'Co-Washing' Is the Weird New Way to Wash Your Hair -- Without Shampoo

woman washing her hair in the shower

Looking for a beauty lift that will actually save you money? You may want to try this counter-intuitive trend: The conditioner-only wash, or "co-washing," as its fans call it. This means exactly what it sounds like, washing your hair with conditioner instead of shampoo.

It's not as crazy as it sounds. Conditioner is made with oils. And we use oils all the time to clean: It's in soaps and cold cream, after all. You can cleanse your face with moisturizer and a cotton ball. Why not your hair, too? I decided to give it a try, and was I ever surprised ...


My first impression after blow-drying my hair, post-wash: Whose hair is this?!? It felt so much lighter and fuller! Maybe it's because I used a silicone-free conditioner (more on that below), so it didn't feel weighted down by glop like it usually does. But the conditioner-only wash did seem to breathe new life into my hair.

That isn't to say my hair was perfect. It felt a little on the dry side, so I worked in a little silicone-free hair oil and that gave my hair just the right amount of softness. But I'm going to keep going with the "co-only" wash for the next month or two and see how it goes. Who knows, this may be the new normal for me.

Curious about trying this out yourself? Here's everything you need to know.

Is it for you? I have coarse, wavy, thirsty hair. It never looks greasy, even when I wash it only once a week. So this definitely works for me. On the other hand, if you have thin or fine hair, this might not be the right thing for you. But who knows -- give it a try and see how it goes. Your hair may just need to adjust to the new routine.

What you need? A silicone-free conditioner. Silicone is a lovely substance that coats your hair and makes it feel silky ... but it can build up in your hair. That's why you want to avoid it for this particular technique. XO Vain recommends avoiding a protein-based conditioner as well, since that can lead to breakage.

How do you know if your conditioner has silicone? Check the ingredients list for anything ending in the letters -cone. Foodie With Family blogger Rebecca Lindamood, who also tried it, says anything in the Suave Naturals line will work. I used Kiss My Face Miss Treated conditioner after reading the ingredients label ever so carefully about four times.

How to do the conditioner-only wash:

1. Soak your hair thoroughly in the shower.

2. Work a dollop of conditioner into your scalp, only. Scrub your scalp.

3. Work more conditioner through the rest of your hair until you coat it all. Use more than you normally would, and maybe even comb it through for even distribution.

4. Cover your hair with a shower cap or pile it on top of your head so it stays out of the water while you wash, shave, whatever else you do in the shower.

5. Get a little water into your hair and scrub your scalp again. Then rinse all the conditioner out. Style as you normally would.

You may want to still wash your hair once a week or every two weeks with regular shampoo, just to get rid of any possible buildup.

And that's it! Results may vary and it takes some adjustment for some heads, so give it a couple tries before you decide it's not for you. Who knows, this could be the new seasonal beauty lift you've been looking for.

Have you heard of co-washing before? Do you think it would work for you?


Image ©iStock.com/4FR

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