So if you co-wash, are you actually cleaning the hair, or just layering conditioning ingredients ? Conditioners contain no detergents, so how can they clean ?
Emuslifiers clean too:
The emulsifiers in the conditioner help the water connect with oil-based dirt. The scalp massage helps with the process. So you can compare co-washing to washing with an extra gentle shampoo. Or to cleansing the skin with cosmetic milk instead of a gel.
Do you need detergents ?
If you are not using hair products with sticky silicones you might not need detergents. If you have a dry scalp, it doesn´t produce much sebum, so a very gentle cleanser is enough. If you have an oily scalp or if you have dandruff, your scalp might actually calm down if you remove detergents from your hair-care routine. Sulphate based detergents (SLES, SLS etc) are often so aggressive that the skin responds by over-producing sebum.
Back to the silicones: if you co-wash, you need to avoid the more "sticky" silicons in your styling products, as well as oils, proteins and petroleum; since these will cause product build-up if not cleansed with strong detergents. These products form a nasty circle together with the harsh detergents.
Before starting CO-washing you need to clarify your hair of old product build-up. More on that in the next post !