Water Only Hair Washing (30 day trial)

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I love my natural hair journey although I am still learning what works best for my hair.  I started this journey July 29, 2012 with a big chop that took my thick, over processed tresses down to the scalp.  I wanted to start fresh and do this natural hair from a pure perspective.  I am now 3 months away from celebrating my 2 year nappiversary and I believe I have found the regimen that yields the best results for my hair.  Early on in my journey I learned about the Curly Girl Method and conditioner only cleansing.  My hair took 6 months to respond to that method, but a curl pattern emerged on my 4C, low porosity hair and I was pleased.  I moved from the CG Method to the Tightly Curly Method which mimics the CG method with the exception of gel use; conditioner becomes everything.  My hair responded well on that method, but I was still battling with retaining moisture for my coils and honestly I was really tired of reading labels and trying the next great conditioning product.  I honestly wanted a natural hair journey that was natural and simple.  I was slowly loosing myself to product overload and hair manipulation.  Although my hair was responding positively to all that I was doing, my hair was taking over my life and that can’t happen.  So what have I been doing for the last 30 days that have my hair buzzing and my life returning to normalcy?  I’ve been washing my hair every day with just warm-hot water.  Now how does that work?

Thanks to a You Tuber by the name of LovingDeeNaturally (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCeqHHKWEvUwjnRr7vbVBqLw) I learned about a method that only requires you to wash your hair with water.  The premise behind the water only washing method is that you are attempting to produce enough sebum (oil secreted from the sebaceous glands of your scalp) to use as a conditioner, moisturizer, and sealant for your hair.  Hey it sounded great to me!  No products and my body produces the necessary element to protect my hair and all I have to do is wash with water until I have an ample supply of sebum to cover my strands from roots to tips?  In theory that is the simplicity of it, in practicality it’s a real commitment and I’ll share with you why.

Now I am a researcher.  I don’t jump on the band wagon of every new method out there for natural hair.  I do thorough research to be certain that the method is obtainable, practical, and suitable for my life style.  There was not a lot of information on You Tube about this method.  I did manage to find one naturalista who has been doing this method for over 6 months and her hair was absolutely gorgeous.  I watched all of her videos (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCw0jjBA8eh8qWwFHGYjHNHA) and then proceeded to go online to find more details about this method.  What I managed to find were a lot of straight haired, non-African American women doing this method.  I read many blogs about their experience and I was intrigued enough to try it for myself, but altering it to fit my hair’s needs.  My straight-haired naturalistas have a less cumbersome time distributing sebum down their hair strands simply because of the nature of their hair.  It’s straight.  The sebum can be easily brushed (using a 100% Boar Bristle Brush) from root to tip daily before washing.  We kinky/coily naturalistas don’t have that luxury.  Because our hair is so coily and we generally don’t wash our hair daily because of the dry nature of it, this method had to be tweaked a bit for my hair.

What does this method require?  It requires daily scalp massages to circulate blood to the scalp that will help the sebaceous gland produce sebum; light scratching of the scalp daily to break up sebum and dead skin cells; distribution of sebum to the hair strands by either finger distribution or the use of a 100% Boar Bristle brush; daily washing of the hair (warm to hot water) to rinse off the dead skin cells, and to help distribute the sebum down the hair strands; and nightly bagging (plastic cap under my satin cap) to create a steam bath to keep hair moisturized and help with sebum production.  

As I stated earlier, I have a problem maintaining moisture and to remove conditioner and oils from my cleansing regimen was going to take a real commitment to this method to maintain healthy hair.  I have medium length hair (5-6 inches all over), extremely coily, very dense and it responds positively to minimal manipulation.  What I decided to do was establish a time of day to do the scalp massages, sebum distribution and water washes.  I chose early evening (between 5-7 pm) for the light scratching, sebum distribution and water washes.  I will do the scalp massages in the mornings.  I also decided to keep my hair in 2 strand twists to make it easier to maintain on a daily basis and they are professional enough to wear daily to work.  Because I did not know how my hair would respond to being washed every day, the twists would lessen the amount of manipulation to my hair.  My hair is prone to dryness and I want to be certain the ends of my hair (the most susceptible to breakage because they are the oldest part of my hair) are given special attention.  After my water washing I determined it would be best to sealed just the ends of my hair with castor oil (my favorite oil) until I produce enough sebum to cover my entire strand.  Now I am a 4C, low porosity naturalista and I have become accustomed to weekly deep conditioning treatments. I want to maintain healthy hair so I kept this aspect of my regimen in place during this method until I had to stop and I will explain why later.  

How did I fare from week to week?  Week One-March 10, 2014: I massaged my scalp every morning after removing the plastic caps.  My hair was moisturized, not damp or wet and my twists seemed to be soaking up all that moisture.  After work I would lightly scratch my scalp and pull sebum with my fingers onto the length of my twists.  Now during this week, I didn’t really feel much sebum on my scalp, but I stayed the course.  I water washed my hair with the twists in tact (they were micro in size), shook off excess water, applied castor oil to just the ends of the twists and allowed my hair to drip dry for the evening.  With no product in my hair, my dry time went from 12 hours to just fewer than 2.  That alone made this method a plus for me.  I would reapply my plastic cap and repeat the process the following day.  On Friday of week one I took out my twists to allow my hair some air and to check on the state of my hair.  It felt dry at the root and ends, but the middle of the strands were well moisturized.  My twists were extremely defined.  On Friday evening I deep conditioned my hair using Kinky Kashmere’s Infused Hair Masque.  I placed a plastic cap on my hair and deep conditioned for one hour.  I water rinsed the conditioner out of my hair and every tangle melted away.  My coils popped up like a head full of Slinkys and my hair felt unbelievably soft.  I proceeded to create chunky twists on my hair because I wanted to wear a twist out for the weekend.  I did not bag my hair Friday or Saturday night, but continued with the daily washes.  By the end of the first week, my hair was noticeably softer, fuller, and more stretched. I somehow had less shrinkage.  When my hair dried it dried stretched and I can’t explain why.  On Sunday afternoon I water washed with my hair in sections and there was little to no shedding and no need to detangle.  My hair was tangle free.  I installed micro twists (6 hours of labor) and allowed my hair to air dry.  My assessment for week one is that by the 3rd day I could see sebum on my fingertips when I did scalp massages and I could feel it.  It was slightly oily, but more like a light film of oil.  After the Friday evening deep conditioner, all of the sebum that I had produced for that week was washed away because the conditioner I used contained BTMS.  So on to week 2 which is like a do-over thanks to my deep conditioning.

Week Two-March 17, 2014: This week I continued the same as week one with daily scalp massages, light scratching, sebum distribution and water washes.  My hair remained in 2 strand twists.  Friday I took out the twists and wore a twist out.  .  I did want to deep condition again this weekend using another product that does not contain BTMS.  I sectioned my hair in 8 small puffs with my ends exposed.  I applied My Honey Child Olive You Deep Conditioner to just the ends and put on a plastic cap for an hour.  I washed the conditioner from the ends of each puff individually before removing the bands.  After the conditioner was gone, I proceeded with water washing and distributing sebum. This deep conditioner did not seem to strip away any sebum, but it could have been my technique with application and removal of it that prevented the sebum loss.  I am still experiencing very little shedding with no need to de-tangle. The weekend styling consisted of chunky twist outs and curly fro’s. My hair was feeling great. I prepped my hair Sunday afternoon with medium sized twists.

Week Three- March 24, 2014: This week was a bit more challenging because I incorporated workouts into my week.  I sweat terribly in my head so my evening wash times had to be moved up to mid-day after workouts.  I did not appreciate having to walk around my office with dripping hair, but I wanted my hair to have all the moisture it could get from the water so I never towel dried any of the excess water.  By mid-week my sebum was noticeable by touch from the root to about an inch onto the strands.  My hair is about 5-6 inches in length.  Surprisingly my twists did not get frizzy or tangled.  I still continued with nightly bagging, daily scalp massages, light scalp scratching, and daily water washes with castor oil on my ends.  I did let the twists out on Friday and they were a lot fuller than the previous week.  I did not separate them more than once because I wasn’t sure if my hair would frizz out because there were no products applied to tame the frizz.  I went out at lunch time to run an errand and got caught in the rain without an umbrella.  Now if my twists were intact I would not have panicked, but my hair was not protected and I just knew after 20 minutes in the rain I was going to get back to the office with an Afro.  Not the case and I was shocked!  My hair soaked in that rain water and maintained its style.  I shook my hair to get off the excess water and did not touch any of the coils. My hair dried in less than an hour and I was in awe.  The sebum was coating enough of my hair that it prevented my hair from swelling.  I was so excited about my hair that I couldn’t wait to wash it.  I opted to not deep condition this week because my hair honestly felt wonderful.  It was soft, shiny, and retaining moisture.   After my Friday evening wash the coils popped right into place without any products and I grabbed my phone to do a video of my results: http://youtu.be/TvcsraqAf5g

Week Four-March 31, 2014:  This was the most disappointing week style-wise for my hair on this method. I opted to cease from using castor oil on my ends.  I gather that is why my medium sized twists frizzed after 2 days and had to be redone.  My hair started to loc a bit and that has never happened before.  Tuesday and Thursday evening were spent distributing sebum down the strands because I was forced to redo the twists.  But by Thursday I could feel sebum midway down my hair strands so I am definitely producing sebum and should have enough to cover my entire strands by the end of this trial.  Now although I did not like my hair style in the medium twists, I loved the twist out!  My hair was thick, full, noticeably darker (richer in color), shining, and soft to the touch.  Since going natural I have never experienced soft hair like this unless I had vegetable glycerin in my hair.  My healthy, moisturized, natural strands with no product in them feel like cotton and look great.  Now my scalp was feeling dryer than normal during this week but I attributed that to my lack of water intake.  You will have to stay on top of water consumption if you opt to do this method.  You don’t have the luxury of a product to moisturize your hair so diet and exercise play a great part in the health of your hair.  A healthy, happy you will render healthy, happy hair!  I am 4 weeks into this method and I have noticeable hair growth.  My hair is growing like a weed.  Now that wasn’t an expectation for me, but it has been pleasant to behold. My hair is thriving, so no need to deep condition.  My styling option for this weekend consisted of two strand twists with curl rods.  Now I am not putting any product in my hair so I am not certain that my hair will survive the rods to curl instead of frizz out.  I awake in the morning (note to self-never ever again apply curl rods at night…they are impossible to sleep on), removed the rods and proceeded cautiously with separating the twists.  I thought I was going to have pick my hair to hide parts and make my style fuller…didn’t have to do it!  I separated the twists only once and because the ends were curled it made my hair look like a roller set.  My hair was huge.  It looked like it had grown overnight, still soft to the touch and voluminous.  I slapped on a cute headband and some lipstick and that’s all she wrote!  I was cuuute!  Now I did not want to water wash my hair Saturday night.  I have been committed to daily washing, but I loved my hair style so I opted to not bag my hair Saturday evening.  I still scalp massaged and put on my satin cap for the evening.  Sunday morning I was not sure what surprise my hair had for me under that cap.  I took the cap off and my hair was compact, so I just started to lightly tussle it to wake the curls.  I tussled less than a minute and my hair 2nd day hair looked identical to my first day hair.  That has never happened since I have been natural.  My hair was still moisturized and the volume of my hair was unchanged.  No shrinkage!  My curls were obviously more stretched because I didn’t re-roll the ends, but my hair didn’t fro out!  What????  It appears that by the end of week 4 I have full sebum coverage….yes!!!  The sebum has coated my entire hair strand and is providing the protection my strands need from the elements in the air. Because of the fatty molecules in it, my hair is being conditioned.  My strands are elongated because of the oil content in the sebum; the strands especially at the roots are being stretched.  Now the real test comes in with Sunday afternoon’s water washing.  Will my hair revert back to my slinky coils and will I have more shedding because of the amount of manipulation?  Yes my hair reverted back as soon as the water hit it, but I did have more sebum built up on my strands, maybe because I skipped a wash day.   I did not have any increase in shedding.  Win, win!  My prep for the next week of water washing consisted of flat twists, but I’m not certain I can adequately distribute sebum with this style. This concludes my 30 day trial and here’s what have I learned?

1. I can maintain healthy, vibrant hair with minimal product use.

2. I can use water to wash my hair and it will not have an odor.  My hair smells like hair.

3. Sebum helps elongate my hair thereby decreasing shrinkage.

4. My hair responds positively to being wet every day.  It looks for that water wash and I may not be able to skip more than a day of washing if I continue to produce sebum at the rate that I am producing it.

5. Drinking lots of water helps to moisturize my hair from the inside.

6. Fruit, vegetables, and legumes are great food sources that helped me stimulate sebum production.

7.  I take Omega 3 Fish Oil pills daily because I don’t eat meat, poultry or fish.  This supplement does help stimulate sebum productions.

8. Sebum feels like really light oil when first beginning to produce.  As my sebum production increased and my strands became more coated, the sebum felt like wax on my wet hair. When dry my hair just feels soft.

9. If I allow sebum to build up on my scalp and strands for too long it can render negative results (bacteria, scalp infection, odor, etc.)

10. Boar Bristle brushes are used to help distribute the sebum evenly down the hair strands.  They will alter my curl pattern by frizzing out my hair strands.  I worked really hard for these coils and my fingers seem to be the only tools I need to distribute sebum, so far.

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13 thoughts on “Water Only Hair Washing (30 day trial)

  1. Deidra

    Great article and summary! I’m so glad u blogged about this now when searches are done on this method ur account will give the perspective from an African American natural! P. S. My birthday is July 29..:-DD

    • Thank you Deidra and you are so right about the African American perspective. There is so little information out there, but it is good to know our hair can thrive with methods of this type. We simply need to have knowledge of our hair, be willing to patiently wait for positive results, and be liberated to tweak as necessary.
      P.S. Your birthday will be easy to remember every year!

  2. Interesting. I have what I considerbto be medium lengeth hair (14-16 inches) and I wonder how this would work. Just when I thought my hair care routine was easier it seems I could keep going

    • My daughter’s hair is slightly longer than yours and she wears her hair out daily. This method is restoring strength to her hair. She is 14 and loves to gel her edges and sport a messy bun. Since water washing her hair her dependency on gel has dissipated and the only time her hair is bunned is in prep for washing. She is loving her hair and it’s loving her back. Please view some of the videos on YouTube for “wateronlyhairwash”. She has beautiful long hair and has been on this method for over 6 months.

  3. Great review! I started 7 days ago. Today is the beginning of my week two and I am really enjoying the daily rinsing. I put all of my conditioner and hair butter under my bathroom cabinet, out of sight, out of mind. I also bought a water filter (makes me regret giving away the one I had about 5 yrs ago). So far, I can feel the sebum on my scalp. I’m not sure how much is on my hair yet, as my hair has a natural sheen to it, but I feel like it’s moving down my strands. I would say about 15% coverage so far. I have long hair, about 18-20 inches all over, so I expect this to take a minute. I am going to do my best to be patient! 🙂 Thanks for this!

    • Thank you Mica for stopping by my page. I wish you well on the water only hair washing regimen. It will change your view of your natural hair journey. I love this regimen and I love how my hair responds to it.

  4. I’m so glad I found your blog! I’ve been doing this method for about 3 weeks now! I’ve been dipping my fingers into a bowl of water and brushing my hair with a boar bristle brush daily (my hair LOVES being brushed when damp) but I’ve not been bagging my hair nightly. I may try doing it your way after reading this post! Thank you thank you THANK YOU #soexcited

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