Reversing My Wash Routine Saved My Curly Hair

On Wednesday, XOJane posted an article all about washing your hair in reverse — and I'm here to sing its praises, too. Flipping my hair-washing routine has made all the difference with my dry hair.

By conditioning first, then shampooing, your strands get to drink up all that great moisture without the buildup it can leave behind. The reverse method trick was a lifesaver for me as I reacquainted myself with my naturally curly hair. Here's how I came to love the reverse method.

I had essentially never met my natural hair until 2009, when I quit relaxers (I began trying to tame its texture since elementary school). For most of my life, I viewed my hair with a mix of contempt and fear. It was something to be controlled, I was told, and now I was letting it out. Our initial interactions were awkward at best.

At first, I used the same products and the same routine from my relaxed days. Big mistake. I would walk out the house in the morning with a shiny and curly afro, like the second coming of Pam Grier (my hair idol, below), but come home with a brittle and poufy mess. I knew there had to be something I was missing, so I signed up for Google University hoping to find the key to my issues.

After a few hours of searching, I found natural hair guru Nikki Walton or Curly Nikki, as her tribe of natural hair curlies call her. She introduced me to the no-poo method of hair cleaning, also known as co-washing. The technique involves nixing shampoo, which contains harmful sulfates that strip the hair, and using only conditioner. Most mainstream conditioners contain small amounts of detergent that can clean your strands, so there is no need for shampoo use.

I tried co-washing for a month and saw fantastic results… for the first month. By the second month my hair was limp and dull. Over-conditioning had created buildup on my strands leaving them lifeless. I needed to add shampoo back into the fold, but in a way that didn’t strip my hair of its moisture.

Then I had a thought — what if I flipped the routine? A-ha!

If I conditioned before the shampoo, my hair would receive its needed dose of moisture and the shampoo would remove the excess conditioner previously weighing my hair down.

The first time I tried the flipped routine, I swear I could hear my strands breathe a sigh of relief. My ends were less brittle, but my roots were still bouncy. I needed less moisturizer throughout the week and my curls held their shape longer. Finally my hair and I had come to an understanding and all was right with the world.

Now, I go back and forth between co-washes and the condition first routine depending on the weather and how my strands are looking. I have seen new co-wash cleansers specially designed to rinse completely away leaving no residue, but I think I’m going to quit while I’m ahead. My hair and I have a great thing going on and I don’t want to mess that up.

Images: Courtesy of Cherise Luter

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