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What is Co-washing? And How to do it For Curly Hair

Co-wash is one of the most common methods to wash hair to fix the main curly and wavy hair problem, “dryness”.

It looks like a tempting idea, but most people are stunned when they discover that Co-wash means to replace shampoo with conditioner, and many questions start jumping into their minds about how safe it is to use a conditioner on the scalp. Let us dive into this washing method and how to do it through this article. 

What does Co-wash mean?

The co-wash means to replace your shampoo with a conditioner to do the job of shampoo -cleansing scalp-. This method’s conditioner won’t only moisturize and nourish the curly hair; it’ll also clean the scalp effectively as shampoo does. 

Contrary to popular belief that conditioners are ineffective in cleaning, it contains gentle cleansing ingredients that remove residue and dirt from the scalp without drying it out, unlike Shampoos, which contain harsh drying ingredients like sulfate.

These ingredients usually strip natural hair oils while cleaning the scalp from dirt, ending with dry and messy hair. 

We can consider Co-wash as one of the methods used to saturate hair that thirsts for moisture, like curly and wavy hair. Moreover, it may be an excellent way to fix hair damage because of bad habits that make it dehydrated.

How to Co-wash curly hair in 4 steps

a girl use co-wash method

This method’s main idea is simple: to use your conditioner in place of your shampoo, but there are some steps we should follow to make sure that you are co-washing your curly hair perfectly. 

Step #1: Adequately wet your curly hair

This will help you in the next step and make cleansing more effective.

Step #2: Put enough amount of conditioner on your scalp

Make sure to distribute the conditioner on your scalp.

Step #3: Rub your scalp with your fingertips

Due to gentle cleansing ingredients in the conditioners, you have to massage your scalp for at least 5 minutes to cleanse your curly hair entirely.

Step #4: Rinse your scalp

You should rinse your scalp thoroughly to avoid conditioner build-up. Finally, you can do the rest of the steps in your curly hair routine.

What conditioner should you use for Co-wash?

There are many co-washes in the cosmetics shops that contain more cleansing ingredients than ordinary conditioners. Despite that, you can still count on your favorite conditioner, but before that, you have to make sure that it contains specific ingredients that help your hair to be clean and moisturized at the same time without any side effects.  

co-wash products for curly hair

Ingredients to avoid in conditioners

Co-wash’s failure is sometimes mainly due to bad habits, or perhaps because of ingredients in your conditioner, so it should be avoided for better results.

Silicon (water-insoluble): this type of silicon creates a layer that covers the hair and prevents the hair from absorbing the moisture; if your co-wash conditioner contains it, you’ll suffer from bad product build-up because of it.

Dry alcohol: it is the main cause of hair dryness, if your scalp is dry, it’ll increase the problem, and even if you have a greasy scalp, it won’t solve the problem, so avoid it anyway. 

ingredients must available

The following ingredients are good and should be included in your co-wash conditioner, but you have to take care while choosing what suits your hair nature, mainly depending on three factors: hair type, hair porosity, and scalp type. 

It’s challenging to get the conditioner that works for your hair nature perfectly. Sometimes, you need to try different conditioners to get the suitable one before judging the Co-wash method.

Humectants:  humectants pull moisture from water or air and retain it in the hair, for example, honey, glycerin.

Emollients: emollients moisturize and cover the hair to lock in moisture, for example, oils and shea butter

Protein: Protein is the main component of hair that gives it strength, for example, wheat or soy protein.

Moisturizers: It is dedicated to maintaining the moisture level in your hair strand, for example, aloe vera or amino acids.

Note: Although the ingredients are good and have benefits, that doesn’t mean they will suit everyone. Just give your curly hair what it needs.  

Why co-wash doesn’t work for some of us

Many people complain when they start to follow Co-Wash that it makes their curly hair greasy, loses volume and definition, and increases hair loss. In fact, there is a possibility that this method does not suit the nature of their hair, but before judging the method, you need to make sure that you do those steps in your routine:

Rubbing your scalp well: The cleaning ingredients in the conditioner are gentler than those found in shampoo, so massage your scalp for at least 5 minutes, using your fingertips – not your nails – to make sure your scalp is cleaned of dirt and residue. Otherwise, you will experience a build-up of conditioner on your scalp, then you will feel greasy, and your hair will start to fall out.

Rinsing your scalp well: Ignore it will lead you to build-up conditioner and hair fall out as a result. After massaging your scalp, rinse your hair well with water until your scalp is completely cleansed.

Clarifying your scalp: it’s an essential step, especially for those with an oily scalp. Conditioners clean the scalp and preserve the hair’s natural oil, but over time may lead to product build-up. So using a clarifying shampoo or trying some clarifying methods like using apple acid is essential to keep the scalp clean and avoid problems due to build-up products.

Avoid using heavy or unsuitable products: Using heavy ingredients such as silicones, oils, and waxes will result in build-up products. Besides that, products (conditioners or styling products) that do not suit your hair’s nature will prevent you from getting satisfactory results. 

Avoid over-moisturizing your hair: If you notice that your curly hair is more moisturized than necessary, it is best to stop using Co-wash until this problem is resolved because co-washing gives your hair extra moisture.


Co-washing is a method designed to avoid the harsh cleaning ingredients usually found in shampoos and give curly hair more moisture to counteract its main problem: dryness. But sometimes, if your hair doesn’t need that extra moisture, it will backfire unwanted results.

So before trying a co-wash or any other method, you need to make sure if this is what your curly hair needs. But if you can’t figure it out, the experience you may get overtime is the best guide for you. Usually, try the Co-wash three to four times before giving the final judgment.

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