Should We Co-wash Or Not? The Views Of A YouTuber Vs A Licensed Trichologist

182177857Some days ago, we talked about co-washing here, but after that I came across three YouTube videos  recently. Two were titled “Co-washing Your Hair is Unhealthy” and the other was “Stop Co-Washing Your Hair It’s Not Healthy”.

Now headlines like those are sure to grab your attention, especially if you are new to healthy hair care, and you are trying to soak up all the information you can get to build a great regimen. After all, no one wants to walk around with mildew for hair.

Basically the YouTuber Nappy2Straight made definite statements on the practice of co-washing. Many naturals swear by co-washing, so you can imagine the backlash she got for suggesting that co-washers are nasty and walk around with stinky heads.

The reason I want to talk about co-washing is that I didn’t think any of the videos adequately addressed why you might not want to do a co-wash.

It got me thinking that if I was a newbie, I’d still have unanswered questions since she didn’t tell me on what basis she formed her opinion. So today I want to shed some light on the matter to help those in the experimental stage, or those who are new to the healthy hair journey alleviate the concerns they might have with regards to co-washing.

Let me categorically state that this is in no way a jab at Nappy2Straight, in fact, I am in partial agreement with a little bit of what she says. But that is only because I have a fairly good understanding of how co-washing works, and I’ve done extensive research on it myself.

What I intend for you to take away from this article is information that will empower you to make whatever decision is right for you. I intend to do this by looking at what she has presented alongside what authoritative sources have said.

You can watch both videos here:

Sure in the second video she talked about the build-up issue, and stated that she has been a “licensed cosmetologist for 17 years” and she does “research every day”, but apart from that, the video didn’t exactly cite any scientific evidence to support the argument. As I checked some of the comments on one of the other videos, this was a major qualm for persons who had clicked on the video to get information.

It’s not so much that she has stated her opinion, it’s how it was done. She did however say in the third video that she was just giving this advice based on her “personal expertise” which she calls “facts”.

Let’s assess what she said. If you watched the second video you might have missed the part where Nappy2Straight said conditioners that are formulated for the purpose of co-washing are ok. I know I missed it, and didn’t even pick up on it until I watched a second time.

So essentially, she has indirectly endorsed co-washing by saying that it is ok once you use conditioners made specifically for that purpose, and not regular “cheapie” conditioners that are made to condition the hair.

I also found it a bit contradictory that after saying it’s ok to use products made for co-washing, that she would then say “Co-washing does not clean your hair and scalp”. She further purported that there are no cleansing agents in conditioners.

I went on the hunt and found information that counters this. I came across Dr. Susan Walker’s site, Wellness Diva, where she explained that there are surfactants or cleaning agents in shampoos as well as conditioners.

The difference is that they might tend to be a bit harsher in some shampoos. In conditioners you may find that while they may be cleansing agents, they also allow conditioning agents to get attached to the hair. She also mentioned Chaz Dean’s Wen product line. So I went in search of what was in the Wen Cleansing Conditioner.

Dr. Kari Williams

Dr. Kari Williams

As it turns out, Wen Cleansing Conditioner is a 5-in-1 product that is a shampoo, conditioner, deep conditioner, leave-in and detangler. The cleansing agents in the Wen conditioner are :

Cetearyl Alcohol – a cleansing agent which is a foam booster

Behentrimonium Methosulfate – an anti-static agent that conditions, though it is a surfactant or cleansing agent.

Well by this time I was breathing a little easier, since I was seeing holes in the argument presented in the videos, but I wanted a bit more advice so I asked Dr. Kari Williams, a licensed Trichologist (hair doctor).

I wanted to know what are the views of Trichologists when it comes to the practice of co-washing or “conditioner cleansing”? I posed these questions to Dr. Kari. “When it comes to co-washing, what are the views of trichologists? I probably wouldn’t use a normal conditioner if I was to try it, but would a product labelled as a co-wash, clarifying conditioner or cleansing conditioner be wise? Do they work, or are there negative consequences in the long term?”  She responded:

My advice about cleansing conditioners and co-washes is to use them supplemental to your regular shampoo. They should not completely replace the use of shampoo. Cleansing conditioners work best when used in between regular shampoos to remove excess product or dirt from the hair and scalp. Make sure you are giving your hair and scalp a deep clean once a week or once every two weeks depending on your level of activity and how much product you use. Most importantly, deep condition your hair every time you shampoo to replenish moisture into your hair strands.

In essence, it is ok to co-wash, but you should not entirely avoid shampooing at least once or twice monthly. Dr. Kari’s advice shows how you can co-wash safely without worrying that you are doing more harm than good.

So, when you assess all the information, Nappy2Straight may have a point when it comes to avoiding build-up. It would seem that she is not altogether against co-washing either, because she said using a co-washing conditioner is ok. However, what she seems to be against is the no-poo method; totally eliminating shampoo from your regimen.

While there is an absence of clear scientific studies on the validity of the practice of co-washing, Trichologists seem to concur with something similar to this YouTuber. The difference is that they do not tell you that you should stop co-washing, they tell you to ensure that you include shampoo in your regimen though you might practice co-washing.

In the final analysis, I hope you have learnt more and you are less tense about trying co-washes. Remember that while there is a flood of information out there about our hair, some are incomplete, since we are only just learning how to really cater to the black demographic and much of the research on hair was done from a Caucasian and Asian perspective.

Information about black hair care will continue to evolve, so give it time while our scholars amass the funding needed to pioneer the types of research that will provide empirical evidence unique to our hair. In the meantime, take the advice you get from others with a grain of salt, and when you’ve done your own research, do what is best for you. Are you any clearer on how you can safely co-wash?

Originally posted 2014-08-20 15:00:36.

About Marsha Buchanan


As a Jamaican girl raised in a devout church family headed by my mother, I have always had my natural hair, no chemical processing. After years of mistreating it , often ignorant of that fact, I began my healthy hair journey in January 2013 in fact, I have seen to it that my entire household falls in line where this is concerned. When I am not poring over some hair blog or forum I spend my time teaching English to rowdy high school students (ok maybe I have some little sweethearts in the mix), mothering the most adorable two year old on this globe, or rushing to meet the deadline for a writing project on Elance. In my spare time I enjoy a stroll along the beach with my doting husband.

About Marsha Buchanan


As a Jamaican girl raised in a devout church family headed by my mother, I have always had my natural hair, no chemical processing. After years of mistreating it , often ignorant of that fact, I began my healthy hair journey in January 2013 in fact, I have seen to it that my entire household falls in line where this is concerned. When I am not poring over some hair blog or forum I spend my time teaching English to rowdy high school students (ok maybe I have some little sweethearts in the mix), mothering the most adorable two year old on this globe, or rushing to meet the deadline for a writing project on Elance. In my spare time I enjoy a stroll along the beach with my doting husband.

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Comments

  1. Rochelle Corilette Liyah Warner

    I don’t know about other naturals but I only Co wash maybe once or twice a week (depending on my style I have and other factors) and I shampoo once a week. I do NOT think that cowashing period is enough to clean ones scalp. It NEED to be clarified in some form! Product build up is real and stops growth. imo.
    But everyone has THEIR own way of looking after THEIR hair and everyone’s hair is DIFFERENT

  2. Brenda

    I tried co-washing once and don’t like it because my hair didn’t feel clean. So instead, I deep condition each week before I shampoo and condition. My co-worker loves it though so I think it’s a personal choice and what works for you.

  3. Pattie Armstead

    I shampoo every other day and co wash the other days. Co washing only did not work well for my hair.

    1. TMW

      That was a good article, folks should read it if they have questions

  4. TMW

    Co washing is just not my thing. I don’t knock those that do it but I know that as a child and up until age 21 when I got my first relaxer I had long, thick, healthy hair and had never heard of co washing. In fact when out of shampoo I even washed my hair with ivory soap and had no problems as long as I conditioned afterwards. So I think people should base their decision on how their hair reacts to things. My hair reacts just fine to shampooing as long as I finish with conditioning and a cool rinse. Maybe someone else can’t tolerate shampoo, so be it..

  5. Honeyamber1

    Thank you for the article! I too am a new natural, only one and a half years old! I didn’t know about co-washing, never heard of it and did a lot of research before trying it. I had the same concerns as many who are curious and you’ve only confirmed what I’ve always known. And all I can say is my hair loves it! Of course, I had to adjust to not seeing foaming bubbles and as I continued doing it, it became routine. I do clarify my hair with sulfate shampoo monthly or bi-monthly and rotate in a moisturizing sulfate-free shampoo when needed. I now only co-wash as necessary (when my hair is really feeling dry) and am experiencing the healthiest hair I’ve had since before I started relaxing it.

  6. Karen

    I mostly co-wash my hair. Whether or not I shampoo depends on the products I’ve used in my hair and their ingredients. There’s a conditioner that I use that makes my hair squeaky when I rinse it out. Using conditioner only to wash my hair helped define the coils I have. It may not be for everyone, but it works for me.

  7. Divachyk // Relaxed Thairapy

    Co-washing never worked for me but co-cleansing does. I shampoo once weekly and co-cleanse mid-week to remove sweat from my scalp generated by working out.

  8. Steen H.

    I just learned about co washing a few months ago and I thought I try it. I use V05 and it works nicely. But I do it bi weekly with shampoo with Shea Moisture and I use Suave clarify once a month. It really depends on your hair. But I do agree with co washing. Great article. Thanks!

  9. mslady126

    What a great and informative article. I’ve known that one should shampoo at least once or twice monthly. I’m the coily type that likes to delay washes for as long as possible because my hair tangles.. Co-washing is a blessing for me because I am able to “wash’ my hair weekly without tangles and knots. I deep condition weekly as well. I must admit I was nervous, that someone would say I was mistaken.. it feels so right! haha! Thanks for the article.

  10. MzJonezNYaBonez

    I’m not exactly sure why she’s so upset. Her argument doesn’t make sense. If there are cleansing agents in certain conditions or co-washes specifically, how is that comparable to lotion?? Anyhoo.

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