Co-Washing for Fine Hair: Do you? How-To?

Yesterday we started a contest to help a fine-haired reader in need. {Remake Rosie’s Routine} And for the last two weeks, a fantastic co-washing conversation has been unfolding on our Frizz Fight post. So, let’s connect the dots and combine the subjects.

QUESTIONS for the HairJunky masses:

How many of you who conditioner-wash have thin, fine or straight hair?

Does the technique work for you or does it exacerbate flatness? (Is it totally dependent on the weight of your conditioner?)

If conditioner washing works for you, pray do share your tips. If it doesn’t: how do you add oomph?

And while you prepare your comments, let’s appreciate some volume ala Diane Kruger’s Allure cover this month:

I also liked the side part and lifted roots at the Armani Prive Fall 2010 Couture show. 

Who/What/Where is your volume inspiration?

  1. I tried cowashing last week, and unfortunately it did not work for me. I have oily hair that I wash every day, but also straight-across bangs, which really give it away if my hair’s not clean. Even with dry shampoo, it’s hard to go a day without washing.

    My cowashing attempt was not a complete failure- I did get a really cute top bun out of it, with my bangs pulled back. But my hair was way too oily at the roots to wear down.

    • gi
    • July 9th, 2010

    I think you have to try with several different conditionners before finding the one that suits your straight hair. I know I tried 3 or 4 before finding one that works and doesn’t leave my hair looking oily, but oher people report much more experiences before they found their holy grail (I know, this stage can get a bit expensive). I don’t know if the one I use is available in the US since I live in Portugal and it’s a brazilian product. Pretty cheap (about 7 dollars for 1 Kg).
    Edit: I found something about this product line on the net:
    Actually I use the mask and not the conditionner, which sounds funny since the mask is much thicker and you’d assume would be “oilier”, but oddly enough it washes the hair perfectly. I think it has to do with the ingredients because these masks have a very short list of ingredients with few “oils”. I wet my hair, aply the mask generously and wet it a bit more to dilute, give myself an energetic scalp massage to loosen dirt and sebum; then I do my other shower-duties while hair is soaked in conditionner; then I go back to the hair, scrubbing some more, and rinse very well (that step is very important for straight hair: if you’re curly, leaving some conditionner in your hair is fine, but if you’ve got straight hair you really have to make sure everythig was rinsed out or you’ll get limp, dirty looking hair). Since my hair is barely shoulder length I don’t feel the need to apply a second richer conditionner only on the ends/ length, which a lot of co-washers do, so basically I’m done. Takes not longer than my previous shampoo and condition method and my hair is much happier. Once every 2 weeks or so I shampoo with a little diluted shampoo to avoid any build-up (not that I noticed any, but it doesn’t hurt to shampoo once in a while so I do as advised, I’m very obedient :-)). I’ve been doing this for 5-6 months with the same frequency as I used to shampoo (every other day) and so far so good. My hair used to get veeeeery dry on the ends though the roots are veeery oily, and now it feels much better on the ends and not oilier on the roots, so that’s all good :-).

    • gi
    • July 9th, 2010

    Oh, and about volume: my hair is unevitably a bit flat (straight-ish + medium fine) but it’s not flatter now that I co-wash. To avoid flatness the easiest thing to do is to avoid too long hair(the longer it is the more it “hangs” there like a curtain and lies flat against the scalp) and to put some layers in. That would be my humble advice for a bit of “oomph” without having to style it with rollers or a bunch of products and techniques (I know, I’m lazy :-)).

    • Kelley
    • July 10th, 2010

    I tried it about a year ago with two conditioners that were highly recommended on another hair forum. My individual hair strands are thick but it’s thinning pretty rapidly so I decided to be as gentle as possible with it. The CO washing left it dull, clumpy and oily looking. I’m sure I rinsed thoroughly. Maybe it looked that way because my hair is stick straight so when it clumps even a little, it’s really apparent. How do I add oomph? I still haven’t found a way. That’s why I visit Hair Junky!

    • Cathy O.
    • October 25th, 2010

    I co wash 2x a week and shampoo (then condition) once a week. I have BRITTLE dyed (to cover gray) baby-fine hair that used to be quite thick (alot of fine hairs) but is now just fine-average due to hair loss from a medical condition. I am still losing hair so I try to treat it gently, even though I still dye every other month. I don’t want to be gray yet. I cut out the blow drying, and I trim more often. My hair feels like hair again after starting co washing. It used to feel crunchy like hay! I use Suave (the cheap kind) or Vo5 with great success. I leave about 1/2 the conditioner in when I rinse. It helps sooooo much and my hair is soft and like HAIR, not straw/hay ;)

    • Emme Elle
    • December 12th, 2010

    I just discovered this website and I am so grateful. I have fine and mostly flat shoulder length hair. I tried Wen,and loved the results after the first few days but can’t afford to use it regularly. I am going to try all these suggestions and post again with the outcome. Thank you to everyone!

    • jolene.
    • October 15th, 2011

    I have very short hair, straight hair and have been co-washing for about six months now. Initially, I tried Wen and loved what it did for my hair but, unfortunately, my scalp absolutely hated it. After some research I found that Wen contains wax and silicones which were adhering to my scalp and not rinsing of (apparently you need sulfates or similar to rid your hair of silicone) and, as a result was making my scalp itch like crazy. As I was researching the Wen drawbacks I found co-washing. Now my hair looks just as good as it did with the Wen and my scalp is back to normal. I switch off between VO5 Tea Therapy/VO5 Milk Moisture and Suave Coconut to ‘wash’ my hair. And then follow up with a silicone free conditioner to ‘condition’ my hair … currently loving Tigi Moisture Manica. My hair looks the best it has in years.

    • Trich
    • October 19th, 2011

    I have straight hair that I don’t color and I swear that Shielo’s Volume Line gives me more swing to my hair when I use it. I also use Shielo’s Volume Hairspray (its Flexible Hold) on my daughter sometimes and I notice that her flyaways are much neater after using the Shielo brand.

    The scent is AMAZING!

    I have also gotten compliments on the scent from people when my hair was dry. I recommend this shampoo to anyone who is looking to stretch out their haircut visits. Your hair stays healthy and smells great.

    • Pat
    • January 10th, 2012

    I have thin, fine naturally oily that I shampoo everyday (every since high school). now I also color to cover grey. I was given a bottle of Hair One and it was too conditioning for my hair. It felt very heavy and limp (I wear it all one length, to my shoulders). I googled, read up and found people suggesting the Suave Tropical Coconut and the Suave Clarifying. I tried the tropica coconut. While it was WAY WAY better, it was still too conditioning. I got the Suave Clarifying conditioner (which actually reads on the bottle for limp, fine oily hair) and it’s perfect. My hair blow dries with plenty of bounce and movement, doesn’t feel oily (even at the end of the day). It also feels great. Last weekend I colored it, and since then (4 days) I have used a white towel to see how much color it removes, and the answer if NONE!!! the white towel is still………white!!! So my fine limp oily colored hair is loving Suave Clarifying condition just fine.

    Don’t give up just because you use one thing and it doesn’t work. It took three different products for me to find the right one.

    • Elisaaa
    • February 3rd, 2012

    If your hair was greasy, it could just be because your scalp was adjusting to the oil levels. Your scalp had to produce a ton of oil to make up for the oil stripping sulfates in shampoos, so when it suddenly goes to conditioner, it usually goes through a few weeks of an adjustment period where your hair will be super greasy. In a few weeks it should level out and you’ll see the results you want! Try sticking through it a bit longer and it will be worth it(:

    • Samantha
    • August 25th, 2012

    I have been washing my hair with baking soda for a while, and considering other things to experiment with to promote healthy hair. I began cowashing almost a week ago, and it has worked very well for me. My hair type is fine, silky, straight, and oily. I have been using tresseme. I have done some research on how to get good results with cowashing, and people who do this regularly say that the cheaper and lower quality conditioners work best. I think this is because higher quality conditioners have more moisturizing ingredients to replenish the moisture that was removed by the shampoo. Cheaper conditioners aren’t as moisture rich as expensive ones, therefore if you skip shampoo they are less likely to have ingredients that will “over-moisturize” your hair causing it to look oily.

    • Stacy
    • October 22nd, 2012

    I have long, thin, wavy hair that tends to be oily. I started co-washing a couple of years ago, and it helped my hair so much! My hair gets just as clean, but without over-drying. Since I’m not stripping it with shampoo, I no linger have the greasies by the end of the day. The key for me was to also eliminate products containing silicon (since the conditioner can’t dissolve them.)

    • lkkelly
    • January 29th, 2013

    i have shoulder lenght, wavy hair and have been cowashing for a couple days not. i used wen for a couple weeks a year or so ago and had horrible results. i blamed the product and returned it. this winter had been hard on my hair and as i am trying to grow it out i figured what the heck i would try it again with out the 30 conditioner. the first two times i still felt greasy at my scalp before the end of the day but then i started really scrubbing my scalp and that went away. i also have flat hair issues and i noticed that if i flip my head upside down when drying it def helps with the volume.

    • Genevieve
    • February 15th, 2013

    I have straight fine but thick hair and I’ve been CO-washing for about two weeks with great results. When I realized that I was allergic to commercial shampoos, I tried going all natural. I started using two variations of Chagrin Valley Soap and Salve shampoo bars, but found it disgusting to have to use a vinegar rinse. It also left my hair really dry and rough. I then switched to conditioner only, and I think I’ve found what’s best for my hair. I didn’t experience any greasiness or anything, but since my hair was essentially stripped/ naturally clarified, I think that it helped to “start new”. I’ve used both protein and ‘cone conditioners, and plan to try a conditioner made for CO-washing in a few days. I usually get my hair wet in the shower, apply enough conditioner mostly cover my hair (about a palm full or two), wet it again, scrub my hair really well focusing on my scalp and a little on my length, do the rest of my shower things, and rinse again while scrubbing. My hair isn’t quiet a moisturized and slippy as I’d like, but it’s been damaged and will take time. I also think my hair is just naturally dry and porus, if that helps

    • Barbara
    • March 10th, 2014

    Am I the only fine haired girl that has dry hair? I started using the no sulfate shampoo/conditioner (L’Oreal evercreme) a couple weeks back hoping to help my dry hair, and now my hair is oilier and I actually want to wash it more than previously (which was about every three days). I’m guessing it’s adjusting. I’m considering not usuing the shampoo and at all and just the conditioner, but I’m not sure this is wise right now with it being oilier than usual. Funny enough, the ends are still dry and knotty, but I think that may just be because they didn’t cut enough off the ends last visit.

    • Annelise
    • July 7th, 2014

    I CO my fine fairly thick (or high density) wavy hair and I have been doing so for awhile. This is the routine I follow:

    Add 1 dash of produce protector (ascorbic acid & citric acid) to 2 palmfuls of Garnier Fructis Fall Fight, add a small amount of water, mix well
    Apply liberally to dry hair above the nape and massage into scalp
    Let sit for 15-20 minutes
    Apply Pantene Ice Shine liberally to dry hair below the nape
    Dissolve 1 pinch produce protector in a cup of water & set aside
    Rinse hair thoroughly
    Gently squeeze hair and blot with a towel to remove excess water
    Apply Garnier Fructis Triple Nutrition conditioner to length & ends
    Fingercomb until completely detangled, adding more TN as needed for slip
    Clip hair out of the way until ready to rinse (finish shower)
    Pour a splash of the already-mixed produce-protector-water into a larger container (I use Newk’s tumblers), fill it up the rest of the way with tap water, and use the mixture to rinse your hair. Repeat as needed, switching to cold water for the final 2-3 rinses.

    I like this conditioner combination, another conditioner I like specifically for cleansing that has no cones for those who would like to avoid them is Suave Rosemary and Mint. Heavier conditioners and applying to dry hair really helps up the cleansing for me.

    • Ashley
    • July 7th, 2014

    I have long, fine, straight hair and have found that co-washing is a fantastic way for me to not wash every day. I use suave naturals coconut for my co-wash and do not feel the need to follow up with another conditioner. I shampoo my hair about once every 2-3 days and use Shea Moisture thickening/volumizing shampoo and conditioner(I also will sometimes use the pure shea shampoo and contioner by the same brand. The pure shea conditioner is also a great leave in!).
    I rarely put product on my hair other than a leave-in conditioner (garnier foam conditioner) and if i do use anything else I will use a clarifying shampoo the next day to clean the gunk out. I feel like trying to stay silicone free is a major part for me when I co-wash just to make sure I don’t get any icky build up.
    My hair honestly has greatly improved in feel because I found that the silicons in my former products were weighing my hair down. I did have a small transition period of 1-2 weeks where my hair had to adjust to co-washing.

    • June Johnston
    • July 23rd, 2014

    I have fine hair (dry hair with oily scalp and seborrhic dermatitis). I co-wash with Clairol Herbal Essences conditioner. Make sure your hair is saturated with condition (for my short hair I use a golf ball amount). Work it in and then add a lot of water so that the conditioner feels lighter and your hair is easy to swish around. Rinse thoroughly. Using this method, I wash my hair only twice a week (vs. every other day when using shampoo and conditioner). For styling purposes, I use a volumizing mousse.

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