One of the most basic ways to take care of your hair is to wash it. But it’s important to understand how to handle your hair in the shower while it’s wet and at its most vulnerable — especially if you have super curly, coily, or Afro-textured hair (or maybe a combination of all three) — so you don’t cause more damage. And yes, the process of finding the right routine and product mix can be time-consuming.
“Everyone’s natural hair is different so you have to find what works for you, your lifestyle, and your hair,” explains hairstylist, owner of Aesthetics Hair Salon in Arlington, Virginia and founder of Brown Beauty Summit, Yene Damtew. “Everyone’s curl experience is different and not everyone has all the time in the morning to do their hair. Find what works for you and do that.”
To help you find your perfect routine, we got the scoop on how to master washday like a champ and find the right products for your unique texture.
Detangle with Detail
Detangling can be the bane of any natural’s existence, but it’s necessary. “If you are coming out of a protective style, it’s critical that you detangle before you shampoo [while hair is dry],” Damtew explains. “[Once wet in the shower and after shampooing] with a conditioner in your hair, starting from the ends and working your way up to the roots is the next best time to detangle. A wide-tooth comb or detangling brush like Felicia Leatherwood’s are both great options.”
“The one thing I will never do is rub my hair in a pile on the top of my head like they do in the shampoo commercials. That’s a no-no for curly hair.”
New York City-based hairstylist Cheryl Bergamy, who works with curly-haired clients like Essence Atkins and Ashleigh Murray, agrees: “Textured hair can tangle very easily, so as you wash, it is great to gently use your fingers as a comb or use a wide-tooth shampoo comb,” she advises. “When it’s time for the conditioner to be applied, the hair will be easier to control. If you wait to detangle the hair after shampooing, you risk breakage as the hair is more vulnerable and the detangling process is more difficult.”
Divide and Conquer
After spending all that time detangling, you don’t want your hard work to go to waste. Miami-based hairstylist Michelle O’Connor recommends washing your hair in sections to cut down on additional knotting or tangling. Here, she shares her personal in-shower method: “I subdivide my hair into four quadrants with a two-strand twist. Once I start shampooing, I’ll focus the shampoo at the scalp area,” she explains. “The one thing I will never do is rub my hair in a pile on the top of my head like they do in the shampoo commercials. That’s a no-no for curly hair.”
“Next, I let the shampoo rinse through, with warm water to keep the cuticle open and ready to absorb the conditioner. My next and last step is to squeeze the excess water out and apply the conditioner to the mid-shaft and ends [of my hair]. Finally, I’ll detangle with a traditional paddle brush or a Wet Brush — they make one for texture so it’s a little stronger than their classic.”
Her other tools of choice include the Dyson detangling comb, the firm detangling brush from Olivia Garden, the new Denman D38 brush, and the blow-dryer with diffuser attachment from Dyson.
Co-Washing Is Cool, But Shampoo Works Too
Due to the inherent dryness of curly hair (since natural oils don’t travel as far down the hair shaft), co-washing — cleansing with a shampoo alternative similar to a conditioner — has picked up popularity.