Since we last discussed Whitney (Naptural85), her theory has evolved from incorporating co‐washing to alternating between co‐washing and water‐only washing. (In case you missed the previous discussion, here it is: Does Constant Washing Make Natural Hair Grow Faster?.)

What is water‐only washing?

Water‐only washing is not a new concept, but it has become increasingly popular in the natural hair community over the past few years. What is it? It is the washing of hair solely using water with the focus on distributing sebum from the scalp onto the strands. Why is this important? Well, …

… Let’s talk more about sebum

Sebum is a natural substance that lubricates the scalp and conditions the hair. In straight hair, this oily substance can travel down the shaft to the ends fairly easily because of the direct path. The hair’s close proximity to the scalp as well as continual brushing and combing also aid in the transport process. As for textured hair? That is another story.

The coilier the hair, the harder it is for sebum to travel down to the ends because of physics. Imagine oil running down a straight road versus a path full of turns and twists. In the latter case, the oil may take longer to reach the end of the road, getting caught at each curve. This process is basically what coilier/kinkier strands experience. Also, factor in a minimal brushing/combing routine as well as the reality that some natural hair works against gravity (i.e., stands up and out away from the scalp). We then ultimately have a case in which sebum just barely reaches the ends of our hair, if at all, hence, a contributing factor to dryness.

Now back to Naptural85 …

Why did Whitney make the switch to water‐only washing?

Believe it or not, certain conditioners do have the capability to remove a level of oil from the scalp and hair. (Check out Jc’s microscope experiment involving co‐washed strands: Does Co‐washing Really Clean Your Hair.) If co‐washing is done in excess, it may lead to an itchy, dry scalp, which was the case for Whitney; her increased co‐washing was removing too much sebum. Thus, she switched to a routine of water‐only washing alternated with co‐washing as she discusses in the following video. Her scalp has benefited immensely since the switch. Additionally, her hair is loving the routine because of the sebum distribution.

How to start your water‐only wash routine

If you are interested in trying a water‐only wash routine, definitely start by watching the following Q&A video by Wateronlyhairwash. (How appropriate.) She’s been doing the water‐only wash routine for over a year and shares some answers to important questions you may have.

In the mean time, here are some steps to keep in mind:

1. Start by removing previous product buildup with a shampoo, especially a clarifying one if you have serious buildup.

2. Massage your scalp and distribute the sebum throughout your strands with each water‐only wash. Do this section by section (see how Whitney’s video).

3. Apply light oils and/or butters for extra sealing, if necessary.

4. Avoid heavy products.

5. Try to stick with mainly natural products. Use specific natural products to remove excess sebum and dirt accumulation (see Wateronlywash’s video).