Shampoo, Cleanse, Or Co-Wash — What To Use When For A Healthy Hair Care Routine

Hair care

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As we become more consciously active in our hair care routines, and as more and more hair care products keep flooding the market, it’s important to simplify the chaos.

One of the first steps in the process is about cleaning your hair right.

Yes, you read it correctly. It’s not just about cleaning, but making sure that you are using the right products and implementing the right process to see to it that your hair remains clean and healthy.

Now, shampoo has gotten a really bad press in the last few years, and everyone wants to use gentler and milder products in their hair. But the truth is, shampoos are perfectly formulated for the purpose they are designed for: cleaning the hair.

The only problem is, the harsh detergents in them might not be suitable for all cleaning purposes or for all hair types. Therefore, instead of just eliminating shampoos from your life like a toxic ex, it’s important to consider their uses, and involve them in your hair care routine if there is a need for them.

Shampoo, Cleanse, Or Co-Wash

In this article, we unpack the different ways you can clean your hair, avoid hair care mistakes, and what wash products are the best for different hair types or cleaning purposes.

1. Shampoos

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Typical shampoos contain ingredients such as sulfates and silicones that are not the best things for hair. They dry out the scalp, rid the hair of its natural oils, and in extreme cases may cause irritation, dermatitis, and other hair woes.

However, there is a new breed of shampoos that are made with gentler stuff and are free of sulfates and parabens. They are milder on the hair but still have effective detergents that clean the hair of grime, dirt, dead skin, product build up, sweat, and clogging oils.

Before we get into the details of shampooing your hair, let us tell you that excessive shampooing can cause an increase in natural production of sebum — scalp oil. So, if you are shampooing frequently in hopes of cleaning your hair of oil, it’ll only produce more oil.

To remedy that, it’s necessary to only use shampoo sparingly.

Best for the purpose of:

The shampoo will do its job well if you use it for the following purposes:

  • For deep cleaning the hair
  • If you work outdoors and your hair is exposed to dirt or pollutants
  • If you use a lot of hair products which creates product buildup
  • If you sweat a lot
  • If you have dandruff (use a dandruff-free shampoo)
  • If you wash with hard water (strive to avoid it though; look for alternatives).

Best for hair types:

Shampoos respond better to undamaged hair. Avoid harsh shampoos at all costs, and switch to a milder version. Best hair types for shampoos include thick or textured hair (wash once a week with shampoo), straight hair, and generally undamaged hair.

How often to use?

Every 2-3 days. However, if there is notable build up of dead skin or product, or if your hair is visibly oily, it may be time for a wash.

Note: do not shampoo your hair every day.

How best to apply?

  • Wet your hair completely. Make sure it’s sopping wet.
  • Take a dollop of shampoo and dilute it with water.
  • Apply it to your roots and crown. Never the ends of the hair.
  • Massage it gently for 2-3 minutes.
  • Rinse well. Let the water rinse away all the shampoo. May take around 2 minutes.
  • Apply a generous amount of conditioner to your ends. Aim for midway length to the ends.
  • Let it rest for 2-3 minutes or the time given on the label of the bottle. Then rinse away completely.

So, as you see, shampoo has its uses. The next time you visit one of our hair salons for a wash, instead of just saying no to the shampoo, talk to your stylist and ask them when shampooing your hair is the best course of action.

2. Cleanser

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There are mild shampoos and then there are cleansers. The main difference is ingredients and formulations. All cleansers come with sulfate-free formulations and are designed not to be harsh on hair.

They also contain added nutrients like oils, water, and moisturizers to not only clean your hair but also protect their natural texture and seal in the moisture.

Since cleansers are created with gentler formulas, they are ideal fixes for frizzy hair, or for people who have damaged or chemically-treated hair. Their formulation won’t strip your scalp of its natural oils, reducing the pressure on the scalp to produce more oil, and hence keeping the scalp healthy between washes.

Best for the purpose of:

A cleanser is a great wash product for most hair types and concerns. However, for ideal uses, here’s a list.

  • Daily wash/mild hair washing
  • If you live in a humid climate
  • To control frizz and dehydration of hair
  • To use as mild cleaning options for dry and damaged hair

Best for hair types:

All the hair textures and types that are looking for some much-needed love and a daily routine of tender cleaning and care can benefit from hair cleansers. This includes:

  • Oily hair (wash daily)
  • Wavy or mildly curly hair
  • Bleached hair
  • Chemically-treated hair
  • Color-treated hair
  • Dry, damaged, or fragile hair

How often to use?

Cleansers do not contain any hard chemicals so they are ideal as daily washes. That’s why they are perfect for oily hair as oily hair needs daily cleansing. However, to keep hair at its best health, use a cleanser every alternate day to remove dirt and build up and keep it moisturized and nourished.

How best to apply?

Follow the method described above for shampooing and conditioning.

3. Co-Wash

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Co-wash is less of a product and more of a method. It’s a hair wash routine that’s popular with people who are looking to maintain their thick hair, restore hair to its previous health, or generally aim for a nourishing way to clean their hair that’s even softer and gentler than hair cleansers.

Co-wash technique is simple. It’s short for conditioner-only washing. You substitute all the shampoos and cleansers in your shower, and rely solely on conditioner as your primary hair wash products. It works for people who wash their hair daily as well as those who wash it a few times a week.

Since conditioners are the most gentle wash products for hair, co-washing allows you to clean your hair without subjecting it to any harsh chemicals. All conditioners contain trace amounts of detergents so when you mix it up with water, you can create a lather and massage and wash the dirt away.

Best for the purpose of:

If you wash your hair daily, co-wash is the best thing to do. It will work even if you wash your hair on alternate days or after 2-3 days. It’s best for damaged, dry, frizzy hair. And for people who are looking for the least damaging way to wash their hair.

Note: We recommend using a clarifying shampoo once or twice a month if you are co-washing, or after 5-7 weeks to scrub away all the impurities.

Best for hair types:

It’s best for waves, curls, and color processed hair. If you have fine, thin, straight, or oily hair, do not co-wash as so much moisture will weigh your hair down making it look dull.

How often to use?

If you are co-washing your curly or thick hair, use a conditioning cleanser because a conventional conditioner won’t clean that thick hair. Wash your hair after every 2-3 days.

For other hair types, co-washing 3-4 times a week keeps your hair clean, healthy, and nourished.

How best to apply?

If you have fine, straight hair, the conditioner in your shower is ideal for the job. For thicker hair or for waves and curls, you’ll need special co-wash products (especially made cleansers with conditioning benefits).

Still, switching to a co-wash method from conventional washing methods will take some adjustments. Here are some tips to ease the journey for you.

  • Wet your hair completely. Make sure each strand is sopping wet.
  • Take a generous amount of co-wash conditioner and make a lather by diluting it with water.
  • Using gentle circular motions, massage the dirt away. Do it for 2-3 minutes.
  • Let it sit in your hair for another 2-3 minutes to let your hair soak up the goodness of the conditioner.
  • Rinse away the lather completely.

If you are washing curls or waves, continue with an extra step.

  • After the rinse, prepare your hair for conditioning. Ensure no water is dripping from the ends. You don’t want to dilute the conditioner.
  • Apply a generous amount of conditioner from mid-shaft to the ends.
  • Let it sit for 2-3 minutes or the time it says on the label. Don’t leave it too long because then it can be difficult to get all of the product out, leaving your hair limp.
  • Rinse thoroughly with cold water and get all the conditioner out.

Ready for your wash day?

We hope the information we have shared today helps you make the right decision as your next wash day approaches.

Remember that everything we have talked about in this article depends on factors like hair environment, hair type, hair texture, your lifestyle needs, and many others.

So, choose your wash method as well as the cleaning and care products keeping all that in mind to ensure your hair’s best health and growth.

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