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Curly Girl Method Co washing and Transitioning

What is the best method of washing my hair for the curly girl method? All you need to know about the Curly Girl Method for Co washing and the transition period


Curly Girl Method Co washing is one of the best ways to treat curly hair especially if it is dry.  Co washing is a method of washing your hair in conditioner only. One of the best ways to attempt the curly girl method is to switch straight over to co-washing. If you are already doing the curly girl method and find the method is not working for you or your scalp may be itching it could be your technique to ingredients in what you re using. In this guide to Co washing we will cover all the questions that regularly arise about the Curly Girl Method Co washing and transitioning phase.

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Curly girl method Co Wash and transitioning, curly hair. You may find the curly girl method is not working for you or your scalp may be itching. In this guide to Co washing we will cover all the questions that regularly arise about the Curly Girl Method Co washing and transitioning phase.

See my Curly Girl method quick start guide here

What is Co washing?

Co washing is the method of cleaning your hair using conditioner only. The theory behind co washing is that shampoos contain harsh detergents and strip the hair of natural oils and damage the structure of the hair strands.

Co-washing offers gentle cleaning by rubbing the scalp using an emulsifying conditioner. This action gently lifts the grime and dirt from the scalp and hair shaft. Co washing gently cleanses and Moisturises at the same time.

A Co wash Conditioner is two substances that do not mix i.e. oil and water. It is this action of mixing two products on your hair that gently cleanses the hair. For a scientific explanation see here.

How do I co wash my hair?

Rinse hair thoroughly in warm water and use conditioner in place of your regular shampoo. Try to massage the conditioner through your scalp and ends for as long as possible, at least 5 minutes. Rinse and reapply until you feel your hair is clean. Gently use a wide tooth comb to de tangle your hair.

Use a regular conditioner before the final rinse if you wish.

Is Co washing good for all hair types?

Co washing is perfect for any one! particularly dry, porous or curly hair. It can help all hair types to stay moisturised.

Can I Co wash coloured hair?

Co washing is also good for coloured hair as the conditioner will not be as harsh as shampoo. Shampoo strips the pigments of colour from your hair shaft.

Can Co washing cause build up?

Yes it can! Conditioners are designer to leave a small film on the hair shaft to condition the hair. Natural products such as butters and coconut for instance will attach to the hair and can gradually build up. Depending on the area you live in minerals from hard water can also build up on your hair.

When this happens you will need to Clarify your hair.

How can I tell if I need to clarify my hair? 

  • Hair will look duller than usual and lack shine.
  • Your scalp may be itchy or flaky.
  • Your hair might look stringy or feel heavy and coated It also not hold the curl as well.
  • You might nor be getting good hair curl results in general or you haven’t clarified in a while.

Do not clarify your hair too often, Clarifying too frequently can be damaging to your hair. If you find you are getting signs of build up sooner you may be using products that are too heavy or your hair hasn’t transitioned to co washing yet.

How can I remove build up from my hair?

When starting the Curly Girl Method Co washing and transitioning can be one of the hardest parts to get used to. Many people give up at this point when their hair becomes dry, stringy, greasy or flakey.

There are a few different ways to remove build up from your hair while Co washing. In the Curly Girl guide Lorraine Massey recommends a lemon aid rinse and a bicarbonate of soda rinse. Here are some other ways to remove build up caused by Co washing.

  • Try an Apple Acid Cider vinegar rinse.
  • Use a lemonade rinse.
  • A bicarbonate of soda rinse
  • use a Sulphate free shampoo.

There is some talk of Lo poos and Clarifying not being safe or for the curly girl method. The occasional shampoo with cg safe ingredients and sulphate free will not harm your hair. Home made and do it your self can be just as damaging for more information see here.

Do what is right for your hair and works for you.

How to do an Apple cider vinegar rinse ( not your mothers )

Mix one to two tablespoons of Apple cider vinegar with warm water and rinse hair and leave for a few minutes. Finish with conditioner. Not your mothers is best as it has natural bacteria in it. 

How to do a lemonade rinse for the curly girl method

Use the juice of one lemon in your conditioner to help lift hard water build up from your hair. 

Cleanse build up on hair with a Bicarbonate of soda rinse

To do a Bicarbonate of soda rinse to remove buildup you can use a tablespoon of Bicarbonate in warm water leave on for a few minutes then conditioner you hair.

Recommendations of clarifying shampoos

There are many claryifing shampoos on the market here are some of my favourite. These contain gentle cleansers but may be fine in small amounts. Some consider them CG safe.

How and when should I clarify? 

You should clarify your hair approximately once a month. Depending on how often you wash your hair you could leave it longer.

What is the transition period in the curly girl method?

Many people who start the Curly Girl Method give up before their hair has even had the time to adapt to the new method. Your hair has been producing sebum from your scalp in access amounts while you have been shampooing.

Once you start to wash your hair less and use less abrasive drying products your scalp will need time to adjust. You scalp will start producing less sebum. In this time period which could be up to six weeks you may need to spend a bit more time massaging the scalp or co wash a bit more regularly.

You could use a scalp brush in the shower to help you massage your co wash in.

I am doing the curly girl method and my scalp is itching?

What are the Itchy M’s? is your scalp itching? 

It could be one of a few things making your scalp itch.

  • You may not be massaging your co wash enough to remover dirt and particles
  • You may need to clarify your hair to remove build up
  • Your product may contain preservatives that cause irritation.

Methylchloroisothiazolinone and Methylisothiazolinone are ingredients found in beauty products which are used to preserve the shelf life.

If you are suffering from an itchy scalp these could be your problem.

Check the ingredients on the bottle. Any ingredients listed at the top will be a larger percent. If it is listed at the end of the ingredients it may be a very small percent and you may find the is ok to still use. For more advice see here

Recommend Co Wash conditioners you can get in the UK

AS I AM Co naturally coconut cleaning Co Wash conditioner.

Shea Moisture Coconut and Hibiscus Co wash Conditioner

Avlon KeraCare Natural Textures Honey Shea Co-Wash conditioner

For more Curly Girl approved products have a look at this extensive list!

Curly Girl Method Co washing and transitioning can be challenging but I hope you enjoy your journey to beautiful hair.

Curly girl method Co Wash and transitioning. Curly girl method is not working? this guide covers all the questions about Co washing and transitioning phase.

Thank you D x


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  1. Hi D

    Well I’ve started using the CGM and going to stick with it a month and see how I get on. Can I ask, have you layers in your hair or is it all one length? I have layers at the bottom but the top is struggling to curl. I have very fine curly hair and am debating whether to get layers in the top to give it volume but there again I don’t want to get the ‘triangle hairstyle’.


  2. My hairdresser has just recommended the curly girl method and your website as I’ve just gone bleach blonde , so I’m currently looking into products and method and finding it very daunting as I’m new to social media and this method! Please could you tell me how often to co wash and lo poo? Currently I tend to wash my hair every day or every other day but I’m unsure what the recommended wash schedule is for curly girl..I have very thick long wavy hair that’s quite oily at the roots but now dry due to the bleach?? Hope you can help!!!

    1. Hi, glad I can help. Maybe buy a cheap lo poo for now like the new Johnson’s baby shampoo or XHC shampoo and a conditioner. I would try to gradually increase the length inbetween washes. Maybe do one shampoo leave two days do a co wash. Then shampoo again. I do more co wash now and the odd shampoo. I go many days inbetween washes.
      Your hair will gradually produce less sebum on the scalp as it realised the products are not as drying. I have a post on Co Washing and transitioning. Hope this helps x

  3. Your blog extremely helpful so thank you! I am about 2 weeks into the co wash method. So far, so good. Am feeling like washing a bit more often at the mo but mainly because my hair gets knotted and is in need of a good trim! Please tell me how you dry/style? …do you use a diffuser? My diffuser is my best friend but can cause heat damage i suppose? In the summer I will happily air dry but in winter like now, that’s no fun! My hair is very similar to yours.

  4. Hi … I have just started the curly girl method and have had very good results already thanks to a very good and informative site .. so thank you!
    This morning I just scrunched my hair with plain water to refresh the curls as I already have product in from the previous day… would you recommend using a moisturising hair cream or something when dry as a lot of my single strands are loose they are not part of a curl just scraggly bits which make it look a little frizzy?

    Thank you im so pleased with the results on my hair 🙂

    1. Hi so glad you are enjoying the curly girl method. I do both if my hair feels dry I use a little bit of curl cream in the palm of my hands with water. I sometimes also wet don individiual strands if they look particularly frizzy. Glad I could help you good luck on your curl journey.

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