How Often Should Black People Wash Their Hair?

Pace your hair-wash sessions in a way that is most beneficial to your natural curls.

Reviewed by Laura Dale, Licensed Cosmetologist Laura Dale Laura DaleLicensed Cosmetologist linkedin_iconinsta_icon
Written by , BA (Literature & Psychology), PG Diploma Arshiya Syeda BA (Literature & Psychology), PG Diploma Experience: 7 years
Edited by , MA (English Literature) Ramona Sinha MA (English Literature) Experience: 11 years
Fact-checked by , Integrated MA Medha Deb Integrated MA Experience: 5 years
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African-American hair is unique with a curly and coiled texture. Thus, it requires extra care and attention. So, how should African-American people wash their hair?

The sebum may not get distributed to the whole strand when the hair has a spiral texture. Hence, curly hair is often dry and extremely fragile (1). In such cases, intense conditioning may be essential. While African-Americans are advised not to wash their hair too often, it is also not advisable to keep their hair unwashed for far too long. In this article, we have explored the best ways to wash and maintain curly, natural hair. Keep reading.

What Makes Afro Hair Unique?

Woman with natural curls
Image: IStock

Not all afro hair is the same. African-American hair is generally categorized as type 4. It is further divided into three types – 4a, 4b, and 4c – depending on its look, feel, and texture. Type 4 hair is extremely curly and coiled, which makes it difficult to manage. It also tends to be drier and coarser than other kinds of hair (2).

Type 4 hair is extremely wiry, has tight coils, and is very fragile and dry. Even though it looks coarse, each hair strand is very fine, and the strands are packed tightly together. It requires much more care than other types of hair to avoid breakage. Black hair is difficult to brush, let alone style!

Due to its unique characteristics, black hair needs to be treated differently from other kinds of hair. But, how often should you wash your hair? Find out in the next section.

How Often Should I Wash Afro Hair?

Woman getting her afro hair washed
Image: IStock

All hair types, including afro hair, should be washed regularly to remove excess oil, dirt, styling products, and other debris that accumulate on your hair and scalp that might hinder effective hair growth. However, since natural black is drier and more fragile than other kinds of hair, it is not advisable to wash it too often.

So, how often should black hair be washed? It depends on whether it is natural, relaxed, or styled.

  • Natural Hair

Your hair gets dirty over time due to environmental pollutants and styling products. Even though natural black hair is dry, the build-up of debris can make it feel greasy if not washed regularly. You should ideally wash your natural black hair once every seven to fourteen days. Use mild cleansing hair products such as gentle shampoo and conditioner.

protip_icon Quick Tip
You may opt for sulfate-free shampoo to cleanse your hair gently without stripping it of natural oils.
  • Straightened Or Relaxed Hair

Avoid washing your African-American hair for two to three days after getting a perm or after relaxing. Shampooing too soon after the treatment can harm your freshly-processed tresses as they are more susceptible to damage at this time.

If you feel the need for a wash, it is better to use a dry shampoo rather than water and shampoo. Once at least three days have passed since the treatment, you can wash your hair the regular way.

  • Protective Styles

Protective styles like braids, twists, or faux locs not only shield your hair from the harsh sun but also protect it from excessive breakage and environmental damage. However, wearing a protective style does not mean you can skip on a regular cleansing routine!

Braids need to be washed every two to three weeks. Focus on your scalp during the washing routine, and use a clarifying shampoo to get rid of the dirt and scalp build-up on it.

Washing your natural black hair the right way is as important as washing it regularly. Here is how to do it properly.

How To Wash Afro Hair The Right Way

Black woman using a clarifying shampoo for her curls
Image: Shutterstock

Since afro hair tends to be drier and more fragile, it is important to handle it with extra care. Follow a proper regimen to prepare your hair for washing, and shampoo it the right way to make your black hair look vibrant and beautiful.

1. Pre-Shampoo Treatment

Type 4 hair needs to be detangled properly before washing. First, separate your hair strands with your fingers and run a wide-toothed comb through them. You can use a moisturizing oil like coconut oil or olive oil to ease the process. These oils are known for their deep-conditioning properties that make your hair more manageable (3).

Using a pre-shampoo oil makes it easier to detangle your hair and leaves it soft after washing. Leave the oil in your hair for at least 30 minutes before washing it off.

protip_icon Quick Tip
Coconut oil, olive oil, aloe vera, and apple cider vinegar are some hair detanglers you can use on your natural hair.

2. Shampoo

Wet your hair thoroughly in the shower. Start by applying a little shampoo at the roots and wash the length of your hair while taking care that it does not get tangled while lathering.

First, use a clarifying shampoo to remove any product build-up, dirt, and other debris from your hair and scalp. Rinse off and repeat the process with a moisturizing shampoo to hydrate your hair. Use warm water as it helps to open up the cuticles, allowing your hair to absorb more moisture.

3. Condition

Since afro hair tends to be dry, it is very important to condition it after shampooing. Gently wring your hair to get the excess water out after rinsing off the shampoo. Now, apply a moisturizing conditioner. Take care to avoid the roots – it can lead to build-up.

Leave the conditioner on your hair for five to ten minutes to let it absorb the moisture. Rinse off the conditioner. Use slightly cool or cold water for the final rinse as it helps to seal in the moisture from the conditioner.

4. Drying

After washing, it is time to dry your hair properly. Curls can get unruly and unmanageable if not dried with care and styled. Wrap your head in a microfiber towel or an old T-shirt to absorb the excess water. Now you can apply a styling hair gel and proceed to style your hair.

Tandra Smith, a lifestyle blogger, shares how she washes her 4a/4b hair. She writes, “Whether my hair is straight or not, I always start off my wash day by twisting my hair to make it easier to wash (i).” Tandra adds that this helps her shampoo, condition, and detangle her hair easily. She then twists her hair again after applying a leave-in conditioner and uses a hair dryer to dry the twists when she is in a rush. However, she adds, “I never dry my twists all the way because to get the most volume, you want to let them air dry at least 30 percent or longer.”

Conditioning is an important part of the black hair care regimen. It helps keep your hair soft, supple, and easy to style. Good conditioning also supports healthy hair texture. Find out why in the next section.

Why Is Conditioning So Important For Black Hair?

Woman using a conditioning spray on her afro hair
Image: IStock

African-American hair is more fragile and prone to damage from environmental factors, making proper conditioning all the more important for effective hair maintenance.

A good conditioner leaves your hair feeling smoother and helps prevent breakage (4). Conditioners leave a thin wax-like coating on the hair strands and lessen the friction. Smooth and soft hair is less likely to tangle and break. Conditioning also helps to lock in moisture and reduces static and frizz.

Here are three useful tips for conditioning black hair:

  1. Don’t forget to condition your hair every time you wash it. Shampoos can strip the natural oils off your curls, leaving them dry.
  2. Dry conditioners are a great way to give your hair some much-needed moisture between shampoo washes.
  3. Opt for the occasional deep conditioning treatment if you have bleached or colored locks. Bleaching makes your hair more prone to damage, so you need to provide your tresses with extra nourishment (5). Use a good deep conditioner that is suitable for type 4 hair.

African-American athletes and swimmers should take a few precautions to maintain their hair and scalp health. We have outlined some tips below.

Love To Exercise? Here Is How To Care For Your Black Hair

Braid hair into protective styles to protect them against greasy build up at the gym
Image: IStock

People who love to engage in strenuous physical activities like running and swimming might find it especially challenging to care for, wash, and style their black hair. Here are a few hair care tips for active folks:

  1. Brush your hair and style it into braids or a ponytail before working out. This step helps prevent your hair from getting tangled while you exercise.
  2. Wear a cotton headband. By absorbing the sweat from your forehead, it prevents your hair from getting sweaty.
  3. Use a conditioning gel to moisturize your extensions or any other protective style after a workout.
  4. It is important to wash natural hair more frequently if you exercise and sweat a lot. Commit to a weekly washing and conditioning schedule.
  5. Co-wash your hair with a conditioner to retain its elasticity instead of washing it with shampoo every time. Use a clarifying product twice a month.

Infographic: The Best Hair Wash Frequency For Afro-American Hair

Every type of hair needs to be washed, especially Afro-American hair. However, to get the maximum benefits of a hair wash and avoid excessive drying and damage, it is important to maintain the right frequency of washing days.

Check out the infographic to find out how frequently African-American hair should be washed depending on their type and condition.

the best hair wash frequency for afroamerican hair (infographic)

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

African-American hair is categorized as the type 4 hair type consisting of very curly or coily hair. This hair type is very fragile and needs extra TLC to flourish. While it is advised to not wash natural hair too often, it should not go unwashed for too long either. Curly hair should be washed regularly to avoid product buildup and dirt and promote scalp and hair hygiene. If you have natural hair in a protective style, you should wash your hair once a week or twice a month. If you have relaxed hair, you should wash your hair once every 3 days depending on how greasy it gets. Listed above are some tips to help African American people wash their natural hair without causing it to dry out or get damaged and give ample hair styling options.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long should you leave the conditioner in black hair?

You can leave the conditioner in your hair for up to 30 minutes. Over-conditioning can weigh down black hair.

Can Black people wash their hair every day?

No, it is not advisable to wash black hair daily as it can make your hair dry and brittle.

Which shampoos are best for African-American hair?

For the best results, use SLS-free shampoos that are gentle on your hair and scalp (6).

What types of products should Black people use to wash their hair?

Try to use sulfate-free shampoos, as they can strip the hair of natural oils and lead to dryness and further damage. Opt for products containing ingredients like shea butter, coconut oil, aloe vera, and castor oil, which can hydrate and nourish the hair.

What are some common mistakes that Black people make when washing their hair?

Some common mistakes are over shampooing the hair, not using enough conditioner, and frequently using heat-styling tools without heat protectant, which can damage the hair severely. Also, it is important to detangle hair and take care of scalp health by massaging it and removing any build-up, which is often ignored.

Are there any hairstyles that require Black people to wash their hair less frequently?

Yes, protective hairstyles like braids, twists, bantu knots, and wave extensions do not require washing frequently and even protect the hair from damage.

Are there any special treatments that Black people should consider to help keep their hair looking healthy and beautiful?

Yes, some treatments like deep conditioning, hot oil massages, protein treatment, and trimming hair regularly every 6 to 8 weeks can help in keeping their hair healthy and beautiful.

Key Takeaways

  • Natural hair needs more TLC due to its naturally coiled, curly, coarse, and dry texture.
  • Though detangling the tight, wiry coils requires some extra effort, washing them regularly is important to keep the natural curls detangled, clean, and healthy.
  • Protective styles can be washed every 2-3 weeks.
  • Moisturizing and conditioning with every wash goes a long way in maintaining the shine and texture of type 4 hair.

Get ready to embrace your natural hair with a vibrant comprehensive wash day routine that will leave your curls looking bouncy and full of life. From cleansing to conditioning, the video below guides you through the steps for healthy, gorgeous locks. Elevate your natural hair journey now!

Personal Experience: Source

References

Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. Hair Breakage in Patients of African Descent: Role of Dermoscopy
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4857843/
  2. The what, why and how of curly hair: a review
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6894537/
  3. Effect of mineral oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil on prevention of hair damage
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12715094/
  4. Shampoo and Conditioners: What a Dermatologist Should Know?
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26120149/
  5. Significant damage of the skin and hair following hair bleaching
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20860738/
  6. Shampoo and Conditioners: What a Dermatologist Should Know?
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4458934/
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