Browse the internet forums in the natural hair community and you’ll likely see the term “cowash” when someone is referring to their wash day routine, but what is a cowash?
This post is for you if you’ve been looking for something to take the hassle out of your wash day while still removing dirt and sweat.
A Gentle Way To Cleanse
If you’re someone who sweats a lot (like I do… don’t even get me started on that one) or work around a lot of dirt and dust and you feel you need to get the gunk off on a daily basis, then this may be a good option for you.
Cowashing is the term used when someone washes their hair with conditioner instead of shampoo or other sudsy cleansing product.
That’s right, you’re putting conditioner on your scalp… but wouldn’t that cause buildup?
That’s the same question I had when I first heard about people using conditioner to cleanse their hair and it’s a valid question because we always hear, “You should never put conditioner on your scalp” or my personal favorite, “Washing your hair with conditioner is like washing dirty laundry in fabric softener.”
It seems that your hair porosity plays a big part in whether or not you have a good experience with cowashing. Based on the comments of various blogs and comments in forums I’ve read, it seems that naturals with low porosity hair are more likely to get product buildup sooner than a natural with high porosity hair.
Moisture Has Arrived!
If you find your hair feeling parched mid-week then cowashing is an excellent way to really hydrate your coils. Conditioner’s main purpose is to add moisture, unless you’re using a protein based conditioner for strength.
I will say that if you’ve been cowashing for a while and you find your hair is getting crispier, you may be applying a conditioner that contains high amounts of protein and you’ll want to check the label for anything that says the following:
For hi-po naturals, this is probably a welcome thing, but if you have low porosity hair, you may wanna ease up on the protein products, especially if you’re using them regularly.
Any words paired with the ones listed above is a sign your conditioner contains protein and the higher on the list of ingredients it is, the stronger the treatment will be and the crunchier your hair will get if you’re lacking moisture, so make sure your product doesn’t have protein in it.
If you’re willing to give this cleansing method a try, I’d recommend finding a silicone-free conditioner to help minimize buildup.
Quicker Drying Time
Summers are easy-peasy because I like to wet my hair daily to keep my scalp cool, but during the Winter months, the last thing I wanna do is walk outside with a damp head.
I’ve noticed that when cowashing, my hair dries much faster and although I’ve yet to try daily cowashing during the colder months (I will, I’m just terrified of things going wrong like getting a frozen brain) I have noticed my high porosity, super dense hair doesn’t take nearly as long to dry.
My hair typically takes 24 hours to dry after washing with a shampoo, but when I cowash, my hair is dry in a couple of hours.
So, if you’re someone who is constantly on the go or just doesn’t want to spend hours waiting for your hair to dry, then you may like the idea of using conditioner as a cleanser.
Excess Oil Remover
Have you ever applied too much oil during a hot oil treatment only to find you can’t get it out without reaching for a shampoo?
I’m gonna raise my hand here because I’ve done that plenty of times, especially with coconut oil (man, it’s really hard to measure how much you’re using when it’s in liquid form!)
Well, guess what? Conditioner will remove the extra oil from your hair without leaving it stripped! This means you don’t have to start your wash process over again (if you apply oil after cleansing) and you won’t have to walk around wiping dripping oil from your forehead or neck all day!
That alone calls for a celebration!
By coating your oiled hair with conditioner and letting it sit for a few mintues prior to rinsing, you’re giving the conditioner time to attach to the oil so it can be rinsed a way when you decide to rinse the conditioner out!
Yes, it even worked to remove excess castor oil!
Just remember, the keyword here is EXCESS, meaning it won’t remove all of the oil, but it will remove enough of it to keep you from transferring thick oil blotches to every window your hair happens to come in contact with.
Temporary Shampoo Replacement
As much as I wish I could tell you that you’ll never have to use shampoo again once you find the perfect cowash, I have yet to find a product that will allow us to avoid the clarification process of our hair.
Sure, some products will keep product buildup at bay for longer (especially if you avoid silicones) but eventually, that dreaded coating of grayish grossness will appear on your strands and then it’s time to go in with a product that lathers so you can start the whole process over with a clean slate.
I like to go a month before actually using my favorite african black soap to clean my hair and it seems to be working wonders for me.
I think it’s important to figure out how much time can go between your cowashing sessions and a deep cleansing session before you feel the need to reset your strands.
This would make it easier to keep track of wash days and plan accordingly.
I would not recommend completely ditching shampoo or lathering cleanser of some sort forever. Eventually you’ll need it.
UPDATE: Check out my latest hair updates to see what changes I’ve made to my hair routine since this post.
Great For Combating Tangles
Type 4 hair tangles. Period. End of story. Especially if you have fine strands and high porosity hair.
Cowashing can be a great way to add moisture to your hair, as I mentioned earlier, which will result in more lubricated strands and THAT is what leads to less tangles you’ll have to deal with.
Excellent For Curl Definition
Any natural will tell you that the best wash n’ go’s are the ones that start on freshly cowashed hair.
Since you’re cleansing your hair gently, you’ll be able to avoid the extra frizz that comes with using a shampoo prior to styling your hair.
Are You Ready For A CoWash?
If you’re someone who doesn’t use products that contain silicones, you’ll likely be able to just start cowashing without any issues, however, if you find that most of your favorite products contain silicones, you’ll want to clarify your hair first and then look for products that work for your hair that DON’T contain silicones.
Other than that, you really don’t need to change much about your current routine unless you just want to.
Have you ever tried cowashing? What are the changes you’ve noticed since you started adding this cleansing method to your routine?