Co washing curly hair – What, Why, How

Co washing in simple words means conditioner-washing. That is, using a conditioner instead of a shampoo to clean your hair. I shampoo rarely, probably once or twice per month either to get rid of any product build up, or to do a thorough cleaning if my hair was exposed to too much dirt (like when traveling), or if my hair looks too greasy and limp. For regular cleansing, I prefer co washing.

How does a conditioner clean hair?

Most conditioners have small amounts of cationic surfactants in their ingredient list, for e.g. behentrimonium chloride. These surfactants are not as heavy duty as the detergents in your shampoo but they oh-so-gently remove dirt and grease to a limited extent. So the result would be somewhere between a squeaky clean shampooed hair and dirty hair.

But bottles say “Don’t apply on scalp”!

Conditioners weigh down your roots(especially so in straight hair) leading to a flat looking crown. Curly hair can take that easily! But if you feel like it cannot, remember that we rinse off the whole conditioner after co washing. So no worries. And no, applying conditioner on scalp will not cause hairfall – Do hair products cause hair loss?

How does co washing help curly hair?

Because curly hair is dry and co washing doesn’t strip off all the oils from your hair, you are left with hair that’s softer than shampooed hair.

How often should I co wash?

Some curlies benefit with co washing every time they wash their hair. I.e. they have completely replaced their shampoos with conditioners. I am not among them. I love my sulphates and silicones.

Because I hit the gym almost every day, but I use a shampoo only once or twice a week, to get clean hair without stripping my hair off its natural oils, I like co washing my hair between my shampoo wash days.

I also do a silicone free co washing only regimen continuously for a month or so whenever I feel that my curls have started to lose their life.

Co washing is also great for dry winter months when you don’t sweat as much and don’t accumulate much dirt but your curls are very dry owing to the dry winter air.

What type of a conditioner should I use?

Any lightweight conditioner can double up as a cleansing conditioner if you are like me, who uses a traditional shampoo every now and then. But if you follow the CG method, you should look for silicone free conditioners to avoid build up. Choose an inexpensive conditioner as you would require lots of it.

Here are some conditioners that are great and lightweight as co wash cleansers


How to co wash curly hair

  1. Wet your hair. Make sure it’s soaking wet. This will help detangling and this also makes conditioner distribution easier.
  2. Squirt the conditioner all over the top pf your head.
  3. Using the ends of your fingers (not nails) scrub your scalp like you are massaging the conditioner into your scalp. This motion along with the mild surfactants will help lift dirt and grease. Make sure to cover every inch of your head. A shampoo brush works great for this – Scalp/Shampoo brush for shampooing and co-washing
  4. Separate your hair into 2 sections and quirt some more conditioner on the back of your head and repeat step 3.
  5. Take some conditioner in both of your palms and apply it on your scalp from behind your ears to the top of your head and repeat step 3.
  6. Apply conditioner on the lengths of your hair and finger detangle it in sections, gently rubbing it to remove dirt.
  7. Let the conditioner continue working for a few minutes.
  8. Rinse your hair thoroughly with water
  9. You can go on to apply leave ins or apply your favourite conditioner like you would normally do after shampoo and then proceed to apply leave ins.

Here is a post with my full curly hair care routine – My curly hair routine  🙂



    1. If you think your hair is conditioned well after the co wash, you don’t have to apply conditioner again. You can use any conditioner for both purposes as long as your hair is happy !

  1. I tried co washing yesterday Anjana. The results are amazing. My curls haven’t lost their hold. I am definitely going to do this more often. Need to stock up on conditioners now. Can you suggest some budget conditioners that I could use for a co wash?? Thanks in advance.

    1. That’s lovely Vidya !! I love Enliven and Revlon Flex conditioners for co washing. They are silicone free and come in huge bottles for about 200 or 300 Rs. :):)

  2. Thanks a ton, Amjsna 🙂 🙂 One more question, is Enliven cruelty free? I couldn’t find that out online.

  3. Why does co washing make my hair sticky at the crown?
    My scalp does not feel clean and I can’t run fingers though my scalp!!
    Is my conditioner too heavy?
    The feeling is same as when you don’t get rid of the coconut oil from the hair!!

  4. Hey Anjana….I got the link to your blog from IMBB when I was reading gupshup wala page…and since then I am just hooked to your page…this is something I really needed to see. My god..why didn’t I get this earlier :(. I got my hair straightened and now, I am feeling how big mistake it was. Anyway, I have almost started getting my curly hair back. I have to follow all your suggestions after getting a hair cut done. One more request – I read that you have got electrolysis done. Can you please do a post on that.

  5. I’m using the Dove conditioner, after shampoo and its realy good.But I’m afraid to use it for Co wash as it’s written ‘Avoid Scalp’ in the bottle.What to do ?

    1. Dinali, brands write ‘avoid scalp’ as it can reduce volume at the roots. But in co washing we thoroughly wash off the conditioner so you will have no issues with volume. And if you have crown frizz, this will actually help you control it.

  6. Apply oil before co-washing? What would you suggest…
    by the way, I’m going to try this for the first time , hope it works for me!

  7. Hi Anjana,

    I have recently stumbled across your blog through Pinterest and I must say I am finding your articles and posts really interesting. I have curly hair too that oscillates between being wavy some days (read most days) and curly. I really want to fall in love with my hair again and want to try out your methods one by one.
    I have a query which might sound silly to the curly hair community but it would be great if I could get your input on this.
    Reading about co-washing and conditioning – If co-washing is conditioner washing, then how is conditioning after co-washing different from co-washing? I mean if co-washing is only using conditioner and washing, then what is done differently in the conditioning process after co-washing?

    1. Thank you Shruti 🙂 Co-washing is the use of conditioner to scrub off sweat, oil and dirt from the SCALP while conditioning softens & conditions the HAIR. Some people find that they can combine scalp cleansing and conditioning in 1 step and don’t need a separate conditioning step.

  8. Hi there!wanted to know if I could use the same conditioner after co washing and should I leave the the conditioner on my hair or wash it off ?

    1. You can use the same conditioner if you like 🙂 The conditioner on the scalp should be washed off thoroughly (so that dirt can be washed away). Conditioner on the length of the hair can be left as such.

    1. I am sorry for the confusion in the article Ankita. Yes we have to apply products. I will edit the article 🙂 Thank you!

  9. Thanks so much Anjana! i just love your blog! thanks for taking the time and effort to create this blog.. very helpful 😊

  10. hello anjana..i am going to colour my hair and i am using loreal paris colour protect and i workout daily which makes my hair sweaty.. should i co wash my hai with loreal paris colour protect shampoo?

  11. Hi Anjana,

    My son, aged 13, has very dry scalp with lots of white flakes and itchiness. I tried no poo method, dandruff shampoo with ketoconazal and normal shampoos, but nothing helps him. He is suffering a lot. Would this cowashing be helpful to him? We are in Dubai. Please suggest a conditioner for him.

  12. Hi Anjana,
    His skin is acne prone oily skin. Now it is better by applying moisturiser. I am bit confused whether his scalp is dry or oily. I heard that people who has oily skin also have oily scalp and who has dry skin has dry scalp. One day I applied more coconut oil unknowingly. Next day, he had thick patches on his scalp. But he got white flakes on the same day of shampooing. Please help.

  13. Hi, good to see curly gair blog for indian ladies. I have been shopping cleansing conditioners from here in UK but they do have indian website snd they ship worldwide. They have decent co washes at reasonable prices and good offers. They hv brands like – as i am, keracare, matrix biolage, joico, boucleme etc. Have a look. Cheers

  14. Hi Anjana besides Enliven (which I love but is out of stock everywhere 🙁 & Revlon flex, can you suggest another suitable conditioner for co-wash in similar price range? I am not a fan of the smell of Revlon flex so thought of checking. TIA

  15. Hi Anjana,
    You have beautiful hair <3
    Could you please tell me if co washing is alright on an oily scalp. It gets oily within few hours of washing and I shampoo every 2 days. My hair is type 2b(fine) I suppose since it gets wavier/curlier towards the ends than roots. Please let me know 🙂


    1. Thanks Divya 🙂 Cowashing usually doesn’t suit oily scalp. Though oil regulation will happen if you give it some time. It’s upto you 🙂

  16. They have only given active ingredients-
    Glysine Soja, shea butter , jojoba seeds , eclipta , musk root n fruit extract . No idea if it’s strong enough to condition my hair .
    Also – any idea if WOW conditioner with virgin coconut oil
    Is effective? – both are available on Amazon . Thankyou

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