If you're reading this article, you're probably already familiar with the benefits of co-washing (or conditioner-only washing) your hair, particularly if it's curly. But like with any other beauty product, co-washes aren't one-size-fits-all. To help narrow down the best co-washes for curly hair, Bustle spoke with Lisa Price, founder of Carol's Daughter — a Brooklyn-Based brand known for their all-natural, curl-focused hair care products.
"While any conditioner can technically be used as a co-wash, most conditioners don't actually cleanse the hair," explains Price. That means, when searching for a co-wash, look for something that removes impurities and product buildup but still contains enough moisturizing ingredients that will help make hair more manageable. And because its main job is to restore hydration, be sure you're choosing a co-wash that's sulfate-free, since sulfates can actually strip your hair of moisture.
Co-wash should be applied similarly to shampoo, but to avoid tangling, be sure to use smooth, downward movements as opposed to more aggressive scrubbing or bunching motions. Once your hair is saturated from root to tip, allow it to sit for three to five minutes to receive the product's full nourishing benefits before thoroughly rinsing it out of your hair.
As for how often to co-wash your hair? "The frequency of co-washing will depend on your lifestyle and condition of your hair," says Price. "If you have an active lifestyle, consider co-washing your hair a few times a week to wash away dirt and impurities." But even once a week can help hydrate and detangle if you have a sparse hair washing routine going.
To help get you started, here are five of the best co-washes to try now.
1. The Expert's Pick
Price's own creation, the Carol's Daughter Hair Milk Cleansing Conditioner was designed with every type of curl in mind, from softer waves to tight coils. "It was formulated to gently cleanse and detangle curls without stripping," explains Price, who notes that the co-wash is a no-lather conditioner. It's also color-safe and free from harsh ingredients like sulfates, parabens, mineral oil, artificial colors, and petroleum. Instead, it deeply moisturizes hair and increases elasticity with agave nectar, shea butter, biotin, and pro-vitamin B5.
This co-wash also has over 500 five-star reviews on Amazon. "This product makes my hair so soft, bouncy, and healthy," shared one reviewer who described their curl type as 3a/3b. "It cleanses my hair when I need it, but it also doesn't strip all the moisture and shine out like a regular shampoo would."
2. The Best Drugstore Co-Wash
For curly hair in need of intense moisture, Pantene created their Gold Series line. Their Deep Hydrating Co-Wash promises to clean hair while protecting your scalp's natural oils and hitting your strands with extra hydration in the process. The argan oil-rich formula is free from sulfates, parabens, and dyes, and was designed to strengthen natural and transitioning hair, leaving it softer and more manageable in the process. This drugstore buy is also an amazing value — though it's not the cheapest option on this list, it does give you an impressive 15 ounces of product for just $10.
3. The Best Under-$5 Co-Wash
If you're looking for a budget-friendly co-wash that doesn't skimp on good-for-hair ingredients, the Cantu Complete Conditioning Co-Wash costs just $5. The gentle cleanser is free from sulfates, parabens, silicones, phthalates, and mineral oils, which helps it remove impurities without leaving any buildup behind (silicones, in particular, can weigh down the hair with repeated use). Cantu also goes above and beyond when it comes to conditioning hair with 15 natural butters and oils blended into the formula, including shea butter, coconut oil, castor seed oil, and avocado oil.
4. The Best Co-Wash For Dandruff
If you have dandruff or a sensitive scalp that gets irritated easily, you need a more specialized co-wash. The Head & Shoulders Royal Oils Moisturizing Co-Wash was formulated with dry, itchy scalps in mind, and is part of the brand's Royal Oils collection, which was developed for natural hair by a team of black scientists. To remove product buildup and calm the scalp, 0.5% pyrithione zinc is included in the formula, which is the same active ingredient Head & Shoulders uses in their other dandruff-fighting shampoos. Meanwhile, a heady dose of coconut oil helps restore moisture to leave hair softer and more hydrated after each wash.
5. The Best Co-Wash According To Amazon Reviewers
For a tried-and-true fan-favorite, the As I Am Coconut Co-Wash Cleansing Conditioner has over 1,000 five-star reviews on Amazon. The sulfate-free cleansing and conditioning hybrid simultaneously removes product buildup while restoring moisture and detangling hair At the same time, it's quite gentle (you can use it daily if you want) and rinses out easily. "My hair feels so much lighter after trying this product," commented one reviewer. Another wrote, "This really melts into your tresses, leaving them moisturized and glossy. It doesn't strip your strands of healthy oils, it leaves them happy and healthy."
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