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The Water Only Hair Washing Method - Do or Don't?

Updated on February 2, 2016

In the natural hair community, we have been hearing a lot about the water washing only method from various Vloggers. This has sparked my curiosity and the curiosity of many of you! I actually decided to give it a try for myself. It has been 6 months and I'll be more than happy to share my experience!

So...let's talk about what this method is and how it may or may not benefit your lifestyle.

What is the Water Only Wash Method?

It sounds like the name says it all, but trust me...there's more to it! Washing the hair with water is only the foundation. In order to successfully maintain healthy hair with this method, you'll need to do more than just rinse your hair with water.

Using only water to cleanse the hair means, that you are allowing the natural sebum from your scalp to moisturize and cleanse the hair. The water is used to help wash away dead skin, dust and other debris on the scalp.

Everyday you are suppose to wash your hair with water to maintain it's health. Depending on how much sebum you produce, some can go longer without the need to wash.

It's All About Sebum

Sebum is the natural oil produced in your scalp. People produce sebum in different amounts. The foods we eat also influence the amount of sebum our scalp produces and it's thickness.

Sebum = Protective Barrier

Sebum is important because it creates a protective barrier around the skin and hair shaft. This barrier prevents too much water from being absorb into the hair and skin; It also prevents too much water from being lost.

That's no brain-er maintenance right there! =)

Sebum is also important because it helps protect the scalp from fungus and bacteria.

I had no idea that the natural oils from my scalp could do this! It makes sense because our bodies provide us everything we need!

More or Less?

The amount of sebum produced is dependent on different factors, such as: Age, Puberty, Hormones and Gender.

Typically, the older you are, the less sebum you'll produce. Oil production is at it's peak during puberty. These are things you can consider when contemplating whether or not this method is for you.

I've also noticed that in winter months my scalp is much dryer than normal.

Watch Out!

Too much sebum can cause clogged pores which leads to whiteheads and blackheads. In the scalp clogged pores can lead to under nourished hair follicles which will weaken the hair. Too much build up of it can also cause bacterial and fungal growths.

Just as much as too much sebum is bad, too little is can cause problems, such as...brittle, dry hair, leading to breakage.

Below, you will find a way to manage too much sebum, but over time your hair should produce just the right amount.

Sebum is important for the water washing method because it:

  • Moisturizes
  • Detangles
  • And Protects!

If you want to do this method successfully you will need to MASTER your own sebum!

In the first 3 months of doing this method, my scalp produced the perfect amount of sebum. I eat healthy and washed my hair daily or every other day.

In the 4th month, I noticed that my hair held a ton of dust and dead skin. Water alone would not clear this from my hair and scalp.

Using a bore bristle brush help a little...(More on this later).

You will go through a sticky period when you first start out because your scalp will need to recognize that you are no longer going to strip it of it's precious oils. You may even be placing to many oils on your scalp and it will have to learn to start producing sebum. Either way, your scalp will adjust to the new routine.

Water Water Water!

So of course with a WATER-only wash method your going to need water! But all water is not created equal. Here are some of the things you need to think about before starting this regimen.

Hard Water Vs. Soft Water

The type of water you use in this regimen matters!

Hard water contains high amounts of minerals. These minerals will stick to your sebum, making it difficult to distribute down your hair.

Sebum that stays in one spot will clog pores and get extremely sticky, creating a layer that traps dust, dead skin, and other debris. It will make your hair appear dull and ashy.

You'll also notice that it feels very tough and sticky. This is what we don't want because we need to be able to move the oils evenly throughout our hair.

Soft water is ideal...

because it will make washing so much easier. Every system in this method will be able to work properly.

  • The sebum will coat the strands easily
  • and you'll be able to detangle your hair and remove dirt.

Hard Water: How Common is it?

Do you have hard water?

See results

For those of you unsure of whether or not you have hard water, below is a video that will show you how to test for it.

Hard Water Test

The Water-Only Wash Method Unfolded

So now you're probably wondering, "What Exactly Would I Do?". I'll give you the run down.

The method takes some maintenance but once you get the hang of it, it really isn't complicated.

Before beginning the water-only wash method:

It is recommended and necessary to clarify the hair. You'll need to start off with a fresh slate.

Simply shampoo your hair with a clarifying shampoo.

Once the hair is completely clean, your scalp should begin producing sebum. There may be a lot at first but eventually, your scalp will adjust the amount to fit exactly what you need.

Below, I'll share ways to manage the production of sebum.

Step One: Distribute the Sebum

Distributing your natural oils through out your hair is important because this is what will lubricate and moisturize your hair.


Scritching this lightly scratching the scalp with your finger tips. With this step, please be gentle! You don't want to cause damage to the scalp or hair follicles. Take your finger tips and rub throughout the entirety of your scalp in quick circular motions.

Scritching is what will loosen up the dirt and warm the oils for distribution. Do your hair in sections to be sure you don't miss any spots. Around your hairline, be especially gentle. This area is the most fragile!

Scalp massages are great because they will increase blood flow to the area which increases hair growth.


After scritching, you will need to preen the hair. Take sections and pull the oils from your scalp all the way down to the ends of your hair. In the beginning, it may not seem like you're doing much, but over time, you will begin to feel the sebum as it coats each strand.

You can develop a closer relationship with your hair by taking these steps.

Shine after 3 days of BB Brushing!
Shine after 3 days of BB Brushing!

Step Two: Brush The Hair

Brushing the hair with a boar bristle brush (BBB) is extremely important! Even for those with curly/kinky hair.

Brushing the hair with a boar bristle brush will help to further distribute the sebum and remove dust and dirt that has begun to cling to the hair.

It is not for detanging!

You'll want to detangle before you being brushing with the BBB. I like to use my denman brush first.

This step is important because it will prevent the oils from pooling in one spot. As we learned above, this can cause serious problem. Also, this will help distribute the oil down to the very ends and ensure you didn't miss any spots.

Once your scalp starts to produce less oils, you can begin to brush less often.

I have extremely curly/kinky hair, and I use this method because my hair will collect a ton of dust and form knots around it. I have found that the BBB remove majority of the dust and dirt particle and it also improves the shine of my hair! I never thought I would love boar bristle brushes as much as I do now. I would not be able to do this method with out it.

If you have curly hair like me, you can still do this method. Just be sure to be really gentle and and work in small sections. Make sure you have the time you need to work through your entire head with care.

In the recent winter months, I've noticed my scalp getting dryer than normally. Water washing alone hasn't been able to help me resolve this issue.

Dust would just continue to collect in my hair and it was very noticeable with styling. I have since then adopted a modified water washing method and it includes the use of conditioner and oil. Much like Naptural85's method.

Step Three: Rinse With Water

Before you get into the shower, you need to set the water temperature to a warm setting. You don't want the water to be too hot because this can cause damage to your hair and your scalp. The water shouldn't be too cool either because this will prevent dirt from being able to rinse away and it will stiffen your oils.

This step will help you rinse away excess oil and dirt.

While you're in the shower, continue to massage the scalp and run the oils down your hair. If you still need to detangle, this is the perfect time. After about two weeks, my hair began to feel super silky to the touch.

The more oil you produce, the more you'll want to rinse your hair with water. If you don't produce as much oil, you can rinse your hair in the shower less often.

I can go 2-3 days with out rinsing my hair because I enjoy the extra sebum for my 3c/4a kinky/curly natural hair. *I am currently experimenting with rinsing daily because my hair collects dust easily.*

If you have really thick hair, you may want to section the hair to continue with the preening and scritching. My hair is medium thickness so I can get away with just 2 sections.

After cold rinsing!
After cold rinsing!

Step Four: Rinse with Cold Water

Once you're done rinsing your hair, you can rinse with cold water. This part reminds me of the cool blast on the dryer!

It's important because it will help your seal your cuticles!

Sealed cuticles means the moisture in your hair is locked in.

The natural pH of our hair is between 4.5 and 5.5. This means that our hair is acidic. One thing that acid does is force our cuticles shut. It also helps keep fungus and bacteria away.

Some people like to finish their hair by doing an apple cider vinegar rinse. This acid helps to maintain the natural pH balance in the hair. Water has a pH of 7 which is neutral, so it doesn't really disrupt the natural pH. An ACV rinse will also aid in detangling.

Be careful with this because you need to dilute ACV with water. Otherwise it will be way too strong!

Due to my dry scalp in the winter months, I've noticed that acv rinses and coconut oil deep conditioning has helped with the dry scalp. (Just an added benefit I wanted to share).

Step Five: Air Dry/Style

To avoid the use of excess heat, I like to air dry my hair. Air dry is the healthiest way to dry your hair. It takes a little longer but it will ensure that your cuticles remain flat therefore avoiding frizz and damage.

I have natural curly hair, so I'll either do a wash and go, twists, or french braids. For special occasions, I'll set my hair in curlformers.

Click thumbnail to view full-size

If you want to provide your ends with extra moisture you can seal your ends with an oil before you air dry.


For the first 3 months of my trying this method, it was amazing! My hair was silky, it behaved in a predictable way, styling was a breezy...

I was truly enjoying it.

As stated above, overtime, my hair started to collect dust. My hair appeared dusty and grey in my brushes. It freaked me out.

Straightening my hair was the only way I could get rid of the dirt, and as a girl with curls, I hate putting too much heat on my straightening just to brush out dirt was not an option. I turned to Naptural85's method and it's helped a ton.

So What Do You Think?

Do you think the water washing method is worth a shot?

Let me know below in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

Ky =)


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