What Is Co-washing, Anyway?
You may have heard of co-washing, but what is it? Why is everyone talking about it? And—most importantly—should you be doing it, too?
Co-washing is the act of washing your hair solely with conditioner or a cleanser that has more moisturizing ingredients and no harsh foaming agents or sulfates. If your hair is curly, coily, textured or very dry, there’s a good chance you could benefit from incorporating co-washing in your haircare routine.
Many shampoos are formulated to include sulfates—detergents that thoroughly clean hair but can also strip natural oils and moisture from the strands, leaving them dry and more prone to breakage. By cutting down on the use of shampoo via a co-washing regime, your hair is able to maintain its natural moisture levels so it can grow healthier and more resilient. However, co-washing isn’t just about skipping shampoo and applying conditioner as you normally would; it assumes you will use your conditioner in place of your shampoo.
How to find your perfect co-wash
If you’re eager to give it a ‘co’, you’ll need to find the right product for your needs. Your current favorite conditioner may be fine, but you’ll want to make sure it doesn’t contain silicones. Silicones are added to many conditioners because they add shine, but that effect is temporary and artificial. Over time, silicone builds up a waxy coating on your hair and can make it feel heavy, dull and lackluster.
Ingredients that really benefit your tresses include emollients, proteins, humectants and moisturizers. Emollients like shea butter, argan oil, castor oil, coconut oil and more help to soften and smooth the cuticle and reduce frizz. Proteins include ingredients like almond milk, wheat, wheatgerm, and soy, all of which coat the hair shaft to protect it and add natural volume with no buildup. Humectants like honey, maple syrup, panthenol and vegetable glycerin absorb moisture and lock in hydration. Finally, moisturizers include elements like amino acids, jojoba oil and aloe vera to add extra softness and shine.
Power Conditioner for example, has a protein-packed formula made with sweet potatoes, maple syrup and ethyl macadamiate to strengthen and volumize curls and coils. If you prefer something more oil-based, Glory is a rich, thick and nourishing conditioner made with castor oil, coconut cream and okra gel—an ingredient rich in magnesium which volumizes and adds much-needed slip. Finally, Happy Happy Joy Joy is a gentle and nourishing choice with almond milk, glycerin and jojoba oil.
How to use Co-Wash
Once you’ve found a conditioner you’re happy with, it’s time to co. Wet hair, then take a small amount of conditioner (about a teaspoon) and massage your entire scalp, using your fingertips to rub gently, just like you do when shampooing. The conditioner coupled with the friction of your fingertips will loosen any dirt and residue on your scalp without stripping away naturally beneficial oils.
Next, take your usual amount of conditioner and spread it along the mid-point to the ends of your hair, avoiding your freshly-washed scalp. Once applied, you can gently detangle with fingers or a wide-toothed comb. If your hair is particularly coarse or curly, you might want to try very lightly rinsing the conditioner out while leaving some in, so your hair is still coated with a light film that allows it to hold on to extra hydration throughout the day. As always, play around and see what works best for your hair.
Do I need a clarifying shampoo?
Depending on the styling products you use and how often you’re co-washing, you might find that you still get a bit of product buildup. If that’s the case, we recommend that you cleanse hair with a clarifying shampoo like Rehab as necessary (usually about once every three weeks). Many devotees of co-washing have eschewed shampoo permanently, which has also allowed them to exclude many styling products from their routine, which eliminates the problem of buildup altogether.
Not ready to completely swear off shampoo? We get it, so we created something that’s the best of both worlds: our solid Co-Washes: Avocado, Coconut, Mango and Banana. Avocado Co-Wash is available in-store and online, while the other three are currently in-store exclusives. Contact your local Lush to see if they carry these nourishing bars.
All four are a reformulated version of previous solid Co-Washes which have eliminated SLS and other foaming agents, making them great for gently cleansing dry, curly, coily and textured hair. Each contains real, fresh and nourishing ingredients like hydrating avocado, softening mango butter, moisturizing coconut cream and strengthening fresh banana—all of which help different hair types look and feel their best.
How to style co-washed hair
When it comes to styling or maintaining in between washes, these complementary products can help maintain your curls, coils and textured hair fresh, moisturized and shiny.
Seal in moisture and give curls definition and bounce with Curl Power. The name says it all; this hydrating, defining curl cream is made with a rich blend of cocoa butter, along with argan, coconut and jojoba oils to seal in moisture—and give coils and textured hair added bounce and hold. If you prefer something lighter, try Super Milk. This leave-in conditioner adds a touch of shine while soothing dry scalps. It's made with a dairy-free blend of almond, coconut and oat milks, plus lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil to nourish and protect.