By Chinwe of Hair and Health

Since we last discussed Whitney (Naptural85), her theory has evolved from incorporating co-washing to alternating between co-washing and water-only washing.  (In case you missed the previous discussion, here it is: Does Constant Washing Make Natural Hair Grow Faster?.)

What is water-only washing?

Water-only washing is not a new concept, but it has become increasingly popular in the natural hair community over the past few years. What is it? It is the washing of hair solely using water with the focus on distributing sebum from the scalp onto the strands. Why is this important? Well, …

… Let’s talk more about sebum

Sebum is a natural substance that lubricates the scalp and conditions the hair. In straight hair, this oily substance can travel down the shaft to the ends fairly easily because of the direct path. The hair’s close proximity to the scalp as well as continual brushing and combing also aid in the transport process. As for textured hair? That is another story.

The coilier the hair, the harder it is for sebum to travel down to the ends because of physics. Imagine oil running down a straight road versus a path full of turns and twists. In the latter case, the oil may take longer to reach the end of the road, getting caught at each curve. This process is basically what coilier/kinkier strands experience. Also, factor in a minimal brushing/combing routine as well as the reality that some natural hair works against gravity (i.e., stands up and out away from the scalp). We then ultimately have a case in which sebum just barely reaches the ends of our hair, if at all, hence, a contributing factor to dryness.

Now back to Naptural85 …

Why did Whitney make the switch to water-only washing?

Believe it or not, certain conditioners do have the capability to remove a level of oil from the scalp and hair. (Check out Jc’s microscope experiment involving co-washed strands: Does Co-washing Really Clean Your Hair.) If co-washing is done in excess, it may lead to an itchy, dry scalp, which was the case for Whitney; her increased co-washing was removing too much sebum. Thus, she switched to a routine of water-only washing alternated with co-washing as she discusses in the following video. Her scalp has benefited immensely since the switch.  Additionally, her hair is loving the routine because of the sebum distribution.

How to start your water-only wash routine

If you are interested in trying a water-only wash routine, definitely start by watching the following Q&A video by Wateronlyhairwash. (How appropriate.) She’s been doing the water-only wash routine for over a year and shares some answers to important questions you may have.  You may want to grab a pen and notepad while you watch:

In the mean time, here are some steps to keep in mind:

1. Start by removing previous product buildup with a shampoo, especially a clarifying one if you have serious buildup.

2. Massage your scalp and distribute the sebum throughout your strands with each water-only wash.  Do this section by section (see how Whitney’s video).

3. Apply light oils and/or butters for extra sealing, if necessary.

4. Avoid heavy products.

5. Try to stick with mainly natural products. Use specific natural products to remove excess sebum and dirt accumulation (see Wateronlywash’s video).

Have you tried water-only washing? Share your routine and experience below!


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36 Comments on "Can Water-Only Washing Maximize Natural Hair Growth?"

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Hair Design

Being an hair stylist, different people have different hair. This content has few good points & for this I really appreciate.

Natural Oils for Hair & Health

I haven’t had a chance to try it yet. Still in a protective style. Will update once I’m able to try it..:)

Natural Oils for Hair & Health

Researching this currently and plan to try it out for a month starting from next week…


How do you like it?


People in the Caribbean have been doing this for many years. It’s very beneficial of you sweat a lot in heat. I don’t think I need to say anything else, since Leahy went in.

[…] I stumbled across this video on YouTube about washing with water only. With me having really short hair I wash with only water all of the time. However, I had never thought about it in regards to longer hair. I was thinking: “How does that work out?” I mean, there is product build up happening. After watching the video I read a blog post that also talked about washing with water only. Obviously this is a thing and maybe I should partake in this “thing” as my hair grows out because washing my hair is serious business. So I… Read more »

A cold is caused by a virus!



I moved to Africa a few months ago and have been washing/wetting my hair with with only water almost every day since I’ve been here. My hair has grown longer and faster than I’ve ever seen. When I came here my hair was at the nape of my neck and now it’s shoulder length. Seems ridiculous for a few months,and I myself am amazed. My hair is almost impossible to break. I’ve tried breaking stands of it that have shed and it just won’t split. Here are some things to note: I don’t style my hair with any heat, elastic… Read more »

is it good for people living in a hot-weatherd country. can this method work for people living in africa?


But they did not get it from wo method. Majority of them already had length before starting this “method.” Even the natural who decided to start a channel called wohw already had long hair.




You better tell it girl!. So true.


Wateronlyhairwash introduced me to the method. If you are thinking about switching to this method of haircare, do it! I can’t express enough how my hair has changed for the better.


Luv wow. Since I started much less shedding, breakage and no scalp buildup. Co-washing caused all of the afore mentioned to become excessive.

As .a teen in the 70’s when Afros were popular I washed my hair at least 3x .per week and it seemed to luv the moisture and grew long.

Now with wow and two strand pin ups I’m retaining length too!


i don’t think the water only method is for everyone. Some, but not all. I attempted this method for a while and my hair was super dry and matted. I didn’t like it at all

Cherrelle Hawkins

Did you use protective styles?? If not, your hair matted because of the shrinking. Use a little coconut oil on your ends also. Water rinse, then twist/plat hair while wet with oil.

Maja T.

Yes I agree, it`s a great method but not good for all hair types and people. I think it`s not good for very curly hair, as you need to brush a lot and the curly may get damaged. Also it`s better for people with slightly short hair (till shoulders or a bit more) as the transition period can be hard.


Next there will be a water only method of using alkaline, iodized, hard water softener filters and shower heads bc alkalinity is supposedly good for the body inside and out but the alkaline water ph is up to an 8-10, same level as a relaxer rinse out. But this would be the new craze. We already waste money buying and using grocery brand distilled water in products and to wash hair. it’s ONLy a matter of time before an Evian or Fiji water wash only challenge pops up


I’m confused as to how this is now taking flight in the natural community when this started 5-7 years ago on I’m sure it was mentioned in the forums on naturallycurly too. I’ve been doing wo off and on sine 2011 simply out of laziness. I started 8 months ago doing it consistently but using shampoo every 4 months to reset the hair to make more sebum. But it just makes me laugh Bc it’s not new and lhc stays inventing new hair growth retention methods and then every curly and natural hops on board years after lol.


I’ve been water washing 7 months and I love it…I can honestly say no hair products has ever done what my sebum has and I’m working with 12 to 14 inches of hair


Considering I have eczema on my scalp, this isn’t for me.

This is very true for a lot of us. I’ve long accepted the fact that my regimen is always evolving because you can never stop learning and like you said, your hair care needs change every once in a while. I tend to use a “modified’ version of different methods to fit my needs. I occasionally do water only washing along with cowashing. I also do the curly girl method with occasional use of shampoo, especially since I use a lot of butters and oils. But since I aim to cowash weekly I only shampoo when needed which tends to… Read more »
and @disqus_KC6bz7vq5Z:disqus. I guess the women I’ve seen doing the water only method use oil because it also serves as an additional protective layer? Especially for those with kinkier/tangly textures who may have a harder time getting the sebum down to the very ends. I’ve heard a couple of ladies mention their ends being dry and brittle because it was taking longer than usual for the sebum to reach the ends of their hair which later on resulted in breakage. They seem to have no issues using oil despite what you’ve mentioned. Different experiences for different heads of hair I… Read more »
Ugonna Wosu

I water wash occasionally. I mostly cowash still.

In my 13 years of being natural and following these online communities this water only washing comes around the bin every so often. I tried it too waay back when I was newly natural and it was ok. Not something you can keep up with for the long haul. I hate to break it to you ladies but your hair care needs will shift every so often causing you to have to change routines every now and then. Watering washing might be giving you all kinds of life right now but I guarantee you you will not be doing this… Read more »

Everyone is different as a working woman maybe its to high maintenance for you but the average working woman has a family of her own family friends and house duty and will till manage her self nothing is to high maintenance for a working or none working woman that cares about there aperience


Alot of the “water only people” that I’ve seen on youtube have really long hair.

I tried it, my hair is 4c. But mine was WATER ONLY WASHING and I didn’t use any conditioners or shampoos for 6 months. I washed my hair almost every day to every 3 days. Result: It was great, I had my hair in mini twist or corn rows and my hair grew. My hair was hydrated and soft, and you can actually feel the slick from the sebum.. However: •When sebum dries, it gets hard and looks like and flakes like dry scalp. •Its hard to get the oils down the strands, due to the hair coils. •Doesn’t get… Read more »

Did you apply butter to your ends?


I do and love it going on 7 months!


I have been water-only washing for about six months now. I like it and my hair never feels dry. The only advice I have is try not to use oil at all costs. I had to use shampoo to completely get the oil out of my hair. Now I use just conditioner that can be completely rinsed out.


I’m curious why not the use of oil? Excessive build up maybe?


Oils can actually be used to remove excess sebum! Especially Coconut oil. So when some use that to oil their hair and then say the method never worked is because they were most likely fighting a losing battle to get full coverage. Oil should only be used to coat the ends to prevent dryness. Preferably a heavy oil or butter.


Because water cannot dissolve oil. For water only wash to be effective, you should only use water soluble products in your hair that the water can remove.


Yes, no matter how much I rinsed I couldn’t get it out. My hair just felt dirty.