Covering the Basics | Shampooing Natural Hair

Disclaimer: Shampooing is a hot topic among women of various textures, lengths, lifestyles, and cultures. I am not a hair professional nor am I here to persuade you that shampooing must be a part of any one's wash routine. There are many women who have had successes in their journeys from just co-washing, water-washing only, and using DIY methods such as baking soda cleanses and other natural ingredients. I am simply sharing why/how shampooing is currently used as a part of my and Z's wash day routine.

What is shampooing?
The process of cleansing the scalp and hair of dirt, oils, product build up, and other debris. 

What are the benefits to shampooing?
  • cleaner scalp, which makes for a healthier growing environment
  • cleaner hair, which can better absorb products/moisture
What are the different types of shampoos?
There are tons on shampoo products on the market these days. Walking down the grocery aisle, you will find shampoos designed specifically for all hair types and conditions: oily to normal to dry hair, color/heat-treated, damaged, relaxed, natural, transitioning, balancing, moisturizing, strengthening, volumizing, clarifying, chelating, and so on! As a newly natural, transitioner, or parent of natural hair children (or anybody really!), it is easy to get caught up and lost in the marketing/labeling claims of these products. In fact, it can be downright intimidating choosing which products might work best for your (or your child's) hair!

What is the best shampoo to use?
In all the years of washing our hair, I have tried many types of shampoos and have rarely come across a shampoo that did not do its job of simply cleansing. A common complaint I have heard, however, is that shampoos can make our natural hair feel ratchet and dry. Well, shampoos are generally not designed to leave the hair feeling soft, supple, and super moisturized. That's what the conditioning process is for. Yes, the hair can feel rough...that's because the cuticles have been lifted in order to remove dirt. Yes, the hair can feel stripped...that's because the oils have been removed from the shaft. As a result, a clean environment has been created for better product absorption/replenishing in the proceeding steps of the wash process.

I don't have one staple shampoo I use exclusively for our hair. I like various shampoos from the SheaMoisture and Aubrey Organics lines particularly because they are sulfate-free. Occasionally I will use a clarifying shampoo on wash days where I want to do a protein treatment or tea rinse. Chelating shampoos are good for removing hard water mineral deposits and chlorine from hair (for those who swim a lot). Overall, I strongly believe how we shampoo (the process) our hair is a huge determinant of cleanliness rather than what shampoo (the product) we actually use. 

How do we shampoo our hair?
  1. Divide hair into 4-6 sections. Usually done after pre-pooing the hair.
  2. Thoroughly rinse entire head under warm (not hot) water for a few minutes to help loosen and remove first layer of debris from scalp and hair. This also helps the shampoo to penetrate through hair onto the scalp easily.
  3. Dilute shampoo (1-2 tbsp per 8oz) in an applicator bottle to better apply shampoo onto the scalp for thorough cleansing. This is optional, but it really helps stretch those expensive products.
  4. Taking one section, apply shampoo to scalp and massage area well to ensure the scalp gets clean.
  5. Next, apply shampoo to hair and gently run hands down the length of the section (from root to tip) to remove debris. It is not recommended to detangle or run a brush/comb through hair at this step. The main concern is cleansing only.
  6. Loosely twist or clip section and cleanse remaining sections (scalp and hair)
  7. Rinse really well under warm water.
How often to shampoo?
The answer to this question varies greatly from one person to the next. For us, we shampoo our hair every other week, and co-wash on the other weeks. This has been working well for us, and we intend to continue this schedule. For those building a basic regimen, several questions much be considered based on your unique situation/lifestyle:
  • Do you sweat a lot naturally (especially over the summer or wearing wigs/weaves/hats)?
  • Do you exercise a lot? Swim?
  • Is your hair naturally oily?
  • Do you add heavy product to your hair regularly?
  • Do you have dry/itchy/flaky scalp?
  • What season is it? Winter weather can be drier on the hair and may decrease the need to wash hair as often as in the summer.
I good rule of thumb is to wash hair bi-weekly. If you find that it is not enough to keep your hair clean, bump it up to weekly. I would not recommend washing the hair more than that because the process can be quite manipulating and stressful on your hair. Instead, look into using less product when styling or co-washing your hair between shampoo sessions.

I hope this article was insightful on why it is important to cleanse our scalp and hair and how a shampoo product is supposed to function. The next article in this "Covering The Basics" series will be about co-washing the natural hair.

What are your favorite shampoo products you use? How often do you shampoo/cleanse your hair?

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