Not too long ago, I used to have (in my opinion) one of the healthiest, best-looking blonde bobs in NYC. Then, I gave birth, and my naturally curly hair went to shit. No matter what I did, nothing seemed to stop the breakage and its dull, lackluster look.
Exasperated, I started asking around to find out what I should do in order to get my hair back to its former healthy status. One of my good friends (she has amazing hair) suggested co-washing, or conditioner-only washing, where you use conditioning cleansers instead of shampoo to wash your hair.
According to Pantene hair scientist Dr. Rolanda Wilkerson, “co-washing conditioners contain more conditioning ingredients and lower levels of surfactants with the intent to provide higher conditioning benefits and gentle cleansing.”
“Traditionally, many women washed their hair on a daily basis,” she said. “However, for some women with hair that is dry, damaged, coarse, curly or colored, they tend to worry that too much washing strips hair of nutrients and essential oils.”
So, about six months ago, I stopped using shampoo and, instead, started co-washing my hair twice every week. Here’s what has happened:
1. The breakage stopped. From using heat protection spray before flat ironing my hair to applying heavy-duty moisturizing masks each week, I used to do as much as I could to prevent breakage, but nothing helped. More hair ended up in my brushes and combs than on my head, and all I could do is stare in wonder at the massive hairball I’d somehow managed to amass. But, after co-washing, no more! The reason? According to Dr. Wilkerson, it’s because co-washing actually helps to deliver a higher level of moisture, which keeps the hair from snapping and breaking off.
2. My scalp is no longer a flaky mess. Every winter, I used to become one of the flakiest people around. Well, it wasn’t actually me, but more like my scalp. Since switching to co-washing, I’ve noticed that my scalp is no longer dry and itchy. Since the co-wash conditioner helps to improve moisture levels, I will rub one into my scalp while still in the shower and let it sit for about five to 10 minutes before rinsing out for awesome flake-free results.
3. Knots and tangles are a thing of the past. Have you ever felt like there were some days in which you were in a detangling battle with your hair and losing? Yeah, been there. Dr. Wilkerson says that detangling is one of the major benefits of co-washing thanks to its high deliverance of moisture to the hair.
4. My hair better absorbs moisture. I’ve been blessed to have the double whammy of not just a dry scalp, but dry hair as well. My curls will suck up any amount of oil that I apply to it. I’ve never been able to figure out exactly where it goes because literally two seconds later, it looks like no moisturizing magic happened. Ugh. But since co-washing my curls, they are better able to retain moisture.
5. There are no more hours-long styling sessions. I am definitely that black girl who loves a good blowout (#DontJudgeMe), so I find it to be quite amazing that I no longer have to spend hours straightening my curls. After co-washing, they straighten out easily thanks (once again) to the high levels of moisture that conditioners like the Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Co-Wash Cleansing Conditioners provide.
6. I’ve basically turned into Rapunzel. About a year ago, I did something crazy and shaved off over half the hair on my head. I wouldn’t say that I was exactly having a Britney Spears moment when I decided to do it, but I remember thinking that I wanted to try something different. In the moment, I didn’t think about whether or not my hair would ever grow back out. Fast-forward to now and it’s all I can think about. However, since I no longer experience breakage thanks to my co-washing methods, my hair has grown in leaps and bounds.
7. It saves time. Washing curly hair takes forever and always seemed like a chore with all the washing, rinsing, and re-washing involved. It’s probably also the main reason I would try and sneak salon visits into my crazy schedule whenever possible because ain’t nobody got time for that. But hair washing is never something I could outright avoid thanks to my weekly exercise regimen. Co-washing is a great way to keep hair clean between sweaty workout sessions and, since there’s not a ton of re-rinsing to go along with it, saves lots of time.
“There may be a desire to gently cleanse or condition hair on non-shampoo days and co-wash is one product that functions as shampoo, conditioner, deep conditioner, and detangler on non-wash days,” Dr. Wilkerson said.
8. My curl pattern is definitely on fleek. Since I started co-washing, I’ve noticed that my curls have more definition than ever before. I know now that most of this is due to all of that good moisture that my hair is able to retain since I cut down on the amount of shampoo that I use.
I will use a clarifying shampoo like the Frederic Fekkai Apple Cider Shampoo at least once every two weeks to make sure that my hair and scalp gets cleansed, which also helps. According to Dr. Wilkerson, this is important to do in order to make sure that any styling product is thoroughly removed from the hair.
9. It has never felt softer. Thanks to its naturally fine state, my curls have always been soft, but I noticed that now it’s pillowy soft and I find myself wanting to stroke my hair all of the time. Weird, I know, but stroking your super-soft hair while experiencing random bouts of writer’s block seems to comfort me. Super-soft hair is also a great way to bring all the boys to your yard.