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The name may sound very simple and self-explanatory but there is more to this popular natural hairstyle than simply washing and going. On the contrary, there are a few steps in between washing your hair and walking out the door with beautiful bouncy curls. With a world of products to choose from and new techniques emerging every few months, mastering this “simple” hairstyle can be more complicated than necessary. Not to mention different hair textures have a harder time getting this method to work for their curl pattern.
“It is not really simple and it is not one size fits all. And for some women, it is not a wash-and-go, it just looks like one,” says Carol’s Daughter Founder Lisa Price.
With tired and true tips from natural hair experts including Pattern Beauty Brand Educator and Licensed Cosmetologist Ebony Bomani and celebrity hairstylist Kendall Dorsey, we’ve broken down the wash and go into a streamlined step-by-step guide that works for every hair texture and even the laziest of naturals.
Follow along and incorporate this into your hair care routine for the easiest wash day with beautifully defined curls.
Step 1: Start with a Clean and Moisturized Hair
It seems pretty obvious that the first step of a successful wash and go is the wash. Although the products you use in this step will get washed out it’s important that they leave your hair hydrated and moisturized but also clean and free of any product build-up. Celebrity hairstylist Kendall Dorsey (who has worked with names including Yara Shahidi and Alicia Keys) always starts by cleansing the hair with a clarifying shampoo then following up with a moisture shampoo. After washing it’s best to condition with a treatment mask or conditioner that is extra moisturizing. Thicker hair textures will benefit from doing a deep condition treatment by leaving their conditioner to sit for at least 15 minutes with added heat from a hooded dryer or hot towel.
Step 2: Condition, Detangle & Lock In Moisture
According to Pattern Beauty Brand Educator and Licensed Cosmetologist Ebony Bomani, “to achieve the perfect wash & go, conditioning is everything. A great conditioning routine includes choosing a great conditioner that fulfills your hair's specific needs.”
After washing it’s best to condition with a treatment mask or conditioner that is extra moisturizing. Thicker hair textures will benefit from doing a deep condition treatment by leaving their conditioner to sit for at least 15 minutes with added heat from a hooded dryer or hot towel. Dorsey suggests using a heavy brush like a Y paddle brush to detangle and work the conditioner in.
An underrated pro tip is “marrying” your conditioner with water. Most curly-haired women don’t follow the instruction of using a dime size of any hair product; with conditioners adding more won’t necessarily help. Since water is the ultimate hydrating agent, adding a little water gradually as you work in your conditioner allows the product to have more slip and helps you increase the longevity of your conditioner.
Step 3: Style And Define
Styling is always the fun part but depending on your hair type this could also be the long and difficult part—though it doesn't have to be. “Women with more coily than curly hair and who experience more shrinkage, manipulation of the hair on Wash Day may be key to achieving the desired wash-and-go look for the week,” says Price.
The first step in styling a wash and go is to distribute a leave-in cream or conditioner throughout your wet or damp hair. If your hair dries fast, keep a spray bottle with water nearby to re-wet your hair as you apply the leave-in.
For looser hair textures (2a-3c) Dorsey recommends following the leave-in with a humidity control gel and smoothing it into really wet hair. Once it is smooth, squeeze out the excess water and partially dry the hair with a diffuser and let it air dry completely. Scrunching your hair towards your scalp repeatedly in sections while holding a blow dryer on a cool to medium setting is a great method to use if you don’t have a diffuser.
If you want to avoid heat all together try plopping your hair by placing a cloth on a flat surface and flipping your hair forward, so it's upside down, allowing your hair to fall into the center of the towel. Pull the corners of the cloth towards the nape of your neck and secure it by tying it in a knot or using a hair tie to hold it in place. And wait for 15 to 30 minutes before releasing for beautiful bouncy and healthy curls.
For thicker and coarser hair textures (4a-4c) following the same steps of using a leave-in, gel, foam, or curl cream work well but the key is to work in sections carefully distributing the products through the hair to make sure each strand is evenly coated for definition. An effective method for a defined wash and go for coily curl patterns is finger coiling by wrapping small sections several times around one finger to create a vertical ring-like curl.
It can be tempting to use a lot of products to get your curls to be very defined but this can lead to flaking and build up when your hair dries, so opt for styling products that don’t leave build up like light-weight gels and mousses and rely on the ultimate hair defining product: water.
Step 4: Add Some Shine and Love Your Curls
The final step in the perfect Wash & Go is scrunching a tiny amount of a light oil or serum into the hair, once it's completely dry, for shine and nourishment. For extra volume even use your fingers or a hair pick comb at the roots to give that extra fluff.
Caring for and styling your curls becomes a lot easier when you stop trying to get your hair to do what it does not do naturally.
“The key is to know what works for you and once you find your process the repeated routine leads to ease and consistency of outcome,” says Price.
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