Welcome to Crowned, our new series all about the history of Black hair. Hosted by senior social media editor Star Donaldson, Crowned explores the history and traditions that have shaped the Black experience and the hairstyles born out of them. In our newest episode, we examine the history of the wash-and-go hairstyling technique. Join us in learning more.
When discussing natural hair, it's important to understand one thing: The possibilities are truly limitless. There is no shortage of ways to customize your hair to your personal preference from products used, potential styles, and the techniques used to achieve them. Wash-and-go's are among the popular styling methods for natural hair, and in the latest episode of Crowned, our host, Star Donaldson, takes a deeper look.
Wash-and-go styling has been a popular technique for years and has increased in popularity during the early 2000s natural hair movement. "Unlike pre-colonial styles, like cornrows and Bantu knots, a wash-and-go is a technique that involves cleaning, detangling, hydrating, and defining your natural coils," Donaldson explains. "Black women created the wash-and-go technique to embrace their hair by creating a method to safely wear afro-textured hair outside of relaxers or braids." Essentially, it's important to understand that a wash-and-go is not a protective style but rather a method for defining your natural texture.
While the term wash-and-go might imply a quick way to transform curls, nothing is speedy about the process—and that's okay. A wash-and-go typically requires a few steps and some trial and error. "It can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours from cleansing to drying," Donaldson says. "Typically, a wash-and-go takes place in the shower because you want to add styling products when the hair is most porous right after cleansing." While ultimately, everyone's wash-and-go technique is unique, the process typically includes a few standard products from a sulfate-free shampoo, deep conditioner, oils, styling gels, and a few tools.
"After rinsing, styling begins on wet hair. Applying leave-in conditioner, curl cream, and gel in small sections is super important to get defined and hydrated results," Donaldson explains. When scoping out the best products for your wash-and-go, we like using moisturizing cleansers like Maui Moisture Curl Quench + Coconut Oil Shampoo and Conditioner ($7). While leave-in butters and creams are great options for extra hydration, conditioning mists, like Maui Moisture Frizz-Free + Shea Butter Leave-In Conditioning Mist ($10), are also a great way to layer lightweight hydration. You can seal everything in with a gel for long-lasting hold and curl definition, like Maui Moisture Strength & Length + Castor & Neem Oil Curl Oil Gel ($9). Days after your wash-and-go, you can use a lightweight mist like Maui Moisture Curl Refreshing Mist ($7) to replenish your hair with moisture.
Once you've completed the wash-and-go styling steps, you can air dry or diffuse your hair. You can also use an Afro pick to tease and fluff your hair for more volume or definition, and the pineapple method or a silk bonnet can help preserve your style at night. While a wash-and-go style may last you a few days, you might find that your strands could use some extra defining or hydrating the older it gets. In this case, Donaldson recommends adding refreshing products to your arsenal. "Refreshing your wash-and-go with hydrating products and water can help maintain results longer," she says. "But because the process heavily relies on products and isn't a protective style, wash-and-gos shouldn't last more than a week to avoid build-up and breakage."
Despite the popularity of wash-and-go styling, it's important to acknowledge the role texturism plays in the perception of natural hair. Still, type 4 curl textures remain the most marginalized hair texture, and it's important to note that wash-and-go styling is appropriate for all natural hair textures. Everyone's personal hair goals and routines are unique to them, and styling techniques such as wash-and-go's can add ease to your routine while helping you learn about what products and tips work best for you.