woman washing hair

Photo by Robert Gomez on Unsplash

More and more naturalistas are saying goodbye to harsh shampoos and adopting no-poo routines. With the use of just their favorite conditioner, they have combined the steps of cleansing and conditioning in one to remove the harsh additives found in most store-bought cleansers. Some people are taking this one step further by omitting all products and simply using water only.

Is less more when it comes to cleansing your natural hair?

Here’s why it could be

The reasoning behind this is that your scalp needs the natural oils, called sebum, it produces for the health of both your scalp and strands. Shampoos strip these natural oils from the scalp. Sebum is actually the scalp’s way of providing all the moisture your hair could ever need. Aside from the sebum, water is the most basic form of hydration for hair. Even store bought moisturizers and conditioners aren’t as effective as your own natural sebum or pure water at restoring the moisture in strands. Between the naturally moisturizing properties of water and the need for more evenly distributed natural oils, the idea of a water only routine makes sense.

Can you wash natural hair with just water?

The simple answer is yes, you can choose the water only routine with any hair texture or hair type. However, all water is not created equal, if you have hard water in the area where you live (water that’s high in mineral content”> then that is going to have an effect on your hair. You can learn more about hard water and your hair here. Even if you do live in an area with hard water coming out of your tap, there are a few great benefits for natural hair that takes on a water only routine. 

The benefits of water-only washing

Sebum decreases

Over time, hair becomes more accustomed to a water-only cleanse, so your natural sebum and hair oils will decrease overtime if you are consistent with a water only routine. Meaning your hair will be less greasy in between wash days.

Less drying

Water is also more moisturizing than most shampoos, so that dry brittle feeling you may have experienced after shampooing is less likely to happen with a water only cleanse.

Natural oils travel further

Another benefit is that the natural oils and sebum will be able to travel easily down the shaft of strands, because the shampoo residue will not be there, and that is it’s natural path without interference. This leaves your hair with a nice and natural gloss.

Resist breakage

If you are in an area with softer water, rather than hard water (you can check here”> your hair will able to resist breakage better while combing or detangling, since shampoo will not have stripped the natural oils prior.

Longer gaps between conditioning

You may be able to go longer without conditioning after transitioning to a water only cleansing method, since the natural sebum isn’t being stripped by the ingredients in shampoos.

Will my hair get greasy or oily?

Going to a water only regimen will be a journey. The initial phases of  not using any products will feel uncomfortable, but the growing pains will eventually go away.

The sebum will make your hair feel greasy to the point of possible embarrassment after a few days or a week, depending on your production. While you may be tempted to throw in the towel just know that your hair doesn’t look as oily as it may feel to you.

Like any other hair care routine, there are keys to successfully making this one work for you. If you find that adopting a water only habit doesn’t work for your curls, there is certainly no shame in going back to what your hair is used to. 

How to decrease oiliness

If the oil production gets to be too much for you, you can always use a natural solution, such as apple cider vinegar, to gently and naturally cleanse away some sebum without over-drying or stripping it completely.

If you do experience oiliness, don’t overdo it with the water. While you may be tempted to rinse hair longer under warm water to try to break up some of the natural oils, you should resist this urge. The goal is to let your scalp do what it does naturally without interfering too much.

Have you tried the “water washing method? If, so how was your transition to a no-poo routine? Share in the comments!

This article has been updated.
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