And no, it doesn't mean taking a shower with your partner!
Still doing it the old way? First shampoo, then rinse, condition and rinse again? It’s time to shelve the old and follow the new co-washing time and strand saving beauty trend. It comes quick on the heels of other ‘busy woman beauty’ products like nine-in-one BB creams and dry shampoo. A swipe here, a spritz there and you’re ready to face the world, effortlessly gorgeous. Co-washing or “conditioner washing” promises to knock your showering time in half without damaging our hair. How? Just wash your hair with conditioner rather than shampoo. Proponents can’t stop raving about it because this gentler hair cleansing method minimizes color damage thanks to the absence of harsh color stripping sulfates in conditioners. Plus it’s a great way of adding moisture back into strands to give you frizz-free locks. All the rage among those who know, it’s also a great timesaving tactic; no more shampooing and then rinsing to get the suds out.
While it's not exactly a new trend—there was a similar product Wash & Go (in the UK) in the 1980s—today's conditioners-only hair cleansers promise better results thanks to better hair-friendly science this time around. In fact, leading hair care brands have already locked into this growing market; L'Oreal Paris has launched its Ever Crème Conditioning Cleanser in the US. Meanwhile hairstylist to the stars Chaz Dean recently introduced WEN Cucumber Aloe Cleansing Conditioner and Ouidad Curl Co-Wash Low-Foam Cleansing Conditioner made from nourishing black cumin seed oil and Jamaican black Oil. The latest entrant, Ojon Rare Blend Moisture Rich Cleansing Conditioner is specially formulated as a hair cleansing conditioner for co-washing devotees.
Why co-washing scores over shampoos
So what's with these miracle conditioners that puts them one step ahead of regular shampoos? Essentially these conditioners are moisture-rich, sulfate-free potions with relatively lower levels of surfactants to cleanse and condition strands. Shampoos in comparison have much higher levels of surfactants that lather up to give you squeaky clean—and frizzier—strands. Originally intended for naturally curly haired gals or permed strands, today co-washing has been broadened to include different strand types, especially chemically treated and colored hair. If you decide to go the co-washing route, you would probably need to use a shampoo at least once a week especially if you have an oily scalp.
Proponents of this trend extoll the fact that co-washing preserves the natural oils in strands while cleansing for better hydration and silkiness, a boon for colored, very dry and frizzy hair that breaks easily. The philosophy is to make strands healthier and cleaner without stripping them of oils the way shampoos do. Cynthia Pereira, a homegrown loyalist of co-washing extolls its virtues and says she first adopted the trend when she had her hair permed. “It felt frizzy and dry all the time but no more!” However, she warns that “for a few days after you start your hair will feel greasy till your scalp and hair balances itself.”
Who should (and shouldn't) be doing it
Every curly and wavy haired girl worth her mop should! Natural oils find it harder to navigate twisted, curls locks. In fact, dry, dehydrated and damaged hair does well with co-washing, as do textured normal hair. However, it's not a one product suits all scenario. Gals with fine or oily hair or those who live in dusty, polluted cities or use public transport should adopt the trend with caution. If you're exposed to a lot of dust and grime, you shouldn't opt for co-washing. Shampoo and conditioner both contain surfactants; while the ones in shampoo are designed to wash out oil and dirt from the strands surface those in conditioners are intended to cling to hair so co-washing could actually cause more environmental dirt to stick to tresses. Similarly if you have fine hair, co-washing is best avoided because it can weigh down strands. It's best to use a shampoo for your hair type and co-wash only if your hair is extremely dry or damaged.
How to get started
Cynthia says that even though she co-washes twice or thrice a week, she occasionally shampoos her hair as well especially when it’s very humid. Experts concur. “Unless your hair is very dry, you should shampoo at least once a week and stick to co-washing the rest of the time,” says Mumbai-based hair stylist Teresa Chen. The best way to start is by using an inexpensive, lightweight conditioner like Pantene Pro-V Nature Fusion Fullness & Life Conditioner, Dove Daily Shine Conditioner, or Himalaya Herbals Protein Conditioner Repair & Regeneration. Chen explains, “Unlike your usual shampoo-conditioner routine where you use a small blob of conditioner before the final rinse, co-washing requires a lot of product. So it’s best to stick with a less expensive but effective conditioner suited to your hair type.” The ideal way to co-wash starts with picking a conditioner with lots of nutrients. Make sure your hair is completely wet before massing the conditioner into your scalp. Then take a comb or brush like Kent Waterproof Shampoo & Scalp Massage Brush - Blue to distribute the product from roots to ends. Once it’s been thoroughly distributed, you could tie your hair up in a top knot while you finish your shower. Then rinse out the product with tepid or cold water. Once you know co-washing is the way to, you could also try a specially formulated cleansing conditioner like Organix Quenched Sea Mineral Moisture Shampoo or Iraya Black Tea & Lime Conditioner formulated to cleanse strands as it conditions so it’s less likely to cause buildup and weigh strands down.