A wash-and-go hairstyle is the ultimate staple in the natural hair community. It’s quick, it’s easy, and saves your hair from the damage of heat styling. All you need is water, clean and moisturized hair, a few styling essentials, and voila—you’re ready to walk out the door.
Need a cheat sheet on how to get the perfect wash-and-go for your hair type? Here’s a step-by-step guide on how you can achieve this low maintenance style.
Determine Your Hair Type
Before you do anything, you’ll need to get familiar with the hair-typing system. This will not only help you figure out what kind of texture you’re working with, but it also makes shopping for hair products easier.
Oprah Winfrey’s esteemed hair stylist, Andre Walker, has provided a hair typing system that’s been considered a gold standard for years. In total, there are four hair types according to Walker, and each of these types can be dived into subcategories.
Type 1: Straight Hair
This hair type is the most curl resistant out of the bunch.
- 1A: Shiny, fine, soft, oily, and can’t hold a curl
- 1B: Shiny, medium, oily, and difficult to curl
- 1C: Shiny, thick, coarse, oily, and can hold some of a curl
Type 2: Wavy Hair
This hair type offers a wider range of shapes but generally lays flatter at the root.
- 2A: Fine, thin, extremely loose and tousled waves that remain smooth
- 2B: Medium density, moderate frizz, lax S-shaped wave starting a few inches from the scalp
- 2C: Thick, coarse, prone to frizz, starts out wavy and gets curlier from the ears down
Type 3: Curly Hair
This hair type is characterized by light to springy tendrils that offer volume and height. Some heads of hair may be a combination of textures.
- 3A: Shiny, well-defined, big and loose curls that are the width of sidewalk chalk
- 3B: Voluminous, coarse, dense, corkscrew curls that are the width of a permanent marker
- 3C: Voluminous, compact shrinkage, coily telephone wire curls that are the width of a pencil
Type 4: Kinky Hair
This hair type is fine, thin, wiry, coarse, and is densely packed with coils—all of which contributes to a fragile hair texture that’s prone to dryness and tangling.
- 4A: Tight, S-shaped pattern that is the width of a crochet needle.
- 4B: Tighter, less-defined, Z-shaped pattern that is the width of a pen.
- 4C: Tightest, densest, highest shrinkage, most delicate, kinky coils
What You’ll Need
- Optional detanglers
- Paddle brush, wide-tooth comb or hands
- An assortment of styling products
- Hair spray or gloss
- Optional diffuser
Cleansing your hair is an important first step in a wash-and-go since it allows you to get rid of unwanted debris while also prepping your tresses for subsequent moisture and styling. Your hair type and scalp condition help to determine what kind of shampoo you’ll need, but natural hair tends to be fine, fragile, dry or weighed down by product.
The curlier your texture, the harder it is for sebum to travel down your hair—so you won’t want to strip your hair of all oil either. Your focus should remain closer to your roots.
- Volumizing shampoo is best for fine hair like type 1 and 2
- Strengthening shampoo is best for damaged or brittle hair
- Hydrating shampoo is best for dry or frizzy hair like type 2, 3 and 4
- Clarifying shampoo is best for getting rid of product buildup
The conditioning stage is meant to replace the hydration you lost after cleansing. It often makes detangling a breeze since it creates a slippery surface, smooths down hair cuticles, and can even soften. Again, knowing your hair type is helpful when picking and applying a conditioner, but for most natural textures like type 2, 3, or 4, need more moisture than type 1.
Dry ends need extra TLC when it comes to conditioner. This is especially true if you have long hair. Keeping your hair properly moisturized will minimize unwanted splits, damage and so on.
- Smoothing conditioner is best for frizzy hair like type 2, 3 and 4
- Fortifying conditioner is best for weak or damaged hair
- Moisturizing conditioner is best for dry hair like type 2, 3 and 4. If time permits, thirsty hair can also benefit from a deep conditioning treatment
- Balancing conditioner is best for fine and oily hair like type 1 and 2
Some hair types can be detangled while in-shower while others do better while partially dry. Others may require tangle-tackling tools and products (while a lucky few can get away with finger combing).
Ultimately, the decision is up to you and your comfort level. Leave-in conditioners, oils, and detangling sprays help to provide an easy glide for paddle brushes, wide-tooth combs, and hands. Regardless of your chosen method, just make sure you detangle starting at your ends and work your way up for minimal hair loss.
Styling a wash-and-go is a science. Weather, porosity and an assortment of other factors can contribute to your results, so it’s best to have a few products in your arsenal. Layering is also a method you can use to make your natural hair pop.
Hair that holds on to water tends to do well with a liquid-oil-cream application while hair that struggles to retain moisture does better-undergoing liquid-cream-oil.
- 1A, 1B & 1C: Straight hair is the easiest to style and can get away with a light pomade or texturizing spray
- 2A, 2B & 2C: Wavy hair requires a lightweight product that minimizes frizz, including mousses, oil gels or leave-in hair milks
- 3A, 3B & 3C: Curly hair needs a moderate product that delivers and locks in moisture like those seen in defining sprays, creams or gels
- 4A, 4B & 4C: Kinky hair benefits from a heavy product that’s rich in nourishing hydration, such as butters and oils
Once you’re all styled, you’re near ready to go. To finish off your look, you can either apply a hair spray or gloss. For those who can’t stand the feeling of wet hair, you can opt for a hair dryer with a diffuser attachment for frizz-free water wicking. If you prefer to air dry, you can go about your day and let nature do its thing.