If you have curly hair that needs tons of extra moisture and tends to get stripped by normal shampoos, you might want to consider washing your hair with conditioner instead. Co-washing, or conditioner washing, is a good cleansing alternative to harsh shampoos because it cleans hair while maintaining all those important natural oils to keep hair hydrated. But you need to do it correctly to gain the most benefits while also maintaining the health of your hair.
There's no need to stay away from co-washing as long as you do it right. So try to avoid these mistakes.
Exclusively Co-washing After Using Oil-Heavy Products
Co-washing works best if you stick to lightweight products that don't include heavy oils as part of their makeup. It's tough to completely wash away petroleum-based products without a foaming agent like sodium lauryl or, preferably, sodium laureth sulfate (found in traditional shampoos). Your hair may feel clean for a while if you only co-wash while using these products, but over time, the buildup will get worse. If you're committed to co-washing, use more water-based products that are easier to wash away without the need for drying suds.
Co-Washing With a Heavy Product
In order to clean your hair without making it greasy or weighed down, it's important to look for a light conditioner or a conditioner made for co-washing like the R+Co Analog Cleansing Foam Conditioner ($32). Thinner conditioners tend to work better than their thick and rich counterparts, especially if buildup gets to be a problem. Don't trash that heavy conditioner, however; simply save it for those times you use shampoo and need an after-cleansing treat.
Ignoring Your Scalp
While one of the main purposes of conditioner washing is to provide a gentle cleansing method for your hair, don't forget about your scalp. It's important to rub your scalp thoroughly to loosen and remove dirt, grime, and buildup. Whether you alternate co-washes with shampoos or you only co-wash, spend a little more time rubbing your scalp than you do on your hair. Remember: good hair growth begins with a clean and healthy scalp, so make that the focus of each cleansing session.
Not Detangling Thoroughly
There's little point in cleansing your hair if you do an incomplete job of it. Part of cleansing and conditioning is detangling. Your hair products work much better and deliver more even results when they reach all of your strands. Tangled hair will not only look less than stellar in its final style, it won't get all the benefits of the products you put on it. Hair that's saturated with conditioner is in prime detangling condition, whether you use your fingers, a comb, or detangling brush.
Using Ingredients That Don't Work for Your Hair
Even the best ingredients don't work the same across all heads of hair. If you find your conditioner isn't delivering the results you want, look at what's in it. You might be able to easily identify the ingredient your hair doesn't like; other times, it may be near impossible. Bottom line: if the product isn't working for you, move on to something that does.
Not Rinsing Completely
Some women purposely don't rinse all of their conditioner out to keep it hydrated throughout the day, but if this isn't for you, be sure and thoroughly rinse after your co-wash. Otherwise, you run the risk of buildup. Also, some conditioners leave a filmy mask if not rinsed well and this can interfere with styling products. Your water should run clear, but you should still have a good amount of slip on your hair.