Natural Hair 101: How to Style, Perfect, and Preserve Your Wash & Go

Natural Hair 101: How to Style, Perfect, and Preserve Your Wash & Go

Hey Curlfriends! We're holding steady and making some progress into this regimen-based Natural Hair 101 series. So far, we've covered:

Why being a product junkie isn't the best idea
How to find your true hair type
Building a regimen that works
Everything you need to know about deep conditioning

Today, we're gonna talk STYLE! At this point in the game, I've been doing wash and go styles for the better part of 6 years. It's my default style, and something that I'm incredibly well versed in — thanks to lots, and lots, and lots of trial and error. Not to pat myself on the back or anything, but a lot of information about perfecting the wash and go style can be traced back to this here blog in some way, shape, form, or fashion.

That said, today's deep dive is not only dedicated to the style, but to the techniques that I've discovered over the years that bring about the best results. We're going to cover product mixing and selection, application and defining techniques, overnight protection, and styling hacks.

Let's dive right in!

The Foundation

1. C L E A N  hair!
I know, I know. I've seen the videos too. And you could do a wash and go on dirty hair, but don't call me the next day when your curls are dry, rough, dull, and flaking all over the place (the clips that got left out of the YouTube video ­čÖâ)

Natural Hair 101: How to Style, Perfect, and Preserve Your Wash & Go

Because I warned you.

The best, longest-lasting results always come from clean hair. I don't care if you co-wash it, shampoo it, clay it, or wash it in the blood of the Lamb — just make sure your hair and scalp are sufficiently removed of product build-up. Build up causes everything from your deep conditioner to curl definer of choice to be less effective — leaving you frustrated and feeling like you wasted time (and money).

2. Don't skip the deep conditioning session. 
I could go on and on, but deep conditioning is your first line of defense in fighting frizz and dryness while ensuring style longevity. Read here for a deeper dive into the science-backed best practices for deep conditioning natural hair.

3. Choose your products wisely & according to your desired outcome.
Do you want big day 1 hair, or do you care more about the wash & go lasting 4+ days? When it comes to picking your curl definer, that matters. As a general rule, lighter gels and creams will give you more big hair action on day 1, but lend themselves to frizzing quickly (especially if you start manipulating it once it dries). More potent gels and harder curl creams won't start giving you big hair action until day 2 or 3, but then you have 2+ days of yassssss after that. How do you know which result you're going to get? I'm glad you asked:

The Patch Test: Your crystal ball for style results & product pairing
Before I apply any product combination, old or new, I test it on a small section of my hair. I will cleanse and lightly condition a small section of my hair, and then apply my cocktail of products as I intend to use them on my whole head. I tend to do this the night before wash day, and go to bed with that section damp. I wake up in the morning and check the results.

Natural Hair 101: How to Style, Perfect, and Preserve Your Wash & Go

This method is how I selected the products I would use for the duration of this challenge. With the patch test, I knew that tgin's Green Tea Leave-In pairs well with WetLine Xtreme Gel, as does the Soultanicals' Mango Dip Detangling Slip. Even if you only do it once, for the love of sweet baby Jesus, please try the patch test. It will give you the best glimpse into what your hair will look like when all is said and done.

The Method: Defined, Moisturized Curls that Last
I won't mince words — ya girl knows a thing or two about washing and going. Since 2013, I've pretty much seen and done it all. Below are some of my best tips and hacks for maximizing this summer staple style:

4. Wet hair. Wet  hair. WET HAIR.
If you really want your best chance at fighting frizz and style longevity, you MUST work on wet hair. Not damp hair, not hair that has been air drying for 15-20 minutes, but wet hair. Why? In general, frizz is caused by the cuticle of the hair swelling in an attempt to absorb water content from the air. This action is especially noticeable in kinky, curly, and coily hair, because our textures tend to be drier (due to the structure of the hair itself). If the hair is saturated in water, it will not as readily begin the process of trying to swell and absorb from the air around you. This is part of the reason why your hair looks so poppin' and defined when wet. I apply my leave-in, moisturizer, or hair lotion while in the shower, and use the water to help distribute it through my hair. When I don't, my hair acts a whole frizzy fool.

Natural Hair 101: How to Style, Perfect, and Preserve Your Wash & Go
5. Start with sections. A lot of them.
Walk around your house and gather up alllll the clips — because you're going to need them. Before styling, I recommend you split your hair into as many workable sections as you need, while your hair is still wet. I typically divide my hair into 8-9 sections, loosely twist, then clip them up before I start working. Here's why: one, it keeps my hair wetter longer. I don't have to worry about too much in the re-wetting or spraying department when I keep those other sections tucked away. Two, it really helps the products soak into my low porosity sections (bonus points if you put a plastic cap over the sections not being worked). Lastly, it's an easy way to keep tangles to a minimum.

Tip: If you've got super lo-po hair that just won't quit, don't be discouraged. In my low porosity sections, I just re-wet them with warm water, and squish in a little more leave-in to get that sleek, slippery feel all over again. 

6. Get close to the root.
You don't have to slather products on your scalp directly, but do get as close to the root as possible. Otherwise, you'll have puffy, frizzy roots and well-defined length. Also, be sure you've got enough product to take all the way to the ends.

7. Hands off!
While your hair is drying, try your best to avoid hand-in-hair syndrome. Touching the hair before the gel cast has had a chance to set is a sure way to end up with frizz. These days, I'm up under my hooded dryer until my hair reaches about 80-90% dry. I very rarely air dry anymore, as I typically style my hair at night before bed. Also, I'm pretty convinced that the hooded dryer helps my style "set" better.

Exxxxxtra Curl Poppage: My Felicia Leatherwood Detangler Brush Method
If you've been around these parts for a while, then you know that I used to be all about that rake & shake action. Then I met Felicia Leatherwood and her brush.

And the rest was history.

Natural Hair 101: How to Style, Perfect, and Preserve Your Wash & Go

I love using the Felicia Leatherwood Detangler Brush to define my curls. It helps remove tangles and snags, while smoothing and evenly distributing product (unlike the Denman IMO). I'm still using the techniques in this blog post and video, so check it out for the full 411 on getting those extra spiralicious curls. There's also this swipe story with the details!

The Finish: Don't Walk Out with the Wet Look ­čśé

8. Break your cast like a pro!
This section right here, I owe ALL to my girl @thebspotbeauty. She put me on to this method one day at work, and I am forever grateful.

Once your curls are all dry, it's time to break the cast and make them touchably soft — while not causing extra frizz and drama. To make this happen, you need those clips (I hope you didn't put them away yet lol), a blow dryer, and your oil or butter of choice. I've been using Be Kekoa's Mana Butter for this, and it gives my hair great softness and shine, while locking in moisture. Allow me to demonstrate:

Section-by-section, take a tiny bit of butter or oil and run it down individual curls (or a small clump of them) — almost like shingling. Don't do a whole lot of twisting and pulling, but gently stretch as you add your butter or oil. This breaks the gel cast, leaving you with supple, soft curls and extra shine.

Once you've done this throughout your entire head, use your blow dryer to gently stretch at the root for a little elongation. If you prefer not to use heat, grab a lifetime supply of scrunchies and start banding!

9. Protect your curls right overnight.
If your mane is multi-textured like mine, a simple pineapple or bonnet will never do. That's why I have two main ways I wear my hair at night. One is a banding-scarf pineapple combo. The other is simply a big ol' clip and my scarf.

Since my hair shrinks more in the front, I band the front half of my hair, and bring the back half up with a scarf pineapple. My outermost face-framing layers are still bouncing back from damage, so I don't band them. Instead, I just hold them down with a bobby pin. Here's what it looks like:

Natural Hair 101: How to Style, Perfect, and Preserve Your Wash & Go

To avoid too much stress on my strands, I don't band every night. In fact, most nights after I go through my gel cast break and stretch, I just use this gigantic banana clip I got at Ulta forever ago, cover my hair with a scarf, and call it a night.

Yep, same clip. I'm honestly shocked it hasn't broken. It's a little worn down from holding my increasingly thicker year throughout the years, but it ain't snapped on ya girl yet!

In all cases, I sleep on a satin pillowcase. Because when you stay ready, you ain't gotta get ready.

Well folks, that about sums it up for all my tips and hacks! We're coming down the other side of the mountain on the Natural Hair 101 series, and I'm going to end with two more posts and a video: one dedicated to preventing and bouncing back from damage, and a final wrap-up about everything I learned, how my hair has progressed, and what I'll be doing going forward regimen-wise.

Stay tuned!


  1. It might be because I may have overlooked a post, my apologies if so but do you use and/or have knowledge about puddings? I have kinkier hair and gel has yet to work for me. So I've started to get into puddings as an alternative for curl definition. With your knowledge, do you think puddings are a viable alternative for gel or would they still be considered a type of leave in?

  2. Yes w/ the WNG I learned the hard way to apply the product to the root of your hair. When doing a WNG I divide my hair in four sections (like I'm doing a relaxer) and I apply the product to the root w/ a tinting brush as if I'm apply color or a relaxer and OMG the difference. My WNG's are fabulous now and I swear by Cantu for Naturals its awesome!!! Oh and Cantu's Define and Shine curling jelly is awesome!!!

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