What is co-washing and why does it work so well for curly hair?

What is co-washing and why does it work so well for curly hair?

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It’s fairly common knowledge that most curly hair needs a different approach to washing than straighter hair does, but what exactly does co-washing mean?

The hint is in the name – using conditioner to wash your hair instead of shampoo. But why would you want to do this and can it really help you get that holy grail: clean hair without drying out your scalp?

What is co-washing?

Co-washing is simply using a conditioner to cleanse your hair (as well as hydrate it), instead of using a traditional shampoo. Some shampoos can dry out hair, so a lot of people, and particularly those with curly hair, use conditioner only. It might sound impossible that it can possibly work, but despite the marketing messaging telling you the opposite, you don't actually need bubbles to clean.

Surfactant molecule

Conditioners work in the same way as shampoos do to remove oil and dirt, they are just less efficient, which is why they dry hair out less (and of course, they don’t produce lather). The emulsifiers (ingredients which mix oil and water together) in conditioners bind to oil on your scalp and hair shaft and are rinsed down the drain when you rinse off. If you want to understand how surfactants work, have a read here: What is soap?

Why does Curliosity solid conditioner do it so well?

Co-washes really aren't too different in formulation to a conditioner (despite the marketing!). If anything, they tend to be much lighter in oils and designed to be rinsed easy, but at their heart, they are still a conditioner.

Curliosity was designed first and foremost to be a cleansing conditioner – hydrating enough to be a conditioner, but with enough emulsifier in there to really remove any dirt and oil from the scalp, without being stripping. The magical ingredient is one many people are familiar with, but those of you who aren't might be skeptical of. Behentrimonium methosulphate. No - it's not a sulfate, so don't worry it certainly won't strip your skin of oils. Instead, it's a cationic surfactant, which just means it's positively charged and is therefore ‘attracted’ to your negatively charged hair shaft. This means that whilst some of it is washed away by the water, a light remainder is left behind forming a thin layer that smooths your hair cuticle down and prevents moisture loss.

Curliosity also contains castor oil, which is over 90% ricinoleic acid and acts as a plasticiser (changes the consistency of) waxes, resins and fats. What does that mean for your hair? It helps to nourish the scalp and protect strands while removing excess oil and dirt, all without having to use a drying surfactant.