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How to Wash Your Natural Hair In a Protective Style: Quick Guide

(Last Updated On: August 27, 2020)

In a recent blog post, I shared the negative sides of Protective Styles which most hair gurus and stylists won’t share with you. I talked about the 10 reasons why protective styling won’t help with length retention, but can instead result in hair loss and breakage.

Since the most common type of protective styling is often done with hair extensions, I will focus on how to take care of your hair when it’s in this type of hairstyle. To keep this post as short as possible, I will only write about how to wash and moisturize your braids or cornrows.

What you’ll need:

Hair clips, pins, scrunchies
Shower cap/ plastic bag
Hair towel
Spray bottle
Leave-in conditioner
Oils (Carrier and Essential oils)


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Shampoo Mix: Mix shampoo (preferably sulphate free shampoo) with warm water and oil of choice in a spray bottle. Shampoo will have a “juicy” consistency, which is why I call it a shampoo juice.

Conditioner Mix: Mix conditioner of choice (preferably protein+moisture based) with some warm water and oil of choice in a spray bottle. The conditioner will have a smoothie like consistency so it doesn’t run off and drip all over you while you sit and wait for it to be absorbed.

Leave-in: combine water, leave-in, oil and scented essential oil of choice (for scent) in a spray bottle to produce a milky consistency.

How to 


You will need to section your braids into a minimum of 4 sections to ensure that each braid tends to.
1. Drench your hair with warm water to open up your cuticles
2. Shake the shampoo juice together to activate the ingredients and spray directly on your roots and scalp and remaining on your cornrows or braids.
3. Gently use your fingers to massage the shampoo on your scalp and squeeze the shampoo down your braid
4. Rinse shampoo off. There’s no need to repeat the process as the next step which is conditioning will remove remaining dirt.


1. Apply some conditioner in your hair 
2. Gather hair together using a scrunchy and cover it with a plastic cap or grocery bag.
3. Cover the plastic cap with a towel or wool hat/beanie and let it sit for about 20 minutes or more.
4. Rinse off conditioner with cool or room temperature water by letting the shower remove any buildup or gently run your hands down your braid
5. Dry your hair with a hair towel or t-shirt


1. Shake leave-in and spray it on your cornrows or braids
2. For braids, use your hands to smooth the leave-in down your braid
3. For a smooth finish, wrap a silk or satin scarf around your hair to reduce the rate at which water evaporates from your hair and to also smooth your hair down while it dries.
4. If you have dry scalp, you can apply some oils on your scalp with an applicator bottle or allow the oil from the leave-in to naturally reach your scalp
5. Style as desired

*I do this 3 step process every two weeks or just once during the one month, I have my hair in braids.
I would re-moisturize my hair about twice a week by spraying some of the leave-in on my braid to restore moisture into my hair. To do this, I may hydrate my hair with a little bit of water depending on what my hair needs at the time and I would follow the 5 steps listed above. Also, to avoid rushing this process, I often do this at night or on days when I’m in no rush to head out.

Please note that your hair may not be 100% clean and moisturized, but it will feel, look and smell better than it did prior.

LaShanda Parker

Friday 11th of July 2014

Can this process be done more than once a week? I workout Mon-Fri and was wondering if I could do this on a Wednesday and Sat/Sun? I just got my hair done last Saturday and it is itching so badly that I was going to take it out today to give it a good thorough washing. I did not run into this problem when I had my fro; I would either co-wash every few days or at least rinse the sweat each night in the shower. I used to be able to go 2 weeks with my hair braided with no problem before I began working out.

LaShanda Parker

Saturday 12th of July 2014

Ok thanks. I have to take my cornrows out because they are raggedy from vigorous scratching lol. Once I put them back in I will incorporate this into my routine maintenance. I need to hit the gym just as much as I need to do protective styles to keep my hair from breaking.

The Mane Captain

Saturday 12th of July 2014

hi LaShanda,Yes, if your hair is itching that much, you might need to wash it more than every two weeks. You can mix a little bit of shampoo, tea tree oil and some apple cider vinegar in a spray bottle, spray it on your scalp, let it sit for a while. then gently massage the mixture on your scalp to relieve any discomfort. Then let running water rinse the soap off. You can re-moisturize your hair by mixing some conditioner with water and spritz it in your hair. That way, you won't have to disturb your hair too much

Onyeka Alaku

Wednesday 2nd of October 2013

oh dear, really seems like a lot of work to me. I'm not that patient. I think I'll stick to my way for

Adeola (The Mane Captain)

Wednesday 2nd of October 2013

lol, really? that's what I do and it doesnt seem like a lot of work to me. I wonder what your way is like.

coily bella

Friday 12th of July 2013

This whole process just tangles my hair resulting in breakage!

The Mane Captain

Saturday 13th of July 2013

Really? because these steps are very similar to the ones you used in your "how to wash your hair in braids" video. do you not do it anymore because you noticed your hair tangles? I've been washing my hair in braids, cornrows and weaves for years and haven't had any problem. The key is to be gentle with handling the hair, both when washing and taking down the braids. I now braid my hair chunky, so i'm able to use my fingers to remove the braids, as oppose to using a tool.

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