What’s the deal with wash day and naturals? Why the sackcloth and ashes and lamentations? Well, if you used to be relaxed like me, the process of washing your hair went from easy breezy to queasy.
I exaggerate, of course, but when it comes to kinky coily natural hair, you can’t just slather on the shampoo, rinse, and go anymore. Yes, I used to shampoo only, with that 2-in-1 sham. Then I upgraded to a separate shampoo and conditioner and thought I was killing the game.
And then I went natural and the game was killing me.
Let’s break it all the way down. Some shampoos make the hair clingy (due to raised cuticles.) With natural hair, it’s not only clingy but also tangly. Unless I’m trying to start a giant dreadlock, the days of washing my whole head at once are gone. I have to wash a section at a time to prevent excessive tangling. I use hair ties to organize and when I’m feeling extra masterful I go all Naptural85 and retwist and bantu knot each section as I go.
Conditioner is meant to rebalance the pH of your hair after shampooing and that helps smooth down the cuticles. With chemically relaxed hair, I didn’t really notice the difference, but with natural hair? Whew! If I didn’t leave that conditioner to sit for the allotted time, my hair would stay clingy and rough.
That rinse and go I used to enjoy? Fuggetaboutit! I used to blast my hair with the full force of the shower stream at the same temperature as I used to bathe. Now, I’m mindful of too much agitation. I reduce the stream to gentle and lower the temperature to lukewarm. There are some hard core naturalistas that rinse with cold water. I am not hard core.
What was detangling in my relaxer days? Not a word in my vocabulary, that’s what. For a natural, there can be no wash day without it. I won’t even get into how my post-wash ritual has changed.
As you can see, with all these extra steps, wash day for naturals can be a major production. The good news is there are lots of tips, tricks, and tutorials out there to make it less so.
First, get your mind right. Sounds extra but trust that procrastination and dread will take over if you don’t set your mind to handle your business. Set a day. Set a time. Set aside the time. Make it happen. Mentally go over everything you have to do and accept how long it will take. Don’t fight it.
Make it as comfortable for yourself as possible. For starters, give yourself ample time to complete it. You can detangle in the shower, and the conditioner, running water, and not worrying about the mess can ease things a bit. But if you detangle outside of the shower you can be seated, fully clothed, and watch a TV show or two…or three (or five, who am I kidding?) I’ve been detangling this way for most of my natural journey. It sometimes involves music and snacks.
Don’t be afraid to break up the process. Detangle and prepoo today, wash and set or style tomorrow when you are refreshed and recharged.
Focus on must-do tasks. This means I focus on getting my scalp clean. If all I have time for is a vigorous rinse, I know my scalp will be happy and my hair will be okay if I delay a full wash day for a few days. It means I may want to try a tea rinse, but if I can’t work it into my regimen, I will put off extra experiments like that for a more dedicated day.
Take a moment to ask yourself, “Is this a good time or nah?” If you think so, handle your business. If not, wait. I’ve had 2-hour sessions magically multiply–simple things turned complex!–because my mind and body weren’t ready and coordinated for the task.
While there is an unavoidable amount of extra effort involved in natural hair hygiene, it doesn’t have to be stressful. Plan and organize your wash day and you’ll find there’s nothing really to dread.
What do you dread most about wash day and how do you make the process easier? Comment below! And if you’re a fan of The Pursuit, like, share, and follow me here and @edinPON.
Did you know I’m writing a series for the newly natural? Find Dear Newly Natural Me at myyeka.wordpress.com. Check out the latest installment: here.