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It’s About Time Wash and Go’s Were Viewed as a Protective Style: Here are 4 Reasons Why

Avatar • Jul 28, 2015

Nothing new to see here, folks: I live in a wash and go. If I had to say that I’ve mastered one natural hair style, this would be it. I know which techniques work best for distributing product in my hair, what gels or creams yield what type of results, how to make them last, and more.


I’ve been an advocate and a defender of the wash and go method, debunking myths and misconceptions wherever I go. :::puts on cape::: Many naturals think wash and go styling is only for “certain” types of curls, is too cumbersome and laborious, or is just outright damaging to the hair. I’m here to offer my annual reminder that none of the above is true. 

In fact, wash and go’s are considered a protective style. 

Protective styling is all about, well, protecting the hair from weathering, breakage, splitting, weakness, and dryness due to over-manipulation of our delicate curly strands. What if I told you that a wash and go could offer all of that and more?

Just hear me out:

1. Minimal Manipulation

Unlike twist-outs, blowouts, braidouts, and other styles, the wash and go doesn’t require excessive brushing, combing, tugging, pulling, stretching, and other manipulation that can leave hair in a weakened state. At its core, the wash and go is a relatively straightforward process: cleanse, deep condition, add product, and go. Naturals like to add other steps into the mix (like my mud rinse), diffusing, plopping, and more — but none of them are absolutely vital to the wash and go process. Beyond their relative simplicity, wash and go styles last for days. At minimum, you can get 3 days out of a wash and go before you need to really go in and touch up or wash and start over. I’ve seen some naturals wear wash and go styles for 10+ days (my personal record is 9).

2. Gel is Protective!

Did you know that your curl defining gel is actually a sealant? If you’ve ever checked up on your hair as it dries, you’ll notice that your curls will clump together and form a coating around the hair. Initially, this “crunch” seems unappealing, but what it does is provide a barrier between your hair and the elements while your hair is in its weakest state (wet). Additionally, the gel cast helps with moisture retention and reducing tangling by keeping your hair clumped in small sections. If you still have the “crunch” after your hair is dry (and you’re not a fan), you can always scrunch it out with a little butter or oil.

3. Clumped Curls are Stronger

You know the saying, “We’re better together than we are apart”? That applies to your natural hair as well. Our highly textured tresses are relatively delicate individually, but when clumped as a unit, they’re unstoppable! Okay, maybe I’m being a little overzealous, but clumped curls are stronger than separated strands. Be sure to use the praying hands method or rake & shake to encourage more clumped curls. You can also help improve curl clumping by using bentonite clay [easy DIY recipe here]. 

4. It Gets Better

When it comes to wash and go’s, the more often you do them, the better the results. Once you begin to integrate products that your hair responds well to and that give you desired results, the process becomes much more seamless and drama-free. If you can find a co-wash or curly shampoo that has enough slip to detangle or help keep your hair from tangling, you’ll endure less breakage in the wash process. Deep conditioning will also help improve strength and elasticity, while minimizing frizz and improving curl memory. Once you have the leave-in(s) and gel combination your hair responds best to (or whatever curl defining styler you prefer), everything from there is smooth sailing. Just remember — mastering the wash and go does take some trial and error, but once you succeed, you won’t want to do anything else!

Related: 7 Secrets for the Perfect Wash and Go [video]

If you need some more tips on wash and go styling, or a few leads on curl definers that actually work, check out these gems:

  • Camille Rose Naturals *new* Curl Maker [review here]
  • Obia Natural Hair Curl Enhancing Custard [review here]
  • Jelly Soft Curls [review here]
  • TreLuxe Hi! Definition [review here]
  • Eco Styler Argan Oil Gel [review here]
  • TGIN Twist & Define Cream [review here]
  • As I Am Smoothing Gel
  • And if you need one final piece of information to convince you, check out my growth and length retention progress:

    I got a cut and color after the October 2014 photo and had to change my regimen, but my hair is chugging along just fine:

    Ladies, what are your thoughts? Do you view wash and go’s as a protective style? Why or why not?

    Avatar

    About Christina Patrice

    Born, raised, and living in Los Angeles, Christina is BGLH's resident transitioning expert and product junkie. In addition to loving all things hair, she is a fitness novice and advocate of wearing sandals year-round. For more information on transitioning, natural hair, and her own hair journey, visit maneobjective.com. Or, if you like pictures follow Christina on Instagram @maneobjective.

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    Mackenzie Irick Milks
    Mackenzie Irick Milks
    5 years ago

    My current issue with the Wash N Go is the detangling. My strands love to love on each other. SO, once it’s done and begins to dry and shrink, I end up with a situation I know I’ll dread come wash day next. I’m sure that as my hair’s moisture issues are addressed, and with some protein and the proper products applied, my issues with getting a real assessment of the benefits will resolve themselves. Shoot! I might like it. Not yet. The detangling and hair shed after a wash and go make the benefits of calling it “protective” a… Read more »

    Tabatha
    Tabatha
    5 years ago

    Kudos to you, cause wash and goes are a no go for me. =-/
    They never seem to work out and they take for ever to dry even when I use heat. I ended up getting a staff infection in my scalp due to too much moisture on my scalp, so until I find a better way. No wash and goes.

    Cosita
    Cosita
    5 years ago

    I disagree. I don’t think wash and go is a protective style. Neither are twist outs, braid outs. If your ends are exposed, I don’t think it’s protective but can be “low manipulation” styl

    Leah
    Leah
    5 years ago
    Reply to  Cosita

    Thank you protective style means your ends are tucked away like braids twists weaves wigs etc . Wash and go is not a low manipulation styles either but twists outs braid outs etc are low manipulation styles .

    Cosita
    Cosita
    5 years ago
    Reply to  Leah

    I’m willing to cut her slack on low manipulation argument because some people retwist every night while some people stretch their wash and go for a week. So I think the latter can possibly be less manipulation.

    Nicole
    Nicole
    5 years ago

    See, I’m gonna have to disagree with you on only one point–

    Many naturals think wash and go styling is only for “certain” types of curls, is too cumbersome and laborious, or is just outright damaging to the hair. I’m here to offer my annual reminder that none of the above is true.

    I can certainly do a wash and go style; but it’d be a poor-looking style compared to someone with looser curls.

    Rydee
    Rydee
    5 years ago

    Wash n gos are nice (especially given the valid points above) but I still wouldn’t consider it to be a protective style (ends are out and aren’t covered). However, just because it isn’t a protective style doesn’t mean that it can’t help you retain length. I would consider it a low manipulation style at best. But I agree that often times, naturals forgo it (also for valid reasons) but it might be worth a revisit for some.

    Lv
    Lv
    5 years ago

    The wash and go is all I do

    Cheri
    Cheri
    5 years ago

    Sometimes I do a wash and go with gel to accentuate my kinky curls or sometimes I wash and go for real, like Florida Evans style. I wash my hair, deep condition it, give it a quick oil treatment, detangle, apply my cocktail of moisturizing oils, pick it out a bit with an old school afro pick, pat it down to make it neat and keep it moving. I like to do to do the gel method for special occasions because while the gel may be protective to a degree, I feel the use of too much protein (found in… Read more »

    FreeTea
    FreeTea
    5 years ago

    It’s not so much about tangling and wet hair for me–it’s the knots! I get ssks like you wouldn’t believe when I attempt a wng regimen. Believe me, I love the moisture and the results, but I ended up having to trim off all of my progress a few weeks ago because of ssks causing breakage.

    Just as twistouts and braidouts are not for everyone, neither are wngs. Your hair doesn’t have to be a certain curl pattern for success, but it does need to be a certain type–and mine ain’t it if I want length retention.

    Victoria Owl
    Victoria Owl
    5 years ago

    I definitely agree with this but only when done properly. But I prefer braid-outs because I prefer the effortless look with a little bit of frizz on me. Plus I’ve managed to grow very long hair quite effortlessly thanks to buns and braid-outs. And I don’t like the thought of getting caught in the rain with streaks of gel running down my face. Maybe I will play around with the wash no go once in a while to see if I can get a similar effortless look like that of a braid-out. One thing I know for sure about wash… Read more »

    Durelene Francois
    Durelene Francois
    5 years ago

    I would love to be able to rock a wash n go daily it’s simple but my hair is prone to driness and it tangles too much it’s hard to work with once it’s time to cowash again. The thought of it alone is making me cringe. I would say these are some great advice though. I naught be able to do all this if I had a hydration method that works.

    Leah
    Leah
    5 years ago

    Wash and go IS NOT A PROTECTIVE STYLE ! SO STOP TRYING TO MAKE IT ONE ! Protective style means the ends are tucked and pinned away and there is very little manipulation . Wash and go is down exposed to all the elements and you constantly manipulate your hair for a wash and go plus you have shrinkage and it’s prone to tangles and breakage ! Twist outs braid outs blow outs etc are low manipulation styles NOT PROTECTIVE STYLES ! Braids , twists , weave , wigs , etc ARE protective styles ! Learn the difference chick !… Read more »

    disqus_4hPJPnvDv7
    disqus_4hPJPnvDv7
    5 years ago
    Reply to  Leah

    Jesus Christ. Calm the hell down.

    Temicka Nunyabidness
    Temicka Nunyabidness
    4 years ago
    Reply to  Leah

    Yes it can be a proyective style if you moisture and seal your ends every day or every other day to keep them from being dry and frizzy. Calm down

    Stephanie S
    Stephanie S
    5 years ago

    When I attempt a wash n go my hair does not result in elongated, hanging curls like that. It shrinks up into an afro and I end up spending even more time trying to detangle and taking out the knots. So this isn’t for everyone or maybe we just have to find the right products??? But that could take too much time and money experimenting with all the different products out there.

    Rachel
    Rachel
    5 years ago
    Reply to  Stephanie S

    Then try a heavier gel or styler, something that’ll weight your hair down. You just have to find the right technique before throwing in the towel. Maybe you have thick hair strands that may need more product than a finer haired girl. I had that problem at the beginning but mixed my homemade flaxseed gel with a bit of whipped shea butter/coconut oil and got better results.

    Jameena Hunt ?
    Jameena Hunt ?
    5 years ago

    No maam. Y’all are really trying your absolute best to include the wash n go in the category of protective styles. How often do you wash n go? Every 3 or 4 days? Even less? That isn’t low manipulative styling, not like keeping your braids in for a month. You wash n go in the wintertime living anywhere in single degree weather? Hmmm. I say you test your wash n go protective styling theory out there. Don’t worry I’ll wait..

    kia
    kia
    5 years ago
    Reply to  Jameena Hunt ?

    Hi Jameena…i live in rhode island where the winters are brutal and we have single degree weather. last year, there was 2 days in a row where with wind chill, it was ‑25 outside. but to answer your question, i do my wash n go in single degree weather with a foot of snow on the ground. instead of using conditioner as a leave in, i use shea butter instead. my hair was fine.

    Jameena Hunt ?
    Jameena Hunt ?
    5 years ago
    Reply to  kia

    I wonder what would happen if it was pinned away, protected to keep it from getting frosted in that weather

    bri
    bri
    5 years ago
    Reply to  Jameena Hunt ?

    I WNG all year round. I do what many who wng all year do: pump up the moisture via regular DCs, heavier leave-ins and moisturizers,heavier sealants, etc. I diffuse my hair dry instead of air drying, I stretch my WNG for at least a week, and if I can’t stretch it, it goes up into a pony tail or for those with longer hair, they put it up into a bun until the next wash day. The hair stays moisturized this way. I’ve seen kinky and curly haired naturals who WNG do pretty much the same procedure,even though the products… Read more »

    bri
    bri
    5 years ago

    I WNG exclusively, and my hair is doing just fine. If I’m not leaving the house, I leave my hair in a scarf(that is sometimes several days out of the week)…that is protective yes? (my ends are not out) If your hair is knotting up, your technique may be off for your hair type. I’ve watched a lot of type 4 wng videos and the ones that are a fail usually have certain things in common: they use the wrong type of styler, they don’t use enough styler(BIG BIG BIG issue. If you need more product USE MORE PRODUCT!), they don’t… Read more »

    Free Tea
    Free Tea
    5 years ago
    Reply to  bri

    “As for SSKs…I get them regardless of what style I have done (they are worse in a twist out for me, which is why I no longer do them) so they just come with having curly or kinky hair.” So…why is it such a jump of logic for some of us to have the same troubles with wngs that you do with twist outs? Yes, I get ssks any time, but I get a damaging amount when I exclusively wng. It doesn’t matter how much product or which technique I’ve used, and I’m not spending any more money on this gel… Read more »

    bri
    bri
    5 years ago
    Reply to  Free Tea

    Twist outs lead to more manipulation for me because my hair will not keep definition long enough for it to even be worth my time regardless of the styler(the amt I use is already A LOT because I have coarse hair so it is not the amt), technique(I study different styling methods before and after every attempt at a new style to learn), etc, which is what leads to more ssks. Also, I said this (which you skipped over since you decided to zero in on one sentence out of my whole comment) “Many people who think they can’t do… Read more »

    Rachel
    Rachel
    5 years ago

    Do you only cowash? Just curious

    kia
    kia
    5 years ago
    Reply to  Rachel

    yes. i would shampoo once a week when i was doing the modified curly girl method. i haven’t shampooed in about 3 or 4 months now. my hair is clean because after i co-wash and i’m parting my hair into sections, i hear it squeaking. if i feel like i have to remove build i use as i am coconut cleansing co-wash

    Whatchusay?
    Whatchusay?
    5 years ago

    I do less manipulation to my hair when wearing wng than twists or braids. I also have more growth when i wng rhan with any other set style. I hate protective styles & think it’s a silly term. And I don’t get tangles or knots whatever I do to thick, coarse coily hair. I don’t think weaves, extension braids & constant wigs are as great as ppl say. I see a lot of women who live in fake hair have no edges, bald spots, thinning hair and breakage. Plus,my scalp & hair need to be clean. I cowash/rinse every 2–3… Read more »

    Jameena Hunt ?
    Jameena Hunt ?
    5 years ago

    I wanted to stress low manipulative styling. There’s no objective definition to what is “low manipulative” hence why every style can be put into the category of a protective style nowadays. Protective styling is whatever each person thinks it is! Five years ago there was no argument that if you keep a style in for a month that constitutes a protective style. Things never stay the same. Whatever works!

    Camille
    Camille
    5 years ago

    I think wash and go’s are protective IF you keep your hair moisturized. I have done twist/braid outs and they have lasted up to 4 days without me having to do anything. My wash and go is simple but I have to dampen it a little every morning and add a little styling product. It’s still 1,000 times easier than any of the other hairstyles though.

    kia
    kia
    5 years ago

    i do a wash and go everyday. i’ve retained 5.5 to 6 inches of hair depending on the area of hair that i’m measuring. i co wash, use my co wash (tresemme naturals) as a leave in, & add eco styler olive oil on top as my styler. i do everything in the shower doing the anthony dickey method. my hair hair flourished. i find that when i do a twist out, braid out, etc. i have a million for broken hairs around my fingers vs my shower wash n gos. i have minimal tangles since the gel is freezing… Read more »

    holli
    holli
    4 years ago

    I have honestly not read the other comments, but I am so happy I happened upon this article because it confirmed what I also figured to be true. I have had some issues with thinning, particularly in the front and sides of my hair. I have 4C/4B, lo po, low density hair and seborrhea. I was sick of trying, so before shaving myself “bald”, I decided to indulge myself in some thick, long boxed twists. The hair was so heavy, my neck ached! Counterintuitive at best, but it looked so good I made sure to maintain it moisturizing religiously, washing weekly… Read more »

    Valerie Robinson
    Valerie Robinson
    3 years ago

    I have hair like your first picture .… my hair is fine and stringy…cury in dinner parts bone strait in orders…I don’t have relaxer…but I’m struggling ugh…I need your help!

    CurlyGee
    CurlyGee
    3 years ago

    Glad I came upon your articles… it’s been 3 yrs since I’ve been natural and I only wear wash-and-go. I too have mastered it, and it is true it gets better with time. Too me it’s the best it last me 7 days. My hear is healthy, strong because I don’t manipulate my hair much. I do deep condition with every wash and once a month give myself a protein treatment. I also sleep with a satin cap. My hair texture is what they consider 4a/4b. I prefer my hair curl pattern vs braid outs or twist out.

    CurlQueen
    CurlQueen
    2 years ago

    I wash my hair weekly, but I do a wet and go style every day. Meaning I wash and go on wash day, but in between I damp the hair and with my fingers I massage in essential oils and an organic natural holding product, like a custard. My hair does not form curls naturally so I use my fingers to coil the tips. I never use a comb or brush. My hair grows fast when I do this wash and go, wet and go hairstyle. I’ve tried “protective styles” such as braids, crochet hair and my scalp hates it.… Read more »

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