Curly hair is needy but in the best way possible! Its unique texture demands a careful balance of moisture and care. Unlike straight hair, curly hair tends to fare better with less frequent shampooing to avoid dryness and irritation. This is where the wonder of co-washes and cleansing conditioners takes center stage, offering a gentle cleansing solution while maintaining hair of its natural oils.
A co-wash for curly hair is a specialized hair care product that serves as a gentle alternative to traditional shampoos. This formulation is meticulously crafted to cater to the specific needs of curly hair textures. They combine conditioning and cleansing properties in one, often containing ingredients such as emollients and botanical extracts to hydrate and detangle curly hair.
In this comprehensive guide, I’ve carefully curated a selection of top-notch co-washes for curly hair, suitable for various budgets and hair types.
Drawing from my experience, having tried all sorts of co-washes over the years, I’ve handpicked products that cater to a wide range of needs. Whether you’re a co-wash veteran or new to the game, you’re sure to find the perfect match for your curls among these tried-and-tested options.
Our Top 17 Co-Wash for Curly Hair Picks
Here’s our selection of the best co-washes for curly hair. Be sure to verify the product size, as it can differ across various websites.
#1 As I Am Coconut CoWash Cleansing Conditioner
This is undoubtedly my all-time favorite co-wash. It’s a must-have for your hair care routine, and I strongly recommend stocking up on it for the benefit of your hair.
Here’s why it’s so great: This formula effectively removes dirt and residue and maintains your hair’s moisture, leaving it feeling incredibly soft.
What sets this cleansing conditioner apart is its unique blend of ingredients that promote hair growth at the follicular level, making it exceptional for your hair’s health and growth.
Key ingredients: Coconut oil, tangerine, castor oil, saw palmetto, and phytosterols.
Pros: Packed with natural ingredients, free from sulfates, parabens, and phthalates.
#2 Ouidad Curl Immersion No-Lather Coconut Cream Cleansing Conditioner
This 16-ounce bottle of coconut-rich creamy cleansing conditioner offers a unique co-washing experience. It’s a low-foaming formula that cleanses and enriches drier curls with natural oils and essential fatty acids, promoting their strength and growth.
Key ingredients: Coconut oil, Abyssinian oil, rosemary oil, sage oil, and grapeseed oil.
Cons: It’s a little on the pricey side.
#3 Eden BodyWorks Coconut Shea Cleansing CoWash
If you’re new to co-washing and unsure where to start, this conditioner is the perfect choice. It’s suitable for all hair types and textures.
This product not only effectively removes build-up, grease, and residue but also replenishes moisture in the hair. This moisture restoration creates a healthy environment for both the scalp and hair, supporting hair growth.
Key ingredients: Aloe vera leaf juice, shea butter, fatty alcohol, and coconut oil.
Pros: Sulfate-free and paraben-free. Delivers deep moisture, which enhances hair’s strength, manageability, and shine.
#4 Curl Junkie Daily Fix Cleansing Conditioner
This large-sized (16 oz) creamy cleansing conditioner cleanses your curls without stripping them. It is effective for cleansing your hair and scalp while adding lightweight conditioning.
It is a concentrated formula, meaning it will last a long time.
Key ingredients: Mentha piperita (peppermint) leaf extract, Matricaria requisite (chamomile) flower extract, yucca leaf extract, Urtica dioica (nettle) leaf extract, melissa officinalis (melissa) leaf extract.
Pros: 97% natural/naturally derived ingredients. Sulfate-free and paraben-free.
Cons: A bit on the pricey side.
#5 Carol’s Daughter Hair Milk Co-Wash Cleansing Conditioner
This cleanser washes away pollutants while also deeply moisturizing from root to tip. This curl cream helps reduce frizz, defines curls, and hydrates hair- all without leaving any crunch or residue.
Key ingredients: Shea butter, vitamin B5, and agave tequilana stem extract.
Pros: Sulfate-free, paraben-free, no petrolatum, and no artificial colors.
Cons: Drawback: If you adhere to the Curly Girl Method, please note that this product includes dimethicone and amodimethicone, which are not compliant with the method’s guidelines.
#6 Briogeo Be Gentle, Be Kind Avocado + Quinoa Co-Wash
This is easily one of my top co-wash picks. It’s an ultra-hydrating 4-in-1 formula that excels at cleansing, conditioning, detangling, and nourishing your hair.
Briogeo’s proprietary NOVA Complex, designed to promote overall hair health, sets this formula apart.
Please keep in mind that it comes in a two-pack of the largest size (32 oz.), and since a little goes a long way, it will last you for a considerable amount of time.
Key ingredients: Shea butter, avocado oil, quinoa extract, green tea, and bamboo extract.
Pros: No sulfates, silicones, parabens, DEA, artificial dyes, or phthalates. Uses organic ingredients and is gluten-free and cruelty-free.
Cons: While it may be on the pricier side, the quality justifies the cost.
#7 Aunt Jackie’s Flaxseed Recipes Purify Me Frizz-Fighting Co-Wash
This nourishing co-wash is an excellent choice for those dealing with persistently dry hair. Whether your hair is rough, dry, or brittle, or if you often wear protective styles, this product is tailored to your needs.
Key ingredients: Enriched with flaxseed, avocado, coconut oil, and apple cider vinegar.
Pros: Moisturizes dry, brittle hair. Free from mineral oil, petrolatum, sulfates, and parabens.
Cons: It might require a generous amount.
#8 Jane Carter Solutions Curl Drench Cleansing Co-Wash
One of the most cost-effective and efficient hair lines available is definitely Jane Carter Solutions.
Established around 1992, the company offers products for all genders, ages, diverse ethnicities, and hair types.
This beautifully blended formula softens, spreads, and lifts your natural curls while also retaining moisture. It also cleanses your hair of impurities while preventing frizz, tangles, and breakage.
Key ingredients: Persea gratissima (avocado) oil, Simmondsia chinensis (jojoba) seed oil, restorative botanicals.
Cons: This may be limited by availability.
#9 Curlsmith Curl Quenching Conditioning Wash
The Conditioning Wash is a shampoo and a conditioner that gently cleanses and conditions your hair.
This top-rated co-wash is designed to create a light lather and optimal slip while also not stripping away your scalp’s natural oils. This product will leave your hair feeling softer, shinier, and healthier.
Key ingredients: Rosemary oil, smashed avocado, rare andiroba, organic apricot, raw aloe vera.
Pros: 100% Vegan, Cruelty-free, and Free from minerals, sulfates, and phthalates.
Cons: It’s a little pricey.
#10 Head and Shoulders Moisturizing Co-Wash
Did you know that Head & Shoulders was the first to find an active ingredient to target the root cause of dandruff? Yep, ’tis true.
This formula cleanses and removes build-up and is gentle enough to use daily. This rich and conditioning co-wash gently cleanses curls while also providing relief to a dry and itchy scalp.
It can be used to refresh hair and scalp in between washes. Regular use will also help balance and restore scalp health (associated with dandruff).
Key ingredients: Pyrithione zinc, which is a common anti-fungal medication in medicated shampoos for treating dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis (SD), which causes symptoms like flaking skin, redness, and itching.1 The other key ingredients include coconut oil, stearyl alcohol, and cetyl alcohol.
Pros: Offers deep hydration, Free from dyes and parabens.
Cons: It contains dimethicone. Please note that if you follow the Curly Girl Method, this product may not be suitable for your regimen.
#11 Pantene Gold Series Deep Hydrating Co-Wash
This low-lather formula was developed by scientists and perfected by stylists, which means this is a win-win.
The Gold Series Deep Hydrating Co-Wash is perfect for dry, damaged hair. It deeply hydrates and leaves your hair looking and feeling healthy.
Key ingredients: Stearyl alcohol, Argania spinosa kernel oil, panthenol.
Pros: Highly cost-effective, convenient pump dispenser, and free from parabens and dyes.
Cons: It contains methylchloroisothiazolinone and methylisothiazolinone, which may cause skin irritation for some people. Methylchloroisothiazolinone (MCI)/Methylisothiazolinone (MI) is a cosmetic preservative deemed safe when used in nonsensitizing formulations. Concentrations should not exceed 7.5 ppm in leave-on products or 15 ppm in rinse-off products.2
Watch this video to learn more about the product.
#12 Shea Moisture Mongongo & Hemp Co-wash
If you have highly porous hair, this product is ideal for you. I used it as my go-to co-wash when my hair was extremely dry and over-processed. It’s a rich, creamy conditioner that provides excellent moisture.
Key ingredients: Shea butter, mongongo oil, hemp oil, panthenol, baobab protein, Irish moss.
Pros: Crafted from certified organic ingredients, this product includes Mongongo oil, rich in antioxidants and Vitamin E, making it an excellent choice for high porosity hair. Additionally, it features hemp oil, a natural conditioner, and is particularly suitable for color-treated hair.
Cons: Not always in stock.
#13 As I Am Olive & Tea Tree Oil Dandruff Co-wash
This formula is tailored to address scalp dryness, itchiness, and dandruff. It features olive oil and tea tree oil for soothing relief. Additionally, it aids in maintaining and enhancing curls while delivering ample moisture for dry and curly hair.
Key ingredients: Zinc pyrithione, piroctone olamine, betaine, and oil-based moisturizers.
Pros: Budget-friendly, provides instant relief for itchy scalp, and hydrates curls. Free from parabens.
Cons: Strong scent, potential for irritation in sensitive skin, and messiness due to the tub packaging.
Check out my full review of this product on my blog titled “As I Am Olive & Tea Tree Oil Co-Wash Product Review.”
#14 Moptop Co-Wash Cleansing Conditioner
This co-wash combines gentle cleansing with the replenishment of essential nutrients and natural moisture in a single wash. When you skip shampooing, it helps maintain your hair’s natural oil balance, preventing excessive build-up.
Key ingredients: Aloe extract, sea botanicals, honey.
Pros: Suitable for all hair types, provides lightweight moisture, contains water-soluble ingredients, and is free from parabens, dyes, and phthalates.
Cons: A little pricey.
#15 Alikay Naturals Cowash Me Cleansing Conditioner
This scalp treatment features a blend of essential oils that effectively dissolve buildup at the scalp and roots. Additionally, it works to repair damage by filling gaps and cracks in the hair’s cuticle, enhancing moisture.
Furthermore, this product promotes hair growth by boosting blood circulation in the scalp, softening hair, and preventing moisture loss to improve overall moisture levels.
Key ingredients: Highest quality plant extracts, avocado oil, coconut oil, bay essential oil, and olive oil.
Pros: It contains natural and organic ingredients.
Cons: Some may not be keen on coconut oil.
#16 Bounce Curl Hydra Drench Cleansing Conditioner
Consider using the protein-free Hydra Drench Cleansing Conditioner if your curls require additional moisture. This deeply hydrating product not only cleanses your hair by removing impurities but also conditions it at the same time.
Whether you have low-porosity hair, high-porosity hair, damaged hair, or color-treated hair, this product is suitable for various hair types and can work wonders for you.
Key ingredients: Organic aloe barbadensis leaf juice, marshmallow root extract, nigella sativa (virgin black cumin) oil.
Pros: 100% Natural Scent. Delivers the highest level of moisture.
Cons: A little pricey.
#17 Unwash Bio-Cleansing Conditioner Hair Cleanser
This special formula removes daily dirt and grime build-up without removing hair’s natural oils, resulting in frizz-free bouncy hair. It’s also safe for color-treated or processed hair! It also strengthens hair, seals in moisture, and reduces frizz.
Key ingredients: Cationic Cleansers, Hydrolyzed Keratin, Organic Evening Primrose Oil, Hemp Seed Oil
Pros: Great for color-treated hair and frizz.
Cons: Contains Methylchloroisothiazolinone and Methylisothiazolinone, which may be a skin irritant to some people. Methylchloroisothiazolinone (MCI)/Methylisothiazolinone (MI) is a safe cosmetic preservative in nonsensitizing formulations, with concentration limits of 7.5 ppm for leave-on products and 15 ppm for rinse-off products.3
How To Co-Wash Curly Hair
You will find that people like to wash their hair in a few different ways. Experimentation is the best way to find out what works best for you.
However, we can give you a few tips on how to co-wash your curly hair the right way:
STEP 1: Start by rinsing your hair with very warm water for 3-5 minutes. This initial rinse helps to remove dirt, toxins, and pollution from your hair.
STEP 2: Apply a generous amount of co-wash to your hair and use a wide-tooth comb or detangling brush to gently detangle your hair. Ensure that you distribute the product evenly to coat your hair effectively.
STEP 3: While the co-wash is in your hair, massage it into your scalp. This not only helps cleanse but also stimulates your scalp for optimal conditioning. Leave it in for 5 minutes to allow for deep nourishment.
STEP 4: Rinse your hair thoroughly. If necessary, repeat the process for a second round of cleansing and conditioning.
Following these steps ensures that your co-washing routine effectively cleanses, hydrates, and nourishes your hair for the best results.
What Is Co-Washing?
Co-washing, or conditioner washing, is a term for cleansing your hair with conditioner instead of regular shampoo. It’s also known as no poo (meaning no shampoo).
Conditioner-only washing is especially beneficial for people with naturally curly, coily hair, kinky hair, or extremely dry hair, which can be stripped of its natural oils by traditional shampoos.
Co-washing can help replenish lost moisture, reduce frizz, and leave your curls looking healthy and bouncy. However, choosing the right formula for your hair type is important.
If you have fine, thin hair, opt for a lightweight conditioner that won’t weigh down your locks. Those with thick, coarse hair should look for a rich, creamy formula that hydrates and nurtures your strands.
And if you have color-treated hair, be sure to select a conditioner that is specifically designed to protect it.
Benefits of Co-Washing
- Helps to retain the natural oils in your hair
- Helps to reduce frizz
- Can make your hair more manageable
- Can help prevent scalp and product buildup
- Better curl definition
- Helps retain hair moisture
Shampoo vs. Co-Wash
Sulfates, like sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, and ammonium laureth sulfate, found in shampoos, are strong cleansers but can strip natural oils from your hair, causing dryness and potential irritation. Shampoos often combine them with milder nonionic surfactants to balance effectiveness and scalp health.3
Shampoo is definitely a necessary part of any curly hair routine and is effective to rid the hair and scalp of sweat, excess sebum, product buildup and residue, pollutants, dirt, grime, and dead skin cells.
Co-washing can also get rid of dirt and oil, but it may not get rid of all the build-up from products, which is why some people like to use both methods.
If you enjoy how your hair feels after co-washing, try alternating between co-washing and shampooing to ensure that your hair and scalp are clean.
Shampooing is still important, but using a co-wash in between can help keep curls looking healthy and moisturized.
Many people often find that co-washing results in softer hair, but the advantages are often temporary, resulting in a slew of hair and scalp issues.
If you co-wash often, clarifying your hair every few weeks is important to prevent product buildup or scalp issues.