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Co-washing: The trick to manage curly & textured hair like a pro

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With changes in the climate, your hair needs a fresh method to tackle damage. The tricky part is every hair concern has a different missing requirement. This is why you must adopt a change in managing your hair once in a while. Here’s introducing a new method to wash your hair- Co-washing. Co-washing is a method that you can adopt on those days when your hair doesn’t need much cleansing but an extra dose of moisture. Let us break down all the details that you need to know before opting for co-washing.

What is Co-washing and what are its benefits?

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Co-washing is a ritual of washing your hair with only conditioner. It is also known as ‘conditioner-only washing’ and skips the shampoo part completely. This can hugely benefit you if you have textured, curly or dry hair since we all know conditioners are formulated to add moisture to your hair which eventually brings that healthy shine to your locks. Let’s look at a few benefits of co-washing:

1. Gentle cleanser

When we face hair fall and frizz, it is generally because of the negative charge present on our scalp that lifts the hair from the hair cuticle. Conditioners, hair masks, and co-wash products have cationic surfactants which are positively charged. They neutralise the negative charge present on our scalp to reduce frizz and improve hair strength while gently cleansing our scalp. Some of the common cationic surfactants that you may spot in the ingredient list are Cetrimonium Chloride, Behentrimonium Methosulfate, and Stearamidopropyl Dimethylamine.

    2. Retain moisture

    Co-washing is with products like hair masks, conditioners, and co-washes that are rich in conditioning properties. Our hair is conditioned when we introduce and retain moisture in it. Moisture is an important part of scalp health since it helps in maintaining the protective barrier on our scalp. When the barrier breaks, it makes our scalp itchy and inflamed. The way to a healthy scalp and hair is moisture.

    3. Strengthen hair follicles

    Our hair protein - keratin, needs moisture to maintain the structure and improve elasticity. Conditioners and hair masks are generally dense with moisturising properties that can smoothen the hair structure by introducing moisture in it. So in totality, co-washing products give you healthy and shiny hair locks.

    What is the difference between co-washing and regular hair wash?

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    To give you a clearer picture of how co-washing differs from the regular method of washing our hair which is shampoo first and then conditioner, here are a couple of pointers to know:

    1. Cleansing strength

    With co-washing, the conditioner can only remove dirt and oil from your hair strands. With a regular hair wash, shampoo can remove dirt, dead skin, pollutants, product buildup, and oil from your scalp and hair. If it has a harsh cleansing agent then shampoo can even strip off the natural oil from your scalp.

    2. Hair concern that it addresses

    What is the hair concern that you have currently? If it is frizz, texture, and dryness, then you must opt for co-washing this time. If it is dirty scalp and greasiness then you must opt for a regular hair wash.

    How to co-wash?

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    Now that we know what is co-washing, let’s understand how to do this. Here are the steps that you must follow-

    Step 1:

    Soak your hair with water (and by water, we mean lots of water).

    Conditioning your hair needs a lot of water so make sure you’ve soaked them enough to loosen up all the dirt on your scalp.

    Step 2 :

    Now that your hair is soaked, apply some conditioner. There’s no fixed amount that one can recommend to use conditioner since it depends on the texture, length, and volume of your hair. But make sure it is enough to coat your hair from the scalp to the end. Be gentle while applying since your hair is soaked and vulnerable at the moment.

    Step 3 :

    Massage all that conditioner right in your scalp. This will help you loosen all the debris, gunk on your scalp to make it easy to cleanse. Make sure you’re not rubbing and scratching your scalp and hair. Like we said earlier, your hair is vulnerable at the moment so try being as gentle as possible. Also, we don’t know who needs to hear this but massaging happens with fingertips and not nails!

    Step 4:

    After letting the conditioner sit for at least 5 minutes, you can wash it off. You can now apply a second round of conditioner from your roots to your mid-shaft. The second round is more to focus on your hair than cleansing your scalp. Let it sit for 3-5 minutes to work its magic.

    Step 5:

    Rinse it thoroughly to ensure there is no product buildup. And this is the right time to detangle your hair while water is running through it. Detangle gently with your fingers while rinsing your hair. Many individuals do this step only halfway since they don’t know how much rinsing is enough rinsing to wash off all the conditioner. The trick is that you keep watching the water that runs through your hair. When the water hits the ground, are the bubbles in the water bursting immediately? If not then there is still product left in your hair. You’re welcome!

    How often can you co-wash?

    It depends on multiple factors like the environment you’re staying in, scalp nature- oily or dry, your lifestyle. If you stay in a humid or hot environment, then your scalp may get oily sooner. This also means that your scalp may get dirty sooner. Basically, the oilier the scalp, the more the chances of dirt building up. The same is with your lifestyle, if you’re an active person then your scalp may get oily and dirty sooner. In this case, you need to cleanse with a mild shampoo and not just rely on co-washing. So an ideal frequency to co-wash for such individuals would be once after 5-6 regular hair washes. A shampoo that we’d recommend for such individuals is Faith In Nature Aloe Vera Shampoo that soothes and rejuvenates your scalp health to give you a clean scalp.

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    For those with a sedentary lifestyle or who have a dry scalp and stay in a cold or dry environment, your hair needs hydration. So a good frequency to co-wash would be once after every 4-5 regular hair washes.

    Who can co-wash?

    It is mainly for those with dry, coarse, curly, and textured hair. It also depends on your scalp type and if you have a scalp condition. In case of any scalp medical condition, you must consult a dermatologist before opting for co-washing. Co-washing introduces moisture to your scalp and so it may turn greasy sooner. In case of scalp conditions, your scalp will only turn more inflamed and greasy if you co-wash. The inflammation is because the yeast and bacteria on your scalp feed on the oil and dirt that your scalp has. You must not co-wash frequently if you have fine or highly porous hair since your hair needs some solid repairing before trying a new hair wash method.

    Co-washing can be adopted once in a while for those with curly hair especially since moisture can make your curls more manageable but don’t overdo it since it can compromise your scalp health. Think of co-washing as a caveat to your hair, you don’t need to overdo it!

    What are the mistakes you should avoid while co-washing?

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    Co-washing is pretty simple to do but there are mistakes one may make without being aware of them- 

    1. Not using enough

    It is important that you use just enough to cover all your hair from the scalp to the tip. In co-washing, since this is the only product you’re using to cleanse and condition your hair, you need to generously apply conditioner evenly. Don’t overdo it either. Also, make sure to massage your scalp with your fingertips to get rid of the dirt.

    2. Co-washing after oiling your hair

    Conditioners are meant to nourish your hair strands and shampoos are meant to cleanse your scalp thoroughly. Since you’re skipping shampoo in the co-washing process, you need to make sure that your scalp doesn’t desperately need cleansing. In other words, when your hair is oiled or your scalp is dirty, you don’t just need nourishment but also deep cleansing. So pick the right time to co-wash.

    3. Not washing thoroughly

    It is so important to rinse your hair thoroughly after co-washing because conditioners and hair masks take time to be washed off. If you don’t rinse well then there are chances that there will be product buildup which makes the scalp very inflamed and irritated. Follow the mentioned co-washing method step-by-step to ensure that you’re doing this right.

    4. Co-washing almost every time

    As we mentioned earlier, co-washing is a process that nourishes your hair rather than cleanses it. Your scalp needs cleansing first to ensure that there is no barrier that stops all that nourishing juice to be slurped by your scalp. So adopt co-washing more as a quick fix when your hair is clean. Co-washing a dirty scalp will make no sense to your scalp and will only invite more hair trouble.

    What are the best products to co-wash with?

    Be picky with the products with cationic surfactants that you’re applying to your mane for co-washing since co-washing is with a single product that needs to both cleanse and nourish your hair. You can pick a conditioner or hair mask based on two criteria - your scalp and hair type. Let’s look at a few options according to the scalp and hair type:

    1. Dry scalp and frizzy hair

    Your dry scalp needs nourishment and they are frizzy because of lack of it. Chances are also that your hair is frizzy because of humidity around along with a lack of moisture to your scalp. Add a hair mask instead of a conditioner while co-washing since your scalp needs moisture to weigh down and strengthen your hair.

      Sublime recommends Manetain Co-Wash that has Argan, Jojoba, Grapeseed, Hibiscus, and Vitamin E whilst the Neem, Peppermint, Tea tree, and Rosemary. All of this nourishes and gently cleanses your scalp. This co-wash also contains Cetrimonium Chloride which is a cationic surfactant commonly found in rich hair masks, conditioners, and co-washes to tame the frizz.

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      2. Healthy scalp and healthy hair

      For individuals in this bucket, you must opt for co-washing on those days when you make sudden plans and your hair just needs that extra oomph to enhance the look. Co-washing will also help you keep up with your moisture levels in between your regular wash days.

      Sublime recommends, Maui Moisture Thicken & Restore + Bamboo Fibers Combo this is a perfect combo for those with healthy hair. On days you need to co-wash, you can pick just the conditioner that has exotic bamboo fibers, rich castor oil, and lush neem oil to renew and maintain your mane’s health. It is also a perfect match for those with chemically treated hair.

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      3. Itchy scalp and curly hair

      When your scalp is inflamed due to dirt, environment, product buildup, etc. At the same time, managing curls needs a different approach to keep them healthy. First, you need to ensure that you’re thoroughly cleansing your scalp before trying co-washing. Secondly, while co-washing make sure you pick a dense moisturising hair mask.

        Sublime recommends, True Frog Deep Conditioning Mask that has Apple, Lemon, and Tamarind Extracts to cleanse, Tucuma butter to deeply nourish, and Quinoa protein to strengthen your hair.

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        4. Itchy scalp and damaged hair

        An itchy/damaged scalp correlates to damaged hair. You need to ensure that your scalp is clean before you opt for co-washing. For individuals with damaged hair, it is recommended to consult a dermatologist before opting for co-washing. However, on occasions you believe your scalp is clean and needs moisture, you can pick an intense repair and hydrating hair mask instead of a conditioner to co-wash.

          Sublime recommends, Flawsome Dense Intense Exfoliating & Deep Cleansing Hair Mask that has Kaolin Extract, Acai Seed Powder & Activated Charcoal to gently cleanse and Shea butter, Argan oil & Coconut oil to nourish your scalp. Makes it perfect for an itchy scalp that needs both cleansing and nourishment, equally.

          This is an image of Flawsome Dense Intense Exfoliating & Deep Cleansing Hair Mask on


          Co-washing is a method of washing your hair wherein you skip the shampoo and use just the conditioner. This is a method that one must opt for when your hair needs just extra moisture. The key point to remember is using the right amount of conditioner and washing it off thoroughly to avoid product buildup and inflaming your scalp. Make sure you are doing this right because your hair is your crown and you have to maintain it!

          - Divya Salvi

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