Everything you Need to Know About Cleansing Conditioner

Pump, pump-pump it up!

You’ve probably heard of the term “co-washing,” and no, it doesn’t mean sharing laundry duties with your roommate. Co-washing, or “conditioning washing,” means using just one product to clean your hair: cleansing conditioner. Co-washing doesn’t involve the use of traditional shampoo, hence its alternate moniker, “no-poo” shampooing—just in case, you know, you were thinking about something else entirely.

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Cleansing conditioner gives that telltale “slip” without the suds. Photo credit: indigitalimages.com

Cleansing conditioner is one of the latest wash and care hybrids to be making the rounds in the beauty industry. Before you think it’s just a fancy marketing synonym for a 2-in-1 shampoo, it’s completely different. We would liken using a cleansing conditioner to using a cold cream to remove makeup: It gets the job done but doesn’t strip the face of its natural oils and moisture.

Read on to learn more about what they are and how they can benefit your hair:

It’s gentle.

A cleansing conditioner is a cleansing product that doesn’t use high foaming anionic surfactants to remove oil and dirt to clean your strands. What they do use are gentler cleansing ingredients that remove the usual dirt and residue, but without stripping the scalp and strands of their natural oils. They also have added moisturizing benefits—that telltale “slip” in their formulas—for an extra dose of TLC for hair that needs it the most, a.k.a. damaged, thick or very curly hair.

It doesn’t remove build-up.

Cleansing conditioners are not a 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner, and should not completely take the place of your regular shampoo and conditioner regimen as they don’t clarify from build-up as thoroughly. Some users complain of limpness in their strands when they co-wash too often; to avoid this, treat your cleansing conditioner as that once or twice-a-week break your hair needs from harsher sudsing.

It doesn’t lather

No, it doesn’t matter how much you use. Do not be surprised if your cleansing conditioner does not lather—really, it’s not you. Cleansing conditioners feel more like conditioner: Just as your regular conditioner doesn’t lather at all, a cleansing conditioner doesn’t lend itself to sudsing when wet either. This is another reason why some people, particularly those who crave that squeaky feeling when lathering up, treat co-washing as an alternate. It also requires a lot of product to coat your hair—sometimes up to 12 pumps of the nozzle—so it can feel a bit too much for finer strands. People who like to feel “squeaky clean” before conditioning might not like this consistency.

Normal Hair

Normal hair benefits from a straightforward co-wash. Co-washing once or twice a week is also enough to get locks properly hydrated. Make sure to use the recommended 10 to 12 pumps to evenly coat hair from root to tip.

Fine, Thin Hair

Fine hair tends to get weighed down more easily than other hair types and does well with a weekly co-washing. If you want to use a cleansing conditioner more often, start with a lesser amount (less than 12 pumps), adding on as needed. Also choose lighter formulations like foam, concentrating the product on the ends of hair.

cleansing conditioner shower
No tears: Co-washing is ideal for one-and-done, off-day cleansing.

Dry, Coarse, Damaged Hair

Strands that have a rough texture or are left porous by overprocessing will appreciate the silky-smooth results left by co-washing at least every other day. The recommended amount of around 12 pumps (adding on as needed) is ideal to coat parched strands that have been put through their paces. Look for moisturizing agents like oils on their ingredient list, and make sure to saturate the lengths and ends—parts that need it the most. Keep build-up at bay by using a gentle clarifying shampoo on your regular days.

Curly, Natural Hair

We’re betting you have this no-poo game down to a science, but it bears mentioning anyway. A co-washing regimen every two days, and using 10 to 12 pumps, is enough to keep those curls springy and bright while not sacrificing a clean, healthy scalp. Lightweight oil infusions are also great ingredients to look out for, and will help protect your ringlets from frizz.

What’s your co-washing style? Let us know on @AllThingsHairUS.