -Cowash -Shampoo OR Shampoo -Cowash-Cowash -Shampoo. Try and see what routine works best for you depending on how your hair responds.

Can I deep condition after cowashing? 

I usually do not but you can if your hair needs that extra moisture on that day. One exception is cowashing+deep conditioning after my Olaplex or monthly Vitamin C treatments! Otherwise I do not. 

Can I use cowash as a leave-in conditioner?

NO. The cleansing agents may dry your hair out. Easy way to remember: Leave-in-conditioners are meant to be “left in“. Cowash-conditioners is meant to be “washed out“. Unless a brand specifies, I recommend you rinse out your cowashes.

Can you remove oil with cowashing? 

Depends on how much oil you apply. If you drench your hair for a hot oil treatment  (“champi“) then no. Use a clarifying shampoo to remove the grease out.  Me? I cowash on lazy days when I don’t have time to prepoo or even deep condition my hair.

Caution About Cowashes

While cowashing can be a game-changer for many, it’s not for everyone. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Product Build-Up: Without the occasional use of shampoo, products can build up on the scalp and hair. It’s important to clarify your hair periodically. Easy DIYs like ACV Rinse every 10 days OR Bentonite Clay every two weeks help me. Clarifying helps you prevent buildup and scalp issues
  • Scalp Issues: If you have a scalp condition like dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis, cowashing alone may not be sufficient to keep your scalp healthy.
  • Hair Type: Those with fine or oily hair might find cowashing too heavy, leading to limp or greasy hair.
This is the best cowashing tutorial I’ve seen. Athena is a natural teacher – check it out

My Favorite Cowash Conditioners

Here are some of my top picks for cowash conditioners that have worked wonders for my curls:

  1. Miribel Naturals Cream Hair Cleanser (code: HONESTLIZHERE)
  2. Manetain Oh So Cool Co-wash (code: HONESTLIZ)
  3. Boucleme Cleanser (code: HONESTLIZ15)
I discuss my favorite cowash conditioners in this video. Watch Now.

By adding cowashing into your curly hair care routine, you can keep your curls nourished, hydrated, and looking their best. Give it a try and see the difference it can make for your hair!

Thank you for watching & reading!

AND P.S. – If you need more of a hand with managing your curly hair and styling for definition?

A reminder that I can help you to do this through my 1:1 Curl Coaching service that helps busy curly hair people to know exactly what they should do and what products to buy to take care of their curly hair.

Book 1:1 with me today.

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