There is a consistent cycle using commercial hair care in which your hair is completely stripped of everything including your hair’s natural oils/sebum when shampooed. Next you follow up by coating your hair with synthetic conditioning ingredients to replenish the natural oils which were stripped. Finally if you have extremely dry hair to begin with, you must add a moisturizing leave-in, then a styler to control unruly hair, and an oil or butter to seal in that moisture.
For someone who has had extremely short hair for a good portion of my life, when I grew my hair out I was certain that anyone who had longer hair than I definitely knew more about hair care then I possibly could. In actuality that was the truth, yet it is so important to try things out for yourself. Back in the day when my hair was short I would sometimes use a natural cocoa butter lotion as a hair product and call it done. I never knew what detangling curly hair was like, nor did I even think it was possible to have longer curly hair. Short hair was my look and I loved it. At that time I would grow my hair out just a little some then cut it back off soon after.
In January 2012 my hair was much longer and I started doing The Curly Girl Method. I shared my story/confession in this article. I had found so much comfort reading Lorraine Massey’s 2nd Edition of Curly Girl: The Handbook knowing that pretty much every girl/woman born with natural curly hair despised their locks at some point and wanted it to be different. The fear of rainy days and frizz, having their hair balloon to embarrassing heights, and just not knowing what in the world to do with it. Stylists viewing curly hair as needing to be fixed and straightened only makes most curly girls feel dreadful about what naturally grows from their scalps.
When I’m out and about even now I’ve had offers to straighten my hair by “generous” hair stylists as if I secretly don’t love my hair just as it is. They’ll give me their card as if they will be doing me a big favor. There have definitely been more than a few times when I’ve been on set for a job and the hair stylists seriously have no clue what to do with my hair, either they rip through it like its a weed, or they give me a major attitude because of their insecurity in not having any experience or training with curly hair. It’s sad but true.
So with a hair industry still learning to understand proper curly hair care, the only true option of learning what to do with your hair is on YouTube.
I was benefiting from The Curly Girl Method with great success. My hair was finally moisturized fully and my curls had never looked better, yet there was one little problem. I was chemically sensitive. The ingredients in even the natural conditioners that I was using was irritating my skin and scalp. I would have an extremely itchy back after showering and my scalp just was a complete mess. I then learned to make my own conditioner which did work pretty well, yet still wasn’t exactly what I truly wanted.
I then experimented like crazy with truly 100% chemical-free hair care. This hair care series explains it all. I’ve shared so many DIY hair care recipes on this site, more than I could have ever imagined. During this process I’d seen this video in April 2013 of a girl who goes by The Ruby Tulip on YouTube discussing water only hair washing. If any of you are familiar with The Long Hair Community online, water only hair washing is a big topic there. I’d just never heard of anyone with naturally curly/coily hair doing it.
For curly/coily hair it takes an extremely long time for the natural oils that the scalp produces to cover the hair from root to tip. It is nearly impossible for this to even take place when using shampoos and conditioners. It is obvious that shampoos strip the hair of natural oils/sebum but conditioners contain surfactants too which also strip the hair of natural oils as well. We just don’t notice that our natural oils are being stripped away because of the synthetic conditioning ingredients and carrier oils in conditioners. Our hair still feels soft and moisturized using conditioners, yet this feeling is not from our own natural oils.
In January 2014 (this year) I decided to finally experiment with water only hair washing. As hippie as it may seem, it has been the BEST experiment out of everything that I’ve shared on Minimalist Beauty. I played around with different techniques with this regimen and literally broke every “curly girl rule” in the natural hair care handbook. I did this experiment for one month then returned to my herbal hair care using my two favorite DIY hair care products of a diluted herbal infused apple cider vinegar as shampoo and banana/coconut milk deep conditioning treatment. My hair was still pleased with this change, but I had still learned a lot from my water only hair washing experiment.
I’m sure you are curious what I learned and where, so let me share a few things with you. First of all I watched a women who goes by WaterOnlyHairWash on YouTube which is specifically about water only hair care for curly/coily hair. She started this regimen herself and began sharing it on YouTube. She inspired me to see what it was all about. There was also a very helpful thread on The Long Hair Care Forum (here) which provided another perspective of water only hair washing from someone with curly/coily hair. After doing a lot of research and with much trial and error, I’d created my own water only hair washing regimen which allowed me to wear my hair loose and curly as I like, and enjoy the benefits of this simple product-free regimen.
I’ve also learned that our natural oils, the sebum that our scalp produces, is 100 times better than any product on the market for conditioning and protecting your hair. If you have naturally straight hair with an oily scalp then your perspective of these natural oils may differ greatly. For someone with naturally dry hair and a dry scalp who has never experienced these natural oils fully, and has had to use carrier oils, butters, and petroleum based products while growing up to maintain their hair it is clearly a different perspective.
My perspective with this hair care method is one in awe.
The only way to truly experience what your natural oils can do for dry curly/coily hair is to omit all hair care products from your regimen after clarifying your hair with an apple cider vinegar rinse and bentonite clay wash. Next put your hair up in mid size two strand twists and start massaging your scalp daily and also doing daily water rinses with your hair in twists. Twists honestly keep your hair protected while your hair transitions. My transitioning process wasn’t too challenging since I’ve been using 100% natural/herbal hair care since January 2013. Outside of not having a clue what in the world I was doing, my transition to water only hair washing was very simple. Two strand twist updos are your best bet for styling in the meantime unless you love the look of your hair in two strand twists down.
It took 2 1/2 weeks to reach full coverage of my natural oils from root to tip once I started rinsing my hair every day. This was after an initial two weeks of being unclear with how often to wet my hair. Near the end of the four weeks of this experiment I went out of town. My hotel shower did not have a shower water filter and the water was extremely hard. Hard water deposits minerals and chlorine on your hair.
When doing a water only hair regimen this makes your hair’s natural oils waxy and hard. It is nearly impossible to distribute your natural oils throughout your hair and heartbreaking even thinking about detangling your hair. Water only hair washing is only heaven with soft water or a hard water shower filter.
When I did this water only hair washing experiment, I experienced the best curls of my life. Once I reached full coverage of my natural oils, I did wash and go hair styles everyday using my fingers to detangle my hair under running water when I rinsed it. Detangling my hair was a breeze once my hair was completely covered with my natural oils. I experienced less hair shedding and my hair was softer than with any product that I had ever used once it was dry. My curls also had more life than what any product could give them. They were soft, fluffy, defined, and big.
Because of this truly positive experience minus the hard water buildup, I decided to give water only another chance. It wasn’t difficult to transition back because my current herbal hair regimen of using the diluted herbal infused apple cider vinegar, banana and coconut milk conditioner with hemp seed oil as my leave-in, doesn’t strip the hair of its natural oils. One day I decided not to use any leave-in product on my hair, and I could still feel my own natural oils present.
My hair had been so easy to detangle this whole year because I still had a light coverage of my own natural oils from my previous experience using water only for my hair. This also makes it very clear to me that I can go back and forth between these two hair care methods whenever I want using my natural/herbal hair care or water only.
Right now I’m playing around with water only hair washing again. It’s only been a few weeks, yet I’ve been getting a lot of compliments on my hair especially this past week now that I’ve solidified a new regimen. The ease of not using any product really, yet also not doing that much to my hair is amazing and freeing. I also love having super soft touchable hair that is not oily or greasy with products. I don’t use a boar bristle brush which is common with water only hair washing (very bad move when I tried), yet I do massage my scalp as well as rinse and detangle my hair daily, yet now gently with a detangling brush. I’ve been wearing wash and go hair styles without suffering from tangles and breakage either. This is shockingly wonderful for me, yet I am monitoring my progress and I know that I can always switch things up when needed.
From The Curly Girl Method, To Herbal Hair Care, Now Water Only–Part 2–Hair Regimen + Helpful Hair Tips
From The Curly Girl Method, To Herbal Hair Care, Now Water Only–Part 3–Three Lessons Learned + Protective Styling
See more articles on water only hair washing here!
(Images by Dawn Michelle except the short hair photo by J.C. Argestsinger)