Trader Joe’s Cleansing + Conditioning Hair Wash is not a shampoo or a conditioner, but it’s a little of both. As their website explains, it’s a “co-wash,” which means it washes and conditions, but it’s not your grandma’s Pert Plus 2 in 1.
The difference between co-washing and the older “shampoo + conditioner” products is the ingredients. Traditional shampoos, even ones with “added conditioner,” use detergents like sulfates, which create a nice sudsy lather but also strip your hair of its natural oils and can irritate your scalp. Detergents are too harsh for many types of hair, especially wavy and curly hair, because they also create frizz. To avoid harsh cleansers, the Curly Girl Method champions co-washing, which it defines as washing your hair with conditioner, not shampoo.
The Curly Girl Method isn’t for everyone, though, and co-wash products have sprung up in recent years as a compromise between conditioner-only methods and the traditional shampoo plus conditioner method. They promise cleansing without drying and the convenience of a single product.
As someone with thick, wavy hair, I was curious if this new Trader Joe’s product would work well for me, and at $4.99 for 8 ounces, it costs much less than similar co-wash products. But it left me feeling frustrated.
Trader Joe’s hair wash promises no “detergents, sulfates, parabens, or silicone,” which checks all of the Curly Girl Method boxes. It promises that because it cleanses and conditions, you can use it less frequently, which also helps protect your hair. One of the side effects of only washing with conditioner is that you need to wash it often to avoid build-up. This product promises to fix that problem and leave your hair hydrated and frizz-free. The package warns you that because it lacks detergent, it won’t lather up like shampoo but feels more like conditioner. It also claims to have an “ invigorating grapefruit and minty scent.” It also was not tested on animals.
When I tried the co-wash, the first thing that I noticed wasn’t the texture but the smell, and it wasn’t “invigorating grapefruit and mint.” It smells like old-fashioned perfume and too much of it. This co-wash has as much perfume as my grandma going to church. It’s so strong it’s nauseating. We have sensitive skin and people prone to migraines in my family, and heavily scented products are bad for both.
However, the co-wash does work really well. It left my hair soft, clean, and frizz-free, as promised. I would love this product if I could stand the smell.
Trader Joe’s Cleansing + Conditioning Hair Wash cleanses and conditions your hair without over-drying and lives up to most of its promises. However, I found the strong perfume smell overpowering enough to give it a hard pass.
I have used this product a few times and the smell wasn’t too much for me at all – interesting. I like the product a lot!