From time-to-time, I like to conduct beard-care related expiriments and document my findings...I usually just keep these in the same journal where I scribble down notes for my beard care reviews so that I can refrence them later, but lately, I've been kicking around the idea of sharing those findings with my readers...so today, in lieu of a new review (which I will have for you tomorrow), I thought I might doccument one of those expiriments and my findings from it...If the feedback from this is positive, I may share some more observations every now and then...
Those who read this site regularly know my thoughts on beard washing. While I'm fully aware that you really aren't supposed to do it every day, I'm a messy eater, and can be a bit sweaty and gross at times, couple that with the fact that I'm a little bit germophobic, and it becomes clear why something feels really off, if I don't wash my beard every day...now, at the same time, I'm a big believer in not being so stuck in my own ways that I can't try something different, it's how we learn and grow as human beings (we all know those people who are so stubborn and afraid of being wrong, that they'll continue to behave in ways detrimental to themselves rather than reevaluate their own stance from time to time...don't those people just frustrate the hell out of you?)...so with that in mind, and while dealing with more split-ends and breakage than usual, I was forced to evaluate my own beard-care routine and see if there wasnt something that I could be doing differently. When it comes to washing, my philosophy is this, we need to keep our tools clean (if you don't clean your combs and brushes once a week, I highly recommend you give it a try and see how much better your results are), so why wouldn't we need to keep our beard as clean as possible? It's precisely for this reason that I just can't skip daily washings...and that is where co-washing comes in.
Of course, co-washing is far from a new thing, and many bearded guys have been doing it for as long as they have had hair on their chins. The idea is a simple one; rather than exposing your beard to harsh washes that can strip too much sebum, on a daily basis, you "wash" your beard regularly with conditioner, only doing a "strip-wash" once or twice a week with a more traditional beard wash. The thinking is that you're still able to agitate your beard and exfoliate your skin with the washing motion, thus sloughing off dead skin that can inhibit beard growth, and cleaning out the residue of last nights dinner, while the conditioner helps preserve the valuable oils that your skin and beard need, in order to stay looking and feeling their absolute best. I have no clue why I was so resistant to trying co-washing, but after a day where I must have found at least half a dozen split ends in one section of my beard, I figured it was time to shake up my routine. So after a regular beard trim a few weeks back, I told myself that I was going to go with a solid week of co-washing. I decided to keep a journal for that week, and see if I observed anything worth sharing.
I realize that many guys who co-wash don't do it every day (a quick Google session to research the topic seemed to reveal that the general consensus amongst guys who co-wash their beards and women who co-wash their hair, is that it should be done anywhere from once daily to once every three days), but for the purpose of this expiriment I decided that I would do it for seven days straight, no beard wash, just conditioner, every day. For this expiriment I used Stone Mason beard softener by Beardbrand on some days, and Scotch Porter beard conditioner on others, because I wanted to make sure that I was using top-shelf products the entire time (I would have probably added the incredible Detroit Grooming beard conditioner to this rotation too, but I am, unfortunately fresh out).
The first day, I didn't notice much of a difference, my beard felt the same way it usually does after a good conditioning sesh; where I would wash as normal with a quality unscented wash, like Anointed AK's brilliant example, follow up with a good conditioner, throw back a shower beer and wash the rest of my body to kill some time before rinsing. Overall, I felt a great softness and could comb my beard easily enough...so far, so good. The second day, was about the same, nothing too drastic, I was starting to wonder exactly what I should be expecting from this, I hadn't really outlined any expectations for this expiriment, it was also at this point that I decided to start really paying attention to the overall health of my beard and not just its apperance (I was, after all looking for a solution to a rash of split ends and breakage). The third day was where I started to notice a difference, my beard looked a bit more full, it felt a bit healthier; soft and strong, with nary a tangle in sight...this is where I decided that co-washing was for me. Day four was more of the same, perhaps the best in tearms of great apperance, although I did notice that I started to feel just a liiiiiitle bit of buildup and weight in my beard. Day five represented a turning point, my beard was feeling heavy, a bit greasy, and my skin just didn't feel as great as it should, it felt itchy, dirty (I thought it might have something to do with the heavier weight of the Scotch Porter conditioner, so I decided to stick with the Beardbrand product for the rest of the way). I was tempted to grab a bottle of wash when I stepped into the shower on day six, but I'd told myself right at the get-go that this expiriment would be for an entire week, and so I convicned myself to soldier on. The results from the last two days were just more of the same, my skin felt downright irritated, my beard felt greasy (but I still wasn't finding any split ends, I was able to comb my beard easily, and breakage was at an absolute minimum)...I noticed that all of the buildup from 6 or 7 days of nothing but conditioner was keeping me from getting my skin as clean as it needed to be, as I started to feel one annoying little beard zit starting to well up at the bottom of my chin (the most dense part of my beard), this made me wonder if it might be best to use one of those exfoliating shower brushes on my beard, unfortunately I don't own one. Mercifully I was able to get in there and scrub the shit out of my beard with proper beard wash on day eight, and the best part was that after stepping out of the shower I noticed something, the great healthy feeling and full, vibrant apperance, that I was getting after a few days of co-washing was still very much hanging around, my skin felt amazing too!
So what is the take away from all of this? Well, I discovered that while co-washing definitely did the trick as far as eliminating the split-ends and breakage I was dealing with, it was also something of a double edged sword, with a noticable tipping point around day five. I realize that everybody's beard is different, and individual mileage may vary, but this was incredibly helpful for me in setting a new routine, I now co-wash 3 days in a row and take a break to cleanse with regular beard wash on the fourth day (before problematic levels of buldup have a chance to occur). If you have a coarse, somewhat curly beard like me, and were curious about getting into co-washing, this would be the plan of action I would recommend...but if your beard is a bit more thin, or a bit more straight, it may start to feel weighed down sooner, I suppose thats where skipping any sort of washing would be ideal, but if you're like me, that just isnt an option, so you'll want to expiriment until you find the ideal routine. Overall co-washing is an incredible weapon to have in your beard-care arsenal, but it still isn't without its flaws, this is why it's so important to have both a high quality wash and conditioner in your rotation, so that you can keep your beard looking and feeling its absolute best at all times...but at the end of the day, there's no denying that the reason why so many guys trust their awesome beards with co-washing, is because it just plain works!