Co-washing yay or nay?

Co-washing is a method of washing the hair solely with conditioner omitting shampoo in the hair washing routine
Representative image
Representative image

A recent trend called ‘co-washing’ has been going viral on Instagram and Tiktok, with influencers and even celebrities pushing for it. “Co-washing is a method of washing the hair solely with conditioner omitting shampoo in the hair washing routine. Shampoos are prepared with surfactants which remove oils, dirt/dust, dead cells, and product build-up from the hair whereas conditioner typically contains cationic surfactants which adhere to the hair shaft and impart softness and shine to the length of the hair,” explains Dr Raj Kirit, trichologist at Celestee Skin, Laser and Hair Clinic, Filmnagar.

Mentioning the benefits of co-washing, he says, “Shampoos containing sulphates tend to strip the hair of naturally occurring oils and moisture leading to dryness, frizziness and eventual hair breakage and damage. By replacing shampoo washes with a conditioner, the natural oils and moisture can be preserved leaving the hair smoother hydrated and resistant to breakage.”

Dr Swapna Priya, dermatologist at Care Hospitals, Banjara Hills, says that the technique has become popular specifically because people have been skipping oiling their hair on a regular basis. “Back in the day, people followed a proper routine of oiling and washing, negating the need for excess conditioning. With not many willing to put in the effort, time and patience to deal with the greasy feeling, they are more than happy to jump on the bandwagon of choosing an ‘only conditioner’ hair wash, because it also brings down shower time. This is, however, not a viable solution in the long run,” she shares.

She adds that cleansing is never to be skipped. “No matter how well maintained your hair looks, it will accumulate dirt, grime, pollution, and grease from hair styling products, etc. For those who fear dry hair, cowash with a mild cleanser at least. Those dealing with oily scalp must wash their hair with a good cleanser/shampoo. People with dry scalp, rough, wavy and curly hair must think twice before trying out the trend.”

People with thin or straight hair can avoid co-washing as product build-up can weigh the hair down, says Dr Raj. He adds, “For those who can try this trend, here’s a good way to do it: The hair should first be soaked thoroughly with water. Then, a small quantity of conditioner should then be taken and massaged into the scalp with the tips of the fingers to loosen up the dirt, cells or any build-up.

Later, the hair should be detangled with fingers and a larger quantity of conditioner taken and passed through the length of the hair til the tips. The conditioner can either be left on for a few minutes or rinsed immediately. For rinsing one can choose to rinse out the hair thoroughly with water or partially leave a thin film on the hair to retain the smoothness, with regular shampooing every 2-3 weeks. However, co-washing effects can be short-lived and may require frequent washes.”

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