Cowashing: Effectiveness and Best Conditioners

Cowashing is a natural hair phenomenon that has begun to spread throughout the entire haircare world. Cowashing, meaning washing your hair with a cleansing conditioner, is supposed to help maintain the moisture balance in your hair and prevent excessive dryness. Shampoos can be particularly stripping if they contain sulfates (concentrated cleansing detergents), although even shampoos without sulfates can be drying if used too often. While washing too regularly can cause dryness, I have found that cowashing too regularly is not effective at cleansing the hair thoroughly. Therefore I have found that cowashing has a specific place in my natural hair care routine.


This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please ready my Disclosure Policy.

Finding the Right Balance

Though cowashing is truly a god sent for dry hair, as with anything, it can create more problems than benefits if not done in proportion. Let me explain. Curly girls often have trouble receiving and/or maintaining moisture in their strands. Cowashing helps solve this problem because it allows you to moisturize your hair even during the washing stage of your routine. However, being that my hair is super thick, I have found that products and dead skin build up quite heavily on my scalp. This happens because it is difficult for debris to make its way all the way down kinky (different from curly) strands and out into the water without extra help. Therefore I have found that cowashing has a very specific place in my haircare regimen. I cowash about 2-3 times a month and wash with a sulfate-free shampoo at least once a month. Because of my kinky texture, I need to use a stronger cleansing agent than a cowash contains in order to dissolve all of the product buildup on my scalp.

How effective is cowashing? And can you use any conditioner?

Cowashing is very effective because the conditioner usually contains a gentle cleansing agent. The gentle cleanser along with the motion of your fingers massaging your scalp allows for the breaking up and release of product buildup and dead skin from your scalp. Therefore cowashing is only effective with this two part system- the cowash itself and the motion of your fingers breaking up the product and dead skin from your scalp. Although if you have very kinky and densely packed hair like mine, this process alone may not be enough to sufficiently remove the debris from your scalp. If you cowash consistently such as every week or every several days, you are more able to keep your scalp clean because the cowash will not have to do that much work. Although if you find you have a lot of product build up on your scalp, cowashing alone may not be enough. Now if you have a looser curl pattern, straight or thin hair, you may find that cowashing alone does just fine for your hair. This is because it requires less work to get the product build up from your scalp down to the ends of your hair and into the water. Therefore it’s important to customize your haircare routine to your specific hair’s needs.

You also need to pay attention to what types of conditioners you use to cowash depending on your hair type. Many curly girls use regular conditioners to cowash their hair, although for me this will not work. Again, if your strands are looser or thinner, you may have to work less to get your scalp clean. Though in practice, a cowash conditioner should contain some sort of cleansing agent. Below are cowashes that contain gentle cleansing agents but also have many ingredients that will leave your hair conditioned and hydrated.

Overall, if used properly and specified to your hair’s needs, cowashing is a very effective tool in any haircare regimen. Below are several cowashing products that I have found super effective for cleansing and conditioning my hair.

Wen Six Thirteen Cleansing Treatment
Wen 6 Thirteen: I purchased this item from Sephora, however I cannot find a link to the 16oz size. The 32 oz is quite a bit higher but can be found here.
Alikay Naturals Cowash Me Cleansing Conditioner
Alikay Naturals Cowash Me Cleansing Conditioner
Shea Moisture High Porosity Cowash
Shea Moisture High Porosity Moisture Seal Cowash

If you enjoyed this post, check out my tips for Making Your Hairstyles Last Longer!

About The Author