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Advice

How to wash and go for naturally curly hair

How to wash and go for naturally curly hair
View Gigi Gordon's profile

You've probably heard the phrase 'wash and go' thrown around in the curly community, but what does it actually mean? Funnily enough, it does what it says on the tin.

Wash and go simply means you WASH your hair (i.e. shampoo and condition), add your styling products, then GO and get on with your day. That's it.

Rather than spending lots of time straightening, blow drying or diffusing your hair, you let your hair air dry as you go about your day. You don't manipulate your natural curl pattern with rods, twists, or Bantu Knots - you simply embrace your hair's birthday suit.

The wash and go is a great way to refresh stretched, dry or frizzy curls. The method lets your hair start again, without putting it through the stress or damage of heat manipulation techniques. Saving you time and breakage, the wash and go technique is at the centre of the natural hair lifestyle. If you're looking to go natural, trying to cut down your routine, or moving towards heat-free styling - the wash and go is exactly what you need.

You can wash and go in four simple steps:

  1. Cleanse
  2. Condition
  3. Style
  4. Airdry

Step 1: Cleanse those curls

  • Bouclème Curl Cleanser 300ml

    Bouclème Curl Cleanser 300ml

    3.9 Stars 10 Reviews
    £8.00
  • Ouidad Ready Set Clean Shampoo 266ml

    Ouidad Ready Set Clean Shampoo 266ml

    £28.00
  • KeraCare Hydrating Detangling Shampoo 950ml

    KeraCare Hydrating Detangling Shampoo 950ml

    3.92 Stars 13 Reviews
    £5.40
  • Shea Moisture Red Palm Oil & Cocoa Butter Detangling Shampoo 399ml

    Shea Moisture Red Palm Oil & Cocoa Butter Detangling Shampoo 399ml

    3.67 Stars 3 Reviews
    £10.99
  • Bouclème Unisex Hydrating Hair Cleanser 300ml

    Bouclème Unisex Hydrating Hair Cleanser 300ml

    £17.00
  • Shea Moisture Fruit Fusion Weightless Shampoo 384ml

    Shea Moisture Fruit Fusion Weightless Shampoo 384ml

    4.52 Stars 23 Reviews
    £10.99

Make sure your cleanser is gentle yet effective, uplifting dirt without stripping the strands. For curly hair, squeaky clean is a bad thing, it means your hair has been stripped. Instead, your hair should feel clean from root to tip, but still moisturised.

Work the shampoo in at the scalp, moving in a backwards and forwards motion, rather than in circles. Circles can encourage your hair to matt, making detangling all the more difficult. Focus on the scalp only - your lengths will get cleansed when you rinse the shampoo out.

Cleansing is an extremely important part of any hair care routine, but this is especially true for curly hair types. We use so much product to keep our coils defined and springy, which actually creates a build-up on the scalp. This build-up can cause irritation and itchiness, even slowing hair growth in some cases. Rather than going shampoo free, as some outlandish may methods say, we recommend going sulphate free.

If you're following the Curly Girl Method, you'll need to check your cleanser is CG Approved. Even if you're not following the CGM, I would recommend choosing a sulphate-free shampoo (all of the shampoos listed above are free from sulphates).

Sulphates can be very harsh on hair, stripping the strands of their natural moisture and drying out the locks. As curly hair is already more prone to dryness than other hair types, sulphates can be a recipe for disaster.

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Step 2: Apply conditioner and carefully detangle

Sectioning is vital if you have a coily texture. If you’re not sure which texture you are, discover your curly hair type, here on LOOKFANTASTIC. If you have hair types 3 or 4, separate your hair into four sections. If you're type 2, you'll be fine with just two.

Starting at the ends of your first section, apply the conditioner in a downwards motion, slowly working your way up your hair. Once the area is saturated, go in very carefully with a comb or brush. When I say carefully, I mean really carefully. Your ends are the most fragile and prone to breakage, so if rushing through it, you'll simply snap your hair. If you can't get your hair to grow past your shoulders or it keeps breaking - this could be why (it certainly was for me). If you have the time and patience to finger detangle before going in with a comb or brush, your hair will love you for it.

Move through section by section, taking as long as you need to carefully detangle your curls. After you've finished detangling, leave the conditioner in for however long the directions instruct. I just put my hair up in a bun and continue with the rest of my shower routine.

  • Ouidad Advanced Climate Control Defrizzing Conditioner 250ml

    Ouidad Advanced Climate Control Defrizzing Conditioner 250ml

    £24.00
  • Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl & Shine Conditioner 379ml

    Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl & Shine Conditioner 379ml

    4 Stars 10 Reviews
    £10.99
  • Imbue Curl Respecting Conditioner 400ml

    Imbue Curl Respecting Conditioner 400ml

    4 Stars 8 Reviews
    £8.99
  • As I Am Hydration Elation Intensive Conditioner 227g

    As I Am Hydration Elation Intensive Conditioner 227g

    3.8 Stars 10 Reviews
    £12.30
  • Camille Rose Naturals Algae Renew Deep Conditioner 240ml

    Camille Rose Naturals Algae Renew Deep Conditioner 240ml

    4.69 Stars 16 Reviews
    £15.99
  • Shea Moisture African Black Soap Bamboo Charcoal Conditioner 384ml - Exclusive

    Shea Moisture African Black Soap Bamboo Charcoal Conditioner 384ml - Exclusive

    £10.99
  • Bouclème Curl Conditioner 300ml

    Bouclème Curl Conditioner 300ml

    3.65 Stars 17 Reviews
    £9.00
  • Umberto Giannini Curl Jelly Care Conditioner 250ml

    Umberto Giannini Curl Jelly Care Conditioner 250ml

    5 Stars 1 Reviews
    £8.25

Step 3: Super Styling

Now, this step varies from curly to curly. Some swear by the Curly Girl Method, others by the LOC method. Although how you layer your products and which ingredients you use are down to personal preference (and a lot of trial and error), every head of waves or curls needs hydration and hold.

You'll find hydration in the form of curl creams and lotions, and hold in the form of curl gels, definers and jellies. How much you need of each depends on your hair type.

The coarser your texture (type 4, I'm talking to you), the more hydration you'll need. This means you generally need products with thicker consistencies and more of them.

If you have a looser texture (that's type 2), lots of thick product can weigh your hair down, so go for something light and apply less of it. Those with waves also may need more hold, as your curls are more likely to drop.

Best curl creams and lotions:

  • Ouidad Advanced Climate Control Featherlight Styling Cream 168ml

    Ouidad Advanced Climate Control Featherlight Styling Cream 168ml

    5 Stars 1 Reviews
    £26.00
  • Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie 355ml

    Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie 355ml

    4.32 Stars 34 Reviews
    £12.99
  • Aveda Be Curly Curl Enhancer 200ml

    Aveda Be Curly Curl Enhancer 200ml

    4.62 Stars 268 Reviews
    £23.00
  • Camille Rose Naturals Curl Love Moisture Milk 240ml

    Camille Rose Naturals Curl Love Moisture Milk 240ml

    4.73 Stars 30 Reviews
    £11.99
  • Flora & Curl Organic Rose & Honey Leave-in Detangler 300ml

    Flora & Curl Organic Rose & Honey Leave-in Detangler 300ml

    £19.00
  • Bouclème Curl Cream 300ml

    Bouclème Curl Cream 300ml

    4.09 Stars 23 Reviews
    £7.60
  • Cantu Avocado Curl Activator Cream 340g

    Cantu Avocado Curl Activator Cream 340g

    £7.99

Best curl gels, definers and jellies:

  • Umberto Giannini Curl Jelly Scrunching Jelly 200ml

    Umberto Giannini Curl Jelly Scrunching Jelly 200ml

    5 Stars 4 Reviews
    £7.25
  • As I Am Curling Jelly Coil and Curl Definer 227g

    As I Am Curling Jelly Coil and Curl Definer 227g

    4.64 Stars 11 Reviews
    £10.00
  • Flora & Curl Sweet Hibiscus Curl Defining Gel 300ml

    Flora & Curl Sweet Hibiscus Curl Defining Gel 300ml

    5 Stars 3 Reviews
    £16.00
  • Bouclème Curl Defining Gel 300ml

    Bouclème Curl Defining Gel 300ml

    4.51 Stars 41 Reviews
    £8.00
  • Camille Rose Naturals Curl Maker Curling Jelly 355ml

    Camille Rose Naturals Curl Maker Curling Jelly 355ml

    4.83 Stars 6 Reviews
    £16.99

Step 4: Get going

A key part of the Wash and Go is the going. Once your hair is washed, conditioned and styled to perfection, you leave the house or get on with your day.

If it’s a particularly cold day, or you just don’t fancy going into work or school with wet hair, then you can add a diffuser to the end of this routine. Just make sure you have it on a low heat to minimise damage.

Top tip: when diffusing, you should always leave your hair for at least 30 minutes to dry naturally first. If you try to instantly diffuse, you’ll just create frizz.

  • BaByliss Hydro Fusion Hair Dryer with Diffuser

    BaByliss Hydro Fusion Hair Dryer with Diffuser

    £60.00
  • BaByliss PRO 3-in-1 Universal Diffuser

    BaByliss PRO 3-in-1 Universal Diffuser

    3.26 Stars 34 Reviews
    £7.15

Discover More...

Want to learn more about caring for naturally curly hair? Check out our latest post below, or shop according to your hair type in the Curly and Afro sections. 

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As a haircare obsessive, I’m always on the lookout for new products and methods that will define my crown. I can never stick with a hairstyle for too long, and I love to pair minimal makeup with a bold lip. I specialise in haircare, with a mission to make all hair types and textures look and feel fantastic. If you’re after a new routine or product – I’m your girl, I’ve tried every haircare challenge and all the curl creams I can get my hands on. I couldn’t live without my wash-and-go routine, and I follow the Curly Girl Method religiously. Unable to find my perfect salon, I’ve always cut, braided and dyed my own hair, working as a freelance hairdresser since 2016. Although I’m a long-time fanatic, I’ve been writing about beauty since 2019, working with haircare specialists from Cantu, Boucleme and Mielle Organics to uncover the best tricks and tips. Felicia Leatherwood is my haircare guru, and Scary Spice is my all-time icon.
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