All about cowashing: what is cowashing and how to do it

This article is all about cowashing. You may have seen the term around on the web, and you may have wondered what cowashing is.  In a nutshell: 

Cowashing is skipping the shampoo, and using only conditioner to wash your hair.

It doesn’t mean that you only condition your hair.  You still wash it, but you wash your hair with conditioner. What’s the difference?  

  • When you condition, you usually apply the conditioner to the lengths of your hair, and you leave the scalp alone.
  • When you cowash, you “wash” your hair – applying the conditioner (or conditioner bar) to ALL of you hair, really massaging it into the scalp.

Because you are massaging the conditioner right in and then rinsing it all out with water, it actually does wash the grime out of your hair.  The difference between doing this and using regular shampoo, is that it doesn’t strip the oils out of your hair.

Who should cowash their hair?

Cowashing is popular with people who have specific hair types:  curly, wavy, dry, course and / or coloured hair suits cowashing. 

Styling curly or dry hair can be tricky after a shampoo, and co-washing helps to keep your hair a bit more weighted and moisturized.  Fluffy, frizzy, curly and dry hair can really benefit from a cowashing routine – making your hair easier to style. 

Cowashing is not recommended for people with oily hair, or fine hair (you’ll lose volume). 

If your hair tends to be oily, we recommend this shampoo bar for oily hair.

Which conditioner is suitable for cowashing?

Obviously we are huge conditioner bar advocates (shampoo and conditioners do so much for you hair and for our environment), but regular conditioner is ok, as long as you keep a few things in mind:

  • Cowashing is best with a conditioner that DOES NOT contain silicones.  Although these make your hair silky smooth and shiny at first, they add product buildup which doesn’t easily wash out.  After a while you’ll end up with heavy and dry hair.
  • Conditioners with the following ingredients are better for cowashing: glycerin, oils, shea butter, proteins, aloe vera, amino acids.  These help with moisture, shine, are anti-frizz and add gloss.

Cowashing is a great option for those with curly or dry hair (read:  frizzy!).  Easier to manage, easier to style, and less products!

Scroll a bit further down for conditioner bar recommendations, but if you prefer a normal liquid conditioner, these are our picks:

Can I use a conditioner bar to cowash?

You can definitely use a conditioner bar to cowash!  Conditioner bars are more difficult to rinse out than regular liquid conditioner, and you need to:

  • Use very warm water – as warm as you can.  When you’ve finished rinsing, do a quick cold water rinse to lock in shine.
  • Be patient – it takes a little longer to rinse out solid conditioner.  Think of this time as an opportunity to massage your scalp and think happy shower thoughts 🙂

You can make your own conditioner bar (click here for details), or you can buy a ready-made bar. Four of our favorite bars are here.  Ethique is amazing, and so are the others!

Top tips for cowashing your hair

  1. Use a conditioner bar or a liquid conditioner with the right ingredients.
  2. Occassionally wash with a shampoo bar (every 3rd or 4th wash should do).
  3. Every now and then, follow with an ACV rinse.
  4. Dry your hair carefully so you don’t undo all your good work. See our guide to the best hair dryers for curly hair.

Cowashing is a fantastic way of cleaning and conditioner your hair while keeping hte moisture in. Try it!



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