Co-washing is a term coined by members of the curly crew taking a strong stand against the industrial shampoo complex and the assault by detergent. Short for “conditioner-only washing,” these haircare pioneers rely solely on conditioner to maintain moisture, save hair from wigging out post-shower, and avoid the dreaded dryness shampoo brings.
To put it bluntly: Conditioner doesn’t clean. It might keep hair soft, smooth, and smelling sweet and not sweaty – some cleansing happens simply with the force of water and the friction of fingers – but conditioner alone won’t remove impurities, pollutants, products – and even build-up from the conditioner itself. Once those follicles get clogged, optimal growth gets compromised, and co-washers are commonly advised to “bust build-up” weekly by using a clarifying cleanser – shampoo under another name that sends them back to squeaky-clean square one.
Conditioner alone won’t remove impurities, pollutants, products – and even build-up from the conditioner itself.
THE MIDDLE GROUND
The hair industry’s response to disenchantment with its cash-cow shampoo was to create a new class of cleansers by dialing down the detergents, amping up the moisturizers, and providing an all-in-one option. Already wise to the perils of sulfate-based detergents, customers were introduced to a whole host of cleansing conditioners, conditioning cleansers, low-poos, and no-poos – formulated with alternative molecules that promised a milder wash.
But, these substitutes still belong in the traditional detergent category and require the presence of conditioning agents and often silicones to repair and replace what detergents damage and strip away. Users don’t feel this co-dependent tag-team because it’s so well masked. But it’s not so far removed from the old, feast/famine conditions of the traditional shampoo/conditioner model. Don’t be fooled: the term “sulfate-free surfactants” does not mean detergent-free.
Check your labels for common forms of sulfates and their close “sul-fake” cousins.
THE FUTURE (IS NOW)
The quest for a way to cleanse and condition simultaneously – and perform each function to the perfect degree – led some product companies to some dead ends (doing nothing for split ends). But by some miracle of modern technology combined with age-old methods, we were led to the holy grail of hair washing (a term our customers use in agreement).
The secret ingredient? The one we never included: Detergent. While it may be perfect for degreasing machinery and mopping floors, we advocate for avoiding contact with skin, a remarkably complex and sensitive organ that supports healthy hair. Humans didn’t tolerate grimy hair in the eons before liquid shampoo was invented less than a century ago; various oils were used instead as effective solvents for the natural (and it turns out essential) oils our bodies produce.
Humans didn’t tolerate grimy hair in the eons before liquid shampoo was invented less than a century ago.
New Wash is a modern adaptation of pre-detergent practices. It relies on Aloe Vera juice in combination with oils of Jojoba, Peppermint, Evening Primrose, and Sunflower, and other saturated fats to act as a gentle solvent for excess oil on your hair and scalp. The formula melts away soil and other impurities and loosens dead skin cells; because it has none of the aggression of detergent, people who need daily washing can feel free to do so with no drying or frizzy consequences.
And if you still need more moisture? Go for a more conditioning version we call New Wash (Rich) or opt for a more effective leave-in method such as Hair Balm that also lets you experiment with texture when you’re styling.
What is there to lose? Well, to be honest, washing the New Wash way means giving up that signature shampoo experience: Suds. Even “low-poo” alternatives can’t muster the lather we’ve learned to love and look for as the signal for clean (in fact, it has little to do with it, but that’s another story).
But like all habits, we can replace old ones with better ones through experience and mindset. The next time you work your shampoo into a heady foam, think about how detergent is eroding your hair, chipping away at your cuticles, irritating your scalp, throwing off your seborrheic system’s delicate balance, and disrupting the skin’s acid mantle.
The next time you work your shampoo into a heady foam, think about how detergent is eroding your hair.
Then try New Wash. Think about how this rich creme, the epitome of responsible self-care, surrounds each delicate strand with gentle cleansers and nature’s best moisturizers that treat your precious scalp with the respect it deserves. Foam? Who needs it? Your hair certainly doesn’t.