Tackling Washday: 8 Essential Tips for Washing Black Hair

Source: juicysistas.tumblr.com “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways” -Elizabeth Barrett Browning

For all the curly-haired ladies out there, I’m sure some of you can relate to this quote on some level when it comes to the relationship you have with your hair. A good shampoo and conditioner seemed sufficient at one point: slap those onto wet hair, rinse out, and go to town, but the more time I spent caring for my hair I realized that wasn’t enough.

Often times we dedicate a whole day to the cleansing ritual of our hair. While your routine may be similar to another person’s wash routine your routine should not be identical to anyone else’s, because your hair is not identical to anyone else’s.

If you have a head full of natural hair like mine, washday can be intimidating. When reintroduced to water, tangles and knots can turn a day meant to be about pampering to one of frustration.

There are a few things to keep in mind when washing your hair:

  1. When we wash our hair we want it to be clean, but not dry. Shampooing your hair can strip it of moisture and leave you with dry hair. Avoid shampoos that contain salt, propylene glycol, and parabens.
  2. Prepare your hair for the wash. Section your hair off into four or more parts and apply your pre-poo. A “pre-poo” is an oil treatment added to hair before shampooing or conditioning. In most cases doing this before exposing your hair to potentially harsh shampoos can help provide your hair with a little extra moisture. Depending on how often you wash your hair this step may not always be necessary, but because I generally wash my hair once every two weeks I opt to do it every time.
    To do this I prefer to use extra virgin olive oil, or something I’ve mixed up; it’s generally pretty cheap and does the trick. Here are a few of the different treatments I’ve found online that can be used: pre-poo recipes.
  3. After applying the treatment to damp hair I cover it with a plastic grocery bag or cap and leave the treatment in my hair for at least thirty minutes.
  4. Once you’ve applied your oil treatment of choice, start detangling your hair in the sections that you’ve created. Doing this should make managing your hair at least a little bit easier after the wash.
  5. Depending on what I’ve used as a pre-poo treatment, I’ll wash it out of my hair first with water if it’s of a heavier consistency, but if it’s a oil, I shampoo normally.
  6. Shampoo your hair. Based on how long and thick your hair is you’ll need a different amount of shampoo to work through your hair. I generally use a very small amount of shampoo to get my hair clean. When shampooing your hair work it into the sections that you made by loosening the braid or twist one at a time; focusing on that particular section and re-twisting it back up before moving on to the next.
    As you do this make sure you work on massaging the shampoo on your scalp to ensure that it becomes free of product buildup. Work the shampoo through the hair and try to elongate the strands rather than rubbing them to the scalp. This prevents tangles.
  7. To condition your hair continue using the same method. Be generous with the amount of conditioner you use, elongate the hair, work in sections, and rinse.
  8. When drying your hair squeeze out as much of the water as you can before towel drying; as much as possible, avoid rubbing your hair with your towel (try hair plopping!) — especially if you’ve chosen not to braid or twist your hair in sections. This will help to prevent tangles.

I know a lot of naturals prefer to use sulfate-free shampoos, but to date I have not tried using any of these products. However, because I do use shampoos that contain sulfates I only wash my hair with shampoo once every two weeks. If I choose to wash my hair between my scheduled washdays I usually co-wash it, which is a method of cleansing the hair with conditioner.

What does your hair washing regime look like?