Cleansing Conditioner Instead of Shampoo? How & Why to Make the Switch

Everyone is buzzing about conditioners that cleanse and essentially replace your tried-and-true shampoo. But are they really a reliable substitute, and can you count on them to work on your hair type?

If your hair is oily, you really do need an actual shampoo to rid your scalp and strands of excess sebum. There’s no getting around that. But for hair that is dehydrated, brittle, or otherwise damaged, a little co-washing (conditioner-only washing) could potentially make a world of difference. Here are some of the best cleansing conditioners on the market today, plus details on what they’ll do for you and why they may be just what your hair needs:

Carol’s Daughter Hair Milk Cleansing Conditioner

When your hair is especially dry and feels like it should be doused in a vat of moisturizer, it’s safe to say that conditioner is truly your BFF. Carol’s Daughter Hair Milk Cleansing Conditioner ($12) is formulated especially for kinky, curly, wavy hair that demands regular moisture. Made with shea butter, biotin, agave, and pro-vitamin B5, it penetrates to leave hair smooth, strong, deeply conditioned, and clean. If you’re the type who routinely suffers from a tangled up mane, this is by far the best cleansing conditioner for you. It simply works like a champ (and smells like a floral dream).

Herbal Essences Naked Cleansing Conditioner

No one’s hair needs to be exposed to chemicals, but unfortunately many basic shampoos do contain ingredients that can sap hair of moisture and contribute to long-term damage. Enter Herbal Essences Naked Cleansing Conditioner ($6.29), a formula free of dyes, parabens, and sulfates. It produces minimal lather, yet cleanses hair just like your favorite shampoo—and softens it at the same time. Bonus points for the indulgent herbal mint fragrance.

Ojon Rare Blend Moisture-Rich Cleansing Conditioner

Made with a combination of gentle coconut oil cream and Ojon oil (a nourishing fluid known for its ability to smooth even the weakest hair), Ojon Rare Blend Moisture-Rich Cleansing Conditioner ($27) is a must for hair that is dry and brittle. If your hair is thick like mine, you’ll need to use a generous amount of product to see effective results. But those results are so worth the cleansing time—you’ll achieve hair that is nearly baby soft.

As I Am Coconut CoWash Cleansing Conditioner

Don’t be fooled by a product that doesn’t produce a rich, foamy lather. In truth, that lather is nothing but detergent—and it’s a completely unnecessary byproduct of shampooing your hair. As I Am Coconut CoWash Cleansing Conditioner ($8) is the opposite. There’s a mask-like quality to this cleanser that makes it feel more like a treatment than a shampoo or conditioner. I found it worked best when I massaged it into my hair and left it to penetrate for a few minutes. It rinsed quickly and left no oily residue behind. Between that and its pleasant fragrance, I was left thoroughly impressed with its effects.

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