If you have curly hair, you’ve probably heard of wash and go. This hair care routine embraces the natural curl pattern by forgoing heat styling, braids, and other forms of curl manipulation, which can be hugely beneficial in terms of hair health and curl integrity. The method is deemed to be one of the easiest natural hairstyles — but it’s not quite as simple as it sounds.
“You need the right products and tools. The idea that you literally wash and go is not the full story,” Janine Jarman, curl expert and founder of Hairroin Salon + Curl Cult, tells TZR. “You wet your hair, add the right mix of curl support, scrunch the moisture out with the right towel, then go. It can take a minute to get used to, but when you're in the swing of it, it's so easy and great for the health of your hair.”
“Wash and gos are amazing for keeping the hair and scalp in good condition as you are not using heat and manipulation to shape and pull the hair,” says Michelle Sultan, celebrity hairstylist and brand ambassador for Imbue. Plus, adds celebrity curl expert and founder of Curl Queen, Nai’vasha, “the hair texture seems to be a bit more authentic when washing and going.”
So, what does an ideal wash and go routine look like? While it may differ slightly depending on your hair type (the experts agree that tighter curls usually need more moisture), the steps should follow the same general pattern: wetting or shampooing, conditioning, combing or finger coiling the curls, adding a curl cream and/or leave-in conditioner, and allowing hair to air dry.
Ahead, the experts breakdown exactly how to do a wash and go no matter your curl type and the product you’ll need along the way.
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Step One: Shampoo & Condition
Start by cleansing with a sulfate-free shampoo, such as the Kérastase Discipline Bain Fluidealiste Shampoo. Then, apply a conditioner or hydrating mask — or both, if you feel like your hair needs the extra moisture.
“Imbue’s Curl Restoring Intensive Mask will nourish your hair from the inside out and lock in much-needed protein to help curls form and feel strong,” says Sultan. “Follow with a conditioner that you can use to help comb or brush through any remaining tangles and also to start your curls or coils to clump together. I love the Curl Respecting Conditioner by Imbue for this part as it really works and leaves the hair feeling incredible.”
Step Two: Extra Hydration
You can also add in a leave-in conditioner for additional hydration; Jarman recommends the Curl Cult Magic Spell. “[It] has plex and pea protein to hydrate and repair, and it also has great UV protection. Although you are not using hot tools, your hair still needs protection from the sun,” she says.
For more coily hair types this step is crucial as this type of hair tends to be dryer and requires more hydration with a style like this. Water-based leave-in conditioners are ideal so the hair doesn’t get too weighed down with product or leave that dreaded white cast on the curls.
Step Three: Separate, Define Curls, & Dry
Next, begin to separate out the curls using a wide-tooth comb or your fingers. Sultan recommends following up with a curl cream and scrunching the product through the hair. “This is the point where you ‘go,’” she says. “Leave the hair to dry naturally. This can take a while if you live in colder climates. My advice is DO NOT TOUCH whilst the hair is drying as you may cause the hair to frizz and break up the curl pattern.” An alternative is to use a diffuser or a dryer with a diffuser attachment and hold close to the curls starting from the back and working your way up to the front, all around your head, making sure to dry at various angles to ensure that your entire head is dried evenly.
Finally, gently shake out your hair using your hands or a large rake to add volume and shape. It may take some time to nail down your perfect wash and go routine, but once you find it, it can be a real game changer. “It’s an easy routine to stick to,” Sultan says. “It’s foolproof once you know what your hair likes and what turns out best.”