Since I did my big chop back in 2003, I have tried so many wash day “routines” and methods. It was all fun and games initially. However, as I have matured on this natural journey and life got busier, I have learned to KISS (keep it simple sister) my hair regimen. Many of you can relate. With work, kids, school, relationships, and life period, you get to a point where you do not feel like spending so much time on your natural hair wash day routine.
I will share with you my very much simplified wash day routine that has me in and out of the bathroom in less than four hours. Yep from washed to styled for the week. I have streamlined my routine so I can have more time to enjoy life and get other things done. I do incorporate special treatments such (pre-poo, protein, clay, and rinses) in my regimen periodically. However, the wash day routine outlined below is what I use on my natural hair most weeks.
Whether you are a newly natural learning the ropes or an experienced naturalista who wants to simplify her regimen and still have the bomb curls, this article is for you!
Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and we will earn a small commission if you purchase through those links at no cost to you at all. We use all of the products below and recommend them because we have found helpful in our journey.
Here is my bare minimum natural hair wash day regimen is dependable, and covers my hair needs on a regular basis.
1. Wash (15 Minutes)
Working in Sections is a Time Saver
Whenever I wash my hair, I always wash, at minimum, in four sections. Back in the day when my hair was much shorter, I got away with slapping some shampoo on my hair and scrunching away into a big sudsy pile on top of my head. When I got to the 7-inch long mark though, I had to get methodical on how I handled my natural hair on wash day.
Experience has proven that washing was not effective whenever I failed to section my hair. I could not cleanse my scalp how I like it. More tangles were created down the line. All this resulted in more time spent on my natural hair during my wash day routine. From my many mistakes, I have learned that sectioning my natural hair works best during my wash day routine. One would think that the more sections you create, the more time it takes to wash your hair. I have not found that to be the case. Even with my hair approaching waist length, washing my hair has become such a breeze when working in sections.
- My favorite shampoo: Shea Moisture Manuka Honey & Mafura Oil Intensive Hydration Shampoo
Get That Scalp First, Then the Hair
Yes, dirty hair sucks but a dirty scalp does not help either. As a matter of fact, a dirty scalp can impact the health of your hair. My main focus when washing is to get good access to my scalp for some good cleansing. great as well (to stimulate the blood flow). I dilute all my shampoos with water in an applicator bottle to thin out the product’s viscosity. One or two tablespoons is enough to cleanse my entire head with ample sudsy action when using the dilution method. And who does not like to stretch those expensive natural hair products? Between my daughter and I, one bottle of our favorite Shea Moisture shampoo lasts between 2-3 months. That is a win for this budget focused momma!
After giving my scalp a good scrubbing (with my fingers, not my nails), I proceed to cleanse the hair. I do not have to vigorously scrub my hair clean. I simply work the shampoo downwards over the section for a few passes and then I am done. Never do I detangle my hair during this step. I rinse and move on to the next step.
2. Deep Condition (30-45 Minutes)
Our Hair Thirsts for Moisture Consistently
I cannot tell you how many times I skipped out on deep conditioning my natural hair. Weeks would go by without a deep treatment. For my hair, the lack of conditioning was evident in the form of dryness and breakage. Our natural hair thrives on moisture on the regular. The frequency in which a natural deep conditions her hair is a personal choice. Bi-weekly to weekly treatments is the norm for most women. I have settled for weekly sessions and my hair loves it.
Conditioner + Heat is a Matchmaker
I do not know about you. But I feel like I cheated my hair when I do not use heat during my deep conditioning. Heat supposedly raises the hair cuticles slightly and provides an environment for better penetration of the product into the shaft. I go for the maximum time of 30 minutes when I deep condition. Usually, I use my flaxseed heat cap so I can move around the house during the process. This soft hood hair bonnet is a good option to use as well for heat treatment.
- My favorite deep conditioner: Shea Moisture High Porosity Moisture Correct Masque
3. Detangling (30-60 Minutes)
For our in-depth, everything you need to know detangling guide, click HERE.
The prime time for me to detangle is right after the heated deep conditioning worked its magic into my hair. Once I take off that plastic cap, my natural hair feels soft like butter. I never get tired of that feeling! I move into the shower for my detangling sessions so that the running water can aid in the process. Water is a natural hair elongator.
Finger Detangle First
Still using the same sections from the beginning of my wash day routine, I finger detangle my hair from tip to root. Finger detangling helps me work out any large or more difficult tangles. Whenever I attack a knot, I work it loose by pulling it outwards rather than downwards. Pulling a knot downwards only tightens it and makes it more difficult to remove. Every now and then, I have spent a couple of minutes working out a tight knot just to find that a single shed strand caused such a ruckus. It is all a part of the process. If a knot is too difficult to remove and I as many hairs as possible and cut directly above the knot with my shears. This is rare but does happen even to the best of us.
Detangling Tool Second
After finger detangling and unloosing most knots and tangles from a section, I use a detangler tool to remove any remaining small tangles and shed hairs. Some women only finger detangle because it is the gentlest way to remove tangles and knots. However, that process is a little more time consuming than I would like especially on longer hair. Additionally, I love the thorough feel of a wide-toothed or detangling brush through my hair. My detangling process feels complete after using a tool. Same as with finger detangling, I start at the tips and work my way to the roots. Then I the detangled section before moving on to prevent re-tangling.
After detangling all my sections, I do a final rinse through over the entire head to make sure all product has been removed. If I feeling froggy, I will do a cool water rinse to help seal my cuticles for more shine.
- My favorite detangling tool: Tangle Teezer Salon Elite Hair Brush
5. Moisturizing (15-20 Minutes)
This step is so critical in my regimen. How well I moisturize my natural hair during my wash day routine determines how well my hair remains moisturized throughout the week.
LOC/LCO Method for Max Moisture and Sealing
When I discovered the LOC/LCO method years back, this was a light bulb in my head that flashed. It changed the game for me on how I moisturized my hair. Pretty much, the LOC/LCO method is a system that involves layering products in a specific order to maximize moisture retention.
The acronym breakdown is simple:
- L: Liquid (water or water-based moisturizer)
- O: Oil (lightweight oil such as olive, avocado, and coconut)
- C: Cream (or butter)
I have jumped back and forth between LOC and LCO to see what my hair likes best. For now, my hair loves the LCO method. Applying a leave-in cream conditioner before the oil leaves my hair feeling nourished and smooth after moisturizing.
- My favorite moisturizer: Shea Moisture Coconut Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie
6. Styling (30-60 Minutes)
Babies Changes Everything (Again)
Styling since I had my son in 2017 has been super duper simple. I adapted to a very basic level of simplicity because:
- Time after a second child has become ever more sacred.
- Sleep is precious over staying up super late doing hair after the kids are in bed.
- I cannot lock myself in the bathroom for an extended time in peace in this phase of parenthood with a toddler and a tween.
- My postpartum shedding was really bad which made manipulating my hair depressing the first year after my son.
- I am drained after managing my daughter’s super thick and long natural hair. Her wash day is another story!
There are probably some other reasons but these are the top ones for why I no longer spend hours styling my hair on the regular anymore. Yes, if I am fortunate, I can throw on a movie and put in a nice set of medium to small size twists in a few hours (AFTER the entire wash day process). But these days, I can afford at most four hours max to wash, condition, detangle, and style my hair weekly.
Low Manipulation Styling
As a result of less time devoted to styling, I have adopted very low manipulation styles such as bigger twists, flat twists, buns, and banded ponytail(s). I used to wig it out because that was my thing for a long time and a crutch when times got tight between me and my hair care. However, I believe I am going to phase out wigs from my regimen from here on out. As much as I love the versatility of wigs and how they got me through some rough patches with trichotillomania, I decided I want to expose the real me.
The Most High has given me something unique to me and I want to wear it with pride and as an example to my daughter to love what she has been given specifically to her. If I need a “covering” per se, I have discovered a newfound love for hair wraps and turbans. Wearing wraps and head covering is something more than for appearance, style, and culture. It is very spiritual. I probably wear my hair in some sort of wrap about 40-50% of the week. This is another way keep my weekly hair care low maintenance and stress-free.
My favorite style of late is two banded ponytails. Although I feel my hair is uber thin, I have gotten many compliments about my hair in this style. It only takes me 25 minutes to apply some aloe vera gel hair, “slick” down my sections, apply cloth bands to create this banded look while keeping my natural hair stretched. The best thing about this style is that detangling my hair for the following wash day is very quick and easy. Since my hair has been kept in a stretched and detangled state, theirs hardly anything to deal with for the next wash day.
I do like to switch up my styles some so I am not placing stress along the same areas weeks at a time.
7. The Wrap Up
This summarizes how my wash day routine goes during a typical week. As a busy mom, I just cannot afford to play around with my hair as often as I would like or have done in the past. Occasionally I will make time for some extra hair pampering which makes these sessions super fun and special. But for now, my hair is doing fine on a minimal wash day routine. Once I style my hair on wash day, I rarely go back and make any styling changes. If my hair gets too frizzy by the fifth or sixth day, I simply wear a scarf or head wrap and keep things moving.
If you are struggling with simplifying your current routine or coming up with a wash day routine period, I hope this post helps give you a guideline and time frame on how to shorten your wash day process. For our latest update on our staple products and tools, visit this page HERE for more information. Click HERE to receive a free regimen starter packet to get your wash day routine started on the right track just for you. Here is a pinnable reference guide to our KISS method of the wash day routine.
For a complete rundown of all the products and tools I (and my daughter) use for my natural hair, visit our Staple Products and Tools Page.
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Engage and Connect
What ways do you use to simplify your wash day regimen? What is the most tedious part of your wash day?