If you’ve ever used a two-in-one shampoo plus conditioner, you know that they’re not the most conditioning of products. But don’t let those outdated (male-targetted) products sully your view of cleansing conditioners. These conditioners, also known as co-wash, are kind of like the opposite of two-in-one shampoos in that they’re more conditioner than shampoo instead of the other way around. So while they do cleanse your scalp and locks, they won’t dry either of the two out and they leave your hair silky and shiny.
Shampoos usually contain sulfates which help them lather. But dry, coarse and brittle hair doesn’t need a generous, drying, soapy lather — and actually, many hair types can benefit from skipping traditional shampoo once in a while. Of course, when you skip the shampoo and opt only for conditioner, you should massage the product into hair as if you were using a traditional shampoo. The purpose is still to cleanse your hair of dirt, oil and other impurities while your hair benefits from extra moisture.
Why you should use a cleansing conditioner:
Co-washing means skipping one step, which of course, makes showering faster — or just gives you more time to luxuriate under the warm stream of water before stepping back into the real world.
For many people, it also means cleansing their hair less often. Those with curly hair can go a week to 10 days between washes because their hair is no longer in the cycle of being dried out, conditioned, sprayed with lots of styling products, and then in need of a cleanse. You’ll find that you need fewer styling products (if any) and you’ll use less of them with this method.
But of course, there’s more to cleansing conditioners than just saving time in the shower! They leave hair shiny and smooth and also reduce frizz. Many shampoos contain sulfates and detergents that help raise the cuticle of the hair for deep cleansing, but raised, rough cuticles also lead to frizz. While traditional conditioner is meant to help smooth out hair cuticles, people with curly, dry or frizzy hair don’t need to mess around with their cuticle in the first place, so skipping the shampoo step is actually beneficial for them.
Tips for co-washing:
Try to avoid styling products with silicones. Unfortunately, many hair products made for curly and frizzy hair include silicone because it adds slip, shine and smoothness to your hair. Ingredients like dimethicone or anything ending in “cone,” “conol,” “col” or “xane” will build up on your hair and won’t be removed by a cleansing conditioner alone so your hair will end up looking heavy, dull and even frizzy. There are some water-soluble silicones that will wash away when traditional conditioner is used; these silicones are preceded by PEG or PPG on the product’s ingredient list.
If you decide to use both a cleansing conditioner and silicone styling products, you’ll have to commit to shampooing once a week to remove the build up.
However, even if you use silicone-free styling products, it’s a good idea to cleanse with shampoo every once in a while to ensure that your scalp is clean and to remove any product build-up or excess oil. The frequency when you do this will depend on your hair type, but once your hair feels overly thick or starts to look dull with regular co-washing, you’ll know that it’s time to shampoo.
Cleansing conditioners to try:
From left: L’Oréal EverCrème Cleansing Conditioner, $12.39, londondrugs.com; Pantene Damage Repair Cleansing Conditioner, $9.99, well.ca; Wen by Chaz Dean Cucumber Aloe Cleansing Conditioner, $40, sephora.com