When to Wash Your Natural Hair

There is no set amount of time that you should wash your hair, everyone’s needs and lifestyle are different. That’s what makes us unique. With that being said, there are a few signs to look out for when deciding when and how to wash your hair.

Generally, I like to shampoo (clarify) my hair once or twice a month and simply co-wash or use a moisturizing shampoo in between, in other words, I alternate my shampoo types. When I describe a cowash I mean using warm water to saturate your hair and adding a conditioner. I will mix in or follow up with an oil for shine and softness.

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When Do I Wash My Hair?

I personally like to wash my hair around once every 7-10 days, or 3 times a month at the minimum and braid into a protective style. I play in the dirt (and saw dust) A LOT so a curly hair routine is not it for me. I also don’t do wash and gos for this reason. I can go longer (your hair will forgive you most times) especially if you allow it to steam while in the shower, but since it is summer and I spend a lot of time in the garden, I like to remove the dirt, sweat, and debris from my hair and scalp often so I am mostly in the once a week or sooner category.

Wash Day Types

Start with a clean slate.

Shampoo

As mentioned before, I like to use shampoo, if I use more oils, I will use more clarifying shampoos. If not, I will stick with my favorite moisturizing shampoo. When we first began our natural hair journeys we were so used to not washing our hair that we thought it was normal. It is not. Shampoo is not the enemy of hair health, dryness is. Thoroughly wet your hair before adding product. I usually just stand under the water until all of my hair curls up. I shampoo my hair in sections and start at the scalp then run it all the way down the section. If your shampoo is quality, then you won’t experience tangles and dryness.

Clarifying

A good clarifying shampoo will remove almost all of the build up from your hair when washing. When my hair is feeling stiff from lack of moisture and I always replenish it IN THE SHOWER by removing the product that is coating your strands and running water through your hair.

I should emphasize here that my hair is drenched! Don’t be afraid of getting your hair wet and completely soaked, squeeze the water through your hair to work it in and pull down to remove shed hairs. Then follow the instructions on your shampoo.

Get a good lather going and use the pads of your fingers to massage your scalp and lift up debris. Run the shampoo down your strands. During this time my hair feels soft and clumps will actually form in my hair; clean, healthy hair will curl/coil nicely even without any product.

Moisturizing

A moisturizing shampoo will have your hair feeling “slippery” while you use it. I use the same exact technique when I use any type of shampoo. The only difference is the way the product interacts with your hair. Here are the steps again in list form:

  1. Drench your hair in water, work the water into your section to fully wet the hair
  2. Apply your shampoo to your scalp. Massage your scalp with the pads of your fingers (not your nails) to gently remove debris and dirt.
  3. Lather: continue to work the shampoo into a lather by squeezing the hair and run it down your strands. You want to clean all of your hair, not just your scalp!
  4. Rinse. Thoroughly rinse your hair to remove all of the shampoo from your hair before applying another product. I can feel a strange build up on my hair if I don’t rinse away the shampoo correctly.

Co-Wash

A Co-wash, for me, is useful when I have not put a lot of product on my hair. It just needs to be conditioned/hydrated in the shower. If I only used a teensy bit of product and don’t want to go through shampoing (cause I am LAZY), then I am happy to just add diluted conditioner to my hair and keep it pushing. If you wear wash and gos, this might not be for you. I wear a lot of braids and twists because I like to be outside running through a field of flowers/fighting dirt more than anything else. 🙂

Instructions:

  1. Drench your hair in water, work the water into your section to fully wet the hair.
  2. Apply your diluted conditioner, I dilute my conditioners because it allows the product to slip through the strands more easily. It is water that is most important, conditioner is a means to an end. I often add oil to my conditioner because I like the separation I get as soon as it air dries.
  3. If you add oil to your hair (during or after your conditioner) I suggest rinsing the excess oil from your strands. I don’t like to completely coat it, but rinse it through. Using too much oil really makes a difference in how often you need to clarify/moisturize.

I used to have a hooded dryer but I don’t really prefer it. I hate sitting under a dryer. I dry my hair with a microfiber towel after washing!

Below are two example routines that you can document in your Natural Hair Regimen Workbook

Once a Week

Twice a Month

 

Once a Month

I do not support this, but I understand. I am not the gold standard. Do what you need, but please use a clarifying shampoo at the very least. 

Reasons to Wash Your Hair

  1. Avoid dandruff and dry scalp
  2. Removes product and debris from your hair
  3. Allows conditioner to work on your hair
  4. Stops your hair from being stiff and brittle
  5. Resets your hair at its optimal health for the next care cycle

Should You Decrease Your Wash Days?

One thing is for sure, washing your hair everyday is not necessary, not only does it strip your hair of its moisture repeatedly, it also just takes a lot of work! If you engage in activities that add a lot of debris to your hair (like I do) I suggest wearing a protective covering like a cap or scarf to protect your hair, especially if you are in the harsh sunlight for extended periods of time. This way you do not have to continuously wash your hair.

Should You Increase Your Wash Days?

If you are not washing your hair enough, you may notice some detrimental changes to your hair and scalp. Including product buildup and dandruff on your scalp. Your hair can begin to feel brittle and hard; you may also notice it does not absorb moisture as easily as it did when it was closer to wash day. This is because the product is building up around your strands and blocking water from penetrating your hair shaft. If you use heavy oils or butters in your hair, consider adding a clarifying wash day (or two) to your regimen to keep up the health of your scalp. If you do not use butters, monitor your hair’s moisture levels and refresh as needed.

Our hair is naturally dry, there is no one thing you can do to permanently make your hair moisturized, it needs to be routinely replenished and refreshed.

You may not have the same requirements as me. I have been natural for 11 years so haircare comes easily to me. What you may be struggling with is choosing the TYPE of routine that is best for your lifestyle and desires. And obviously, washing your hair more often will give you more chances to learn your texture and better react to its needs as time goes on.

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