For many naturalistas, co-washing—short for “conditioner washing”—is a revered part of a hair care regimen. The term refers to the common practice of washing hair with conditioner instead of shampoo to avoid dried-out hair. Yes, co-washing softens hair and encourages growth by making strands easier to detangle and less prone to breakage. But this raved-about practice cannot guarantee healthy tresses all on its own. It’s better to think of co-washing as one element in a healthy hair regimen, some curly experts suggest. That said, these tips from can help you work condition-only washes into your hair-care routine in a balanced way so you avoid slip-ups that can damage your mane.

Briefly, here’s how typical co-washing action flows (pun intended!): Thoroughly wet hair as if you were about to shampoo. Next, apply conditioner section by section. Wait for three to five minutes and then rinse. As an extra step, you can smooth on a natural oil (like coconut seed oil) to seal in moisture. That’s simple, right? But here’s what to avoid when you co-wash:

Don’t over moisturize. Make sure you’re not guilty of moisturizing overkill. When the cortex (or interior hair shaft) of your hair absorbs too much moisture it can swell—and that can increase breakage. That means don’t over-condition your strands. Start by co-washing two times per week. Then adjust your regimen in several weeks according to how your hair feels. For example, some people’s hair doesn’t retain moisture well. These folks can benefit the most from additional co-washing. But if your hair doesn’t react well to co-washing, then cut back on its frequency.

Include a regular shampoo day. Even though some people opt for a strict no-shampoo regimen, others choose to shampoo with a sulfate-free product once a week, which they view as a healthier hair-care option. Washing tresses with shampoo properly cleanses your hair and scalp of mineral and oil buildup, which can reduce hair growth. Follow your cleansing session with a deep conditioning treatment.

Choose a silicone-free conditioner. Why? Because this ingredient can leave a sticky, gummy-feeling buildup on hair that makes curls feel heavy and weighted down. Sorry, but that’s a no-no for naturalistas!

Remember, co-washing doesn’t work for everyone. Check your hair’s health several weeks after you do a co-wash to see if it works for you.

Click here to read about the top five medical reasons that trigger thinned-out hair.