For many if not most women with natural hair, the day of dread is wash day. It is the day that you have to deal with detangling, wet hair, shrinkage and of course styling. However, your wash day is a crucial part of maintaining clean hair and preventing tangling and matting. The end story is that you cannot avoid this day and therefore the only rational thing to do is to create routines that will make it more tolerable or dare I say…….enjoyable.
1. Rules…..What Rules?
Here on BGLH, I often read comments about why is it that writers offer varying advice, why can we not just agree on methods or procedures and why are we always switching the rules? The answer is simple, there were never any rules to begin with. Natural hair is diverse meaning we have different
- -curl or coil sizes
- -individual strand thickness
- -overall hair density
- -hair response to damage
- -shrinkage and uptake of water
These five factors will determine how your hair behaves on wash day when it is wet and also how it will respond to a particular product. Therefore, if you require a hair rule, then it should be follow what your hair is telling you to do. If you can wash your hair free, do it; if you need to twist or braid it to wash it, then do that instead. If you have to finger detangle exclusively, do it; if you prefer to comb or brush your hair in addition, then do that instead. If pre poos are too time consuming for you, skip them; if you find them vital to maintaining your hair, do them. Do not try to follow someone else’s guide, make your own rules for your hair.
2. Hair is very predictable, expect the same results every time
If your hair takes 6 hours to dry, it will not suddenly taking 3 hours if you do not change techniques. If your hair shrinks and tangles tightly when washed wet and free, this will not change over time. If your hair forms clumped curls when conditioner combed but frizzes up with dry brushing or humidity changes, again, this will not change. Accept your hair for what it is and not what you want it to be.
If you change how you handle your hair e.g making it dry faster by air drying in curlformers, pre braiding hair instead of washing free to reduce tangling and shrinkage or finding a good holding product for clumped curls, you can get a different but still predictable result You should place your emphasis first on techniques that help you during wash day. These are more valuable and effective than searching for a hair product to combat common problems such as tangling or knotting during the wash, difficulty in combing or high levels of shrinkage.
3. Stop confusing texture for dryness
We have all heard the term ‘brillo pad hair’. This is in my view one of the clearest examples of confusing texture for dryness. High shrinkage hair is particularly susceptible to forming tight coils within hours of being freshly washed and conditioned. This hair is actually moisturised and not dry at all but by virtue of being left to shrink, feels extremely dry and brittle. The same hair will feel moisturised if air dried in a stretching method such as African threading, curl formers, twists or braids. In fact, even drying the hair out further with a blow dryer will produce hair that ‘feels’ more moisturised, although it is really not. Blow dried hair is actually drier internally than air dried hair but the smoothness of the strand (lack of coils and kinks) confuses some naturals who think it feels softer and moisturised.
In short, dry hair and texture are two separate things. It is a skill that we all develop in time to understand how our hair feels when moisturised and secondly how often we need to add moisture.
4. Trial and error is the name of the game.
Finding the techniques and products to help maintain your hair is all about trial and error. There is no set formula that I as a scientist can give to you. There is no set formula that a blogger, youtuber or hairstylist can give to you. You have to experiment and find what works and what does not. Additionally, experimenting is going to last for as long as you have hair. Some products may stop working for you and you have to try others. Your hair will grow longer and you have to cater to whatever it will be doing at the longer length (e.g tangling more, developing more hang, curling less etc).
Ladies, have you figured out your wash day routine? What is your process?