Cleansing is so much more than slapping on some shampoo in the shower. We’ve got to think about the type of ingredients we’re using, whether our scalp is getting as much attention as our strands, and if you have textured hair—maintaining your curl pattern so it doesn’t fall flat by the time you need to leave the house. Throughout my natural-hair journey, I’ve come across so many different cleansing methods—I’ve used the same one for years, and at this point, I’m not sure if one is actually better than the other.
But as I continue to make hair health a priority, it’s become clear that there are probably just a few adjustments I could be making for the better. Ahead, Mia Emilio, senior stylist at DevaChan Soho, breaks down exactly how a cleansing routine for women with textured hair should look.
We already know that thicker hair types aren’t required to cleanse on a daily basis, but their hair also shouldn’t be neglected for weeks at a time. So where’s the happy medium? According to Emilio, textured hair can still be cleansed on a weekly basis.
“It’s best to cleanse the scalp at least once a week. Some do more frequently if they feel necessary, but you don’t want to cleanse too often or it’s possible you will dry out your hair,” she says. “Co-washing in between cleanses is helpful to help keep hair hydrated and tangle-free.”
At the same time, your curl pattern and texture also play a big part in determining how often you cleanse. The tighter your curl, the dryer your hair may be, so those with kinkier strands definitely shouldn’t be cleansed more than once a week. (And hydration in between is always helpful.). But for finer hair, “you can cleanse more in order to remove oil from the scalp, but I recommend no more than twice a week,” says Emilio.
To Pre-Poo or Not to Pre-Poo
The biggest mistake Emilio sees women make during the cleansing process is using harsh chemicals and stripping ingredients such as sodium lauryl sulfate. Reading the labels of your products is a must. However, there’s also the question of whether a pre-poo—a pre-shampoo treatment that’s supposed to provide a protective barrier between your hair and the stripping ingredients of a shampoo—is actually necessary. Many natural experts recommend using one, but according to Emilio, it isn’t always necessary, unless your hair needs a serious reset. (For me, this is usually right after I’ve taken out a protective style, such as braids or extensions.)
“If you know you went multiple days in between washing, putting your pre-poo on before cleansing your hair can help detangle, and it’s also a great way to help the water penetrate faster into your hair, making your wash day much easier and even a little faster,” she says.
Extra conditioner—before or after cleansing—is always a good thing, too. “If your reasoning for adding condition before you cleanse is because you’re feeling too tangled up, then sure go ahead. But if not, don’t waste your conditioner,” she says.
How to Cleanse
So once you’ve got a better understanding of the type of cleanser you need and how often you should be using it, exactly how do you go about lathering it up?
“I start by wetting the hair; I go around the hairline and base of the neck, then by ears pushing in toward the crown area. Add a little water to help move the cleanser around and give a good scrubbing,” says Emilio. “If you feel it’s necessary to move the cleanser toward mid-shaft and ends, start to scrub the hair as well. One of the most important things to remember is always scrub while you are rinsing your hair, sometimes water pressure is not enough to remove all your cleanser from the scalp area. Scrub in and scrub out.”