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Knowing When to Shampoo vs. Co Wash

When to shampoo vs. co wash is a big topic in the natural hair community. They are different and serive different purposes so check out when to use each.

Using shampoo is a debatable subject in the natural hair community. When co washing came onto the scene, hearing that someone still shampoos her hair was a slap in the face to the natural hair Gods. A lot of time has passed and so has the hate for shampoo so now it’s time to talk about shampoo vs. co wash and when to use either of them.


The fact of the matter is, depending on one’s regimen and the products that are used, shampoo may still need to be utilized as opposed to just co-washing. With that being said, how do you actually know when to co-wash vs. when to shampoo? Here are a few tips to guide you:

When to Shampoo vs. Co Wash 

Build Up

One obvious sign that it is time to put down the conditioner and pick up your shampoo bottle is when you’re experiencing a lot of build up on your scalp. Cleansing the scalp is extremely important in order to ensure that the pores of the scalp are not clogged and that all dead skin, excess oil and product is gone to allow the scalp to breathe.

While there are conditioners with cleansing agents strong enough to clean the hair, most of the time women are just using whatever conditioner they have laying around instead of an actual cleansing conditioner.


If you’ve straightened your hair recently, or plan on straightening your hair in the future, chances are you’ll be using a heat protectant. Since most heat protectants contain a form of silicon in them to coat and protect the strands, it will need to be shampooed out before attempting a new style.


The reason why silicones need to be shampooed out is because they coat the hair with a “film” which prevents moisture from entering the strands and causing frizz. Since our strands need moisture in order to maintain its health, the silicon will need to be completely stripped from the hair so that moisture will be able to penetrate again.

When to Co Wash vs. Shampoo

In Between Cleanses

Technically, you can co wash whenever you want if your hair isn’t in need of a deep cleaning. For example, if you just shampooed your hair last week and you don’t feel as though it’s dirty enough to have to shampoo again, you can do a co-wash.

The good thing with co-washes is the fact that you’re able to cleanse the scalp without losing out on moisture or stripping the nutrients that the hair needs in order to stay healthy. You can co-wash as often as you’d like, but remember that the scalp will need an overall cleanse at least once a month.


Active Lifestyle

If you live a very active lifestyle, you will need to cleanse your scalp more often than others. Assuming that your schedule allows it, someone who is physically active in terms of fitness and/or sports should cleanse their hair at least once a week.

Many women who sport wash & gos during their active lifestyles opt to co-wash during the week and shampoo at the end of the week, so depending on your preferences you’ll be able to gauge when you should co-wash vs. when you should shampoo.


Whether or not you shampoo or co wash is completely up to you and what your hair prefers. While shampoo is a great way to fully cleanse the hair and scalp, keep in mind that there are alternative options if your hair does not respond well to it. The primary goal of both methods is to clean the scalp and hair, so be sure to pay attention to the way your hair and scalp responds to both and develop your regimen accordingly.

Always keeping you in the know Naturals,


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