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Co-washing for coarse, curly, or wavy hair

Washing your hair…without shampoo? If you have extremely dry, wavy or curly hair, you know that washing your hair without shampoo isn’t crazy talk. In fact, it even has a name: co-washing. And no, co-washing is not some weird group showering activity--the “co” stands for conditioner. It simply means washing your hair with conditioner, and nothing else. 

Also known affectionately as the “No ‘Poo” method, co-washing is a lifesaver for people with extremely dry hair. Shampooing very dry hair can leave your hair frizzy and straw like, and it can leave your scalp itchy. 

You want to cleanse your hair because you’re due for a wash, but shampoo robs you of your natural oils. But you can’t just neglect washing your hair entirely because, well, that’s just gross. The solution: No ‘Poo.

What is co-washing?

Washing your hair with conditioner only makes all the sense in the world for people with coarse, dry, curly, or wavy hair. Your scalp produces natural oils, called sebum, that build up over time and eventually show up as grease. For people with straight hair and not much density, these oils become apparent quickly, making the hair appear greasy. 

On the other hand, if you have curly or coarse hair, those natural oils are scarce, and you can’t afford to strip them. For people with this hair type, overwashing will lead to dry, frizzy hair, an itchy scalp, and dandruff. 

Shampoo contains a cleaning agent called surfactants. Conditioners don’t have surfactants, and thus, they leave your natural oils alone. Not only do they retain your natural oils, they introduce more beneficial moisturizers. The act of rinsing your hair with water gently cleanses it. 

Can I co-wash with any conditioner?

Yes, you can use any conditioner for co-washing, but you’ll eventually have to wash your hair with shampoo. You won’t have to wash with shampoo very often, though.

Most online co-washing guides tell you to use a specific co-washing product. They recommend a conditioner that contains a mild surfactant so you can skip shampoo altogether. (This product is not the same as a 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner, which creates a lot of suds.) But if you prefer natural hair products, then you can easily co-wash and alternate with regular shampoo & conditioner washes. 

For co-washing, we recommend Jack59 conditioner bars. They’re a great option as they contain vitamin C that boosts collagen and amino acids for elasticity. Because conditioner doesn’t lather, it can be hard to distribute it properly all throughout your hair. Conditioner bars are particularly good for co-washing because they’re easy to apply. Just rub them all over the surface of your wet hair, and use your fingers to work it in. 

For an all-natural shampoo that won’t undo the hard work of your conditioner, try the Jack59 energize shampoo bar. Argan oil hydrates and softens your hair, and rice protein improves hair strength. When alternating regular washes with co-washing, we don’t recommend generic shampoo brands. Generic brands contain abrasive ingredients, like SLS, triclosan, sodium chloride, and more, that strip your natural oils. 

To further distribute the conditioner throughout your hair, try one of the Jack59 silicone scalp massagers. Not only do these feel great on your scalp, but they evenly distribute all the conditioner where it needs to go. They also stimulate hair follicles, promoting hair growth.

For other natural ways to deal with dry scalp and dandruff, you can try an apple cider vinegar rinse. The Wild Jasmine herbal hair rinse helps with dry scalp and dandruff by restoring your scalp’s natural pH level. It also removes product buildup for a mild cleanse if you want to avoid shampoo altogether. To use, just place 1-4 tablespoons into a spray bottle, followed by 8 oz of water. Spray through your hair as needed, and work it in with your hands before rinsing. 

Is co-washing recommended for people with straight, low density hair?

Normally, people with straight, low density hair don’t need to co-wash. Curly hair definitely needs more natural oils to look healthy and lively. But that doesn’t mean that you won’t benefit from co-washing if you don’t match this curly profile. If you have a dry scalp and feel that you can benefit from using conditioner alone, go for it!

Is natural conditioner better for co-washing?

Regular conditioners contain many of the same ingredients found in generic shampoos. Not only are these toxins harmful to our health, but they’re more drying than natural conditioners.  Natural conditioners contain fewer, more natural ingredients, like shea butter, coconut oil, and argan oil. These naturally hydrating ingredients maximize co-washing. The whole point of co-washing is to keep the scalp from drying out, so natural conditioner is the clear choice. 

How to co-wash in 4 steps

  1. Wet your hair well, and turn off the water. Turning off your shower head saves water in between time-intensive lathering and product distribution.
  2. Grab your conditioner bar, and rub it all over your wet hair. When you feel that you’ve covered every surface, put your conditioner bar aside and distribute the product into your hair. Gently massage the product into your hair and scalp with your fingers. 
  3. At this point, you can choose to let the conditioner sit in your hair for 5 minutes. You might want to have your phone nearby so you can kill some time and hang out in the tub. If you need help getting the conditioner into your hair, use a silicone scalp massager to help you along. 
  4. Rinse your hair very well. Try not to let any conditioner stay behind, or your hair will appear very greasy. 

How often should I co-wash?

If you choose to use natural conditioner and shampoo bars, you’ll want to alternate co-washing and regular washing. 

If your hair is wavy or curly, you’ll want to wash with shampoo about a week or two after co-washing. If your hair is extra curly or you have 4C hair, you can get away with regular washing once a month. 

Embrace your natural oils

Washing with shampoo on a regular basis might not be for everyone, and oil is not bad. Many people feel that co-washing has improved the look and shine of their hair. Everyone has different skin and hair, so do what feels right for you!

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