Ahh, the wash and go; a springtime and summer favorite of many naturals. Perfect for warm weather, gentle breezes, beach days, and fun.
It’s November. All of that is gone (except for those random ridiculously hot days if you live in LA). Just because the days are shorter and nights are colder doesn’t mean you have to tuck your wash n’ go away for the winter months. You can rock a wash and go even when the temperatures drop, without your hair feeling like a dry, crispy mess. Check out these 8 steps to take your wash and go to the colder climate:
1. Do a pre-shampoo oil treatment
If you don’t already pre-poo, you should. The pre shampoo treatment of the hair is the first step to preserving moisture. Not only can most pre-poo treatments be used to detangle effectively, they also help prevent hair from becoming stripped during the cleansing process. Your pre-poo can be whatever you make of it, and totally based on your hair’s needs. You can pre-poo with the oil alone, or mix some in to your favorite detangler or conditioner. To promote elasticity and moisture retention, adding extra virgin olive oil to your hair (or conditioner) makes for another great pre-poo. Or, if you have a favorite conditioner or detangler that does the job, feel free to pile that on! If you are going to do an oil-based pre-poo, I recommend using an oil that does not congeal/solidify at cold temperatures. I’ll explain why later — just trust me for now. My detangler and pre-poo products of choice are Suave Professionals Almond and Shea Butter Conditioner, and Kurlee Belle Banana Nut and Avocado Deep Treatment. You can pre-poo with steam (click here for more info on those benefits), with heat, or without. Just pre-poo it!
2. Make sure to remove buildup
A thorough cleansing is also in order when it comes to successfully setting up a style. Naturals and transitioners tend to place a lot of emphasis on moisturizing and conditioning, which are of paramount importance. However, cleansing hair adequately to remove buildup is just as important. One of the major culprits of dry, crunchy-feeling hair is actually buildup. Often times, our hair isn’t truly dried out — it just has too much occlusive product on top of it, which prevents water (moisture) from getting through. Cleanse however you feel is appropriate — shampoo, shampoo bar, or cowash — for your hair. I don’t play close to the rules, I’d rather listen to my hair and proceed accordingly. I hardly ever use regular OG shampoo (except for my psoriasis shampoo from CVS, but that’s another article), but if I’m looking for a super clean slate, I opt for Koils By Nature Refreshing Anti-Dandruff Tea Tree Mint Cleanser or a shampoo bar. Otherwise, I cowash with Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Tingle or Nourish Spa Conditioner. If you’re anti-product for this process, or curious about all-natural ways to clarify the hair, apple cider vinegar or clay are great options. Whichever route you choose, make sure your hair is clean (not squeaky, but the pre-poo should’ve helped with that), and free of buildup. Clean hair is super important at all times of the year, but especially when the temperatures drop.
3. Deep conditioning is a must
Please, please, PLEASE do not skip this step. Whether you need protein, moisture, or both, deep conditioning your hair is an absolute must. Not only does a good deep conditioner keep your hair bouncy, vibrant, and soft, it helps your hair retain moisture, elasticity, and can even help correct cuticle damage. Deep condition with your DIY or bottled deep conditioner of choice for at least 30 minutes under heat or steam. I love a host of deep conditioners (Koils By Nature Ultra-Moisturizing Coco Aloe Deep Conditioner, Camille Rose Naturals Algae Renew Deep Conditioner, Hydratherma Naturals Amino Plus Protein Deep Conditioning Treatment, Shescentit Okra Reconstructor and Riche Moisture Masque, Shea Moisture Raw Shea Butter Deep Treatment Masque, Alikay Naturals Honey and Sage Deep Conditioner, Darcy’s Botanicals Pumpkin Seed Conditioner.….see? I can do this all day!), and pick from any of those mentioned and more depending upon how I feel and what I have available. Sometimes, I even play mix and match (especially between moisture and protein). The point is — just make sure you deep condition. Moisture retention is key for a successful winter wash and go!
4. Use a good leave-in conditioner
Up until very recently (as in the past month), I had severely underestimated the power of a good leave-in conditioner. Before October, I had treated leave-in conditioners as if they were a take it or leave it step in the styling process; and then wonder why I was constantly re-moisturizing my hair. Not to make it seem as though you need yet another product in your already overstuffed arsenal, but for the winterized wash and go, I highly recommend a good leave-in conditioner that is specifically formulated for no other purpose than as a leave-in conditioner. Leave-in conditioners are designed to be substantitally lighter than their rinse-away counterparts, so that they may be absorbed into the hair shaft, smooth cuticles, and aid in moisture retention, elasticity, and shine without weighing the hair down. Trust me — I thought this was all fluff until I did it. Grab yourself a great leave-in like Giovanni Direct, Kinky Curly Knot Today, Koils By Nature Moisturizing Shealoe Leave-In, or Shescentit CocoCreme Leave-In Conditioner and distribute it evenly throughout the hair. I personally like to do this in 4 — 8 sections with my ACV spritz on first, then leave-in conditioner. You don’t have to be super heavy handed — just make sure your hair is adequately covered.
5. Creamy moisturizers are your friend
I’m sure this is beginning to sound like the LOC method, and it is closely related with a few minor tweaks. I *personally* (but you don’t have to) believe the LOC (Leave-In, Oil, Cream) method is a little redundant and slightly out of order, because oils are occlusive, and will lock out (for the most part) any goodness that your cream-based moisturizer can provide. What’s the point of all those yummy herbs and extracts, if they’ll never get through to your hair in the intended fashion? That is why I chose to remix the method, and opt for a creamy moisturizer as the second layer of moisture and protection in all of my styles — just not the winter wash and go. The water in the product still hydrates, while the oils and butters nourish and begin to seal the hair and prevent moisture loss. Depending on your hair’s thickness (individual strand) and porosity, how heavy the cream is will vary. I personally like to rotate between Soultanicals Fluffalicious Curl Nutricious, Curls Whipped Cream, Qhemet Biologics Burdock Root Butter Cream, Kurlee Belle Kurl Defining Creme, Pura Body Naturals Sapote Hair Lotion, and Eden BodyWorks Coconut Shea Pudding Souffle.
6. Seal! Seal! Seal!
If you don’t pay attention to any other step in this list, pay attention to this one! In addition to not setting our hair up with enough moisture, sealing is one of the main reasons our wash and go’s end up crunchy and dry-feeling in the colder months. It’s not that the cold air has sucked our hair dry, rather it is what we have chosen to seal our hair with. Go do an experiment for me really quickly. If it is cold in your house, pick up your jar of coconut oil or shea butter. How does it feel? Solid, right? Exactly. Now think about how about they’d feel if you refrigerated them. Even harder, huh? I’m sure you see where I’m going with this. Just in case you don’t, think about what would happen if you sealed your hair with coconut oil and walked outside into cold, crisp air. Sure, because you followed steps 1–5, your hair would be super moisturized and soft. But because you sealed with an oil that congeals and hardens at colder temperatures, you’d never know it. Luckily, the fix is easy. To seal your hair, opt for oils that are still in their liquid form at cooler temps — like olive, grapeseed, avocado, macadamia, sweet almond, apricot, or jojoba. I would avoid any butters altogether, but feel free to walk on the wild side and experiment! Also, because this is a winter wash and go, pay special attention and apply extra oil to your ends to help prevent snagging against sweaters, jackets, and scarves.
7. Use curl defining products to make the look last longer
To make my wash and go’s last, I always end with a curl defining and styling product like a gel, jelly, or custard. Not only do these products provide hold and definition, they also have some sealing properties of their own. If you rock your wash and go with moisturizing product only, then you can stop at #6. This step is totally optional! As with all styling products, make sure they mix well together, without forming pesky clumps that will turn into flakes. It is normal for some products when mixed, to form a white cream that will dry up fine. Others, will seemingly stop in their tracks when mixed, forming stiff clumps that spell out disaster if you go forward with putting them on your hair. Always, always, ALWAYS make sure your styler, moisturizer, and leave-in mix. If you aren’t sure or are trying something new, dab a little leave in on the back of your hand, and rub it in. Next, add a dab of moisturizer and styling product and rub together. If it creams, you’re good. If it clumps, rinse it off and start over. For my winter wash and go’s, I find that Soultanicals Curl Blaze Hair Glaze, Obia Curl Enhancing Custard, Darcy’s Botanicals Natural Coils Curling Jelly, and Purgasm Shop Wild Cherry Curl Poppin’ Gel tend to play nicely with all the other products I’ve mentioned. Of course, feel free to use products like EcoStyler Gel — just make sure it mixes!
8. Air dry overnight to avoid having wet hair in the cold
If you can help it, air drying your hair is the best way to go. Some naturals like to do their wash and go the night before, for this very reason. Diffuse, if you absolutely must. I prefer not to diffuse because I don’t see the sense in using air to suck out the moisture I worked so hard to incorporate into my process. If you wear your wash and go stretched, allowing it to dry in a pineapple, multi-pineapple, banded, or pulled and clipped are great options. To expedite the drying process sans hot air, grab an old t‑shirt and use it to squeeze excess product from your hair. If it’s not too-too cold and your hair isn’t dripping wet (which it shouldn’t be), feel free to rock your wash and go in public until it dries into full, coily glory. I do!
I know all of this may seem like a lot of work or overly complicated, but theoretically speaking, you probably do most of these steps in some form or fashion anyway. You just have to make slight tweaks and adjustments to account for a colder climate — like pre-pooing and swapping out your sealer. It doesn’t have to break the bank, and you don’t have to rush out and buy all of the products mentioned. I am a product junkie who has incredible difficulty narrowing down a list of favorites. As with all things, do what works for you!
How do you winterize your wash and go? Or do you pack away your products until warmer temperatures come?