Conditioner to wash your hair? Yes, it’s a thing. And it’s good for you!

“Co-wash” is short for using conditioner to wash your hair, between regular washes. Co-washing ingrovides something similar to second-day hair, which is softer and easier to manage and style than if it was perfectly squeaky-clean. It also allows your hair to maintain natural moisture levels.

Co-washing is not really new, people have been washing their hair with conditioner on their own, for years.

Conditioners, either by their composition or by design, have a gentle cleansing effect while conditioning the hair. Most conditioners contain a certain amount of cationic surfactants (detergents) which, when mixed with water, separate dirt and oil particles from the hair and let them rinse away, giving unshampooed hair a fresh, but not overly stripped feeling of clean. Some common types of surfactants found in quality conditioner’s, such as Davines’ Essential Haircare lines, are cetrimonium chloride and behentrimonium chloride.

Curly and wavy hair naturally tend to be drier than straight hair. The curvy nature of this hair type makes it harder for the natural oils created by the scalp to move down the hair as it twists and curls, leaving it dry. See our previous post on curly hair. If your hair is naturally dry or wavy, chances are that you’ll benefit from co-washing.  Colour-processed hair is also a perfect candidate for co-washing, as it allows it to go longer between colour services at the salon.

However, if your hair is fine and straight, it could get weighed down, and people with oily scalps or dermatitis should continue with their regular shampoo and conditioner.

How to co-wash

  1. Wet your hair thoroughly. The water will help in the cleansing process and permit even distribution of the conditioner.
  1. Use a good amount of conditioner. For this, you should use more than you are accustomed to, as you want to ensure you completely cover your hair from root to tip.
  1. Next, time to rinse, dry, and style as usual. As you progress with co-washing, you may want to adjust your styling habits and products to account for your new washing routine.

Depending on the styling products you use and how often you co-wash, you might find that you get a bit of product build-up. If that’s the case, it’s time for a regular shampoo.

Buildup over time from sweat, styling products, and conditioner is to be expected. Experiment with how frequently to wash and co-wash, based on the needs of your hair. If your hair still feels too weighed down, alternate more frequently between co-washing and shampooing. Check out our post on how often you should wash your hair.

Now it’s your turn to try this unconventional and more gentle way to shampoo your hair!


Conditioner to wash your hair? Yes, it’s a thing. And it’s good for you!