There is no one right way to wash your hair. Assert your one "correct" timeframe for shampoo-versus-conditioner to your friends and colleagues, and things may quickly come to blows. That's the disclaimer for what is about to come, which is: There's another way to wash your hair. Say hello to co-wash!
The concept of co-washing isn't new, but it is confusing now that there are so many new products on the market piggybacking off the term. First, let's clear up the vernacular since there are a million different marketing terms and product names used to describe it. Co-washing is just what happens when you swap out your shampoo and conditioner for a single product (this could be straight conditioner, cleansing conditioner, or "No-poo"). But they're not 2-in-1 shampoo/conditioners either. This is what you need to know:
— Looks like a conditioner, behaves like a conditioner and a gentle shampoo. Put in terms of skincare; If your shampoo is a gel face wash, then co-wash is your cleansing cream.
— Co-washing doesn't have to replace shampoo. A regular shamp can still be a vital part of any haircare routine, to rid your scalp of all of the buildup it accumulates with the use of styling products and the general hair-having. But for anybody who prefers to shampoo fewer than 2-3 times a week, co-washes are formulated to very gently cleanse hair while moisturizing, too. Most co-washes are OK to do daily, actually.
— It might not be for you! But it also might be perfect for you. Wen founder Chaz Dean wants everybody to co-wash all the time—however the finer your hair, the more likely your hair is to feel flat and dull after regular co-washing. If it works for you, do it. But by and large, co-wash is recommended for those with coarser, drier, thicker, and/or color-treated hairs.
All good? Excellent! Now, for the products:
The Starter Co-wash: Unwash Bio-Cleansing Conditioner
What "Bio-Cleanse" sounds like is a fad celebrity diet. What it actually is, though, is a Skittle-scented wash best suited for those who are wary of the idea, but intrigued enough to try. Unwash the brand prides itself on a system of co-washing products, and the Bio-Cleanse is that system's patriarch. It's also one of the few in this class of product that's recommended for all hair types, including finer or oilier hair.
The Clean Clean: Briogeo Avocado and Quinoa Co-Wash
A product with so much cleansing prowess that it's technically classified as a shampoo on Sephora.com. Make no mistake, this is a co-wash, and a great one at that. It's got an entire Whole Foods worth of naturally fortifying agents, like avocado oil, shea butter, quinoa extract, and aloe vera (great for hair!). The portion size is large—about eight pumps or more depending on the length of your hair—but the economy-size tub will still last you a small lifetime.
The Fancy Lady: Oribe Cleansing Crème for Moisture and Control
Admittedly, the concept of co-washing is a little hippy-dippy for some. Wrapping it up in some piastachio-hued Oribe packaging makes it an easier concept to rinse. It's not marketed as a cleansing conditioner, co-wash, what have you, but it ticks all of the boxes: recommended for curly and coarse hair, nourishes while it cleans, does not require additional moisture. If it looks like a duck and sounds like a duck, it's probably a co-wash.
Photographed by Tom Newton.
Next up, peep Anja Rubik's guide to getting a week's worth of hairstyles out of a single wash.