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How to co-wash curly hair

If frizz fits and dry spells are getting you down, it might be time to mix up your methods and give co-washing a go. Washing your hair with conditioner instead of shampoo can make your hair healthier and more hydrated, but only if you do it right.

Here, we’re giving you the answers to all your co-washing questions. Let's begin with a big one.

Is shampoo bad for curly hair?


First, let’s start with the traditional hair cleansing method. We’re all familiar with the shampoo-rinse-conditioner-rise regime. But when it comes to textured and curly hair, you need to be picky about what shampoo you use.


This is because most shampoos contain sulphates, which are a big no-no for these hair types. Sulphates are cleansing detergents that are also found in household cleaning products. In our humble opinion, what you use to clean your kitchen sink shouldn’t be going anywhere near your curls.


Sulphates create the lathering effect that makes your hair feel squeaky clean. The problem is, these chemicals are harsh on your hair and can strip away the natural oils produced by the scalp. The oils travel down the hair shaft to lubricate each strand of hair, so they’re essential for keeping your hair healthy and hydrated – even more so for textured, kinky and curly hair.


The twists and coils in these hair types make it harder for the oils to travel all the way down to the ends. This means they’re more likely to be on the dry side. Add those sudsy sulphates into the mix and you’ve got dry, frizzy and breakage-prone hair.


So, how do you swerve the impending frizz attack? Use shampoos that don’t contain sulphates but do contain naturally cleansing ingredients. Take our sulphate-free shampoo, for example. There’s scalp-soothing aloe vera and yucca plant extract to help keep dandruff at bay. Plus nutrient-rich baobab oil and moisture-boosting cupuaçu butter to promote smoothness and shine. 


So, what’s co-washing all about?


Co-washing (or conditioner-only washing) is an alternative cleansing method where you ditch the shampoo and use a conditioner or co-wash in its place. It’s a game-changer among the natural hair community, and curls especially will love this more hydrating way of washing.


First, you work the co-wash or conditioner into your roots as you would a shampoo. It’s the friction of scrubbing that removes the build-up and dirt, so give yourself a good scalp massage to really cleanse your hair. Next, rinse completely and follow up with a second round of conditioner.


Work your way up from the ends to the mid-shaft of your hair, gently teasing out any tangles with your fingers. Keep your hair soaking wet, drizzling water on as you apply the conditioner – this will keep the moisture locked into the hair. Leave in for a minute or two. Rinse out completely, or leave some in if your curls are extra thirsty.


This double helping of conditioner will help to strengthen the hair shaft, prevent breakage and retain precious moisture. And without the sulphates to mess with your groove, your curls will be free of frizz and super hydrated.


Wait – what’s the difference between conditioner and co-wash?!


A co-wash is a cream cleanser that doesn’t contain the nasty chemicals that cause frizz (we’re looking at you, sulphates and parabens). Conditioning is all about moisturising, detangling and strengthening the hair. A co-wash does all of this, plus it has the additional cleansing ingredients mixed in to thoroughly clean and smooth your hair.


Although you can try co-washing with your regular conditioner, it’s best to use a product that’s designed to cleanse and condition your hair. This is because most conditioners contain silicones to add shine and tame frizz. Silicones are synthetic polymers that create an impenetrable seal around the hair to lock in moisture (think of it as a raincoat for your curls). But in the long run, this coating will only build up in your hair, leaving it limp and lacklustre. To avoid this happening, you want to make sure you’re using a light conditioner that has those special cleansing ingredients.


Hero ingredients for co-washing: Emollients (like oils and butters) fight frizz by softening and smoothing the hair cuticle, while humectants such as panthenol and vegetable glycerin absorb water and retain moisture. You’ll also want some vegetable proteins to protect and strengthen the hair shaft.



The 02 Conditioner contains a blend of hydrolysed corn, soy and wheat proteins that mimic the amino acids in the hair, reinforcing the strength of the strand. It also has a moisture-boosting formula made with nutrient-rich and conditioning baobab oil and dreamy cupuaçu butter – one of nature’s most powerful moisturisers. Plus, the naturally cleansing yucca plant extract makes it an ideal co-wash.


So which method is best for curly hair?


All curls are unique, so there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. The best way to find out what works for your curls is to experiment. Stick to co-washing for a while and see how you go, or try alternating between co-washing and using shampoo.


Whichever method you choose, keep in mind that curly hair is happier when not washed so often! We recommend limiting your wash day to once a week to avoid the build-up of products and maintain a healthy balance of oils. If your roots get a little greasy mid-week, you can always apply some sulphate-free shampoo to your roots and let it run down through the stands.


Are you a co-wash convert? Or are you struggling to ditch the shampoo? Let us know your tips and tricks!

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