Huffington Post Fashion Editor Michelle Persad puts cleansing conditioners to the test.
A few weeks ago, The Coveteur challenged me to give up shampoo for two whole weeks in favor of cleansing conditioners. As a person who has always been told to lather, rinse and repeat, I was hesitant to ditch shampoo for co-washing.
Before I describe what happened to my strands, let me back up and break down this co-washing business. Co-washing is the abbreviated term for conditioner washing, which is a method of cleansing your hair with conditioner instead of shampoo. Initially, I was excited, albeit nervous to give up shampoo for so long. I had no idea what to expect, so before I embarked on my road test, I called the famous Los Angeles hair stylist (and co-washing guru) Chaz Dean, whose line of cleansing conditioners, "Wen,” debuted way back in 1993.
"[By co-washing] you're cleansing with natural essential oils, botanicals and extracts, so it never strips your hair or your scalp."
Dean gave up shampoo 21 years ago and has never looked back. When I asked him why he made the change to co-washing, his reply was simple: "You are eliminating all those harsh detergents, polymers, fillers and binders—basically all the things that strip you hair and remove all the good things." He continued, "[By co-washing] you're cleansing with natural essential oils, botanicals and extracts, so it never strips your hair or your scalp." I was also interested to find out whether co-washing works on all hair types, from baby fine locks, to thick, wavy hair, to African American textures. Dean's definitive answer gave me some relief: "Yes, it absolutely does."
Over the course of two weeks, I tried four different cleansing conditioners to see how they stacked up. I started with what ended up being my least favorite cleansing conditioner, L'Oreal's EverCrème Sulfate-Free Moisture System Cleansing Conditioner. It smelled like plastic and the next day my hair looked greasy—not slick-back greasy like we saw all over the Fall/Winter 2014 runways; more like, "Does this girl have access to a shower?" greasy.
The following day I tried Grow Gorgeous Cleansing Conditioner for brunettes, which smelled like a hot boy (I have such a heightened vocabulary, I know). The results were better, my hair was shiny and bouncy, but the conditioner did weigh down my natural waves, which I didn't love. A few days after that I tried the Purely Perfect Cleansing Cream which was similar to Grow Gorgeous. It wasn't until day nine that I discovered my favorite cleansing conditioner of them all—Chaz Dean's very own The Wen Sweet Almond Mint Cleansing Conditioner (this guy is obviously an expert for a reason).
The label told me to use 24-32 pumps of conditioner—seriously—which took me 15 minutes to properly rinse out (and simultaneously used all my hot water). It proceeded to leave a soapy residue all over my body (cue hot boy mentioned above) and enough hair in my drain to create another human being (farewell hot boy mentioned above). Although Wen's cleansing conditioner pretty much doubled my shower time, for the next three days my hair didn't look greasy at all—a major feat for me. When I went to dinner with friends that week, I was told how "fabulous" my hair looked, and, to be honest, I did kind of look like a girl from a Pantene Pro-V commercial.
In the end, though, my thoughts on co-washing are mixed. It’s important that you find the right product (not all cleansing conditioners are created equal), but the results aren't going to please everyone. I like to have a lot of texture in my hair and not a lot of volume, but the conditioners gave me just the opposite. I will say that my hair was far more hydrated than ever before—this is likely something I'll continue to do a couple of times per month instead of every wash.
PEAK AND VALLEY TIME? The valley was when my roommate yelled at me for using up all the hot water, and my peak was when I tried The Wen cleansing conditioner and could go three days without showering or looking greasy—dirty hair, don't care. But actually.
Editor's note: While Persad tried Wen Cleansing Conditioner and didn't experience any negative side effects, some women have since come forward reporting hair loss while using this product. Stay informed, friends!