Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Conditioner only wash

When I first started getting serious about my hairs health, I tried the CO wash method. Transitioning from 3 shampoos per week to 2 CO washes a week took me around a year. My patience was so worth it!
My scalp is happier, my hair feels wonderful and the winter static electricity issues have decreased a lot.

Why shampoo sucks
Shampoo strips the oils out of hair and then conditioner replaces them. No matter what clever and flashy commercials tell you, shampoo is damaging to hair.
The harsh surfactacts present in shampoo like sodium lauryl sulfate/sodium laureth sulfate and ammonium lauryl sulfate tend to overcleanse the scalp. These detergents also dry out the hair.
To compensate for the drying out, the scalp produces more sebum to protect itself and restore the natural state. Skin and scalp needs both a certain pH and natural oils to stay healthy.
This tends to put you in a cycle where you overcleanse to get rid of the greasy hair and your scalp produces more grease to compensate. Some link the overcleansing to dandruff and scalp issues.
For those who are familiar with the oil cleansing method for skin, using CO washing is a lot like that: Instead of using harsh products for cleansing and the putting the back moisture on, you can clean with a product that adds moisture.

Going conditioner only
If you are interested in going conditioner only, you should know it isn’t suitable if you use styling products (Not counting leave in conditioner or natural products like aloe vera and oils)
Of course you can always use the CO method as a supplement to shampoo or other cleansing methods. If you can substitute one shampoo for one CO wash a week, you are still doing something good for your hair and scalp.
Conditioners contain cleansing agents, surfactants and ingredients such as glycerin or glycerol, which are able to dissolve sebum, grease and dirt on your scalp. Cetyl and cetearyl alcohol are thickening and emulsifying agents are used to make a conditioner rich and creamy. Because they’re oil soluble help lift some of the sebum of your hair and scalp.
Conditioner will admittedly take longer to cleanse the scalp than shampoo does, so you need leave it on your scalp for a while before rinsing it off. Of course if you follow shampoo with conditioner, this adds up to about the same time spent.

Transition period
If you cut the shampoo out of daily use, initially your hair will feel very oily and dirty. This is because your hair is used to produce an excessive amount of oils as a defense against the daily oil stripping from shampoo. In some time, this balances out and the scalp adjusts to the new regime, resulting in less oil being produced in the first place.

You shouldn’t attempt going conditioner only if you’re not able to accept that you have a transitioning period where your hair won’t look so good!

Disguise greasy hair with a variety of braids, or hide it under a hat or bandana. It could be a good idea to look ahead in your schedule and avoid trying around major events where there will be pictures involved.

For those who suffer from dandruff, this might not work for you. Since the CO method doesn’t fully have the same cleansing properties as shampoo and dandruff thrives on excess sebum and oil, the method can make you itchy or uncomfortable.
Cool water rinses and ACV may however reduce the itching.

  • It may be a good idea to brush or scritch to loosen the sebum a bit first. It makes it easier to dissolve and wash out.
  • Rinse your hair thoroughly. You can pre-scrub your scalp gently with your fingertips to dislodge dirt and oil from the scalp.
  • Apply a generous amount of conditioner to hair. Take a big handful of conditioner so everything is covered and feels “slimy”. Ignore what the bottle recommends.
  • I find the best way is to bend at the waist and let your hair hang down when you apply conditioner so you don’t get conditioner all over your skin. I have sensitive skin and my skin doesn’t appreciate too much contact with conditioner.
  • Massage the conditioner into your scalp.
  • Comb conditioner through your hair from the root to the tip using a wide-tooth comb.
  • Leave the conditioner on your hair for some minutes.
  • Rinse your hair thoroughly. Comb while rinsing and use your fingertips to scrub your scalp.
  • I find the best way is to bend at the waist and let your hair hang down when you rinse. If you stand up and rinse downwards, the water seems to “bounce off”, where when you bend and rinse up, the water can penetrate the mass of hair better and you can direct and focus the water.
  • Make sure all conditioner is rinsed from your scalp and roots.

Tips and tricks
  • Some people find using cone free conditioners better than those that contain cones. It doesn’t include me, but now I have passed the advice on.
  • Personally I find that conditioners containing protein are good for washing. There might be some scientific reason for this, but I haven’t found one yet.
  • Be prepared to stick with this for a long time. Change comes slow and gradually. Try replacing one shampooing per week with one CO wash, and then some months later replace yet another shampooing with CO etc.
  • Related to this is of course that you should ease into the CO wash method. You can’t go straight from shampoo to CO washes. Alternating them is a good plan.
  • Try finishing with an ACV dip or rinse after CO washing. It normalizes the scalps pH, closes the hair scales and makes your hair feel great.
  • Pick the right conditioners for trying: Sauve Naturals, VO5 (Alberto Balsam in Canada), White Rain and Tresemme Naturals are famous for being good for CO washes.

Of course then there are all the hybrid methods like low-poo and baking powder and various herbs for washing, but I will leave it to the reader to look these up if you’re interested.
I’m aware of, but not familiar with these methods. Since CO washing works for me, I haven’t experimented with them. 


  1. Rockpaperscissorlizardspock9 April 2013 at 19:17

    Urgent! Just sw this and thought of you, don't drink the water! http://www.vasyd.se/Pages/startsida.aspx

  2. If it's ok for me to add this statement; For those who suffer from dandruff, this might not work for you. I tried it and it made my scalp worse. Now having said that, I have an naturally greasy/oily scalp and skin.

    I would suggest trying this method to see if it can improve your scalp's health, but dandruff thrives on excess sebum/oil, and can make it quite itchy/uncomfortable. For those wanting to pursue past the transition phase, I did find that cool water rinses eased the itching somewhat, but for myself, I can to go back to shampoo.

  3. Rockpaperscissorlizardspock: Yikes, thank you!

    Darkhorse: I will most definetely add that information to it! Thank you :) It is very useful to know! <3

  4. Another fantastic article! I love CO washing. I've been hunting for a good conditioner since I found out ALL of my skin hates coconut oil. My hair loves conditioner with coconut oil, though. Too bad my skin disagrees! :)

  5. Thanks Igor :) I just know my scalp gets very angry without having some sort of soap to remove it--I've often wondered if those who suffer from dandruff may have a scalp allergy to excess oils. I could never get through the transition phase of CO because my scalp would itch so badly.

    But, I don't want people to not try it--they may find their dandruff will improve--each scalp is different :)

  6. Just curious -- if you use cones to wash, don't you get buildup? I know piggy uses cones to CO wash, but she shampoos occasionally.
    Great article btw!

  7. I stopped CO washing because my dandruff got so bad - itchy, bleeding scalp and a miserable amount of shedding. However, my scalp wasn't happy with shampoo either (whether sulfate free or not), and I had another major shed because of it.

    Now I've been CO washing successfully for three months, and all it took was a change of technique.

    I put the conditioner on dry hair, massage, and leave it in for half an hour before rinsing (during which I massage intermittently). I use the same conditioner as before, but my hair gets remarkably cleaner and my scalp is so much happier. Lowest shed count in years!

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