African-American woman wearing a grey dress and hand on her hip.

One of the things I love most about being natural is the versatility it provides! Since I big chopped almost two years ago, it has truly been a journey learning what my hair needs and becoming familiar with what works best for my curl pattern. Lately, I have been enjoying getting out of my comfort zone and trying new hairstyles and protective styles such as headwraps, braids, and sew-ins are my favorites. In order to get the most out of a protective style, it’s very important to still keep a wash routine and be sure to take care of your scalp and natural hair. Keep reading as I share my wash day routine while wearing a sew-in, plus the do’s and don’ts of a rocking a protective style.

1. A clean scalp is essential

When wearing a sew in, you want to be sure you’re still cleansing your scalp regularly. Thankfully, I found a new protective styles line called Girl + Hair and it really came through in the clutch while I wore my sew-in for 6 weeks. What I loved most about this line is that the entire collection is specifically made for protective styles. The line is sulfate, alcohol, and paraben free, plus all of the products have nozzles which make it very easy to apply directly to my scalp.

While wearing my sew-in, I washed my hair weekly and my routine consisted of the Girl + Hair Cleanser, which has a great lather and refreshing peppermint smell that immediately made my scalp feel fresh and clean.

Tip: Be sure to lift the extensions at the base and get underneath the braid. I would follow up with the Girl + Hair ACV Rinse, which was essential for weeks in which I worked out several times to remove product build-up, without stripping my hair.

2. Wash on time

A big mistake some curlies make is to think they can treat their extensions more like braids and not wash them for an extended period. While certain protective styles let you extend the break between wash days up to two weeks, the extensions and your scalp should be washed more regularly when wearing a sew-in. A good rule of thumb is to wash your sew in every 7 days, with 10 days being the absolute maximum.

Tip: After you clean your scalp, deep condition your extensions to keep the hair soft, tangle free and to revitalize the curl pattern.

3. Oil is your friend

I never understood the importance of oiling my scalp until I started wearing protective styles. I used the Girl + Hair Restoring Balm, which has a blend of oils such as castor, shea, abyssinian, and olive oil. I would keep this on hand any time I got that weave itch and it most definitely cured the itch – if you wear weaves and extensions you know exactly what I’m talking about. Instead of patting my head or using a rat tail comb, I’d apply some oil to my scalp and it would instantly soothe it.

Tip: Fight the urge and don’t scratch under your braids because you will loosen your braids. Oil your scalp daily to cure the itch.

4. Massage the scalp along the tracks

To encourage hair growth, be sure to massage your scalp along the tracks. With proper circulation, your scalp will feel healthy while encouraging new hair growth.

Tip: Make sure you massage with the tips of your fingers and not your nails! You don’t want tiny scratches in the surface of your scalp, which can harbor bacteria.

5. Don’t wear your sew-in more than 6-8 weeks

I can speak from experience that it’s best to not wear your sew-in for more than 6-8 weeks. I’ve taken my hair down before after wearing a sew-in for almost three months only to be left with a matted mess and an extremely dry scalp. Don’t make my mistake, believe me, it’s not worth the pain and misery. After you take down your sew-in, let your hair breathe for at least two weeks before trying another protective style.

Tip: Invest in quality hair, wash it and save it for your next hairstyle.

How do you wash your hair when you have a sew-in? Let me know in the comments below.

Want more from Alexandra? Follow me on Instagram for all things hair, beauty, and fitness.

Read about my Natural Hair Journey

Find out How I’m Growing Out My Natural Hair After My Big Chop

Learn How to Rock Protective Styles for Beginners

Alexandra Wilson

Alexandra Wilson

Alexandra is the Editor in Chief at NaturallyCurly who is an advocate for women entrepreneurs and inclusivity in media. Alexandra is passionate about empowering women to share their story and walk in their purpose. She is the founder of Queens Conquer, a branding and consulting firm for women in business. She strives to be a role model for girls and volunteers her time mentoring today’s youth to share her journey and importance of self-love, sisterhood and living limitlessly. In her spare time, you'll find her brunching with friends, hiking in the hills and cooking cajun cuisine.

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