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How to Wash Natural Hair

Updated on April 22, 2014
Natural Hair Wash Guide
Natural Hair Wash Guide | Source

Natural African Hair is naturally coily with tight curls that require a lot of attention and care. This is especially true when washing natural hair. One has to extra careful so the hair doesn’t get tangled when washing it in the shower. So here is a guide to washing natural hair.

Wide tooth comb for Black, Afro-textured natural hair
Wide tooth comb for Black, Afro-textured natural hair | Source

Before you begin you will need:

  • A wide tooth comb
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • A natural hair oil (like olive, jojoba, coconut, or avocado oil to name a few)
  • Shower Cap
  • A clean, old, t-shirt or microfiber towel (a regular towel works fine too)
  • Scrunchies/Hair Elastics (about 2-10 pieces) or Hair clips (at least 6)
  • Brush for further detangling

What is Pre-Pooing?
What is Pre-Pooing? | Source

Step One: Before Shampooing: Pre-pooing

The process before shampooing is called pre-pooing in the natural hair community. This process often involves deep conditioning the hair. This is because natural hair is naturally very dry and washing and using shampoo on the hair strips the hair of its natural oils. Take this equation: Dry dirty hair + shampoo striping natural hair oils= extra dry natural hair. Major No No!!!!

So pre-pooing is a way to protect the hair, prevent the hair from losing its natural moisture and add some much needed moisture to the hair before washing it. There are several different methods for pre-pooing and deep conditioning hair

Pre-Pooing Guide
Pre-Pooing Guide | Source

Pre-Pooing: Three Methods to Deep Conditioning

One method is deep conditioning your hair with oil.

Many naturalistas use oils like coconut oil, olive oil, castor oil or jojoba oil (any natural hair oil is good). To deep condition with oil you would:

  • Apply oil (Warm or room temperature) to hair from root to ends, gently massaging it into your hair
  • Afterwards you take a plastic shower cap and cover your head with it for 30-45 minutes

Another method is deep conditioning your hair with a conditioner.

  • Apply conditioner to hair from root to ends, gently massaging it into your hair
  • Afterwards you take a plastic shower cap and cover your head with it for 30-45 minutes

One last common method is deep conditioning your hair with their DIY conditioner

DIY (Do It Yourself) deep conditioners can be made of mayonnaise, honey, eggs, etc. (used separately or added together). It is the same process like with applying oil or a store bought conditioner.

Step Two: Deciding what product to wash your hair with

After the 30-45 minutes with a plastic shower cap on your head, it time to take it off and begin the process of washing your hair. This can be done with shampoo or with a shampoo substitute like (conditioner or apple-cider vinegar or diluting your shampoo). Some naturalistas don’t use shampoo, some wash their hair with just conditioner or a combination of apple cider vinegar and conditioner or diluting their shampoo. Here are three common products naturalistas use to wash their hair

  • Shampoo (using sulfate free)
  • Conditioner (this is known as co-washing)
  • Shampoo diluted with water or conditioner
  • Some naturalistas skip shampoo or conditioners and use apple cider vinegar (2 parts water to one part apple cider vinegar)

Step Three: Sectioning

Once you decided what product you want to use, you set it aside for a moment, to section your hair. Sectioning your hair allows you to keep it from getting tangled when under the water of the showerhead. Sectioning hair usually works for naturalistas with medium to long hair length. If you have short hair, you can skip this step if you think it’s unnecessary. If you have medium to long hair length read on.

  • Divide your hair in half. You can do this horizontally (top to bottom) or vertically (left and right).
  • Comb and make sure your hair is detangled
  • Braid or twist that section
  • Clip or tie a scrunchie one side of hair and work with the other. Make sure you keep the hair sections divided and away from each other. (Use a hair clip or a scrunchie)
  • Divide your hair again (you should have four sections right now). Depending on whether your hair is thick or thin, medium length or long, you can create between 4- 10 sections.
  • Comb through your hair and make sure your hair is detangled

In the end you should have anywhere from 4 to 10 sections in your head. Make sure your hair is detangled (this is important, don’t neglect this part and don’t be lazy!!!)

Showerhead | Source

Step Four: Washing your hair

At this time your hair should be braided or twisted up in between 4 to 10 sections (aka 4 to 10 braids or twists).

  • Undue one hair section
  • Wet your hands a little, pour shampoo (or conditioner) onto your hands and lather up the product up onto that unraveled hair section.
  • Scrub and massage your hair
  • Rinse shampoo out your hair
  • Retwist your hair
  • Repeat with the rest of your hair.

Quick Tip

A time saver is to lather up shampoo (or conditioner) onto your hair as you are sectioning your hair in step three. That way all you have to do is to wash out the shampoo (or conditioner) from your already sectioned hair and re-twist or re-braid.

When drying your hair be gentle!
When drying your hair be gentle! | Source

Step Five: Dry, moisturize, and style your hair

After you are finished washing your hair, gently squeeze and blot the water out your hair using an clean t shirt or a microfiber towel (or a regular towel). Natural African texture hair is naturally dry and fragile so be gentle and careful with your hair. After your hair is damp you can moisturize your hair by applying an oil, leave-in conditioner or style product.

Optional Step: Conditioning your hair

You can use a conditioner after you shampoo and rinse the conditioner out your hair. It can be quite unnecessary because usually you’ll have to wash out the conditioner. A way to condition your hair without rinsing it out, is to just condition your hair and leave the conditioner in. Even so, it is best to wash the shampoo out your hair, dry your hair, and wait till your hair is a bit damp (not wet, damp) before you add a leave in conditioner to your hair. That way it is not too slippery.



Make sure your hair is detangled for every step. Natural hair gets tangled easily so it is your job to make sure this don’t happen. Also don’t wait till your hair is completely dry to detangle and style. Detangling is best when hair is a little saturated (not completely wet however).

BE GENTLE: Be gentle with your hair, finger detangle when you can and dab with towel, not rub when you are drying your hair

This is how you wash natural hair. Thank you, any comments just leave them below!!!

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  • J - R - Fr13m9n profile image

    Jane Ramona Rynkiewicz Frieman 3 years ago from Morris County, New Jersey

    Interesting reading and excellent suggestions!