Water-only Washing And Deep Conditioning For Defined Curls



Dear naturalistas, dry, frizzy hair is not the natural state of black hair. It is the result of weeks, months, or even years of lack of moisture. The good news is that, it is completely reversible, and it is possible to achieve beautiful, springy curls no matter your texture.

One of the stealthiest contributors to the dryness of our hair is shampoo. Yes, shampoo! The problem with shampooing your hair daily, or even weekly, is that the harsh sulfates added to shampoo, which are designed to create lather, strip our hair of vital moisture that gives our hair flexibility, strength and definition, resulting in extremely dry, stiff and frizzy hair.

The culprit behind this “natural” dryness is the ineffective distribution of sebum along our hair strands. This natural oil is produced by our hair follicles and is designed to naturally “seal in” water, keeping each hair strand moisturized.

On straight hair this sebum easily travels from root to tip, coating the hair shaft to effectively preserve moisture within the hair. Often, it does too good of a job, which is why straight hair has a tendency to feel greasy and dirty more easily.

However, in afro-textured hair sebum has a more difficult time traveling down the hair shaft due to the kinks in our tightly coiled hair texture, resulting in inadequately “sealed” hair that lacks moisture. In fact, use a cleansing, sulfate-free shampoo on your hair only when it needs it, which is generally about once a month.

Instead of shampooing, maintain clean hair through weekly co-washing or water-only washing. Co-washing is, simply put, washing your hair with conditioner instead of shampoo. Currently the most popular method for maintaining clean, afro-textured hair, it often only produces temporary results and hair returns to a frizzy state within a few days or even a few hours.

Although somewhat controversial, I highly recommend water-only washing because while finger-combing your wet hair during the process, you naturally aid the sebum to move along the length of the hair rather than washing away what your body naturally produces to retain moisture within the hair.

I am big on natural methods of hair care, because working along with the built-in functions of your body often gives you the best results due to the fact that, well, your body naturally has a pretty good idea of how to run things.

So, rather than shampooing away the sebum that your head naturally produces to keep your curls moisturized, I choose to work with my body’s own natural methods, ensuring a better and more long-lasting result. I haven’t used shampoo in over a year, and I have been water-only washing for the last 7 months!

To get rid of dirt and build-up from hair products, once a month I employ a Bentonite Clay Wash which helps my curls to clump nicely while also drawing toxins and dirt from deep inside the hair shaft, resulting in better defined and moisturized hair.

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About Linda Cabinda

Linda Cabinda was born in the West African nation of Cameroon. She graduated from the University of Southern California with a BA in English. Her journey of self-realization has taken her from Los Angeles, to Chicago, and even Miami. She is a writer and "resident creative" currently residing in New Jersey.

About Linda Cabinda

Linda Cabinda was born in the West African nation of Cameroon. She graduated from the University of Southern California with a BA in English. Her journey of self-realization has taken her from Los Angeles, to Chicago, and even Miami. She is a writer and "resident creative" currently residing in New Jersey.


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  1. ladee neenah

    I never understood why water only washing got so much hate. The theory is sound, encourage the correct balance of sebum for adequate sealing, use less product, apply water frequently to keep the hair moisturized. When I wet my hair regularly (without co-washing, just water) my coarse, dense, high porosity 4c hair is so much more manageable and retains moisture much better. I use jojoba oil to offset my sebum until I reach full coverage. I still co-wash when I feel I need to and incorporate a gentle shampoo also when needed and my hair is thriving.

  2. Anonymous

    Great info. I am super hardcore with my hair. Meaning, I agressively address health of my hair regardless of how crazy the style has me looking. I began water only washing 15 months ago and my hair is amazing. I use no product period. I used the cowashing and clay to cleanse monthly for the 1st year. Past 3 months – only water. I looked TERRIBLE 1st 6 weeks. My hair now partially is looking like it does when it’s wet even when it’s completely dry. So it paid off.

    I use shoestrings. I wet my hair, loosely flat twist the edges then put 2 very loose twists in each of 4 sections of my hair. I use a smooth shoestring to stretch (threading method. Thread damaged my hair so I use shoestrings or cut the long tie from du-rags) each section out. The 2 at the top I pin back and let the 2 in the back hang loose (red and purple laces on top black laces on bottom gives nice flair to style!). I leave the strings until it’s time to green house again. When my hair was shorter I did Bantu knots.

    I use the excessive sebum as a deep conditioner 2x per week. I put warm water on my head then green house method overnight. Massage, scritch/preen in the morning then rinse and stretch again. The idea is to allow the sebum to soak in enough to hydrate hair without washing, cowashing, clay… Just an experiment I started but it’s working.

    The most important thing about why I feel my routine is working… I use warm water to melt and distribute sebum, then cold water to seal it in. I did the 1st 6 weeks without the cold water – disaster. The next 6 weeks with and my hair is responding masterfully. I do my hair in the sink, but best results when I do full body hot cold shower. 45 seconds hot then 15 seconds cold is one cycle. It works with one cycle but best after 3 cycles – meaning repeat cycle 3x in one shower or sink session. I try to do at least 1 cycle (I use to do daily but after 15 months of water only, my hair only needs a couple per week) 2x per week. Look up benefits of hot cold showers. Hair grows from within. Healthy body = healthy hair. Cold water rinsing is an adjustment, but for my hair to have grown and flourish this way was more than worth it. I have 4ç hair. Although still dry in most areas after completely dry, some parts are completely curled, clumped, and moist when fully dry. So I feel eventually my whole head will get there. I believe stretching to keep from tangling was big.

    My hair was white from the excessive sebum. That’s when I decided to use the white sebum as a conditioner. It works! Whenever it looks to be getting white, instead of clay to cleanse, I deep condition using sebum as a conditioner in the green house method.

    This sound more complex than it takes. I spend 30min to an hour 2 or 3x per week in my hair. Although in the beginning it was longer every day because my hair was much shorter, dryer, and I was doing it wrong. Proper tools and detangling methods are imperative. Let hair fill with water then slowly separate under running water with fingers. After easily separable under water, use denman brush weekly (denman made huge difference for me) to detangle in sections. The air dry and shoestrings help to maintain moisture. Also cleansing, eating and proper nutrition with herbs is key. Hydrating inside will definitely show in your curls. Smooches

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