What is co-washing aka no-poo shampoo?

Co-washing or no-poo as it’s also commonly known, is the latest craze in hair and beauty that’s likely to be this year’s biggest buzzword, especially with the launch of Ojon Cleansing Conditioner and Purely Perfect Cleansing Creme. But what is co-washing or no-poo exactly?

Short for conditioner-washing, co-washing is also called no-poo because this new beauty phenomenon is all about ditching regular shampoo and turning to conditioner to wash hair instead. It’s a trend that started over the pond where US women with afro, thick, curly or coarse hair have literally been washing their hair with conditioner. RIP for shampoo? Let’s see.

What is the benefit of washing with conditioner? People recommend co-washing for a more nourishing and hydrating way to cleanse, especially for curly, dry or afro hair. As textured hair is coarser and dryer, sulphate-loaded shampoos can simply be too drying. In fact, most people’s hair would benefit from silicone and sulphate-free cleansing (see a few of my recommendations here).

How does co-washing work? Cleansing conditioners contain no foaming agents, just a blend of essential oils that work to break down dirt and oil on the scalp and hair. There is no lathering or foaming but you just massage product onto scalp and hair and spread it through the lengths and leave it on for a few minutes. It might feel strange not having a soapy wash but results are worth it. Cue shiny, soft and plumped-up hair.

As the trend has spread, haircare brands have responded by launching cleansing conditioners as new, separate products. Wen by Chaz Dean Cleansing Conditioner is one of them that landed on my desk a few months ago via QVC.

wen hair cleansing conditioner reviewWen Cleansing Conditioner is a luscious cream conditioner packed with at least five different plant oils, all fairly high up on the ingredients list, and free from Sodium Laurel Sulphate. It smells mildly sweet and refreshingly minty, just as the label says.

I found the instructions tricky to follow at first, just because it’s so different to what we’re used to doing. But that’s a psychological issue of getting used to doing something completely different, i.e. washing foam-free with conditioner.

Instead of a small dollop, you need 10-16 pumps of product, which is a lot, so of course the first few times I tried it I never used quite enough (kind of got tired of pumping and worried I’d have nothing left in the bottle for next time).

Then you have to massage into hair for at least three-five minutes; again I got tired and probably didn’t massage for long enough so never quite achieved the right effect.

Hmmm, I persevered and tried again.

This time I followed the instructions to the letter. Much better! I used the recommended number of pumps so there was enough product to move around the scalp and through the lengths of hair; adding a little bit of water helped with the consistency. I also tried splitting the recommended amount between two rounds of washing, that was also an excellent tip.

I felt like I’d cracked the co-washing thing – massage scalp deeply, allow it to settle for a few minutes and don’t expect the same washing experience as with a shampoo – this is nothing like shampooing so it’s best not to compare. Even the results are different.

Once I got it right, the results were amazing – very shiny and very soft hair but not at all limp, like you might expect. This was plumped-up soft and full of life. I don’t have thick, dry or curly hair – it’s actually quite fine but lots of it – and this made it feel thicker and fuller. (To keep the experiment real, I made no difference to styling: I rough blow-dried and tied in a bun as usual and shook it all out when fully dry).

1 month later….. At first, I couldn’t co-wash all the time because I was still used to the squeaky clean feeling of conventional shampoo. But then I saw how well my hair was looking and feeling and found I was washing less frequently too.

With WEN my hair genuinely stays fresher, fuller and cleaner for longer, with no limpness for several more days than normal shampoo – that’s that bit I love the most. Now I find it hard to reach for shampoo again as I know it’s not as kind to hair and my hair won’t stay as fresh for so long.

Since the experiment started I’ve also tried Ojon Cleansing Conditioner and new Purely Perfect Creme Cleanser (review to follow) and now I only go back to shampoo occasionally. I genuinely believe cleansing conditioners are the way forward – they’re so much kinder on hair, because they don’t contain synthetic foaming agents, and make a statement with impressive results.

Another great conditioning product to try – Ogario Restore and Shine Hair Masque. This amazing product has been winning awards all over the place in recent months and well-deserved too: ingredients lean on the natural and botanical – avocado oil, lavender, and eight essential oils – and even the protein complex that’s exclusively created by the brand, is a mixture of plant-derived proteins. So hair is basically getting a really good feed.


Again, results are very very shiny and soft hair – almost like you can’t believe it’s your own hair. This product has also been recommended for co-washing but I’m yet to try.

What price great hair? Well, neither come in at high street prices (Wen is £26.95 and Ogario is £26.50) but they will last for a really long time and whether you use them for co-washing or normal conditioning, you’ll have genuinely great hair in return (none of this fake silicone shine). So not a bad deal really.