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!


Empow­er­ing women of col­or to break bar­ri­ers. Cherish.Thy.Melanin.

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35 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 bands, noth­ing.… 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 »

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 rid of all the dirt, •Before… 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.