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The Co-Wash Myth: Revealing the Dirty Truth

My own attempted to go natural was a year of transitioning or more like procrastinating to cut my relaxed hair off. While I was researching how to take care of my dual-textured hair, I came across the method of co-washing. This method is where one will “wash” their hair with conditioner instead of shampoo. This would prevent the natural hair oils from being removed or stripped by the detergents commonly found in shampoos. This seems like a great idea, but used continuously the myth of co-washing can reveal the dirty truth.

Conditioners can contain many components including humectants, glossifiers, lubricants, reconstructors, surfactants, oils, thermal protectants, acidifiers, sequestrants, antistatic agents, among other ingredients. Shampoos have ammonium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, and sodium dodecyl sulfate. The chemicals listed in shampoos are essential for dirt removal because they surround oil and dirt by forming micelles that bind to the dirt molecules and allow water to rinse them away. This is seen in the scenario of a greasy pot of water that won’t clean itself unless you add dish detergent. This is the oil-removing power of micelles. Water alone cannot remove dirt, oil, or product from the hair and scalp and using conditioner only adds to the problem.

Another scenario is your skin. If you showered with lotion, and every day you applied more lotion and oil and after one week you showered with lotion and water, yes your skin would be soft, but your pores would become clogged, you would develop acne, and your skin may start to feel slimy. You wouldn’t do this to your body and face, why do this to your hair and scalp.

If you continue with the method of co-washing, I advise you wash the hair with shampoo at the least every 2 weeks. Otherwise, you risk product build-up which can create a coat impenetrable to water, causing dryness and breakage.