The cleansing step can be a contentious one if you’re not familiar with the hair world. Some—who have oily roots, are prone to buildup, or due to lifestyle factors like daily workouts—can get away with a daily rinse. Of course, shampoos are a natural option to help banish dirt and grime, but traditional versions are often full of sulfates and other harsh ingredients that can encourage product buildup or strip your hair and scalp of critical moisture. We recommend sticking with a sulfate-free shampoo, as they are better for your hair and scalp health long term.
Many people with wavy or curly hair have opted to swap classic shampoos for cleansers, which are usually free from common synthetic additives like phthalates, sulfates, and irritants like fragrance or synthetic color. And because of the traditionally harsh stripping power of shampoo, some people with curly hair prefer to “co-wash” or cleanse their hair and scalp with a conditioner.
Brittany Johnson, a licensed hairstylist and senior content manager for Mayvenn Hair, notes that “For wavy and curly textures, try replacing your normal shampoo schedule with a few instances of co-washing. Your hair will be less prone to frizz, and its natural oils will have a chance to work their way through and truly condition your strands.”
However, this might not be effective for everyone as co-washing isn’t always a thorough solution if you have serious product buildup. Some people opt for pre-poo (or before shampooing) treatments such as apple cider vinegar (ACV) rinses to aid in agitating dirt before co-washing.
Additionally, many hair care experts recommend folding in a clarifying shampoo. These are extra-strength formulas that remove all buildup from the scalp and strand, and can act as a “reset.” While any hair type can benefit from a refresh, do not overuse clarifying shampoos as they can be too stripping for most people.
Whether you use a shampoo, a cleanser, or co-wash with a conditioner, you’ll need to determine how frequently you need to wash your hair. Product minimalists who aren’t always reaching for holding sprays, pomades, or even gels may be able to go longer between cleansing days. Similarly, someone who struggles with a dry scalp might not want to wash their hair every day.