Co-washing (aka conditioner washing) means using conditioner to wash your hair, rather than shampoo. Some people argue that regular shampooing dries their hair out. As a very dry-haired person myself (wavy and bleached), I was very curious to give conditioner washing a go.
Co-washing is recommended for medium to coarse, wavy and curly hair types. The scalp’s natural oils have a harder time navigating the twists and turns of wavy and curly textured hair. It’s not recommended for super fine or straight hair, as these hair types get greasy more easily. If you do have super fine hair, you might want to try reverse washing instead.
How it works
Shampoos clean hair because they have surfactants (detergents) in them which lift dirt and oil from the strands, allowing you can rinse them away with water. Conditioners also contain surfactants but they are slightly different ones that don’t produce any foam. They do still remove dirt, just not as much as shampoo does. Conditioners also usually have an oil ingredient in them. Just like cleansing oils for your face, the idea is that oil dissolves oil. With conditioner, the oil doesn’t completely rinse away with the water. So, conditioner won’t do a ‘deep cleanse’ but it won’t completely strip the hair of oil either. Which is good news for dry hair.
My hair is cut short and I have a massive undercut because it’s so thick. The top half is bleached which makes it feel even thicker. I like to change the colour a lot with Crazy Colour so it needs to be bleached to do this. My roots don’t get particularly greasy. My hair’s texture is wavy but it’s the type of kinky wavy that looks a bit mad if left to it’s own devices (IMHO), so I prefer it to be on the straight side. Sometimes the front goes into nice finger-waves under the right (rather elusive) conditions, which I don’t mind at all.
At the moment I’m thinking of growing it a bit, so I’m trying to look after it while it grows. Which means not using my straighteners as much. It’s summer just now so the less blowdrying the better. Since I’ve been experimenting with co-washing I can get away with slicking my hair back wet, letting it air dry and then tousling it up once its bone dry. It dries straight(ish) with just enough volume. Co-washing and air drying are definitely making my hair easier to live with at the moment, and my colour isn’t needing to be topped up quite so often.
The process so far
I’ve been experimenting for about 6 weeks. I read that it usually takes about two weeks to get used to the feeling of having ‘not properly washed’ hair. For me, I didn’t really ever feel really gross but it might just be because my hair is so short and was mostly slicked back.
Before the experiment I was mostly shampooing my hair every other day – just rinsing or leaving it on the in-between days. I decided to try a similar routine but to alternate conditioner with shampoo on the wash days. So the pattern was:
Day 1. shampoo Day 2. leave Day 3. co-wash Day 4. leave Day 5. shampoo Day 6. leave Day 7. co-wash
When I use shampoo, my hair immediately goes into tangled mess of knots. But when you swap shampoo for conditioner, this doesn’t happen! I would fully wet my hair, use a big dollop of Light Conditioner all over my hair and scalp and massage it in as if shampooing, then rinse. No knots. On shampoo days I’d use some Treatment Conditioner and leave it on for a few minutes before rinsing, as per usual.
The day after shampoo day, my hair is super springy like a mad professor’s. I have to wet it down or do something to control it. But after co-washing days I realised it would look a lot less like a Trolls in the morning and I could get away with not having to wet my hair down at all. So I kind of started to play around with mixing the days up, having more co-wash days and leave-it-alone days. I found myself shampooing less frequently and co-washing tactfully, trying to avoid puffy hair as much as possible.
I think over the 6 weeks I washed my hair about 4 or 5 times with shampoo (I lost count in the end). The times I did shampoo, my hair had got to the point where I felt it really needed a good wash. I think I used dry shampoo about 4 times in my fringe when I wanted it to quiff up and my roots were visible. Co-washing worked well for a good few days but any longer the oil did build up and make my roots greasy. Overall though, my hair felt much softer the less I shampooed it.
There will times when you need to shampoo
I went camping one weekend and came back with seriously stinky campfire hair. I was also wearing a hat most of the time which did make my roots more greasy than usual (is that a thing?). So upon my return I shampooed.
The times that shampooing will be necessary:
1. you’ve been in a very smoky or stinky place
2. you’ve been wearing a hat
3. you’ve been swimming in chlorine
4. you’ve been using a lot of styling products (especially ones with silicones) including dry shampoo
5. you’ve been in really humid weather (scalps produce more oil in high humidity)
6. you’re super stressed (also increases the amount of oil you produce).
When you do shampoo, always use a sulfate free shampoo as they are milder than the others. They don’t strip the hair completely of oil which means your scalp isn’t forced to produce even more, which regulates the amount your scalp is produces over time.
Like I said, it’s only been 6 weeks and it’s summertime so co-washing has really worked out for me and my unruly hair so far. So much happier and harmonious without so much shampooing.
If I’m honest my hair doesn’t feel ‘squeaky clean’ unless I use shampoo but I’m *more* than happy to trade that off for hair that I can manage and doesn’t feel so rough. It is all a matter of personal taste and every scalp and head of hair is different so I definitely think that co-washing needs trial and error at first. Give it a couple of weeks to get used to it and get in tune with how your hair’s feeling and behaving.
Fancy trying it?
If shampoo is making your hair do weird things and you’re tempted to try co-washing, I’d recommend using Light Conditioner. It’s has light oils in it (fractionated coconut oil, rice bran oil and camellia oil) so it will be cleansing. The essential oils in it will make your hair more fragrant. It also has wheat protein, pro-vitamin B5 and aloe vera so it will strengthen and moisturise the hair at the same time. It contains no silicones so won’t leave behind any residue, and it rinses out very easily. Give it a whirl!
If your coloured hair tends to fade fast, a coloured shampoo is a great way to keep it looking fresh. It’s very easy to make your own at home. Coloured shampoos deposit tiny amounts of colour back into your hair every time you wash it. You can use them to top up your existing colour, slightly change it or add subtle tones to your hair.
There are already many pre-made colour shampoos on the market but I only like to use Hairy Jayne (of course). So I DIY my own by mixing colour into Nourishing Shampoo. Bleached hair with pastel or bright tones on top (like mine) fade notoriously fast so this is a good way to slow down the process of fading.
I prefer to use a coloured shampoo rather than conditioner because conditioner shouldn’t really be going anywhere near your roots, only on the ends. I usually want the colour to be deposited all over my hair including my roots (and shampoo does go up there). If you have lighter ends in a dip dye/ombre style or if you do just want the ends to be toned, you can do the same DIY with conditioner rather than with shampoo.
If your hair is blonde or naturally grey/white and is looking a little yellow or brassy, a purple shampoo (sometimes called ‘silver’ or ‘ash’) to brighten it up. Violet is opposite yellow on the colour wheel (remember those from school?) so the purpleness neutralises any yellow tones.
Coloured shampoos will never lighten your hair shade and will always be more obvious on hair that is already pre-lightened. You can add some red, copper or violet tones to darker hair but it’ll just be a lot more subtle.
I like to use Crazy Colours mostly (my love of which began back in the nineties) and sometimes I use Adore or even Stargazer, depending on the colours available to me. Brixton has a good selection of well-stocked hair shops along Electric Avenue and Atlantic Road so I’m usually spoilt for choice!
I prefer to mix the shampoo up in a bowl and then decant it back into the bottle so that I can see the colour as I go along. Make sure you use a bowl that doesn’t matter just in case it stains! And it’s a good idea to wear gloves while you’re mixing (I really should take my own advice, I’ve ended up with a couple of slightly blue nail beds). You can just pour the colour straight into the bottle and shake it up really well if you’d rather not mix it in a bowl or don’t have a funnel. Tip some shampoo out to make room if it’s a brand new bottle, obviously.
I’d recommend starting with a capful of the colour into half a bottle of shampoo. (That way you have spare ‘plain’ shampoo if you need it). Use 2 capfuls if your hair isn’t pre-lightened or if you really want the colour to be strong. You can always add more colour in for your next wash if you want it bolder.
When you wash your hair, leave the shampoo on for a couple of minutes before you rinse to let it soak in and do it’s thing. Dry your hair to see the actual results before adding any more colour into the bottle for the next wash.
The difference in the tone of your hair should build up over time. More so on bleached hair and less so on natural or darker hair. It’s a subtle change and in no way permanent so have a little play with it!
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Here are the results over time about 2 weeks using my blue concoction pictured above:
Quite dark pics but you can see my hair was originally a minty green. It’s now gone much more blue using the shampoo I made. Knocked the yellow out of the mint green while topping up the blue. I did use quite a big slug of Royal Navy Adore in the shampoo and I do have bleached hair so it has made a difference. Here’s a better pic of the colour as it is now in better daylight:
Do let me know if you have a go at DIY coloured shampoo, I’d love to hear the results!
Disclaimer: I am well aware that the ingredients in both hair bleach and these colours ain’t exactly natural! If you were to compare cosmetics to food, they’d definitely be junk food. I do believe in living a balanced life though. Healthy meals most of the time and a big fat dirty burger some of the time 🙂
I’ve recently added some more information to all of the product listings. In the spirit of transparency, I’ve added the actual percentage of naturally derived and biodegradable hair care ingredients used.
It is important to know what you’re getting in your cosmetics. A lot of the ingredients we put on our skin (including hair care) are absorbed into our bloodstream. The forehead and scalp have a comparatively high rate of absorption, and that’s exactly where you’re using your hair care.
Our bodies are better equipped for processing natural ingredients than man-made. Unfortunately in our modern lives, our bodies go though countless stresses already. By eating ‘bad’ processed foods, breathing in pollution and so on. So using things on your skin that are easy to process helps you to look after yourself.
The other thing to consider with wash-off products (shampoo and conditioner) is that they end up going down the plughole. Biodegradable substances break down over time by natural processes and reduce the pollution in our water systems. Which is good for us all.
The percentage of biodegradable ingredients in each product is generally high, but there are a small amount of synthetic ones. Any product that has water in it must have a preservative added to prevent mould and bacteria developing. The hair perfumes and oils contain no water so are preservative-free. The shampoos and conditioners, however, have a paraben-free preservative in at just 1%. The other synthetic ingredients used in all the products are for heat protection, anti-frizz and detangling. They’re ingredients that are necessary for effective hair care but not found in nature and are made in a lab.
No artificial colours are added to the products. They are all fragranced with essential oils. Not only because they smell so, so lovely but because essential oils are distilled straight from plants.
I hope this post shows you some more about what goes into each bottle and why.
As a hairdresser with a business that requires promotion and marketing, it’s often suggested to me by well-meaning people that I start a YouTube channel of hair tutorials. The idea of this not only fills me with absolute dread. (I *hate* being filmed, especially if it requires speaking!) It also makes me think “why would I spend time doing that when there are so many other more-than-willing people out there making them already?”
It’s true, there are already many, many hair tutorial videos up on YouTube, ranging from the very amateur (“Hair tutorial gone wrong”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LdVuSvZOqXM) to the so-professional-you-just-know-you-won’t-be-able-to-do-that-yourself-at-home type. My personal preference for hair styling tutorials comes not from fellow hairdressers but from the types of women I’d probably hang out with. Women who just show you what they do with their hair without constantly pouting and telling you subscribe to their channel. Long winded intros before anything actually happens are a personal no-no too.
Based on all of this, here are:
I don’t know about you, but I find watching women doing their hair really mesmerising! (Those, and the looped videos that illustrators post of themselves drawing or inking their designs.)
I’ll finish with a little guilty pleasure of mine – I find the way this guy cuts hair really soothing! Might just be me though 🙂 (I’d recommend watching the videos with the sound muted as the music can be a little dodgy…)
Tarantula playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLOTE4cO4Zucp5S_8N42Tid2I6Skza65b5
I never usually write very personal blogposts, but this morning, in a moment of New Year inspiration (I love January for that) I’ve written a manifesto to express some of the reasons why I make hair products and basically articulate what Hairy Jayne believes in.
BREAK THE RULES
I’ve done this many a time, really and truly. With my personal style, that is. Mostly starting at high school, and *definitely* during my art college years, where charity shops were my spiritual home. I do love ‘Fashion’ to look at, but I’ve never really been one for following the latest trends. Fashion is an influence for me, but not a rulebook. I’ve always liked to wear what made me feel ‘unusual’. Although these days I’m much less experimental and try more to dress for my curvier (and slightly bumpier) shape. And I certainly don’t believe in the ‘Hair Rules’. The ones that dictate that women shouldn’t have grey hair, or have long hair past a certain age, or try a fringe out just for the heck of it.
CARE ABOUT THE PLANET
I am a bit of a hippy deep down, and I do worry about how environmental damage will impact our future. I like to use natural products in my life as much as is possible, and I try to buy British, recycle, refuse plastic bags, all those small things that I hope are helping, even if only just a bit.
DIFFERENT IS GOOD
Life would be soooo boring if we all looked, behaved and lived the same way. I really do embrace the so-called ‘weird’ and quirky, and calling my company Hairy Jayne wasn’t that strange to me, even if I do get some funny looks sometimes. My musical lady heroes are the real risk takers – Bjork, Kate Bush, Grace Jones, Bat for Lashes – all the ladies who really put themselves out there.
AGE IS JUST A NUMBER
Last year I turned 40. It wasn’t so bad at all, in fact I laughed about it quite a bit. I really don’t feel 40, and probably don’t act or dress like a typical woman my age. The only thing I found slightly disturbing about this milestone was thinking about my mother having a 40 year old daughter. To me that’s weird.
LOOKS AREN’T EVERYTHING
It does FEEL really good when you’re looking good and that IS important – BUT – way too much emphasis is put on looks in our world. Put on some lippy and have ‘makeup’ as your hobby if it makes you happy. But don’t spend ALL your time thinking about your looks and especially don’t compare your to other peoples. If you want to be a happy person. You are who you are and you have some really great features and a totally unique personality. And there are sooooo many cool ways to express yourself other than through how you look.
MAKE, MAKE, MAKE
Making things makes me happy, it always has. Even if things end up a little bit wonky or never really get finished, there’s real satisfaction in making things. I’m talking all creative outlets. Drawing, DIYing, baking, cooking dinner, new hairstyles, taking photos on my phone, even making travel plans. I always need to have some sort of project of whatever size on the go. Although I haven’t experimented with any new hair potions for a little while now. I think that may need to be a New Years resolution.