I don't know about y'all, but if there is one very necessary task that I pretty much have to gas myself up to do, each and every time that I do it, it's shampooing and conditioning my hair. Back when I had a TWA (Teeny Weeny Afro), it was nothing to wash it in the shower and let it air dry as I go about my day. Yet now that I finally have a few inches—and, as my braider always tells me, a lot of hair density—there is no other word to describe wash day other than being an absolute chore. Still, it's something that has to be done if I want my hair to flourish.
I must admit that over the past three years or so, I have figured out a routine that makes wash day a lot less stressful and time-consuming. If you'd like to know my personal approach, I've included 10 tips that can make your own wash day a bit less of a headache than it (probably) currently is.
1. Set Up Some Entertainment
The longer my hair gets, the more I have to gas myself up to wash it. The reason why is because, sometimes, believe it or not, it's the rushing through the shampooing, conditioning and drying process on wash day that can end up doing your hair the most damage. What can help you to avoid rushing, so that you can handle your hair with the ultimate care, is to set up some sort of entertainment that can help to keep you in good spirits. It can be turning on some throwback jams or making the decision to catch up on a favorite show. My hair, right now, is a little past my chin and, from beginning to end, wash day takes about three hours (mostly because I try to deep condition for about 1.5-2 hours of that). Based on the length of your own locks, that can help you to get an idea of whether you'll be listening to one LP or watching two movies. Either way, it can help you to enjoy something that you might not have much time to do otherwise.
2. Give Your Hair a Little Bit of Steam
Out of all the tips that I'm about to share with you, the one that you may have never done or even considered before is steaming your hair. If you do this before actually shampooing your tresses, it can help to lift your hair's cuticles; that way, each strand is able to absorb both the water as well as the products that you're about to apply so much easier.
You can steam your hair by either using an actual hair steamer. Or, if money is a little tight right now, another approach is to simply stand in the back of your shower (so that the water doesn't get all over you), with the water as hot as possible and with your bathroom door closed for a good 7-10 minutes. As a bonus, your face can get a little bit of a steam detox treatment too.
3. Treat Your Scalp
Before we get into how to properly wash your hair in a way that will help you to save time, let's talk about your scalp for a hot sec, shall we? After all, it is the foundation of your hair. Since it's not hard to collect build-up that can irritate your scalp, I'm a big fan of detoxing it before shampooing and conditioning your hair. Don't worry—it actually sounds like more complex of a process than it actually is. You can decide which kind of detoxing you'd prefer to do by checking out the article on our site entitled, "Treat Your Scalp To A Little Bit Of Detoxing This Weekend".
4. Don’t Forget to Pre-Poo
Once your hair is all steamed up and your scalp is detoxed (the steam can help to open up your pores which makes the detoxing process more potent), it's now time to apply one more prep step and that's to do some pre-pooing. The long short of this is it's all about applying an oil to your hair, basically for two main purposes. For one thing, the oil can help to add a little more moisture to your hair which can help to protect it from any stripping of natural oils that shampooing might do. Secondly, pre-pooing makes the next step that I'm about to discuss oh, so much easier. Just make sure that you go with an oil that will nourish your locks. Coconut, avocado, jojoba, grapeseed and even virgin olive oil are all really good ones. Simply wet your hair with lukewarm water and apply a healthy amount of oil to your hair; not enough to make it all greasy, but definitely enough that it gives your tresses enough "slip" to make it super manageable.
5. Then Do Some Detangling
It's gonna be pretty difficult to thoroughly wash your hair, if it's all stuck together and/or tied up in knots. That's why it's a good idea to do some detangling before you actually apply any product. Once your hair is wet and your preferred oil of choice is applied, I recommend using your fingers—at least first—before using a detangling comb. Wet hair is mad fragile, so you don't want to immediately start hacking away at your hair with a styling tool. Anyway, make sure that you start, not at the roots of your hair but actually the ends. Feel around for any fairy knots and try and separate them with your fingers. Then work your way up the shaft. Once you can, at least for the most part, run your hands through your hair, you can then separate your hair even more with a detangling comb. If you need some help with figuring out which detangling comb (or brush) would be best for your hair, I checked out a few YouTube videos that can probably point you into the right direction. You can view them yourself here, here and here.
6. Use a Sulfate-Free Shampoo
Our scalp tends to collect a fair share of sweat (especially if you work out on a regular basis) while our hair gets full of dirt and product over a period of time. This is why it's necessary to have a wash day, to begin with. As far as how often you should shampoo (and condition) your hair, it kind of depends on your own hair type and lifestyle. However, a lot of professional stylists would recommend that unless your hair is type 1-3a (because those types have strands that are straighter which makes it easier for our body's natural oils to run completely down the shaft which causes the hair to get oily faster), every 10-14 days is pretty standard. The reason why you shouldn't wash your hair more than that is that there is such a thing as "overdoing it"—stripping your hair of the natural moisture that it has and needs which can cause your hair to become dry and brittle which can ultimately cause breakage.
Whew. Now with all of that said, just make sure that you avoid sulfate shampoos. The reason why is because they contain ingredients that can further strip your hair. There is just one caveat to this particular tip. If you've been using a lot of product and you need to make sure that you remove all of it, a sulfate shampoo can help to get the job done. Just make sure that you don't incorporate it into your wash day routine on a regular basis and that you definitely deep condition your hair after using it in order to replace the moisture that was lost.
As far as the kind of sulfate-free shampoos that are best, I personally use shampoo bars that are made of honey and/or Jamaican black castor oil (Etsy has many options). Also, Naturally Curly did us all a solid with their article "Top 30 Sulfate-Free Shampoos". You can probably find a shampoo that is just perfect for you there as well.
Oh, and for those of you who may be like, "So, what about co-washing instead of shampooing?" Eh. That's something that is totally up to your own discretion. What I will say is if you do decide to "wash" your hair with conditioner rather than with shampoo, at least try and shampoo your hair, every third wash day. While co-washing can help your hair to retain even more moisture, there comes a time in every woman's life when her hair needs some old-fashioned washing. Feel me?
7. Shampoo in Sections
If one of the main reasons why you semi-loathe wash day is because your hair seems to end up a matted mess, that's probably because you don't wash your hair in sections. Once you've finished shampooing, apply a little of the pre-poo oil that you already used to your fingers and then section your hair off into four main parts. If you want, you can hold each piece with plastic—not metal, plastic—hair clips. Then, wash each section, one at a time. That way, you can effectively clean all of your hair (and scalp) without your hair getting all tangled up in the process.
8. Deep Condition
I honestly don't think that I will ever do an article on hair care where I won't recommend deep conditioning locks. Ever since I've made a point and purpose to do it, my hair has felt so much softer and I've been able to retain so much more length. Deep conditioning is all about applying a conditioner to your hair and letting it sit for more than just a couple of minutes. As I said earlier, I try and let mine fully saturate the cuticles of my hair for at least 1-2 hours; sometimes, even overnight.
While you could use pretty much any conditioner, my personal recommendation is to look for one that is "branded" as being a deep conditioner (Essence has a cool list here). Those tend to be thicker in consistency which can help to give your hair more moisture. An added tip would be to add some Chebe powder to your conditioner; it'll help to restore the pH balance of your hair while also making it feel super soft. I use it every wash day and I've definitely seen a difference since I started adding it to my hair routine.
9. Let Your Locks Air Dry as Much as Possible
Now that your hair is all clean and well-conditioned, it's time to start prepping it for styling. While some people are extremely anti-heat, I'm actually not that girl. I've found that blow drying my hair on wash days (and then not really using any heat on my hair until the next wash day rolls around) has helped to reduce tangles and fairy knots. The key is to get a quality dryer, to allow your hair to air dry at least 50-60 percent before applying any heat, to use a cream-based thermal heat protectant on your hair, and to make sure that your blow dryer is set to no higher than medium. Applying all of these tips (not just one, all) will significantly decrease your chances of hair damage. It can also really speed up the time it takes to finish up your hair routine on wash day.
10. Put Your Hair into a Protective Style
While I would really like to have my soul glowin', every day of the week, I've gotta admit that I experience a lot less breakage when I keep my hair in a protective style during the weekday and then let it do its own thing, in all of its glory, on the weekend. For the record, a protective style doesn't have to be braids or twists. It can also be a wig or weave. Whatever you decide to do, the objective should be to do what you can to keep the ends of your hair from being exposed to the outer elements while keeping you from manipulating your tresses a lot.
Welp. That's it. It might seem like a lot at first, but once you get into the swing of this routine, you should be able to finish in three hours or so (even less if you opt to deep condition your hair for only thirty minutes or so). Anyway, here's to healthy and clean tresses, sis. The kind of hair that makes it well worth enduring…wash day.
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