Shampoo and conditioner. Name a more iconic duo. Yet, the biggest hair trend in recent years attempts to challenge that: Co–washing, short for conditioner washing, is the skipping of the shampoo step while washing one’s hair. Also called "No–Poo" or the "Curly Girl Method," this beauty hack is suppose to unleash your hair's true potential. The process, when used regularly, can help heal damaged hair, helping it to produce natural oils and return to its natural texture. Is co–washing low–maintenance and high–reward? Or is it just a slick name that will give you oily hair?
Co–washing isn’t for everyone. Those blessed with silky smooth locks, leave this one for those less lucky. Likewise, if you have naturally greasy hair, this will only make your second–day hair worse. “If your hair is dry or it’s curly or wavy (both of which tend to be naturally dry), chances are that you’ll benefit from co–washing,” writes beauty reporter Jenny Jin for Real Simple. With half–Jew waves from my dad’s side and an addiction to blonde hair dye, I considered myself an ideal candidate for co–washing.
However, it can take around a week for hair to adjust and not feel heavy. I test drove the trend for a ten days to see if no–poo is all bullshit.
After a particularly grimy Thursday night downtown, I was in desperate need of a thorough scrub down. Opting for only OGX conditioner from CVS ($8), my hair felt suspiciously silky after rinsing. I feared even more buildup in my roots after the half–ass wash, so I decided to skip all other hair products while co–washing. Still, my hair felt and looked stiffer than normal, and the paranoia of ten days of product buildup haunted me all day.
After my first co–washing the morning before, the stiffness of my hair slightly subsided. Today, I would take on the hair curler—an ambitious move to do on freshly washed hair. However, with ease, my hair held a curl all day, without the help of my usual industrial–blast of hairspray.
By now, I'd realized that my regular schedule of washing my hair only three times a week would not cut it. While I can usually get by on dry shampoo post–workout, my hair now required immediate washing (sans shampoo) after the gym to feel clean again. On the bright side, my shower time has significantly been cut down.
"Wait, that's your natural hair?" has now become the automatic response from telling people I have not used any product but conditioner for almost a week. My curls, which usually only reappear in the summer heat, make a surprising comeback in March. Co–washing also has helped tame my bedhead, allowing me to wake up without frizz.
Alright, my stringy hair is finally showing over a week’s worth of conditioner buildup. Upon further research, the best conditioners for co–washing are those that are free of parabens, sulfates, and silicones to avoid buildup.
Since it is difficult to find one that meets all of these conditions (get it?), a switch in conditioner might be necessary to fully commit to the co–wash lifestyle. However, even the beauty gurus recommend the occasional shampooing or an apple cider vinegar rinse to break down buildup.
Whether it is the three minutes shaved off of my shower time or the shampoo savings on my CVS receipt, I have been converted to co–washing. While I will not be joining a hippie commune anytime soon, co–washing has taught me to embrace free love (of natural hair).