Basics: What is “Cowashing”?

I just recently realized that I had not written a post specifically for “cowashing”. Well, I do explain it in this post on “How to care for naturally curly/wavy hair in India“. But, then this topic of Cowashing is something that needs its own post and I am rather late in writing it up. 🙂


What is Cowashing?

Conditioner-only washing. Yes! it is as simple as that! Cowashing refers to a method of using conditioner instead of shampoo to wash our hair. We totally skip the shampoo in our hair was regimen and replace it with a silicone-free conditioner.


How to cowash?

The only thing you need for cowashing is a Silicone free conditioner. Get your hands on a good silicone-free conditioner and you are good to go. The steps to follow for cowash as just like shampooing. You can read a step-wise post here: How to shampoo. Replace your shampoo with the conditioner. I will still mention the steps quickly:

  1. wet hair completely
  2. take generous amount of silicone-free conditioner and starting at temples, massage into scalp with finger pads.
  3. massage and gently scrub whole scalp
  4. add extra water and conditioner as and when needed
  5. rinse off thoroughly (Very thoroughly)
  6. follow-up with detangling and then your silicone-free rinse off conditioner and styling


Who should cowash?

  • Curly haired people with thick and dry hair might find this method highly effective.
  • Wavy or not-so-tight curly haired peopl who are looking for extra moisture for their scalp and hair can also give cowashing a try. However, I would not recommend cowashing exclusively since it can weigh down your hair and cause flat top. You can surely alternate between cowashing and sulfate-free shampoo and enjoy benefits of cowashing without the worry of oiliness or weighing down.


Points to remember while cowashing:

  • Do not use your silicone-containing conditioner for cowashing. Since silicones are meant for coating hair, you might risk clogging your hair follicles.
  • If you cowash exclusively, you will need to stop using products with ingredients that cause buid-up. That is silicones mainly. Use styling gels, conditioners, hair masks and any hair products that has water soluble ingredients. Otherwise you will face build up in hair.
  • Make sure you massage and scrub your hair well while washing and rinsing to remove dirt and clean hair and scalp effectively.
  • Here is a list of silicone-free conditioners available in India.
  • If you are new to cowashing, read this post about things to keep in mind
  • Do not switch to cowashing completely when starting out. Introduce it once a week and then slowwwly wean off your shampoo.
  • Keep a sulfate-free shampoo bottle ready for certain times when you feel a little stronger wash is required.
  • Remember, you will never have that “Squeaky Clean” feel of the sulfate shampoos when you cowash.
  • Cowashing might not remove oils from hair. so when you apply oil to hair, say excessive oil, you might want to use a sulfate-free shampoo to wash oil. For me it didnt work to remove oils. then there are few tight-curlies who find it enough when they apply oil slightly. So you need to experiment with that for yourself.


Does Cowashing work?

Cowashing basically cleans the hair and scalp without stripping it of its natural oils. It is a very mild form of hair cleansing which is meant to keep hair moisturized and prevent from over drying. As I have mentioned in this post regarding How to shampoo, it is considered that hair is washed mainly by the massaging motions and scrubbing with our finger pads and does not need very strong chemicals to wash away the dirt. Mild shampoos and even conditioners work well for that.

Cowashing has been followed by many manyyyy curlies across the world and it works wonders in keeping their hair moisturized and clean at the same time.


What I do?

I am a 2b-2c Curly who is transitioning from heat damaged hair to my natural hair.  I mainly use sulfate-free shampoo and occasionally cowash in between. Till now I have used Enliven, Loreal Smooth Intense (long ago..gonna try this again!) Giovanni smooth as silk or Giovanni Root 66 Max Volume conditioner for cowashing. I used to suggest Enliven Conditioners to everyone who is looking for a budget conditioner for cowash. But I personally do prefer the Giovanni ones.


Hope it helps…any doubts, feel free to ask in comments or in the forum.

12 thoughts on “Basics: What is “Cowashing”?

  1. Hey. . Thanks for clearing my doubts .. read the post reply in forum .. another doubt .. can u clear point 6 in this post. After washing off conditioner thoroughly v r suppose to detangle ? .. detangle using comb .?. that won’t break hair rite Bcz hv read shouldn’t comb when hair is wet

    1. Yes can detangle in shower too… need to make hair soaking wet with Conditioner and water and then detangle.. Please go through the “In the shower” heading in this post: How to detangle. You have to be super gentle..use fingers first then follow up with comb….Won’t break hair.

  2. Hello.. It’s said that one should never apply conditioner to the scalp because it weighs down the hair and causes hair fall.. So isn’t it bad to do that under co-washing? Also, please tell if this method is safe to be used by a person already suffering from hair fall..

    1. Hey Anusha…cowashing might weigh down hair if you have fine and thin hair….and if you have hair fall…may be you need to look for the reason for hair fall first and fix that! Also, if weighing down is a problem, you can try to alternate cowashing and sulfate-free shampoo…

      Cowashing doesn’t cause hair fall.. the only thing we need to keep in mind is to rinse off scalp properly after using conditioner on scalp…

      If you are someone who usually has increased hair fall on using a new product on hair(some people do face that), then you might face that while starting out with cowashing and might need time to get used to it

  3. Hi 🙂 I’m a curly haired girl that’s reeeally excited about trying the CG method out for the first time ever!
    I have a few questions:
    1. How often should cowashing be done? Every time we wet our hair? So like 2 times a week?
    2. I use coconut oil in my hair. Where does applying oil fit into the CG regimen? How often, when, for how long, etc.
    3. I would loooove it if you could post haircuts for curly girls. I’m about to chop off my damaged ends to start the CG method anew but don’t want to randomly cut my hair. It would be cool if there’s some idea of what cuts to have for difference face shapes, etc.
    4. As much as I love curly hair, I do want to be able to straighten my hair (temporarily, with a straightener!) for special occasions, meaning once or twice a month. What can be done to prevent damage or at least repair damage and get back to CG without stumbling?
    Thanks 🙂

    1. Hey Rach… well most of your questions call for separate blog posts hehehe… let me try to be precise:

      1. whenever you wash your hair…you can customise the number of times based on how your hair feels.
      2. pre-poo. that is before hair wash.. apply appropriate quantity…not very excess if you are gonna cowash. from 30 mins prior to wash to overnight you can apply, based on your own preference. atleast 30 mins prior is good enough.
      3. umm,,, sure will work on this and get some pics onto a post!! 🙂
      4. I would surely advise against this… coz it has very high chances of damaging your hair….if you still wna do that, try using a blow drying (awesome techniques one and not old damaging one) and stay away from flat irons…. use a very good heat protectant. Deep condition pre and post straightening. May be learn to style your natural hair beautifully and keep hair straightening minimal or nil 🙂

      Hope it helps!! <3

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