Jay Cee: What you need to know about Co-washing
Co-washing is a term commonly mentioned in the natural hair community.
It basically means cleansing your hair with conditioner instead of shampoo.
Co-washing is said to aid in moisture retention since conditioners are not as stripping as shampoos are. Whether or not to co-wash is a personal choice.
Some naturals swear by it while some do not like it. Either way I encourage you to try it and see how your hair responds to it. Here are a few things you need to know about co-washing:
1. Conditioners have mild cleansers which enable you to cleanse some dirt, oil, products and debris from your hair. Since conditioners only contain mild cleansers, it is important to shampoo your hair periodically or use a cleanser like African black soap to get rid of product build up, which if left for long periods, can present problems like clogged follicles and chronically dry hair that does not respond to product.
2. Choice of conditioner is very important because not all conditioners are suitable for co-washing. Since conditioners have mild cleansers, you have to avoid those that would add product build up to your hair. For that reason, avoid conditioners that contain silicones and petrolatum or mineral oil. Note that, there are products specifically marked co-wash. Personally I prefer those types of products to ordinary conditioners because I find that they clean my hair better. On the other hand, a lot of naturals claim to feel no difference but again, part of being a naturalista is experimentation, so feel free to try out different conditioners or co-washes and find what works best for you.
3. Do not co-wash if you are experiencing some scalp problems like dandruff, sores or an itchy scalp. In such cases you need shampoo, sometimes even a medicated shampoo. If you experience such issues even after shampooing your hair then you may need to see a dermatologist.
4. Do not co-wash right before putting in a protective style for more than a month. Your hair needs to be properly cleansed, deep conditioned and moisturized before that.
5. Do not co-wash your hair before or after heat straightening your hair. This is because the build up on the hair will render a roughened result. Your hair will also emit an odor that is none too pleasant. Also, heat protectants used normally contain silicones which only shampoo can remove which is why it is advisable to cleanse your hair with a clarifying shampoo once you are done wearing your hair straight.
6. Do not co-wash your hair on the day you want to do a protein treatment. That is because the protein conditioner needs to be able to penetrate your hair shaft so it can work properly. Co-washing would only provide a barrier.
7. If you live in a hard water area or swim regularly then co-washing, as a primary mean of cleansing, may not be ideal for you. You can still co-wash but you will need to use a clarifying shampoo more often than a person living in a soft water area.
8. Avoid using heavy products and oils as well as products containing silicons and petrolatum or mineral oil if you decide to include co-washing in your hair regimen. As I mentioned before these cause product build up that a conditioner alone will not be able to tackle.