washing hair with water only

Curlies, wavies, and coilies know all about adopting alternative avenues for hair care. It is in our blood, or rather, in our hair follicles to know we need to think outside the box to care for our fragile and beautiful tresses. Many have embraced more natural products and methods to care for their hair, and while some seem pretty normal, others are pretty uncommon. Nothing wrong with that, as we  have unique strands that sometimes need a little unorthodox approach to be cared for.  

"Rinse-Only" hair washing

One unorthodox method of hair care that is growing in popularity is the water-only hair washing. It is also called rinse-only, as you wash solely with water. Despite the simplicity of the act there are some slight variations. Some simply use the water and their fingertips while others add a boar brush, but the premise is the same with cleansing with water and working with your sebum instead of working against it.

Why just water?

Many shampoos strip the very essence of our hair’s natural oils and our scalp tries to correct this by overproducing sebum. According to the Science of Acne, sebum is a naturally occurring substance produced by the sebaceous glands, which moisturize, lubricate, and protect our skin and hair. The method of water only washing is eliminating cleansers so that your hair will stop overproducing sebum and your scalp’s natural pH will rebalance.

For centuries, women in China, Japan, and Southeast Asia have used rice water to wash and rinse their hair.
Dr. Margaret Trey

Despite the recent surge in attention from naturals, curlies, coilies, and minimalists, this form of washing dates back hundreds of years. Dr. Margaret Trey says that "For centuries, women in China, Japan, and Southeast Asia have used rice water to wash and rinse their hair." Rice water has amazing benefits for hair like decreasing friction and improving hair’s elasticity. It can also protect against and repair hair damage. Hair Buddha says, "Our ancestors used brushes and hot water to cleanse their bodies and hair, as they did not have all the advanced products we now use and take for granted."

True water only washing means no use of any product. The hair is washed with fingertips vigorously under warm or lukewarm water to break up and remove all the dirt from your hair and scalp. The boar bristle brush is used to spread the sebum from the roots to the ends to help facilitate moisturizing, protect the hair, and remove dust and dirt from the scalp and hair.

What about grease?

There is a greasy period where the scalp is learning to produce less sebum and your hair may not look the best but if you are co-washing regularly, then you know there was a period of getting used to that as well. Many women cover their head with scarves, bandanas, hats, or keep hair braided while weaning their hair off shampoo. This period can last anywhere from two to six weeks before the scalp balances itself out.

American Board Certified Hair Colorist and licensed cosmetologist Monae Everett has a different view of water washing. First off, she calls it water rinsing and not washing, as the technique breaks up the dirt and oil but does not actually remove it. As a professional in the field of hair care and beauty, Ms. Everett believes in more traditional methods on cleansing with the use of shampoos but can understand not everyone may subscribe to that means.

Ms. Everett does see how this technique can be attractive to some and even beneficial when trying to discover your natural curl pattern. Oftentimes products we use can mask our true pattern, but rinsing with only water can give a clearer reading on your own hair. Water rinsing allows an individual to find out your personal hair needs like how your hair responds to external elements and pollutants and how often to cleanse and condition. If you try this method for a few weeks to better understand your hair’s needs, then this may be beneficial in the long run for learning what your hair needs to retain moisture and combat breakage.

The perfect cleansing routine for you

Ms. Everett discusses a way someone may try this method on a trial basis:

A smart way to incorporate this in your cleansing routine would be to water rinse (wash) for a few weeks. This is the time for you to see your natural curl pattern and discover what your tresses feel and look like. Then, go onto trying an apple cider vinegar rinse to remove any excessive buildup and balance the pH of your hair. They could also instead try shampooing once a month and slowly increase to find the perfect cleansing routine that gives you healthy, moisturized hair.

Is water washing something you may want to try? Are you already addicted?