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You’ve likely already heard about cleansing conditioners or the term co-washing—it’s not a new concept in the beauty world. The basic premise: Using a cleansing conditioner to wash your hair, rather than traditional shampoo, is gentler and more hydrating for your strands. When you co-wash, that cleansing conditioner does the job of both shampoo and conditioner in one fell swoop, removing excess dirt and oil while also smoothing and softening your hair. The gentler part of things comes into play because cleansing conditioners don’t contain sulfates, the detergents found in some shampoos, which can admittedly be harsh and stripping. And that’s exactly why co-washing first became a thing for those with curly and natural hair, given that those textures are more prone to dryness and frizz. As we said, this is all kind of old news, but what is new and noteworthy is the increased popularity in co-washing for all other hair types and textures.
So if you’re on the hunt for the best cleansing conditioner that’s right for your mane, look no further than these standouts.
Per our point about co-washing being an effective option for all hair types, this formula does, in fact, work well on everything from super straight strands to kinky curls. It’s also safe for color- and/or chemically-treated tresses, and may even help your hair dry faster afterward. Rather than using sulfates or soaps, it relies on cationic cleansers that work like magnets to remove dirt, oil, and other unwanted grime. Science is so cool.
Generally speaking, most cleansing conditioners don’t really lather, so if you’re craving some suds, reach for this option. The foam cleanses while also delivering a laundry list of good-for-your hair ingredients, think softening argan oil, antioxidant-rich green tea, and even a thermal polymer to ward off heat styling-induced damaged. And the added bonus of the foam formula? It’s super weightless, especially ideal if you have finer hair that’s easily weighed down.
A must for curly girls, there’s a good reason why this OG is such a long-time cult favorite (and the brand’s best-selling cleanser). No matter your particular curl pattern, this will both keep your curls clean and nice and shiny and bouncy. Credit a combo of hydrating peppermint and grapeseed oils, along with glycerin, plus wheat amino acids for strengthening benefits. Like with any cleansing conditioner, you’ll want to work it in both at your roots and scalp, as well as through the mid-lengths and ends of your hair.
Think of this as a deep conditioner that transforms into a cleanser. Sulfate-, paraben-, and silicone-free, it moisturizes and adds mirror-like shine, while also cleaning your hair and scalp without drying them out. Oh, and did we mention it costs less than most lunches? FYI, for the best results, let it sit on the hair for three to five minutes.
No matter whether your natural texture is wavy, a little curly, or crazy coiled, this is a great option. Three different oils—coconut, marula, and olive—work in tandem to add plenty of moisture, shine, and softness to your natural curl pattern, while also warding off frizz.
The harsh detergents found in many traditional shampoos can not only take a toll on the health of your hair, but they can also a number on your color, stripping out the dye molecules much faster than you’d like. That’s why cleansing conditioners are such a great solution for anyone who colors their hair; we’re especially partial to this one. Along with the fact that it’s clinically-proven to extend color vibrancy (NBD), it also has a special blend of proteins that help to strengthen. And that’s super important, given that the coloring process damages many of the amino acids and protein naturally found in your hair.
The stars of the show here are grapeseed oil and an oat peptide, which work synergistically to moisturize even super dry hair. The oil hydrates (obviously), but is also rich in protective vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. The oat peptide piggy-backs off of that, forming a protective barrier on the outermost layer of the hair that locks in the moisture and all those protective benefits from the oil. The result? Super smooth, super soft strands.
The Wen cleansing conditioners may be some of the best known out there, not to mention that the line offers a ton of variety. For finer textures, we’re partial to this option, the lightest formula of them all. It uses aloe to moisturize without weighing down hair, and also contains witch hazel to help clarify the scalp. A boon for those with fine hair, which also tend to be prone to having oilier scalps.
This low-lather, extra-gentle formula is packed with argan oil to add plenty of softness and strengthen hair against potential damage. While this line was formulated for African-American and textured hair, it can be used on any thicker or coarser strands; try replacing your standard shampoo and conditioner with this one-step option every other time you wash.
Some may say this is a shampoo, but we think it can also fall into the co-wash category, given that it’s sulfate-free and uber-hydrating. The formula is also free of many questionable chemicals, instead using plenty of natural and certified organic ingredients.
Believe it, you can use a co-wash even if you have straight hair. Try this guy, which has the added benefit of being made from 98% natural ingredients. It relies on coconut-derived cleansing ingredients to remove unwanted gunk and grime, has mongongo oil for hydration and shine, but doesn’t leave behind any residue or build-up, the last thing you want if you have straight hair.