Finding Your Fall Rhythm

'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?


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nonmember avatar Beans

Black women with natural hair (meaning no relaxers or other chemicals) have been doing this for years. A lot of women I know (black, white, Asian, otherwise) who are sensitive to the chemicals in shampoos have been doing this for a while as well. Hardly new.

nonmember avatar RockinMomma

Co wash is definitely not for people with bone straight thin type hair. The point of it is for moisture and sealing it into your hair. I love it and to cleanse my scalp better and get dirt out I use a bit of Apple cider vinegar.

Gamer... Gamer_mom1

I've mistakenly used conditioner and not shampoo before and I just looked greasy

nonmember avatar Jenn

So NOT new! I've been doing this for a couple years!

balan... balancing-act

Been using Wen cleaning conditioner for about 2 years and I'll never go back to shampoo. I'm Caucasian but have very course dry frizzy hair. Works great for me! Only time shampoo touches my head is for my haircuts every 2-3 months. I also use the styling cream that comes with it and condition with coconut oil once a month.

Prett... PrettyWings29

I use a baking soda/water mixture first, then apple cider vinegar to balance the pH. 

Sucro... SucroseMonkey

I do this all the time, never knew it was a trend/new/etc.  I have bone straight hair but it's quite thick.  If I used shampoo each time I got my hair wet I would have cracks in my scalp and bleeding from the drying out of my skin and my hair would get brittle and straw like.  

nonmember avatar BostonBob

My wife has been doing this for years too. She has very thick, slightly wavy, shoulder-length hair. It can get dry.

Conditioner only helps it stay soft and luxurious. (I love her hair).

nonmember avatar Ashley

I've done this for years! It really works with my dry hair. (: for once I don't feel weird about not "washing" my hair.

lizzig lizzig

never heard of it but may have my daughter give it a try.  she has really thick, wavy hair, that looks so frizzy all the time.  this may make it look smoother without her having to use a straight iron.

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