How To: Wash Long, Natural Hair

Black-girl-hair-detanglingTo some women, washing natural hair can seem to be a true chore, depending on how easy it is for them to handle their length and texture.  Some women have grown out their natural hair via extensions or other methods, and are unsure of how to take care of their own locks now that they’re longer.  Others have had long natural hair for a while, and haven’t yet figured out how to handle it.

Women with long, natural hair need to be especially careful to ensure that they properly cleanse and condition their hair while minimizing damage, shedding and breakage.  The degree of difficulty goes up the longer and curlier the hair, since the curlier and kinkier the hair, the more fragile it is.  Wash day doesn’t have to be a day of dread.  You should look at it as “hair pampering” day, and take the time to give it the luxurious treatment it deserves.    The following steps assume that you’re using a shampoo to wash your hair.   If you follow the CO (conditioner only) regimen, just substitute your co-washing conditioner for the shampoo in the following steps.

Do A Pre-poo treatment

  • A pre-poo (pre-shampoo) treatment will help with things like detangling and moisturizing by adding a layer of conditioning to your hair strands prior to applying the shampoo.  This can help protect your fragile strands from the potentially harsh effects of the shampoo.  Ever notice when you apply shampoo to your hair, your hair can feel stripped and coarse once you rinse?   The pre-poo can help minimize this effect.
  • A pre-poo treatment can be as simple as a coating of olive oil applied to your hair and wrapped under a heating cap for an hour, or as complex as a special blend of ingredients of your own making.   A great option for very coily natural hair is to use a mix of a cheap, moisturizing detangling conditioner and a rich oil like olive or extra virgin coconut oil.
  • Divide your hair into four sections, and twist up three of the sections.    Apply a thick coating of your pre-poo onto the loose section, completely covering every section from root to tip.   This would also be a good time to gently loosen any tangles from your hair, slowly working from the ends of your hair on up.    Pin up the section with a bobby pin, and continue on to the next section, repeating the process until your whole head is pre-pooed and pinned.   Cover your head with a heating or plastic cap, and allow it to sit for at least 30 minutes.


  • Try and use a sulfate-free shampoo, which doesn’t have the harsh cleansing agents that can be damaging to natural hair and cause tangles.   A great option is the Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Tingle Shampoo.   Many women love that it doesn’t dry out their hair but keeps it feeling fresh and clean.   If you have product buildup, you’ll need to use a clarifying shampoo.
  • When you’re finished with your pre-poo treatment, don’t unravel your hair and jump into the shower, ready to do a remake of those Aussie commercials.   Piling your hair up on your head while scrubbing it back and forth is quite possibly the very worst thing you as a natural woman can do to your hair.   You will either end up on the floor of your shower with tears running down your face and your hand stuck in your hair, or you’ll be ripping a balled up knot of kinks and curls out of your head in fury.
  • Keep the hair in its pre-pooed sections.  Unravel one section and allow apply your shampoo, gently applying a small amount of shampoo, massaging the shampoo into the scalp and working your way to the ends of your hair, smoothing the strands with your fingers as you go.   Your goal is to remove the dirt and residue without disturbing the cuticle.   Vigorous rubbing will rough up the cuticle and create tangles.    Once you finish a section, rinse and pin it back up.   Go through all the sections.   Once you’re done, you’re ready to apply your conditioner.


  • Keeping your hair in those same sections, apply your conditioner in the same, gentle way that you applied your shampoo.   Use a rich, hydrating conditioner that will help keep your hair well-moisturized long after rinsing and drying.
  • This is the time to do any final detangling.  You can run your fingers down the strands of your hair, slowly and carefully separating any knots and tangles.   If you find a particularly stubborn knot, stop, take a deep breath and apply a bit more conditioner on the knotted area before gently working your way up the strands again.   You can use your fingers to detangle, or a great detangling brush like the Denman.
  • At this point, you can sit under a dryer and let the conditioner penetrate, or you can rinse it off with cold water after a few minutes.   The cold water will help keep your cuticles sealed and your hair smooth and shiny.  You may want to consider following this step up with an ACV (apple cider vinegar) rinse.   ACV also helps in keeping the cuticle sealed and smooth, helping hair feel look and feel rich, soft and shiny.   Add 1 part ACV to 3 parts distilled water, and saturate the hair with the mixture before rinsing.  Don’t worry: you won’t smell like salad.   The scent of vinegar goes away.

Dry your hair with a soft cloth or t-shirt by patting your hair, but do NOT RUB.   Unravel the sections and apply a moisturizing leave-in conditioner, sealing with a rich oil like shea butter or extra virgin coconut oil.   Allow your hair to air dry if possible, and style as usual.

Author: Sakai Blue

Sakai Blue is a UK-born, New York-based writer with an extensive background in TV and advertising. She writes and produces television promos, and writes beauty, health, home design and finance articles for various online sites. She can always be found with her Macbook Pro in hand, and her Final Cut Pro running.

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  1. Thank you so much for this information.

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  2. Her hair is clearly relaxed with newgrowth… Just saying.

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    • Not necessarily…but even if it is, they’re just stock photos. Stop. Hating is bad! Actually my natural hair does that exact thing after a few henna treatments and flatirons without a deep conditioning…

      Post a Reply


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