WASH-N-GOALS

How to Get Your Best Wash-and-Go Ever

Hairstylists Lacy Redway, Anthony Dickey, and Takisha Sturdivant-Drew clued us in to their best tips. 
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People with naturally Afro-textured hair often wear protective styles like flat twists or cornrows to keep their fragile curl patterns healthy and thriving. But sometimes you may not have the energy to settle in and dedicate hours to a style. Enter the wash-and-go.

COVID-19 reopening phases are currently being delayed across America due to recent case spikes, so your wash-and-go right now might be more of a wash-and-stay. Nonetheless, it offers a different look, one that captures your natural curl pattern with little manipulation and lots of definition. 

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The style works for all textures, and contrary to popular belief, can even benefit kinkier, curlier 4C types because of the frequent moisturizing that wash-and-gos call for. They can be a relieving break after a tight protective style, an easy fallback when your twist-outs fails, or a cute, refreshing look in the dead of summer. We sought out the wisdom of professional hairstylists Lacy Redway, Anthony Dickey, and Takisha Sturdivant-Drew to guide us through the process of executing one of the natural hair community's most common styles. Follow the tips below to become a wash-and-pro.

Cleanse or Co-Wash

All wash-and-gos start with clean hair. You can rinse out any product in your hair by co-washing or shampooing, depending on the health of your scalp. "One of the best benefits to wash-and-go styling is that you’re simply incorporating your entire hair-care and styling routine into your shower routine," says texture king Anthony Dickey, the co-founder of New York-based salon and hair-care line Hair Rules. "It's really something to embrace."

Condition, Condition, and Then Condition Again

Conditioner optimizes your hair for detangling by keeping your strands lubricated and soft, while also preventing damage by strengthening the hair shaft and locking in moisture. "Whether your hair is curly, coily, or Afro-textured, it needs a lot of moisture," shares hairstylist Takisha Sturdivant-Drew, who has styled the likes of Mary J. Blige, Yvonne Orji, and Gabrielle Union. 

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Dickey agrees and recommends using enough conditioner to saturate your hair: "There should be equal parts conditioner to the amount of hair that you have. Not using enough conditioner will make your hair more difficult to detangle, and will make wash-and-go styling more of an inconvenience." If your hair is naturally thick and requires lots of conditioner to make it easier to handle, finding inexpensive options that come in larger sizes, like Tresemmé’s 28oz Flawless Curls Conditioner, will allow you to apply the amount you need without stressing about the cost.

Rinse and Detangle

While rinsing out the conditioner, you can finger-comb through your hair to jumpstart the detangling process. Be sure there is tons of slip — that way, undoing knots and snarls will be a breeze. Then, you can continue to detangle using a wide-tooth comb, paddle brush, or Sturdivant-Drew’s favorite, the Tangle Teezer.

Penetrate with Products

According to Dickey, you should be reaching for your styling product when your hair is super wet. There are lots of ways to define your texture, but hairstylist Lacy Redway, whose diverse client list includes Zazie Beetz, Priyanka Chopra, and Lupita Nyong’o, says that the key to attaining a great wash-and-go lies not so much in the method, but the products you use.

"The best way to see results on a wash-and-go style is to truly penetrate the strands with the products. Use both hands to emulsify and massage the product into your strands," Redway advises. "The right products won’t weigh your hair down, but will keep your locks intact and defined." All three stylists agree that styling gels and creams work best for wash-and-gos.

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For defined, hydrated, bouncy curls, Sturdivant-Drew loves the Camille Rose Naturals Curl Maker, a curling jelly that adds intense definition. You can also try the Innersense Quiet Calm Curl Control, or Dickey’s favorites: Shea Moisture’s Coconut & Hibiscus Curling Gel Soufflé and the Hair Rules Curly Whip, a glycerin whip designed for all textures.

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Redway confirms that one of the most common mistakes people make when attempting a wash-and-go is "not adding enough products to their wet hair and expecting their strands to not swell up once it is dry." 

There should be enough product for you to get definition, but not so much that it leaves excess residue. That said, don't be shy. "I use a lot of product [on my clients] because the hair just absorbs it all. Natural hair is so porous," says Sturdivant-Drew. To make the process more manageable, she recommends sectioning off your hair by either dividing it in half or into four parts, then securing with hair clips.

Saturate your hair with your curl-defining product while it’s still sopping wet and detangled — you'll want to skip towel-drying altogether. "The conditioner helps to reveal your natural texture, and your styling product captures it," shares Dickey.

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Ultimately, your hair-to-product ratio will depend on the density of your hair. If you have thicker or longer hair, it will most likely require a larger amount of product. But, again, beware of using too much or too many products. "It’s easier to add than to remove product out of your hair. I say use a safe amount (enough to cover the palm of your hand) first to see how the product reacts in your hair," Redway suggests. She also recommends working the product from underneath layers of your hair so if you accidentally use too much, the portion of your hair that is weighed down is hidden.

Air-Dry If You Can

To dry your hair, you have a few options, depending on your schedule or what type of climate you’re in. If you have more time on your hands — as many of us do these days during the pandemic — and you’re located somewhere with warmer weather, air-drying is ideal. "The less heat you add to your strands, the better the health of your hair will be," says Redway. 

Air-drying allows the hair to set naturally with the same definition you achieved while applying your styling product. "The idea is not to touch the hair until it completely dries," Dickey says. Leaving your hair undisturbed will protect its definition and avoid frizzing.

But if you’re in a time crunch, you can use what Dickey calls "the microwave approach" by sitting under a hooded portable dryer at home or carefully using a diffuser attachment on a blow-dryer.

Maintain Your Hair at Night

To keep your wash-and-go protected and your curls defined on days two, three, or four, you must have the right nighttime routine. You can put your hair in a pineapple, which is a loose ponytail on the top of your head, or if you have a shorter texture, you can put your hair in a bonnet. If sleeping with your hair contained doesn’t work for you, you can invest in a satin or silk pillowcase, which benefits not only your hair but your skin, too.

In the morning, grab something that will bring luster and hydration to your curls. You can use products like Carol’s Daughter Monoi Star Strength Leave-In Cream (Sturdivant-Drew says "it feels like butter") or Miss Jessie’s Curly Buttercreme to hydrate your curls but also help smooth your edges down as you style it for the day. To give extra life to your texture, Dickey likes fellow stylist Vernon Francois’s Mist Nourishing Water, a conditioning water spray infused with a special blend of amino acids that help strengthen and refresh strands.

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The number of days you can get out of a wash-and-go before having to wash your hair is contingent on your hair type. "Each texture requires something different," says Dickey. 

Folks with looser textures may be able to wear their style for more days at the sole risk of frizz. Keeping your hair in a wash-and-go for too many days can actually be damaging for tighter, drier textures — without the right care, the strands can dry out and lock up, creating opportunities for breakage. Dickey says a wash-and-go can last on loose textures for three to five days before it starts frizzing excessively. Kinkier, 4C textures can keep theirs for one to two days before having to re-do the style. But don't worry: "The more frequently you do wash-and-gos on [kinkier] textures, the more it reverses all the damaging effects of dry hair, handled hair, and shrinkage," Dickey notes.

Now you know — go forth and define that texture, beloveds.


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