Cleansing Hair with Conditioner Only Wash | CO-Washing Your Hair


Wondering what it means when you read about CO, or CO-washing your hair?

It means Conditioner Only, and it is a method of cleansing your hair in such a way as to retain and impart as much moisture as possible.

The truth is that you don’t need to wash your hair daily, and you don’t need to use harsh cleansers and surfactants (which most shampoos are made up of) to sufficiently clean your scalp and hair. In fact, daily washing with shampoos containing sulfates can be very drying and actually damage your hair. Another consideration – many people are actually allergic to sulfates, the cleansing ingredient in many shampoos, and don’t know it. If you have an itchy or sore scalp after a wash, or shedding unrelated to other causes, you may very well have an allergy to sulfates.

So what is CO-washing, who should do it, and how do you do it?

CO-washing is for people who have sensitive scalps and suspect an allergy to the sulfates in shampoo, for people with extremely dry and fragile hair, and for people who are looking to grow their hair long.

CO, Conditioner Only washing requires a lot of conditioner, so many people choose to use brands like Suave, White Rain, and VO5, because they are light, most of them are silicone free and they are inexpensive. You may like to use a thicker, richer conditioner for the ends of your hair and for a deep condition once per week in addition to your CO conditioner. You might also like to try the Wen haircare system, which uses a “cleansing conditioner”.

Here’s how to CO:

1. Wet your hair with cool to lukewarm water.

2. Apply a generous amount (a big handful) of a light, moisturizing conditioner to your scalp and work it in gently and down your length. Use more if necessary to ensure that all of your hair is coated, with your scalp being the most saturated. Let this sit for about five to ten minutes (go about your other shower duties while waiting).

3. Gently massage your scalp, and if you’d like, apply a thicker, richer conditioner to your ends at this time.

4. Rinse with cool water, gently pat hair dry.

The results of CO-washing will be a clean scalp and soft, moisturized hair.

Tip: You will probably want to wash with shampoo anywhere from once per week to once per month (or even less frequently) depending on the amount of buildup you experience, which varies with hair type and the conditioner you use. If you use a conditioner with silicones or a thicker conditioner you may experience buildup more quickly. If you do suspect a sulfate allergy, find a shampoo with no sulfates, such as Back to Basics, Aubrey Organics, Kiss My Face, or Organix.

Word to the wise: It will likely take your hair and scalp a bit of time (anywhere from two weeks to a month) to adjust to not being stripped by shampoo on a daily basis and adjust it’s production of sebum accordingly. Because of this you may experience “the greasies” or limp, flat hair, during this time. Then again, some people’s hair takes to CO-ing right away. But if you do experience some bad hair days during the first few weeks of trying CO-washing, I suggest you stick it out and give it a fair shot. Remember that up-do’s are protective, help to grow your hair long, look great, and hide the greasies well.

Wait…what else is there?