General Hair Info

Why I Have a Problem With Co-washing Only


So many naturals tout the benefits of co-washing (aka conditioner washing) only. For sure, it’s a personal choice and not one that I’d ever make.

That’s not to say that I’m against co-washing. I do co-wash my hair every other week using the  As I Am Coconut Co-wash. I absolutely love how it makes my hair feel – soft and manageable. BUT, I wouldn’t use it as a sole means of cleansing my hair.


While there are many pros to conditioner washing, there’s a couple of cons that I think are important to be aware of. For one, if you co-wash your hair only, you’re bound to have some form of build up and will need to clarify your hair – probably more often than if you used shampoo at least as much as you co-washed.

Second, co-washing is like getting in the tub and washing your body with lotion and then rinsing. While your skin will be lush and soft, your body is not getting as clean as it could if you had used some form of soap. It’s the same for your scalp.

Now, before you fire up the comments section with how wrong I am and how shampoo can do more harm than good, hear me out. I’m not saying that conditioner can’t cleanse the hair. It’s certainly able to grab onto some dirt and pull it down the hair shaft. I just don’t think it’s adequate enough to cleanse the scalp. When using various conditioners to co-wash my hair, it never felt really clean. Hence, I defer to using shampoo every other week at least.

I’m not talking about shampooing with a typical shampoo that contains sulfates (or other harmful ingredients) either. I’m referring to using a sulfate free shampoo that utilizes another cleansing agent – such as Shea Moisture.

shea moisture shampoo and conditioner

Shea Moisture’s shampoos contain delicate cleansers derived from sugar beets. This is what causes the foaming action that simultaneously cleanses your hair AND your scalp.

I’m a huge fan of Shea Moisture products for their natural ingredients. However, there are other shampoos on the market that cleanse without sulfates. I can’t guarantee that they are all natural but if that’s not a concern then you have additional options.

Other Sulfate Free Shampoos

If you don’t find that your hair is getting clean enough with co-washing only, I suggest you try a sulfate free shampoo. Here are some brands:

* Shea Moisture Raw Shea Moisture Retention Shampoo
* L’oreal Paris Everpure Smooth Shampoo
* TIGI Rockaholic Livin The Dream Sulfate Free Shampoo
* TRESemme Naturals Nourishing Moisture Shampoo With Aloe Vera & Avocado
* DermOrganic Daily Conditioning Shampoo
* AG Smooth Sulfate-Free Argan Shampoo

I’ve not tried any of these brands except for the Shea Moisture so you’ll have to do your own research on this one.

Do you co-wash only or do you sometimes shampoo?


Michelle Smith
Michelle is a Christian special needs mom residing in the NYC area who shares useful tips to grow and maintain fine natural hair. She's a published author and Creator of Fine Natural Hair and Faith, inspiring others with faith for living along side knowledge on how to care for their "crown."

17 Comment

  1. When I tell them that I don’t use shampoo and wash only with conditioner, they figure that my hair must be really dirty/never feel clean. Sometimes I see them looking at my roots for signs of nastiness.

  2. I agree! Co-washing doesn’t help for me either. The only time I co-wash is after a henna treatment. Otherwise I use Trader Joe’s nourishing shampoo or Creme of Nature’s Argan Oil shampoo.

  3. Thanks you for your post. I don’t co-wash and other naturals tell me I’m doing myself a disservice, but I don’t believe that is true. I have tried co-washing and it left my hair soft yes, but it didn’t feel clean at the scalp. My hair is extremely thick and when oils and stuff collect there it takes shampooing to get it out. I have found Carol’s Daughter shampoos work best for me.

    I think whatever work for you is what you should do. But make sure it is working for you and you’re not just doing it because somebody said it is what you should do. Case in point, my niece n law never shampoo’d my great nieces hair ever (they are 4 and 6).. and sometimes their hair would stink.. even just a couple of days after co washing… get close and it would just smell sour. I’m sorry but its true. I finally convinced her this past December to use CD’s rosemary mint clarifying shampoo once a month on them and that has addressed the issue. Their grandmothers on both sides thanked me because they were at wits end on trying to get her to wash the little girls hair with some ‘poo, LOL.

    Funny thing about all of this to me is now we don’t want any poo to come near our scalps yet when I was growing up I had two braids past my armpits and my mom washed my hair with a BAR of ivory soap and used Queene Helene as a conditioner, LOL. My hair issues came along in college when I decided I was grown and had my hair relaxed. Boy if I could reset the clock on THAT decision! Well I’m trying, 14 months natural, :>)

    So just do what works best for you, not because someone said its the only way to go.

    1. Ivory soap? lol noooooo!
      Here’s the thing with shampoo. Even IF it does strip out the moisture, you can always put it right back. Now that I think of it, shampoo doesn’t strip out moisture. It strips out oils. Water is moisture. Oils can be put right back to seal that moisture in.

      But like you said ppl will do what they want and a person should do what’s best but if no improvement is noticed then they may not be doing the right things lol

  4. I’ve been doing the CGM and soley co-washing with AS I AM Coconut Cowash and have had NO problems. I have tried sulfate shampoos and they STILL left me with stripped hair. Shampoo is just not for me even when I used oil for a pre-poo. My hair has been clean but I also don’t use anything that isn’t natural so I really don’t have issues with product build up or need a clarifying session. I get it…it’s not for everybody and you don’t get the clean feeling. That clean feeling is important and I think finding the right cleansing conditioner works for many who do this. Shea moisture has one too but I’m happy with AS I AM so far.

  5. I completely agree! I actually had to stop co washing between shampoos altogether recently because my scalp would act up after a few days. Another shampoo you can add to the list is Organix. I just started using their Coconut Milk one and it’s awesome!

  6. I am a co washer , however I also sulfate free shampoo. I am currenty using the as I am for both. Thus far liking them both. I agree, a wash is needed as well to prevent bulidup.

    Thanks for posting. Take Care!


  7. Hi Michelle!

    I agree with you!

    I don’t co-wash. I’ve tried many times, but it is obvious to me that my scalp is not getting clean. Why? I tend to get pimples around my hair line, which I rarely get. This only happens when I call myself experimenting with co-washing.

    I decided to stick with shampoo for cleansing. However, when I think my hair needs to be redone and I don’t want to shampoo it, I will rinse it very well with water and apply conditioner to the mid-shaft and ends of my hair and rinse.

    I’m a shampoo girl. 🙂

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