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Surviving Wash Day: Tips for Washing Natural Hair

Posted on June 15 2017

The dreaded wash day. If you’ve recently transitioned from the creamy crack, you may have found that washing natural hair is now more tedious depending on your hair texture. When I transitioned back in 2000, I was ill-informed about what wash day would mean for me. I used the same products, didn’t work in sections, and wondered why I had ended up with a matted mess. Now I know: washing natural hair is a little bit more involved and requires a bit of patience, but do it right and you'll get good results every time.

[image via Pinterest @DeeDee2DaXtreme]


Step 1: Pre-poo and Detangle

Pre-poo means exactly what you think it would, it is your pre-shampoo step. When washing natural hair, it’s a good idea to minimize tangling and breakage. Using a product before you shampoo, think coconut oil or a favorite conditioner, can weigh down hair that’s been shed but hasn’t fallen out, preventing them from creating tangles in your locks and breaking off your hair. Divide your hair into 4-6 sections and work the product through. Then leave in for 15- 30 minutes (some naturalistas leave the pre-poo in overnight before wash day). Detangle your hair in the sections using a wide tooth comb.

Step 2: Shampoo

Continue to work section by section as you rinse out your pre-poo and apply shampoo. You’ll want to wash each section twice. Consider using a clarifying, sulfate free shampoo. These products thoroughly clean your hair without over drying. Don’t rush through this. Take your time, working from root to tip. When washing natural hair, it’s important not to pile all your hair on top as you go (it’s more likely to tangle that way). Many naturalistas prefer to wash their hair in the shower to make this process easier.

Step 3: Condition

You’ll want to apply conditioner to your hair in sections. Deep conditioning may be necessary after each wash. If you’re in the shower, consider using a conditioning cap to help the product further penetrate your hair. If you’re using a more extensive conditioner like a protein or restructuring treatment, you’ll likely want to sit under a hooded dryer for 15 minutes or more. After rinsing, try a cool water rinse to seal your hair cuticle.

Step 4: Detangle

detangle pic
[image via YouTube @Tiajonay]

Yes, detangle again. It’s so easy for natural hair to knot up it’s ridiculous, so all the detangling you do on wash day prevents those fairy knots (or more major ones) from forming. Continue to work section by section and apply your favorite leave-in conditioner or “detangler”. Gently use a wide-tooth comb to remove tangles, keeping your hair as wet as possible along the way. Some naturalistas only detangle with their fingers, others follow up the wide tooth comb with the Denman brush. Do what works for you, but be gentle and patient in the process.

Step 5: Moisturize

Choosing a great moisturizer is important, and can be a bit about trial and error. You’ll likely need a heavier product than one you used with relaxed hair, but something that won’t leave a lot of buildup. The key is to lock in moisture now before styling. Work in your moisturizer in, you guessed it, section by section using a small amount of product at a time.

Step 6: Dry and style

It’s finally time to style your hair. Whether you decide to wet set, blow dry, braid, or twist, the right product is important to define your texture to create a style that lasts and is protected from potential damage from heat and manipulation.

Washing natural hair seems complicated, but with a routine in place it’ll become second nature, I promise. What’s your wash day routine? What products help you create your favorite hair styles?

Nouri Pa Nati


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