Co-Washing Curly Hair – Step By Step

I covered the benefits of co-washing curly hair in this earlier article.

I also answered the FAQs about co-washing curly hair and shared my favorite co-wash conditioners.

In this article, I will be sharing my step-by-step process for co-washing curly hair. BTW, co-washing is aka conditioner wash.

It’s been a minute since I co-washed as my hair has mostly been in individual braids throughout this entire pandemic.

Since I work from home and we’re on lockdown, there’s really nowhere to go so doing the minimum with my hair.

Lorraine Massey, author of Curly Girl: The Handbook, founder of Devachan Salons, and co-founder of DevaCurl originally introduced the no-poo method.

In the handbook, she advocated cleansing hair with conditioner instead of shampoo.

This was back in the days before co-washing conditioners were introduced into the market.

Co-Washing Curly Hair – Step By Step Process

Who Should Co-Wash?

Type 2 and 3 hair wavy, curly, coils would do well with a co-washing regimen.

Type 4 hair would particularly benefit from co-washing your hair. Not sure what your hair type is?

Have a look at the Healthy Natural Hair Products Hair Type section for more on that.

Women with color-processed hair should also try out co-washing as it will maximize the time between touch-ups.

Unfortunately, fine, straight hair is not a good candidate for co-washing as it will weigh down the hair and cause greasiness. 

What is Co-Washing Curly Hair?

Co-washing curly hair is the process of cleansing curls with cream-based ingredients to remove build-up without stripping hair.

This process takes place instead of traditional shampoos, which contain harsh ingredients that strip the hair of oils.

These harsh ingredients over time lead to dry and brittle hair, which eventually leads to breakage.

A lot of shampoo manufacturers these days go to great lengths to eliminate these harsh ingredients from their products.

Nevertheless, you may still want to incorporate co-washing into your curly hair care regimen.

Co-Washing Curly Hair – My Process

So, I took my braids down this morning and fluffed and detangled then put in two buns to prepare for the co-wash process.

Co-washing Curly Hair 1

I normally use As I Am or EdenBodyworks to co-wash but I had a few conditioners I wanted to go rid of so I just mixed those together.

I also diluted the mix a little as it was too thick. Learn more about diluting hair products here.

I placed it in a hot water bath then wet my hair with a little bit of water and started applying.

I applied in sections, massaged and scrubbed my scalp, and smoothened the co-wash mix into each section then twisted that section.

Think of the way hairstylists used to apply relaxers back in the day and use the same principle to work the co-wash into your hair.

I sectioned my hair into 4 parts and because I detangled it already, it was easy to work the co-wash through.

Co-washing Curly Hair 2

After I finished applying the co-wash, I rinsed out and repeated the process then pinned up my hair and covered it with a disposable cap.

I normally would apply a deep conditioner after rinsing out the co-wash but the co-wash mix were deep conditioners so I went straight to deep conditioning.

I still haven’t been able to replace my hair steamer so I had to use the hairdryer for the deep conditioning session instead.

I placed a detachable bonnet over the hairdryer mouth and secured the bonnet to my head then switched it on.

Deep conditioning with Hair Dryer

I deep conditioned on low heat for 45 minutes then rinsed out the co-wash.

While this was OK, I still would have preferred my usual portable hair steamer.

After the deep conditioning session, I rinsed out my hair with lukewarm water while it was still in twists. A great tip to prevent unnecessary tangles.

If you’re rinsing out your co-wash while in twists, you will need to flush with water properly to get it all out.

I hang my head upside-down in my tub to rinse more effectively. Generally, when the water rinses clear, you’ve got all of it out.

After rinsing, I put my individual braids back in, as usual, using my current favorite stylers:-

Hair stylers after co-washing

Best Co-Wash for Curly Hair

My current favorite co-wash conditioners include:-

As I Am Coconut Cowash Cleansing Conditioner

As I Am Coconut Cleansing Cowash

EDEN BodyWorks All Natural Coconut Shea CoWash

Eden BodyWorks All Natural Coconut Shea CoWash

kinky curly knot today for braid spray

Kinky-Curly Knot Today

However, some other great co-wash brands for curly hair can be found at 20 Plus Best Co-Wash Conditioners for Natural Hair.

Can You Co Wash With Any Conditioner?

Yes, you can co-wash with any conditioner if you don’t want to spend extra money on a co-wash conditioner. However, I recommended diluting it.

Even though I used a deep conditioner for this co-wash session, I would not do this normally as it can cause build-up quickly.

I should also mention co-wash conditioners might have very gentle cleansing ingredients similar to surfactants.

Co-Wash vs Shampoo

A co-wash and shampoo are two different products for two different purposes.

A co-wash is ideal if you’re on a low poo regimen. However, after a few weeks (4 – 6 weeks approx.), you will need to clarify your hair properly.

Remember on top of the co-wash, you are applying other products so build-up is inevitable.

To remove this build-up, a shampoo is necessary. You can dilute this shampoo if you’re worried about it stripping your hair too much.

For gentle clarifying shampoo recommendations, read 22 Clarifying Shampoos That Work Without Damaging Hair.

Co-Washing Curly Hair Everyday

This is not a good idea. It might look like your hair is loving it for a few days or maybe even weeks.

However, I can assure you that is the journey to severe build-up and greasy, icky feeling hair.

Co-washing curly hair 2 – 3 times a week is more than enough. Some people say it’s fine to do it every day but I don’t agree with this.

Bottom line, pay attention to how your hair responds and adjust accordingly. Remember overdoing it will lead to build-up and dull hair.

Does Co-Washing Slow Hair Growth?

Not at all. If done correctly, co-washing will promote length retention and keep your hair healthy and curly.

If it feels like you are experiencing slower hair growth while co-washing, then it could be something else off with your regimen.

For best hair care practices for moisturised happy hair, check out 365 Days of Moisture for Dry & Parched Hair.

365 Days of Moisture for Dry & Parched Hair 3D copy

Co-Washing  Curly Hair Important Tips

Co-washing Curly Hair Tip 1 – Don’t Co-Wash Exclusively

Co-washing curly hair exclusively is not going to end well. You will have to clarify at some point as mentioned above. I recommend every 4 – 6 weeks.

There are gentle clarifying shampoos to help you achieve this. I also rather like Alaafia African Black Soap.

Co-washing Curly Hair Tip 2 – Consider Detoxifying Clay Instead

In place of shampoos, you can also try out bentonite clay. Bentonite clay works like a shampoo to detoxify the hair and scalp.

For more on this, read Bentonite Clay Application on Curly Hair.

Co-washing Curly Hair Tip 3 – Don’t Forget Your Scalp

Cleanse your scalp as well. Scrub gently with your fingertips to loosen the dirt. Do not scrub with your fingernails. You will irritate your scalp.

Instead of fingernails, try a scalp massage brush instead.

Co-washing Curly Hair Tip 4 – Go Easy on Styling Products 

If you co-wash more than you shampoo, don’t use heavy styling products. This will cause significant build-up.

Co-washing Curly Hair Tip 5 – Detangle Properly

Before you apply a co-wash, ensure your hair is properly detangled.

One of the good things about co-washing is it reduces SSKs so it gets easier to detangle each time.

Co-washing Curly Hair Tip 6 – Rinse Out Co-Wash Properly

Make sure you rinse out the co-wash thoroughly. Leaving some of it on will lead to significant build-up along the way.

The bottom line, co-washing curly hair promotes moisture, hydration, and length retention.

Only good things can happen to your hair when you include co-washing in your regimen.

If you’re new to co-washing curly hair, have a look at the earlier article as well – Is Co Washing Good for Natural Hair?

Got more questions about co-washing curly hair? Drop them in the comments section.

Reference – Pro and Contra of Cleansing Conditioners

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