Hello my fellow struggle bus naturals.
Today let’s talk about cowashing.
For those who don’t know cowashing is using a conditioning formula to cleanse your hair. There are a ton on the market and I’d like to talk about how I figured out making it work for me.
When I first went natural cowashing was really just getting on the map in natural hair care. (These will all be amazon affiliate links) I purchased a bottle of Wen conditioning cleanser. .
First thing is that stuff smells amazing. Second up, I have stuff I need to work around.
- My scalp can get kind of crapped up. Off and on my scalp gets dry and flaky or just kind of gunky. It always has.
- My hair even at that point when it was about 5 inches shorter, is very dense. I need a lot of product to coat all my strands.
- That shit is expensive.
- My hot water heater is not mighty enough to do ALL my wash in shower.
Now, while the Wen was nice, my hair didn’t feel conditioned enough to me and my scalp still felt a bit dirty.
The brands I liked better were:
The As I Am cowash is really nice. It smells nice, it has a good amount of slip, it left my hair feeling quite nice. However it is in a freaking jar…A JAR. So the first one I got I wound up spilling half of it because my hands were slippery and it went whoopsie. Also again, I ran out of hot water. That said, if your hair isn’t super dry or very dirty this works really nicely and it’s affordable if you’re not using a lot.
The next thing I tried was straight up V05 Moisture Milk. While I do love that product for detangling it did not work on it’s own for a cowash for me. Also, do not buy it from Amazon go to the dollar store.
So I figured out a few things.
My hair thrives on low poo but not no poo. Cowashing is pretty great but I had to get a formula together.
Here is how it goes down for me.
I take a plastic bowl and spoon (usually empty butter containers or whatever) and gather my conditioners.
I usually buy conditioners by the liter. First, you want a base conditioner. Use one that’s got some heft and thickness here are the ones I like.
Aussie Moist is my jam. It has a great amount of slip, is very moisturizing by itself and has a nice bit of body to the formula.
Tresemme Naturals Flawless curls hydrating conditioner. This is another classic for me. It’s not as moisturizing as the Aussie but it’s pretty great. The other great thing is often at drug stores it is on sale for the giant size. I also like this formula and this one as well for my base.
For my base I like it to be about a quarter of my overall mix.
Next up, you’ll want to add something for that extra slip. Aside from the mentioned V05 I will use, Suave Naturals line. My fave is coconut. This is another one I say do not buy this shit from Amazon it’s like a dollar everywhere else. The Organix line is also pretty great. I’ll add some of the Argan oil one for my slip. Basically you want something that’ll help ease your detangling.
Next I add a few squirts of something with some protein. Generically speaking, look for stuff that says anti breakage. I religiously use Garnier Damage eraser. My hair is protein sensitive and I’ve found that using a bit of this in my mix regularly has made a nice difference.
Now you can skip to my cleansing element here or if you are protective styling you can do this.
My hair LOVES friggin oils. I am protective styling so I add oils to my cowash. My number ONE oil to add to anything is light castor oil. It’s light as in color. This one (the bottle is UV protected) I’ve gone through four bottles and it’s lovely. I like a good heavy oil. You can also experiment with lighter oils like EVOO, Jojoba etc.
The other things I add are a few drops of tea tree oil for my scalp. Also a word of caution. Check with your doctor if you’re pregnant before you try essential oils. And, less is more. If you’re using the tingly oils (peppermint, tea tree, rosemary) start with only a few drops. They can all irritate skin and you need to be careful.
The other thing I add (that I hate) is a few spoons of apple cider vinegar. I don’t know why, but it just makes a huge difference in detangling, my hair feels smoother and better moisturized when I’m done. It’s gross and will give your mix a slightly chunky feel, but it works for me.
Now for my super secret.
I add gentle shampoo. Not a whole lot. Only a little bit.
My favorites are: Moisture Retention from Shea Moisture. If my scalp feels itchy, I use the Organix Tea Tree shampoo.
Sometimes I use my liquid African Black soap or even baby shampoo (only a TINY bit of that).
I recommend only adding a small amount of your cleanser to begin with. See how you like it.
I know it sounds like a lot, but, once I figured out how to eyeball the ratios of stuff my hair likes it only takes me about five minutes to mix it up. I priced it out and even with the extra stuff I use, it’s far more economical to use and I’m able to asses what my hair needs batch to batch because I make it right before I use it.
Now the how.
I don’t wet my hair first. I always pre-treat my hair with coconut oil whether I’m cowashing or shampooing. My hair responds super well to coconut oil so it is a staple.
When I get ready to cowash my hair is already sectioned and partially detangled. I saturate each section heavily and focus extra product on my ends. Then I hop into the shower and start with lukewarm water. I get each section wet, use the pads of my fingers on my scalp and once I get a bit of a lather, then I start detangling with my shower comb.
How do you know if you like your mix?
Before you moisturize your hair, let it air dry for a bit when you’re done washing. How does your hair feel? Is it soft? Fluffy? Does your scalp feel dirty? If you’re forgetful jot down your feels and work out what you need more of.
When I need extra moisture I will add a few squirts of the Shea Moisture manuka honey conditioner.
So that’s the secret, or my secret, at least.
Like most things with my natural hair, a lot of the blogs and stuff can only tell you so much. I’ve found that gentle experimentation and sticking with what my hair responds well to has been key.
And to end, a photo of my shrunken up super moist hair post cowash:
[image description] Photos of a brown skinned Black person. Their hair is curly.
This was also just after a pretty intense trim. I had to get rid of some super raggedy ends. Next time I’ll talk about why I love protective styling so much and how I got to the point of figuring out how to get and keep my hair healthy and move towards focusing on length retention.