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When To Wash Curly Hair

Posted on November 15 2016

Maintaining curly hair is different than straight hair. Naturally curly hair plays by it's own set of unique hair care rules. The most basic rule of hair care is washing. Understanding when to wash curly hair is crucial to achieving the health and appearance you desire. 

Knowing when you wash curly hair depends on several factors including: 

  • Hair texture
  • Sebum production
  • Product use
  • Length
  • Lifestyle

Wavy Hair

Hair that has a loose wavy texture will get oily as quickly as 2 - 3 days. This is a result of sebum (the natural oil your scalp produces) traveling down the follicles of hair from root to end. The sebum coats your hair leaving an a waxy feeling to your strands. The sebum combined with buildup from product use makes wavy hair oily and appear greasy and weighed down. As a result wavy hair needs to washed more frequently no more than 2 - 3 times per week. To remove surface oil alternating washing and co-washing (every week hair is washed and co-washed) wavy hair since your hair is cleansed so frequently. 

Curly Hair

In curly hair the sebum has difficulty traveling the length of the hair. Curls make it hard for sebum to travel the length of the hair. The result is hair that is oily at the scalp and a few inches from the scalp and dry at the ends. Curly hair is equivalent to combination skin because it's oily in some places and dry in others. Finding a balance between being too oily and too dry is key. Curly hair can be washed weekly to remove dirt and buildup. In the event your curly hair feels dirty before the end of the week saturating the hair with water or co-washing can be used as a technique to remove surface dirt. However, co-washing does not replace washing with a cleanser and should not be done in lieu of weekly washing.

Kinky Hair

Kinky hair is dry and prone to breakage as a result of being so dry. There are so many twists, turns, and coils in kinky hair that the sebum gets stuck and doesn't make it down the length of the hair, which is why it's dry from root to tip. Usually kinky hair requires the use of heavy products to maintain moisture. The heavy products are quickly absorbed by kinky hair so hair doesn't feel oily as quickly as with wavy or curly hair. However, the increased used of heavy products and the sebum buildup on the scalp (because it can't travel down hair strands) can lead to an increase of product buildup on the scalp. Also, kinky hair is more prone to tangles and breakage so less manipulation is more ideal. Kinky hair can go longer between washing than wavy and curly hair. While weekly washings are ideal kinky hair can go up to 2 weeks between washings. 

Additional factors that influence how frequently you wash your hair include the length of your hair. Shorter hair is easier to wash and maintain. It's also easier for sebum to coat your strands because it has less distance to travel. Your personal lifestyle also plays a major role in your hair care choices. If you exercise frequently, live in hot climate or sweat a lot in your scalp you may need to wash more frequently.

Signs your hair needs to be washed include:

  • Product buildup
  • Dry flakey scalp
  • Itchiness
  • Sour smell
  • Lack luster hair

Play around with a wash routine until you find one that fits into your lifestyle and allows your hair to flourish without being dirty. Pay attention to your hair and how it responds You may find you need to switch up your regimen every now and again as your hair and lifestyle changes. 


How often do you wash your curls? 


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