One of the main concerns that women with natural hair have is often about their wash day routine. How long should it take? What products should I use? Do I need this or that?
It’s not just people who are new to the community, either. Some people have been natural for years and have a routine that just isn’t working for them, so they need a little help too.
Some products simply don’t work the same anymore, or your hair doesn’t need what’s included in them, and that’s okay. That means it’s time to switch it up. Don’t worry about which category you fall into because this will be for everyone.
Here are some tips and advice for the best wash day routine for natural hair.
What is a good wash day routine and why do you need one?
A good wash day routine is not so much about the ‘labels’ you use or how much money you spend, but about which products can do what for your hair.
For instance, you want to make sure the products are nourishing and helping you retain growth and health.
You also want to know what your hair needs and find products that offer it. For example, if your hair needs protein, look for products that include protein.
If your hair is dryer than normal, look for products that are moisturizing or deep conditioning.
Some companies only want your money and will promise things that they can’t deliver. It’ll just make the process more difficult for you, so take your time to find what’s best for you.
Remember, hair products are NOT one size fits all, and what works for someone else might not work for you.
Figure out your hair type and what your hair struggles with, and go from there. Don’t try to base your whole routine on what you saw someone else buy and use. You could be wasting a lot of money doing that.
A wash day routine is needed because natural hair needs to be clean and nourished to thrive. Having a clean scalp is essential for hair health. Not washing properly or not washing long enough can cause a lot of scalp issues.
Mainly, a routine needs to consist of shampoo, conditioner, and one or two styling products depending on the style. For wash and go’s, you may want to add some gel or mousse. Contrary to popular belief, our hair does not need a whole shelf of products to thrive.
Just 3-4, and some optional oil will work just fine. Tools such as elastics, bobby pins, and clips are great for wash day routines, these help for styling and separating the hair for detangling.
However, finger detangling can also be substituted if you decide not to use actual combs.
How often is wash day for natural hair/ how many days a week?
For naturals, wash day should only be once a week at a minimum. 5-10 days between washing is recommended, so you do not strip too many of the hairs natural oils causing the hair to dry out faster.
Depending on the style, you can choose to wash more often or less often, but once a week is a great starting place. Water is not our enemy. It’s actually great for our hair, so stop being afraid to get yours wet!
If you are an athlete or someone who is typically active, you may consider washing your hair more often during the week, especially if you sweat a lot.
How to prepare your natural hair for washing
The best way to prepare your natural hair for washing is to make sure that you have all of the products and tools ready first. So, make sure you have your shampoo and conditioner first. If you’d like to pre-poo (pre-shampoo), make sure you have the product for that.
Some naturals swear by apple cider vinegar as a natural cleanser for pre-pooing, and it’s great because you can find it right in your kitchen! Some naturals also do hot oil treatments before shampooing.
Some naturals also like to use oil for taking down certain styles, such as box braids or twists. It helps with the detangling process by adding slip to undo the hair without causing knots and tangles carefully.
If you’ve had a style in for a long while, such as a protective style, you want to make sure you have a good deep conditioner and some moisturizing products on hand because the hair will be needing nourishment.
Due to your hair being covered by the braiding hair, there will be a lot of hair that shed that is still stuck to the unshed hair, so when you take your hair down, please do it carefully because this can cause a ton of tangles!
You will lose a lot of hair trying to comb it through, so before shampooing, rake your fingers through and try to detach as much of the shed hair as you can. It will save you a lot of time and a lot of hair!
A step by step guide to washing natural hair
The first (optional) step is to pre-poo. This can sometimes be a hot oil treatment or an ACV rinse. Next would be shampooing the hair. The best shampoos to use are clarifying and/or moisturizing shampoos.
When shampooing, make sure to massage the scalp to aid in blood flow to the scalp, promoting growth after shampooing comes the conditioner.
When washing your hair in the shower, a great tip is to apply the conditioner and let it sit while you wash your body.
Then, when it comes time to rinse, you can rinse everything all at once. Another optional but great method is to use a detangling brush while the conditioner is in as well.
The conditioner adds a lot of slip, making it easier to comb through.
It will shave off some time from detangling after you are done washing. Next, dry your hair until it is damp, with a t-shirt or (or let it air dry depending on style).
Your hair will be properly conditioned, so the next step will be to add your styling products. This could be gel, foam, or a mousse.
Finger detangling the hair is a great next step depending on the style. Let your hair dry completely and cover it with a satin bonnet or scarf for bed.
How to dry natural hair without heat
Drying your hair without heat is a straightforward method. Of course, it will take longer, but it doesn’t have to take hours!
Using a t-shirt instead of a towel to dry natural hair is so much healthier as it is less likely to snag and pull out hair strands like the fibers in towels tend to do.
Leave the t-shirt on until your hair is damp, and then take it off and let your hair dry completely on its own. This can include letting it dry overnight.
The braid-out method is also a great way to dry and stretch natural hair without heat. Here is a great video tutorial on this method. Results may vary due to length, hair type, and other conditions.
What should I do on wash day for my natural hair?
Wash day does not have to be a 6-hour spectacle, contrary to popular belief. The majority of the time, the whole process from start to finish does not need to be more than 1-2 hours tops.
All you need to do on wash day is, prep your hair for washing, wash & condition, dry, and style. It is that simple.
Unless you are going to install a wig or box braids, it does not need to take long at all. In fact, if you are doing a wash and go, it should take no time at all.
Styles such as braids outs and twist outs may take a little longer depending on the size, but even that should not be a 5-6 hour ordeal.
Our hair is not that high maintenance, we are just always learning to care for it, and that’s okay.
What do I do on wash day for my 4C hair?
4C hair is known as the thickest hair on the hair typing chart, but it should not take longer than other hair types, nor should it really be any different.
Due to the tight curl, it can be a more difficult detangling process, but nothing different needs to be done.
However, if you find that your hair always seems to be dry and tangled a lot more, you may have to switch up the products you are using and look for more moisturizing products.
When it comes to being natural, it’s really all about trial and error. The unfortunate thing about this is that the whole process can be time-consuming and costly, turning many people off.
You have to keep trying new things and new products to really find what works for you.
Sometimes products that you have been using for years no longer work, and you have to switch them up again. But don’t run back to the relaxers just yet!
The best part about our hair is that we have to spend time getting to know it and finding its unique personality.
I understand that you might not really have time for that, but consider making time. Natural hair is beautiful and versatile, and it grows with us.