Yahoo December 20, 2022

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Hi, It’s Time for You to Switch to a Cleansing Conditioner

 

We rounded up the best co-washes and cleansing conditioners for thin hair, curly hair, natural hair, 4c hair, wavy hair, from drugstore to Amazon, all here.

Curly hair types, listen up. Most shampoos (yep, even the ones labeled sulfate-free shampoo) can be too stripping for your type 3 or type 4 curls, which is why you absolutely need a cleansing conditioner (or a co-wash) in your wash day lineup. Cleansing conditioners are basically regular conditioners mixed with some mild, non-foaming cleansing agents, says hairstylist Jenna Spino. "They help remove buildup and excess oil much more gently than regular shampoo, which is a must considering curly hair types are more prone to dryness and breakage.”

So to help you find the best cleansing conditioner for your hair type, whether you're working with 4c hair that just needs a lil extra TLC, or 3a hair that's dry, damaged, and needs a whole bucket of moisturizing love, we rounded up the best cleansing conditioners and co-washes to add to your hair arsenal asap. Take a sneak peek at our favorites, below.

✔️ P.S., This is new, up-to-date info. We updated this article in December 2022 to add cleansing conditioners the internet won't stop talking about, delete outdated oldies, and check in with new experts for the latest in cleansing conditioners, just for you.

Our top cleansing conditioner picks of 2023:

Now that you're a co-washing pro, keep scrolling for the full list of the 12 best cleansing conditioners of 2023—plus everything you need to know about adding a cleansing conditioner to your routine.

BEST CLEANSING CONDITIONER FOR DRY HAIR
Flawless by Gabrielle Union Hydrating Co-Wash Cleansing Conditioner
 

Pros:

  • Ultra-moisturizing formula is ideal for super dry hair

Cons:

  • Some testers say they wish the bottle was a bit bigger

Will this cleansing conditioner give you the screenshot-worthy hair of Gabrielle Union? Hey! Sure! Maybe! Probably not! But what it will give you is clean, refreshed roots and hella-moisturized hair, thanks to the formula's mix of oils (hi, coconut, castor, and rice bran oils) and shea butter. Whether you're working with dry and damaged curls, or 4c hair that needs a lot of TLC, this co-wash has got you covered.

THE REVIEW: “This is the best co-wash I have ever used! My hair smells great, feels so moisturized, and my curls dry with great definition," writes a reviewer.

BEST CLEANSING CONDITIONER FOR DETANGLING
Design Essentials Almond & Avocado Nourishing Co-wash
 

Pros:

  • Gives hair great slip for easy brushing

Cons:

  • Some testers said the scent can be a bit too strong

When you need major slip to help cut down on fairy knots and snags, grab yourself a tub of this super-hydrating co-wash from Design Essentials. It's filled with all of the oils—see: jojoba, avocado, almond, and olive oils—plus cocoa butter to deeply moisturize your curls and coils and make detangling way easier (it's basically like a curly hair detangler and cleansing conditioner, all in one).

THE REVIEW: “This co-wash is hydrating and moisturizing without making my hair feel sticky or gooey," writes one tester. "I've tried so many options that left my hair feel dry and dull, but not this formula. I will 100 percent buy this one again."

BEST CLEANSING CONDITIONER FOR DANDRUFF
Head & Shoulders Royal Oils Moisturizing Co-Wash
 

Pros:

  • Helps nix flakes as a result of dandruff

Cons:

  • Some reviewers say it didn't clean their hair well enough

Raise your hand if you've ever been victimized by a dandruff shampoo. Yeah, pretty much everyone with curly hair should be raising their hands right now. Getting rid of dandruff usually involves harsh, stripping shampoos, but not with this co-wash. It's filled with 0.5 percent pyrithione zinc (a gold-standard dandruff fighter) to kill dandruff-causing yeast, along with coconut oil and silicones to moisturize and smooth your hair while you rinse.

THE REVIEW: “This is a godsend for my type 3 curls and dandruff-y scalp," reads one review. "It cleanses without stripping and really helps minimize flakes. I only need to use it once a week to see a result."


BEST CLEANSING CONDITIONER FOR 4C HAIR
Eden BodyWorks Coconut Shea Cleansing Cowash
 

Pros:

  • Helps define and add shine to curls

Cons:

  • Some testers say they wish it was even more moisturizing

If you're working with 4c hair (or dry, damaged, high-porosity hair) that can't seem to get enough moisture no matter what you throw on it, then try this cleansing conditioner. It's basically just a cocktail plant oils, shea butter, and aloe vera, making it a moisturizing powerhouse for any hair type that has trouble retaining moisture.

THE REVIEW: "This product was highly recommended by my hairdresser and I'm so glad I finally tried it," writes one tester. "It gives my hair everything…. manageability, moisture, curl definition, and an amazing smell too."


BEST SMELLING CLEANSING CONDITIONER
RenPure Solutions Rosemary Mint Cleansing Conditioner
 

Pros:

  • Testers rave about the scent and the way it makes their scalp feel

Cons:

  • Can be hard to find in stock

If you're more about the ~spa~ vibes that your hair products can bring to your shower routine, try this rosemary- and mint-infused cleansing conditioner, which will leave your scalp tingly and your bathroom smelling like a literal day spa. Oh, and the four different types of curl-smoothing oils in the formula doesn't hurt, either.

THE REVIEW: “I love how this smells," writes a tester, adding that "it makes my hair feel soft and doesn't create any buildup."

BEST LIGHTWEIGHT CLEANSING CONDITIONER
Creme of Nature Argan Oil Hair Cleansing Conditioner
 

Pros:

  • Lightweight formula won't weigh your hair down

Cons:

  • Some reviewers say the texture is a bit too thick

Most cleansing conditioners tend to run on the heavier side—not ideal for anyone working with fine 3a curls, or curls that are easily weighed down. But this formula uses just argan oil and some moisturizing fatty alcohols to gently cleanse and condition your hair, without leaving behind a greasy residue.

THE REVIEW: “I swim daily in chlorine water so I need a gentle but effective wash for my curly 3a/b hair—this co-wash is exactly that," writes one tester, adding that "it makes my hair so soft and shiny."

BEST DRUGSTORE CLEANSING CONDITIONER
Pantene Pro-V Gold Series Deep Hydrating Co-Wash

Pros:

  • Affordable and widely available at mass beauty retailers

Cons:

  • Some testers said the pump is prone to clogging

This drugstore cleansing conditioner is a fan-favorite for a reason: The argan oil in the formula instantly adds shine and moisture to dry curls without completely weighing them down. And it also costs less than my sad desk lunch—win win.

THE REVIEW: "This is a great co-wash for my 3b curls," writes a tester. "It's incredibly moisturizing, has a great smell, and is perfect for the in-between wash days!”

BEST CLEANSING CONDITIONER FOR ALL HAIR TYPES
Unwash Bio-Cleansing Conditioner Hair Cleanser
 

Pros:

  • A genuinely good option for all curl types and textures

Cons:

  • Some testers said they wish it was more moisturizing

I know—a product that claims to work on all hair types sounds like a scam, but I swear, this cleansing conditioner is actually legit. It helps wash away buildup and grime on curly hair, straight hair, and everything in between without stripping any natural oils. And thanks to ingredients like primrose oil and hydrolyzed keratin, it's also super hydrating and strengthening.

THE REVIEW: “I was so impressed with this co-wash—it doesn't strip your hair and really helps minimize frizz and flyaways."


BEST CLEANSING CONDITIONER FOR DAMAGED HAIR
Carol’s Daughter Hair Milk Cleansing Conditioner
 

Pros:

  • Contains vitamins and biotin to help repair hair

Cons:

  • Some reviewers say it didn't rinse from hair cleanly

If your hair needs some major rehab thanks to a bad dye job or from using a diffuser on it every day, this cleansing conditioner is your remedy. Agave nectar deeply conditions it while pro-vitamin B5 and biotin help rebuild weakened bonds. The end result is hair that looks (and feels) stronger and healthier.

THE REVIEW: "This makes my hair feel just as clean as if I used regular shampoo, but doesn’t create any dryness or breakage," writes one tester. "I can go days without showering and my hair won’t get greasy anymore," reads another review.


BEST CLEANSING CONDITIONER FOR DRY HAIR
Macadamia Professional Ultra Rich Moisture Cleansing Conditioner
 

Pros:

  • Contains plant based oils to moisturize hair and minimize frizz

Cons:

  • Some testers said they wish it helped more with detangling

If your hair has been feeling a little dry lately, massage in this cleansing conditioner. A super combo of oils (macadamia, argan, and mongongo) adds a boost of moisture to your hair, leaving it bouncy, shiny, and hydrated.

THE REVIEW: "This cleansing conditioner has done wonders for my curls. It provides the perfect level of moisture and stops my curls from frizzing up in humidity."

BEST CLEANSING CONDITIONER FOR TYPE-4 HAIR
Mizani True Textures Cream Cleansing Conditioner
 

Pros:

  • Leaves your strands and scalp feeling really clean but not dried out

Cons:

  • One of the more expensive options on the list

A couple pumps of this and your natural hair will be living its best life. The cleansing conditioner helps define your natural curl pattern (shout-out to the coconut oil, macula oil, and antioxidants in the formula) while also leaving your texture soft and super touchable, especially when paired with your favorite curl cream.

THE REVIEW: "This stuff has been so great for my hair and scalp. It cleanses enough for my scalp to actually feel clean but keeps by 4b hair feeling really nourished at the same time," reads one review.

BEST CLEANSING CONDITIONER FOR OILY HAIR
R+Co Analog Cleansing Foam Conditioner
 

Pros:

  • Good for fine and/or greasy hair types

Cons:

  • Testers said they went through the bottle more quickly than expected

Got oily roots? There’s a cleansing conditioner for that. This option is a foam formula, meaning it feels weightless and won’t leave behind a greasy residue. It also contains argan oil to add shine and hydration to your hair without flattening out your natural volume.

THE REVIEW: "I love how this stuff is a foam instead of a cream," writes one reviewer. "It's so easy to use and rinses totally clean without any residue—my fine curls love it!"

What does a cleansing conditioner do?

“Cleansing conditioner is like shampoo and conditioner all in one,” says Spino. It gently cleanses hair while infusing it with lots of moisture to ensure your strands stay nice and hydrated on wash day. By using a cleansing conditioner, you can expect easier detangling, a more defined wave or curl pattern, and overall softer, shinier hair.

What's the difference between cleansing conditioner and regular conditioner?
 

A regular conditioner simply conditions the hair with any number of hydrating ingredients or moisturizing oils post-shampoo. A cleansing conditioner also conditions, but contains mild cleansing agents that will help remove dirt and product buildup from your scalp and hair at the same time that it moisturizes.

Can I use cleansing conditioner instead of shampoo?

Yes, cleansing conditioner is meant to replace your shampoo. Many experts will say to implement a clarifying shampoo every now and then if you’re strictly co-washing, but that’s only if your hair feels like it needs a deep clean. Depending on your hair type, you may decide to switch on and off between a regular shampoo and a cleansing conditioner. Some people who wash their hair everyday find that this helps to keep their hair from becoming dry and dull (a clear sign of over-washing).

How to choose the best cleansing conditioner:
 

Pay attention to your porosity.

As a reminder, your curl porosity is how porous your curls are (i.e., how much water they can absorb and repel, like a sponge). Curls with low porosity require lightweight products—and lightweight cleansing conditioners—to look their best (heavy formulas can quickly build up and weigh down hair), while curls with high porosity need conditioners rich in butters, oils, and proteins to keep them healthy. The quickest way to find out your type is with a porosity quiz, FYI.

Read the ingredients.

Like, actually though. If you're looking for a rich, ultra-moisturizing cleansing conditioner, look for shea butter, coconut oil, castor oil, and olive oil toward the top of the ingredients list. The more hair oils it has (especially near the top), the heavier it'll be. Need a lighter-weight cleansing conditioner? Look for a formula with only a few lightweight oils, like argan and almond oils, and avoid any co-wash that has shea butter or coconut oil in the front-half of its ingredients.

Be mindful of the packaging.

Another thing to consider is what type of packaging your cleansing conditioner comes in. It may seem like a minor detail, but if you don’t like the way that the formula is dispensed, you’re not going to want to use it. Believe it or not, packaging was one of the biggest gripes among reviewers for these co-washes. There are jars, pumps, foams, and more, so think about what might be easiest for you. The consensus among most reviewers is that pumps help dispense cleansing conditioners best.

Meet the expert:

Jenna Spino is a hair stylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago, IL. From bobs to blowouts, long layers to up-dos, Jenna is an expert in all aspects of cutting and styling.

 

Why trust Cosmopolitan?

Lisa DeSantis is a freelance writer who has been in the beauty industry for nearly ten years. She began her career in beauty and fashion at QVC and has since written for and contributed to top women's magazines and digital brands such as Health, Real Simple, Cosmopolitan, Motherly, Byrdie and more. She has tested thousands of products and considers herself a professional guinea pig who's always on the search for the next big trends in beauty, wellness, and beyond.


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