Here's Why You Should Use Less Products on Wash Days

Ditch the oil, butter, and cream.

Someone with a curly natural hair texture putting a towel on their head
Photo: Getty Images/InStyle

When I first went natural, I spent too much time and money trying to find that magical holy grail product to keep my hair looking and feeling great. I couldn't figure out why my hair stayed dry despite trying every oil, butter, and cream on the market.

But an article I found online in the early 2000s suggesting a no-oil method forever changed the way I approached haircare. The idea sounded ridiculous — Black hair without oil? — but I was willing to try anything.

The results were stunning. The dryness was gone, and it was replaced by soft, springy coils that lasted for days. The more I wet my hair the better it felt, and I began washing, conditioning, and detangling in the shower one to three times a week, especially after heavy exercise. I finished by applying a light leave-in conditioner and gel to soaking wet hair for a fab wash-and-go. The routine took no more than 30 minutes, not counting drying time.

I'd found the cheat code to natural hair, I thought. I told quite a few naturals about my process when I heard them lamenting their wash days complete with pre-poos, deep conditioners, creams, butters, and oils in addition to shampooing and conditioning, but most weren't receptive. They flat out said this was unhealthy for Black hair.

Jennifer-Rose Johnson, owner of the FROHaus in Jersey City, New Jersey, can relate.

When she appeared in a YouTube video with a popular natural hair influencer in 2013, she told viewers that oils, butters, and creams weren't necessary, and encouraged Black women to wash their hair more often.

"It was me and maybe one or two other stylists shouting into the void 'no, you don't need all this stuff,'" Johnson says. "You're hurting your hair."

She believes many weren't listening because the cosmetology community was slow to adapt to natural haircare that didn't involve heat or chemical straightening. Individuals filled the gap by sharing their homegrown routines and product discoveries on social media and YouTube, gaining trust and loyal followers in the process.

But the message seems to be sticking this time: A growing number of Black stylists are encouraging naturals to drop the YouTube methods and embrace a shorter, more straightforward routine for healthy hair.

The Basics

Shampoo at least once weekly, more often if you exercise frequently or your hair starts to feel dry. Understand that oils, creams, and butters don't seal in moisture, but form a barrier that repels hydration, explaining why your hair feels dry later.

Properly moisturized hair shouldn't frizz. A good conditioner will provide all the moisture your hair needs, and leave-in conditioners aren't necessary, although some naturals (me included) like them as styling aids.

Smiling person with natural hair in tight coils

And by the way, this advice works for all hair types — no matter the diameter or tightness of coils. The 1A to 4C hair typing chart doesn't matter.

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Making the Shift

The Chicago stylist Aishia Strickland went viral with an online article detailing what professional stylists wanted Black women to stop doing with their hair. Her friend Aeleise Ollarvia, who works in Chicago and outside Atlanta, supplied an additional article imploring naturals to stop using shea butter and coconut oil.

The uproar from readers let Ollarvia and Strickland know they were onto something.

"With certain methods, people were using them because they were popularized," Ollarvia shares. "It was something where people could say, 'this is what you do for natural hair.' We found it's more about the mindset people have that natural hair has to be hard or that natural hair requires so much effort."

Today, as Black Girl Curls, Ollarvia and Strickland educate individuals and stylists about natural hair care through their digital salon, eBooks, email lists, and social media posts. They also offer in-person training in natural hair cutting and styling for cosmetologists.

Finding Black Girl Curls changed Shakera Kemp's career trajectory. Kemp was once a follower of YouTube hair videos, but after seeing Ollarvia and Strickland, she simplified her routine and decided to become a natural hair stylist.

"My hair was always dry, and I was always slathering on coconut oil and olive oil trying to moisturize it," says Kemp, who owns JVA Beauty in Syracuse, New York. "When I got into the digital salon, I started just using shampoo, conditioner, and a styling agent and my hair shifted. It looks and feels totally different."

Camille Janae, a stylist, and owner of Mahogany and Rose Salon in Sacramento, California, was another convert to the no oil, no butter, no cream life who also became a natural hair stylist. She too has gotten her share of snarky social media comments about the routine but gets just as many crediting her for their endless great hair days.

"The natural hair community likes to refer to trends, methods, or challenges, but this isn't a trend or a particular method," she said. "Even though it's new to the greater YouTube and curly hair community, it's not a new practice. It's just shifting mindsets and providing simplified haircare."

This is All Natural. From the kinkiest coils to loose waves, we're celebrating natural hair in its many forms by sharing expert tips for styling, maintenance, and haircare.

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