top of page

Curl Cleansing!

A Coily/curly haired lady hides behind a black & white striped shower curtain, with  bubbles floating in the air, pointing at a sign that says Curl Cleansing
Curl Cleansing - What type of cleanser is best for your curls?

Cleansing is a BIG Conversation in the curly community – as an unbiased Curl Care business (unaligned with any specific curl care method, though knowledgeable about most); I’m thrilled to be able to share all sides of this conversation and provide some options for all curl kinds. Lets talk about all the different types of cleansing, which ones might be best for you/your hair type, ingredients to look for and tips for how to get the best results!

Firstly - Let’s Get Clear on the terms here:

Cowashing: Short for ‘Conditioner Washing’ means washing with conditioner only. The Curly Girl Method calls for use of a conditioner with ‘botanical ingredients’ to aid cleansing, whilst others are happy to use any type of conditioner. The method relies on several minutes of scrubbing the scalp, to ensure cleansing occurs via friction.

No Poo: Short for No Lather Shampoo. Similar to co-washing in that there is no foam involved – no poos (often called cleansing conditioners) are usually specifically formulated conditioners that contain non foaming, non-drying cleansing ingredients.

Low Poo: Short for Low Lather Shampoo. These are sulphate-free foaming or low foaming cleansers that contain gentle cleansing ingredients that do foam (though often not in the same way as a standard shampoo).

Double Cleanse: This method is often done with a no poo or low poo product (but can be done with any of the options). It simply means the cleansing process is done, rinsed out and done again.

Clarifying: These are stronger cleansers that contain ingredients designed to remove build up from oil/sebum, dirt, products or other environmental factors. Within the curly community these are usually still sulphate free.

Chelating: These cleansers contain special ingredients to help remove build up of mineral deposits such as calcium, magnesium, iron, copper or chlorine which can build up on the hair This type of build up will most often occur for people who have hard water in their home or who are very regular chlorine swimmers such as swim teachers or those who swim daily.

Now we’re clear on the meanings behind each of the cleansing types. What are the pro’s & cons of each? And which type of cleansing should you be doing?

Cowashing & No Pooing

Whilst these are two slightly different methods, they carry one thing in common – No Foam – and many of the same Pro’s & Cons.

Pros: These options are great for those who need moisture or suffer stripping from stronger cleansing options.

Cons: Zero Foam cleansing can be difficult for those with finer hair or low porosity hair (both of which are susceptible to build up). It can also be difficult for people with physical limitations that mean they cannot complete several minutes of scrubbing/scalp massage to ensure the friction required to cleanse effectively.

Ingredients to look for: Cocoamidopropyl Betaine, Rosemary, Peppermint, Citrus, Tea Tree, Green Tea

Tips: To ensure that an adequate cleanse is achieved, use the pads of your fingers to thoroughly scrub the scalp for a minimum of 3-5 minutes (cowash) or 3 minutes (no poo). If you’re physically unable to manage the lengthy scrub, consider the aid of a scalp brush.

Double cleanse – some people enjoy a double cleanse with the no poo method and may find the second cleanse ‘fluffs up’ (it still won’t foam) more than the first.

When to Cowash/No Poo? This method is great for a lot of curly hair types (especially coarse haired, very dry haired or high porosity curlies). For those with lower porosity or finer hair – you might need to alternate methods to ensure you don’t get build up.

This method can be alternated with other cleansing options (such as low pooing or clarifying/chelating) if you start to experience build up or as a strategy to get the best of both worlds.

Great Cowash/No Poo Products to Try

Low Poo/Low Lather Cleansing

Pros: This option is great for people who have fine hair or low porosity hair types (both of which are more susceptible to build up) or those who are physically or otherwise unable to undertake the several minutes scrub that is required of cowash/no poo and those who prefer a foam wash.

Cons: People with especially dry hair may find this method drying.

Ingredients to look for: Decyl glucoside, Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, sodium methyl cocoyl taurate (all gentle foaming cleansers) preferably in combination with moisturisers or moisturising cleansing ingredients such as Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine, Cocoamidopropyl Betaine

Tips: Some people prefer to only use the cleanser on the scalp/root area.

If you find this drying, try adding a little conditioner to the product before putting in your hair. Some people alternate cowash/no poo and low poo washes throughout the month (to get benefits of the cleansing option whilst mitigating any drying impact).

Double cleanse – some people enjoy a double cleanse and may find the second cleanse foams up more than the first.

When to Low Poo? Many hair types can tolerate low pooing for every wash day, others (ultra dry hair, very coarse hair) may prefer to alternate cowashing and low poo options. If you regularly cowash, and are finding that your hair isn’t reacting as normally, is unusually frizzy or doesn’t appear to be absorbing your products as well, you might be experiencing early signs of build up and may prefer to try a low poo before resorting to clarifying.

Some Great Low Poo Options to consider:


Pros: This option is great for people who have fine or low porosity hair types (both of which are more susceptible to build up); those who choose to use hair products that build up on the hair, those who participate in activities or have lifestyle factors that may contribute to build up.

Cons: The downside of clarifying is that some people can find it drying, though this can be remedied with a Deep Conditioner in the same wash day.

Ingredients to look for: C14-C16 Olefin Sulfonate, Sodium Cocoyl Glutamate. It can be less drying if moisturising ingredients are included in the products to combat drying effects of cleansers

Tips: To combat any drying – prepoo prior to clarifying or pop in an extra conditioning treatment or conditioner post clarifying.

When to Clarify? If your hair suddenly reacts differently to products that usually work well for you, feels weighed down, is more frizzy than usual, if water is beading on the hair (more than usual), when you’re experiencing more wet frizz, moisture doesn’t seem to be penetrating your hair your style is not holding – it might be time to try a clarifying wash.

Even if you use entirely CG or non-build up hair products, it’s important to be aware of the other factors that can create build up > sunscreen (especially sprays), skincare or make up, spray tans etc can all make their way into the hair (transfer via touching, pillow etc) or those who work with chemicals (e.g painters, childcare workers) may experience build up.

Most people only clarify as needed or occasionally (often monthly or every 4-6 washes).

Some Great Clarifying Washes to try:


Pros: Chelating (pronounced Key-late-ing) Cleansers can remove build up from calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, chlorine and are therefore a great option for those who live in hard water areas, have hard water in their home due to water pipes and for regular swimmers.

These cleansers are able to remove mineral build up without the use of sulphates.

Cons: Similar to Clarifying, Chelating is usually done on an ‘as needed’ basis and as it can be drying, should be followed with a conditioning treatment.

Ingredients to Look for: EDTAs (e.g Disodium EDTA) and acids such Ascorbic acid, Citric acid, phytic acid (note – these ingredients need to be substantial – high up the ingredient list, not to be confused with those products which contain them in the last few ingredients, often as a preservative).

Tips: A deep conditioning treatment can combat any dryness experienced from chelating.

When to Chelate? Similar to clarifying - If your hair suddenly reacts differently to products that usually work well for you, is more frizzy than usual, water is beading on the hair (more than usual), when you’re experiencing more wet frizz, moisture doesn’t seem to be penetrating your hair or your style is not holding – and a clarifying wash has not worked, it may help to try chelating.

Most people only chelate as needed or occasionally (monthly, after a season of regular swimming or every 4-6 washes).

Some Great Chelating Options to try:

Detoxes & Special Cleansing Treatments

There are a variety of specialty cleansing treatments available. These often target specific concerns such as excess oil, build up, scalp issues or other concerns.

Pros: These allow us to target specific concerns via a treatment as needed.

Cons: These will often add an extra step to wash day (usually they don’t replace the cleansing step, and if they include beads or clay they may still require post treatment cleansing). Depending on the ingredients and the concern being targeted, the treatment may be drying so may require extra conditioning.

Ingredients to look for: this will depend on the concern being treated, but these treatments often include special ingredients such as ACV, Turmeric, Peppermint, Clays (e.g. bentonite clay) and exfoliating beads/physical exfoliators such as sugar or salt.

Tips: Where possible, opt for the mildest option available and ensure you treat your hair post detox with a quality conditioner or deep conditioning treatment.

Some Great Special Cleansing Treatments to Try:

There you have it! All your cleansing options - feel free to reach out with any comments or questions!

Click HERE to shop ALL Cleansing Options

Jen x

722 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page