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Dianne Austin
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Dianne Austin

Dianne is the co-founder of Natural Haircare News and Coils To Locs.com. She's been blogging about natural hair ever since she made the decision to break free of the creamy crack in 2012.
Dianne Austin
Follow NHCN!

If you’ve spent any time researching the best methods to keep your natural hair not only clean, but soft, supple and frizz free, you’ve bound to have come across the term “co-washing” as a preferred washing method for natural hair.

Just what is co-washing?

Co-washing is short for conditioner washing: using conditioner to cleanse and moisturize your hair in place of shampoo.

Many advocates of co-washing feel that shampooing, even sulfate-free shampoos*,  can cause natural hair to become dry and frizzy.   That’s because natural hair is more porous.  As we all know, when hair is consistently dry, it’s prone to breakage; and who wants frizzy, flyaway, broken hair?

The bottom line is that you should do what works best for your hair and scalp.  Experiment with sulfate-free shampoos. There are lots of really good ones out there that are formulated to meet the needs of natural hair.

How to Co-wash

You can either apply the conditioner directly to your scalp from your hands, or dilute your conditioner with a little water.  If diluting, use a squeeze bottle, or a cup by adding your normal amount of conditioner based on your hair length to one part water. You may need to double this mixture if you are washing your hair twice. You can add more conditioner or water based on your preferences.  There are lots of wonderful sulfate-free conditioners to choose from, or use your favorite.

Wet your hair first by rinsing well; just as you would if you were about to shampoo.  Apply the conditioner mixture to the scalp and gently rub your scalp clean using your fingertips.  Gently pull the conditioner mixture from roots to the ends.

You’ll have to experiment with your co-washing routine in order to determine whether or not to directly apply conditioner works better than diluting it, or vice-versa.

Be sure to leave a comment below if you’ve tried co-washing to let others know what you think about it.

*A Few Words About Sulfates in Shampoos: There’s a lot of buzz about sulfate versus sulfate free shampoos.  But what just is sulfate and why should we avoid it in shampoos?  Sulfate, also known as SLS- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, is a chemical detergent that is not only found in shampoos, but in your dishwashing liquid, laundry detergent, bathroom cleaner, garage cleaners, or any other non-natural product that is used to clean a surface.   ALS, also known as Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, is another type of sulfate to avoid that is frequently found in shampoos. Ammonium?  Hmmmm….

Sulfates are very inexpensive for manufacturers to use.  It’s the sulfate that creates all that lather that we are used to in shampoos.  Think about all of the shampoo commercials and ads that you ever seen.  In the advertisement, there’s a woman with long, straight hair with mounds of white foam and bubbles.

Consumers have come to equate all that lathers with perfect, squeaky clean hair, but you don’t want your hair to be squeaky clean because that means that your hair has been stripped of not only dirt but the natural oils needed to keep your hair protected.  You do want your hair to be clean and moisturized.

Many believe that there is a direct correlation between thinning hair and scalp problems such as dandruff and shampoos with sulfates.   In terms of dandruff, which is caused by a fungus, sulfates strip the scalp of healthy bacteria making the scalp more susceptible to the fungus that causes dandruff. The chemicals are also thought to damage the root of the hair, which can cause thinning hair.

Author:  Dianne Shaddock

Comment on this articleChanging attitudes about natural hair” is what we do at Natural Haircare News. Through informative articles, podcasts and videos, we go beyond just sharing the latest advice and tips on kinky, curly, wavy haircare – We shake things up and focus on the realities of wearing our hair natural. Not sure of which products are right for your hair type? Visit our solution oriented natural hair products store.

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3 Responses to Natural Hair Care 101: What is Co-Washing?

  1. Angela Harris says:

    My sister told me about co-washing. I love it. I use As I Am coconut CoWash. It works great with my hair type. A little goes a long way.

  2. Kandis says:

    I wash my hair every two weeks, in between styles I co-wash; usually with V05 tea therapy or moisture milk strawberry, or Giovanni’s smooth as silk conditioner, other than that I use shampoo bars. My favorite shampoo bars are babassu & Marshmallow, mud & clay, or Neem and Tea tree. I get them from charginvalleysoap.com. I will say, that since going natural and using sulfate free shampoos,I haven’t seen a lick of dandruff and I’m so serious, it’s amazing how clean my scalp is!
    blessings,
    Kandis

    • Dianne says:

      I agree with the sulfate-free shampoos and going natural. It’s helped me nix a growing dandruff problem. I really like Gionvanni’s Smooth as Silk conditioner too! We’ll be featuring it on the website soon. Send us a picture of you rocking your natural and we’ll put it on the site! Info@naturalhaircarenews.com. Thanks for sharing!

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