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

(Last Updated On: October 14, 2019)

Last week, I blogged the negative side of Protective Styles which most hair gurus and stylists won’t share with you. I shared 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 style. To keep this post as short as possible, I will only write about how to clean and moisturize a braid 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)


Shampoo Juice: 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.

Milky 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. Shake your conditioner smoothie and spray it on your cornrows or braids 
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 your milky leave-in and spray 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 milky 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.

Hair after taking down a month old braid. My hair and scalp looked clean here because I washed and conditioned it twice when I had the braids. First was two weeks after and second was the day before taking it down. I had minimal breakage while taking the braids out because my hair was cared for during the 4 weeks it was protected.
Got other thoughts, ideas and comments about this post or other posts? I’d love to hear from you. Don’t be too shy to leave your “footprint” in the comment box below πŸ™‚

About Adeola

Adeola is a Serial Blogger and the Chief Editor of this website. She is also the creative director behind the Coils and Glory product line. She specializes in helping natural hair beginners with kinky coily afro-textured hair to achieve their hair goals. **Download your free e-book "Natural Hair Simplified in 5 steps"**

7 comments on “How to Wash Your Natural Hair In a Protective Style: Ultimate Guide

    • 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.

  1. 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.

    • 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

    • 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.

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