Gone are the days when Black women only washed our hair once per month or less, when we cleansed until our strands squeaked, and when we equated huge lather with the level of cleanness. So if you still believe any of the mentioned, please open your minds and be prepared to change your views if you want to achieve the healthiest locks possible.
Clean hair and scalps are essential to create the best growing environment. Clean hair also accepts products better (moisturizers and conditioners). It is the first step to achieving healthy hair. How often you clean is up to you, but I like to wash once per week unless my hair is in a long term hidden protective style such as a sew-in weave, braid or twist extensions. If your hair is “loose” I would recommend at least bi-weekly shampooing, if not every week.
How you wash is a personal choice, but I recommend shampooing in the shower. The hair is hanging down in the direction in which it grows, therefore you are not “roughing” up the cuticle by manipulating the hair in the opposite direction in which it lies. Also piling your hair on the top of your head to shampoo can cause tangles – particularly if you are natural or a long-term stretcher. If you are unable for whatever reason to wash in the shower, purchase a shampoo funnel and/or shampoo tray and have a friend or family member assist you. The shampoo funnel keeps water off your face and body and allows you to sit upright while your hair is washed.
I always “wash” my hair with water first. This loosens any dirt and build up and kind of pre-cleanses your hair so that you do not have to shampoo as vigorously. The water wash allows the shampoo to work more effectively on the first wash, eliminating the need to shampoo 2-3 times which may over clean your hair and strip its natural oils. This is particularly important when rinsing a relaxer – try to clean as thoroughly as possible with water first to remove the relaxer cream. The neutralizing shampoo stops the action of the relaxer but doesn’t necessarily remove it from the hair so to be safe, washing with water first is the best thing. To see more info on “water washing” see my article on Black Hair Information here.
I tend to focus the product towards the scalp and allow the suds to travel down the hair shaft, gently running the lather in between the strands with my fingers and/or rubbing the hair gently in the palms of my hands. To ensure my scalp gets properly cleansed, I part my hair gently with my fingers to apply the shampoo. Some ladies like to wash in sections. As a woman with straight relaxed hair who does not stretch beyond 12 weeks normally, I do not find it necessary but fully understand the benefits and recommend it to anyone who deals with easily tangled hair (natural, texlaxed, long term stretchers).
Lastly, I try to shampoo only once. The aim is to clean the hair but to leave the natural oils. If you shampoo once per week or more, use a lot of natural based products, and wash thoroughly with water first, shampooing multiple times should not be necessary. The next part (Shampooing 102) will deal with the different types of shampoos and sulfate vs. non-sulfate formulas.