Modern shampoos often contain harsh ingredients that can potentially damage hair over time. For this reason, many have turned to co-washing, or conditioner washing, in their quest for strong, healthy locks. Some people advocate for it as an excellent way to maintain their hair. Others criticize it for being a poor method of cleaning the hair and scalp, and some worry that it may lead to hair loss. The reality is somewhere in between.
Using only conditioner to wash hair does not inherently cause hair loss. However, if co-washing is the only way you clean your hair, it can lead to an accumulation of oils and dirt on the scalp, resulting in inflammation and infection which could lead to hair loss. Read on to find out more about co-washing and its advantages and disadvantages.
Healthy Scalp, Healthy Hair
The concept of co-washing centers on the belief that certain shampoos remove the hair’s natural oils, leaving it dry and vulnerable to external damage such as heat and UV rays.
It is widely recognized that excessive hair washing can harm the scalp and make hair brittle. Co-washing was created with the aim of cleaning hair while keeping it moisturized and nourished without removing its natural oils, which protect the hair.
Co-Washing In Moderation
While it might leave your hair feeling stronger than a traditional shampoo wash, most dermatological experts believe that co-washing is not an efficient way to clean the hair and scalp. The accumulation of dirt, oil, and bacteria can lead to hair follicle infections (folliculitis) as a result of not cleaning properly. However, it is important to note that co-washing doesn’t cause folliculitis in and of itself. Try using shampoo occasionally to keep the scalp clean from oils and dirt.
Is Co-Washing Bad?
If you have been co-washing and find that your scalp has become itchy or sore, it is likely not due to the co-washing itself, but rather because you might be relying too heavily on this method of cleaning your hair.
Co-washing has its own set of benefits. Occasionally skipping shampoo and using only conditioner can help alleviate the dryness and subsequent itching and discomfort caused by shampoo. But relying solely on co-washing can result in the accumulation of not only natural oils but also silicon-based compounds present in conditioners.
If you have a naturally oily scalp, it’s recommended to use shampoo once or twice a week alongside your co-washing routine to keep your scalp clean and healthy.
If Co-Washing Doesn’t Cause Hair Loss, What Does?
A certain level of hair loss is normal. Every day we lose 50-100 hair strands, depending on how thick and long our hair is. If you have been losing hair more than normal, it’s only natural to inspect your hair washing routine for answers. However, co-washing can affect its overall health, it’s unlikely to be the cause of hair loss.
Here are some of the leading causes of hair loss:
- Stress. Stressful situations, like challenging work situations or traumatic experiences, can affect the immune system, making it harder to fight off inflammation and infection, which can lead to hair loss. Certain illnesses can have the same effect. However, hair loss caused by stress is usually temporary, and managing or reducing stressors will help recovery (1).
- Folliculitis. Infected and inflamed hair follicles can lead to hair loss, especially if left untreated (2). Most mild cases of folliculitis resolve on their own, and the best way to recover is by keeping your scalp clean. Co-washing may promote folliculitis because it is not as efficient at cleaning the scalp as shampooing is.
- Medication. Many pharmaceutical products on the market have hair loss listed as a side effect. Some people may experience more severe reactions than others. If you suspect that your medications are causing hair loss, consult with your prescribing doctor.
- Genetics. Men in particular are prone to pattern baldness. More than half of all men over the age of 50 will experience some degree of hair loss. Women can also experience androgenetic alopecia, but it is unlikely to progress to complete baldness like it does in men (3).
- Diet. Maintaining a balanced diet is crucial for maintaining healthy hair. Consuming excessive amounts of junk food raises the levels of oxidative stress in the body, which increases the risk of hair loss. Additionally, an unbalanced diet can lead to nutritional deficiencies, which can also lead to hair loss (4). If you think your hair could use some nutritional help, check out these Research Verified Hair Growth reviews to see if a supplement is something you could benefit from.
We all have different needs when it comes to hair washing. Co-washing does provide some benefits, but it can negatively impact your hair’s health because it does not adequately rid the scalp of dirt and excess oil. Ditching shampoo altogether may work for some people, but you will have to experiment to find the right balance for your co-washing regimen.