IF you happened to stumble across the natural hair community while watching endless Youtube videos during quarantine, then you've probably heard the term 'co-wash' being thrown around quite a bit. You've probably also wondered what it is, and why so many women of colour with natural hair are now swearing by it.
Certified hair stylist and natural hair vlogger Nacketia Knight, curator of the popular Jamaican HairGoddess Youtube channel, explained to All Woman why more and more women with natural hair are ditching their shampoos and hopping onto the co-wash wave.
“Co-wash is really just short for a conditioner-only wash,” she said. “Shampoos, especially those with sulphates, have been found to strip the hair too much, causing it to lose too much moisture.”
Knight explained that in the traditional shampoo+wash combo, the purpose of the shampoo is really to cleanse the scalp by stripping away excess oil and product build-up, while conditioner is used to improve the texture and manageability of the hair by hydrating and replenishing each strand.
“When the shampooed hair loses its moisture, it can easily become dry and is more prone to breakage,” she noted. “Co-washing is therefore beneficial because you skip that stripping process completely, and go straight to rehydrating the hair shaft.”
While she agrees that shampoo can be harmful to hair, she did not advise against it altogether.
“I wouldn't recommend skipping shampoo every wash day as a clean, healthy scalp is vital for maximum hair growth,” she posited. “But when you do shampoo, use moisture-enriching ones that are free of sulphates and parabens. Also, focus mostly on rubbing the scalp, not the hair shaft, during a shampoo.”
She said co-washing is really to be used mainly for an extra hydration boost between wash days.
“So, for example, when I have braids or other protective styles in, I wash my hair once per month and co-wash two or three times in-between. If I have my hair out, I may wash my hair twice per month, and co-wash in between,” she shared.
While there are many products being marketed as co-washers, the hair guru maintained that any conditioner can be used.
Knight recommended following either the LOC (liquid, oil, cream) or the LCO (liquid, cream, oil) method to moisturise your hair after co-washing, depending on your texture.
“This means that for the LOC method, you apply your liquid [leave-in conditioner], then oil, then cream. This works best for thin or fine hair,” she detailed. “For the LCO moisturising method, you apply your leave-in conditioner, then cream product, then oil. The method is for thick, high porosity hair.”
Styling, she said, is up to you, but she recommended 'turfing' your wet hair with a cotton T-shirt to get most of the water out, then sectioning it in plaits or twists and allowing it to air-dry.