As a wash and go natural hair expert by experience, I feel it my duty to share with you my tips for achieving the perfect wash-and-go since it is my mainstay hairstyle in all of my over 6 years as a natural.
I do have a looser curl pattern which makes my wash-and-go a little easier to achieve than a tighter 4c natural, however these tips work for all hair types and I will specify any alterations throughout, depending on your curl type.
What is a wash and go?
First things first, let’s define a wash and go. A wash and go hairstyle is exactly as it suggests, washing your hair and allowing it to dry as is without having to style it into a particular style.
You instead wear it as an afro or big, long (or short) curls, whatever style and shape it takes as it is allowed to air dry. There is an art of course to this hairstyle. Achieving a great shape and super moisturized curls that last for 3 or more days comes down to the technique you use and the products you choose to apply to your hair.
Who would know that such an effortless look has so much work behind it? A natural would know, of course.
What products should you use for a wash and go?
For a wash-and-go hairstyle, you want to choose products that are heavier and super-moisturizing. I layer on the products I use as do most naturals because they all serve a different purpose.
I detail the products I currently use in the steps below.
As I share in my wash-and-go routine, after cleansing my hair, I start with a leave-in conditioner, then I apply a styler then I seal all that in with a DIY shea butter mix that locks in the moisture into my hair before it evaporates and leaves my tresses dry.
I recommend products that are heavier as they will allow your curls to fall and stay moisturized. If you’re after a light and carefree look with tresses that are super soft and light to the touch, then you can go with lighter products with the understanding that it may not last for 3 days and that some amount if frizzing is expected.
How do you keep your hair curly after your shower?
A wash-and-go is dependent upon you applying your products when your hair is still super wet. If I allow my hair to dry out at any point then I can forget about a wash and go.
Wetting it afterwards with a spray bottle just doesn’t turn out the same as super wet hair straight-out-the-shower. For that wash and go definition that you’re after, it’s best to apply your product very quickly while your hair is still very wet after cleansing. Otherwise, your hair will just be wet and puffy.
The Steps to a Perfect Wash and Go that Lasts for Days
Step 1 – Cleanse and Detangle
Start with cleansing and detangling your hair in the shower (or over your washbasin). If you’re the type to only cowash your hair, meaning you use a conditioner to wash your hair and no shampoo, then I would suggest doing a clarifying rinse with Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) in preparation for your wash and go hairstyle.
After using your favourite conditioner, I still use Herbal Essences Hello Hydration for simple cowashes, then apply a mix of one-part ACV to 3-parts water to your hair as a rinse. Slowly massaging it into your hair as if you’re shampooing, paying special attention to your scalp. This removes any product buildup from your hair and any gunk residing on your scalp.
Your hair and scalp will feel squeaky clean and brand new, ready for your wash and go products. If you shampoo regularly then this step may not be as critical but I would still incorporate an ACV rinse into my regimen at least once a month. It helps especially when you feel as if your hair has gotten used to your products, to clarify and refresh your strands. This is one of my favourite wash and go shampoo and conditioner sets for full-on wash days.
Step 2 – Apply Wash And Go Products
Once you’ve cleansed your hair, use a t-shirt or a microfiber towel to squeeze out excess water from hair. Be careful not to shake your hair too much or use the towel to rub your hair in any way. You’re simply squeezing out the excess so you’re not dripping all over yourself. It’s at this point I apply my leave-in conditioner when my hair is still very wet.
The moisture in your hair will help the conditioner to spread evenly and it will also soak up the wetness left behind, stopping any dripping. Use your fingers to rake the product through your hair without trying to be too thorough. (Meaning yes get all strands, root to tip, but no need for a comb as you will want to leave your hair as clumped as possible. Super wet hair will help you with this without needing to comb through the product.)
Apply your favourite styler, (this is mine) over your leave-in conditioner. The leave-in conditioner moisturises your hair while your styler helps to retain curl pattern.
They serve two different purposes and so the order is really important to me. Applying a styler without first applying leave-in conditioner leaves my hair dry and my wash-and-go frizzes out by the end of the night.
Finally, an oil or butter based product applied over all of that helps to seal in moisture so that the products do not evaporate and leave my hair parched. You can use a mix of your favourite oils, (I love Jamaican black castor oil mixed with jojoba and almond or avocado oils here) or you can use a shea butter based product.
I make one for myself by simply blending my favourite oils into shea, cocoa and mango butter and it is amazing at sealing in moisture.
All of this should be done fairly quickly, while your hair is still very wet. This is crucial to your wash-and-go success. Have your products ready to go before you cleanse your hair.
Step 3 – Allow to Air Dry
The final step is allowing your hair to air dry which is difficult for those with hand-in-hair syndrome. Manipulating your curls too much disturbs the very patterns you’re trying to set into place so it’s critical that you allow your hair to dry undisturbed. You’ve already troubled the patterns enough by applying three layers of product.
If you have time to spare, I like to pineapple my hair loosely on top of my head while it’s air-drying with a banana clip. This stretches the back of my hair while leaving the middle and front still intact so it falls very nicely around my face when I’m ready to take it down. If your hair is at neck or shoulder length and you like a little bit of length even in your wash and go hairstyles, give this a try or else you’re guaranteed to have all the shrinkage.
Step 4: Care and Maintenance of a Wash and Go
Each night I pineapple my hair on top of my head and cover with a large satin bonnet in preparation for bed. This is all I need to do to maintain a wash-and-go that was well moisturized.
It typically lasts up to three days, I may simply need to apply a bit of edge control or ecostyler gel. My wash and go always looks amazing the day after, when I’m able to fluff it out a bit more at the roots and get it as big or as defined as I would like.
Wash and Go 4C Hair Tips
Shingling your hair products will determine your success when trying to achieve a wash and go as a 4c curly and accepting that your hair will not fall as a looser curly but may take more of an afro shape unless your hair is really long.
I learnt this from trying to achieve a wash-and-go on munchkin’s tighter curl when it was shorter. Now that her hair is longer, a wash-and-go is achievable only when I shingle the product through her hair. Shingling product means parting off her wet hair section by section to ensure the product is distributed evenly on every strand, then allowing to dry.
Even so, I would not allow munchkin’s hair to wear a wash and go hairstyle for more than the day of. Tighter curls are easily susceptible to knotting and her hair will be a hot mess if I simply pineapple her hair for bed. At the end of the night when we wash-and-go, I twist her hair in large twists in preparation for a twist out the next day.
When to do a twist out
After day three (or day 1 as described above) I am typically not able to get the look I’m after with my wash and go and it’s time to transition to a new hairstyle. Even with a looser curl pattern, my hair will become a tangled mess if I continue to pineapple it at night and wear it in a puff on day 4, which is what I’m guilty of when I’m lazy.
When I’m being a good curly, I use a spray bottle mix of water, conditioner and essential oils to get my hair damp then I do two large cornrows or flat-twists in my hair. Then, I am able to take it down in the morning and wear a beautiful stretched style for that day. Or some other style.
I keep this going for a couple more days until it’s wash day all over again! I cleanse my hair once per week. How about you?
These are my fool-proof tips to achieving a perfect wash-and-go, a hairstyle I’ve been wearing forever as you can tell. My wash and go for short natural hair and long natural hair has been the same routine, all that has changed is the amount of product I use and how long the style lasts. What’s your typical routine for the week as a curly?