The Perfect Wash-N-Go: 4 Steps

The first thing you ought to know about the Wash-N-Go is that the name is, well, rubbish. It inspires visions of you bursting from the shower, shaking out your hair like a sexy Mufasa, and getting dressed to the Bond theme as your perfect African curls spring over your shoulders for the rest of the day.

Of course, if you’ve ever washed natural hair, your reaction to the fantasy described above is probably:

incredulous laughter 1

and then:

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But even though I roll my eyes at the idea of a Wash-N-Go, I’ve found that while my everyday routine is not one step, often it comes pretty darn close, taking about twenty minutes the day of the wash, and less than ten minutes for all the days in between. After perfecting this routine, my curls stayed defined for at least four days, and needed no more styling than a part and skinny headband in the morning. So without further ado, here’s the 5 step, easy-peasy wash-n-go I’ve been sporting almost every day for the last year.

On wash day you’ll need:

Curl-defining cream

Gel

Sectioning clips

A skinny elastic headband

Bonnet dryer attachment (optional)

On days in between you’ll need:

Scrunchies

A satin bonnet

A spray bottle

On Wash Day:

1) Start with your still wet from the shower (I recently did a Wash Day Tutorial). Your hair should be well conditioned, both with rinse-out and leave-in conditioner. You can shake out excess water droplets, but don’t use a towel or any kind of comb. No no no. Your natural shower curls will only frizz and lose definition.

Instead, apply curl-defining cream in sections starting from the bottom, using clips (see gifs) to keep sections apart. With practice, this part can go relatively quickly.

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Curl defining creams are great for coating post shower curls, guarding against frizz and shrinkage, but keeping in a decent amount of moisture. My favorite so far is Miss Jessie’s Curl Defining Crème (big tub, around $30), but honestly, I’ve never tried one that didn’t do the trick. There are many cheaper alternatives for around $15; a quick google search (or visit to the black beauty supply store) should bring many of them up.

2) Guess what? The worst part is already over!

Now, disrupting the layers as little as possible, apply gel throughout your curls to keep them from shrinking or losing definition. I currently use L.A. Looks NutraCurl Gel, Megahold 8.

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3) Dry. Here you have two options, and the first is to do nothing, i.e., skip straight to styling and let it air dry. This is what I’ve been doing most of the time, and it’s fine except for days when the product doesn’t soak up the water very well, and you drip onto your collar at work and soak everyone who tries to hug you. Not fun.

The second option is a more recent discovery of mine: use a bonnet dryer. This is a nifty attachment I found on Ebay for $10-$15. It’s an adjustable nylon bonnet that attaches to your hair dryer. Your hair will be sufficiently dry (drip-free, anyway- it’s unhealthy to heat-dry your hair too thoroughly) after about 15 to 20 minutes.

Jordan Ifueko

You’ll have to pull out your curls a bit after, since they’re slightly mashed by the bonnet. I was skeptical at first, but very soon fell in love. Bonnet drying seals product onto your curls, so that they stay super long and defined for days. The only thing I didn’t like was holding my head at uncomfortable angles while it was tethered to my dryer, but that’s fixed by investing in a hair dryer stand ($10 to $15). That way you can stand straight, and perhaps do your makeup while your hair dries.

4) Style. Start by giving your curly fro with a shallow part, using your fingers.

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Slide on a skinny headband for further shape.

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And you’re done! That wasn’t so bad, was it? And here’s the best part: for the next four days your hair routine is painless. Here’s all you gotta do:

– at night, scrunchie your hair in three big puffs to keep your curls stretched. Cover with a satin bonnet.

-In the morning, take out the scrunchies and reactivate your product by letting your curls steam in the shower (not in the direct water stream) or by lightly spritzing them with water from your spray bottle.

-Style with the part and headband as before. Repeat the above 2 steps every day until your curls have lost definition.

That’s all there is to it! Of course you’ll probably need to experiment with which specific products work for you, but other than that, you’re free to play.

Jordan Ifueko

Don’t forget to post your results in the comments!

Check back on Fridays for new posts on jordanifueko.com!

Natural Hair: Who’s Afraid Of the Big Bad Wash Day?

Even for people with a long history of natural hair, wash day holds a certain horror.

We all remember that day when we were little, when our mother or father looked grimmer than usual. The conditioner was produced. The combs were laid out like instruments from the Tower of London. If we had known what waterboarding meant, we would have applied that term as our parents pushed our heads into the stream, desperate to get the montage of shampooing (Read: “IT’S IN MY EYE IT BURNS OH STOP)”, detangling (Read: “DO YOU HATE ME MOM? DO YOU?! OH I ALWAYS KNEW YOU DID OH DEAR GOD STOP…”) and dryer-combing (Read: *quiet sob*) over with.

Even now when the process is no longer traumatic, we still dread the day for two reasons: combs, and time. How long will it take this time? An hour? Two? Will you have any working  muscles left after eons of holding your arms at various angles to your head, washing, combing, sectioning? Will you have any hair left as the curlicues mount to clog your sink and shower?

These were the questions that haunted me when I first made the decision to go natural. So you can imagine my surprise, when, less than a year later, my wash days hold no horror at all. Because I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: with natural hair, you don’t need to use a comb.

In fact, for defined curls a comb might actually work against you.  Since you’re not going for straight hair, your only aim in detangling should be to avoid hair matting up and breaking off, and for that all you need is your hands and a good product. So without further ado, here’s my recipe for a quick, painless, and effective natural wash day.

Ingredients:

  • Wash-out Conditioner. No shampoo. All the cleansers you need are in conditioner, which is often sulfate free. Plus, the cleansers in shampoo are meant to strip oil from straight hair, which is precisely the opposite of the help you need. You want to get rid of dirt and product, but keep as much moisture as possible.
  • Hair ties/Scrunchies. Small soft ones; rubber bands don’t tend to be very healthy.
  • Leave-in Conditioner- a yummy one! This is what you’ll probably smell like all day.
  • Microfiber towel (optional)

Steps:

1) Wet hair thoroughly.

2) Apply wash-out conditioner to all layers of your hair, giving extra attention to ends. This is your main detangling time, and the wetter and condition-slick your hair is, the easier it will be:

Jordan Ifueko

3) Put back in a bun with one of the hair ties. Leave for as long as possible. Usually I just use that time to shower the rest of me…

Wash Bun

3) Rinse out. You don’t need to be overly thorough; it’s been my experience that a little conditioner residue helps your hair stay defined and hydrated. You don’t want residue on your scalp though. As you rinse, make sure to give your scalp a good scrub and get rid of any product, dead skin, or dirt.

4) Shake out extra water. Never use a cloth towel; they cause curls to frizz and break off, and ruin your cute post-shower layers. To keep this natural definition, shake side to side:

Side to Side

and then bang!

Head Bang

5) Apply leave-in conditioner to your still-wet hair, once again paying attention to ends. This will seal in hydration and keep your curls from matting.

Leave In Conditioner

6) Your hair is now clean and tangle free! If you’re at the beginning of your day, then now’s the time to style. This is usually the point I apply a curl-defining creme and a gel to hold it. Tutorials on my favorite choices are coming soon. If you’re at the end of your day, however:

7) Section your hair out in three of four wet puffs. This will help keep your curls stretched over night.

8) Let air dry, and then cover with a sleeping cap. If you’re going to bed right away, tie on a small micro-fiber towel to soak up water before putting on the cap, so you don’t get a cold!

And there you have it: a natural wash day, tangle and scream free. It shouldn’t take you more than twenty minutes, and when it comes to conditioner, there’s really no need to splurge- though I’m a big fan of anything with tea tree, to keep my scalp dead-skin free.

Usually I wash about once a week. As a last important tip, remember: water is your reset button. Buy a spray bottle, and use it every morning between wash days to reactivate your leave-in product, or even at night to coax out tangles on your ends.

Happy washing!

New posts on jordanifueko.com every Friday!

The Top 5 Myths about Natural Hair

Jordan Ifueko

If your childhood was anything like mine, you probably associate “natural hair” with a horror-film sequence of screaming, detangler spray, and combs that (almost) embody Satan’s wrath. You mother did her best to shape the formidable jungle on your head for school, church, or bedtime. No matter how her eardrums rattled, however, or your head ached, or curlicues of defeated hair clogged your shower drain, you both knew it was Just Until.

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About to go all Bertha Mason up in here.

Just until the next appointment with the braider. Just until the next bottle of relaxer. Just until a weave you could afford. Just until another three hours with the  flattening iron. Then it would be over, for a while. Perhaps between the “long-term” styles, it didn’t even seem like your real hair. That girl in the mirror, the one with the springy fro, or “mickey puffs,” or fluffy twists or cornrows- that wasn’t you. After all, you had hundreds of shiny braids (never mind how much you paid for the pricy extensions) or the sleek, straightened-as-humanly-possible locks (though you feared rainclouds like the Eye of Sauron).

I SEE YOU. And I don't care how long you spent with the hair iron.

I SEE YOU. And I don’t care how long you spent with your flattening iron.

It was when I first caught myself thinking this way that I began to feel nervous. Did I really wrap that much of my identity in extensions, hair that wasn’t even mine? Or in a bottle that promised to make my hair as smooth, straight, and un-Africa-like as possible? How was it that I could spend hours yelling about sexism and racism and rebellion against society’s standards for the female body…when I wasn’t even comfortable with the way my hair grew out of my head?

No humans were scalped in the making of these extensions.

No humans were scalped in the making of these extensions.

For a while I made excuses. I remembered the cringe-worthy reality show of “Jordan’s Childhood Hair Time,” when my mother and I both awaited the morning shower like District Twelve on Reaping Day. I told myself it was too hard, too time-consuming, perhaps not even healthy. But still, for some strange reason I was curious. So I put off my next braiding appointment. I browsed a few style articles online. I subscribed to a black hair channel on YouTube. Two years later I am still in natural hair, and can’t imagine going back. I’ve since attended college full-time, earned a Bachelor’s degree, and acquired a white-collar office job, none of the places or activities considered “safe” to have natural hair without being judged- or being late (from the battle to look “just right”). Yet here I am thriving, and I’m beginning to realize what kept me from making the leap so long: fear. Fear of disasters that never happened. Fear that people would think I looked weird. Fear of inconveniences that, in all honestly, did happen, and then stopped. Because here’s the thing: natural hair isn’t the big, bad beast we’ve been conditioned (pun intended) to think it is. Of course, your hair is your hair, and you should style it however it makes you happy. But before buying that next stack of braiding hair, or investing in another miracle straightener, here are  some myth debunks that I wish I’d known years ago.

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Pinterest, Cheri Pearl Photography

Myth 1: Natural Hair is Less Healthy Than Other Hairstyles (i.e. Your Hair Will Dry Up, Break Off, or Spontaneously Erupt in Flames and You Will Be Miserable Forever and Ever)

I won’t even talk about natural hair vs. relaxers/straightening products/heat styling, because even the biggest natural-phobes know chemicals and frequent heat wreaks havoc on your hair. A more compelling argument you’ll hear though, is that natural styles make it hard for your hair to grow. It’s true that if you leave your hair alone- in long-term fixes like braids, etc.- it will get longer. But natural hair can be the same way. Here’s the trick: keep it moisturized, never towel dry, and never use a comb. It sounds crazy, I know. But I have the pride of Nigeria on my head (the nappiest 4c hair you can imagine), and it’s still tangle-free and growing. That’s an epic journey for future posts, but for now, just know that strong conditioners and your hands are really all you need to detangle. One thing’s certain: if you don’t comb your hair,  it doesn’t break off. Also, with the right products your curls will stay longer and more defined, unlike the frizz that can come with combing. Fact.

Myth 2: Natural Hair is Time-Consuming (i.e. I Take You, Bathroom Mirror, as My New Spouse Until Death Do Us Part) which goes hand-in-hand with Myth 3: You Don’t Have a Lot of Style Options with Natural Hair (i.e. Hats FOREVER!)

I think these were my biggest fears. I was busy woman when I went natural, a working, full time undergrad with late nights and morning classes. But I “made the leap” on Christmas break, posting pictures of my creations to Facebook for feedback (and shameless affirmation), remembering styles that were easy, quick, and most importantly cute. Within two weeks a routine surfaced, and by the time I went back to school I had it down. Below’s a small portion of what I came up with (I’ll be posting tutorials!). Each style is distinct; most of them took 10 minutes, and all of them under 20.

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Kelly Moreira, supermodels.nl

Here’s the key to keeping your style time efficient: don’t try to make your hair look like something it’s not. “Neat” for you looks different than it does for other people. The same goes for “Professional” and “Formal.” Don’t compare yourself even to other curly people- all our patterns are different, and yours is the way it’s meant to be.

Myth 4: You Have to Be “Good With Hair” to Manage Natural Hair (i.e. You Must be a Curl Whisperer) Nope. You just have to know your hair which, granted, takes a little time to do. Trial and error is your friend. Style wet and invest in some basic products, like conditioner, moisturizer, gel and headbands. This can be a fun process- find 2 or 3 quick styles you’re comfortable with everyday, then experiment with more complicated techniques. Even these will seem simple after a while.

Myth 5: You Have to Have a Strong “Ethnic” Identity to Pull Off Natural Hair (i.e. “So Is Your New Hair for Kwanzaa?”) You know what I’m talking about. Sure, kinky fros and bantu knots are fine for your friend/cousin/co-worker, who waxes eloquent on Maya Angelou, wears Kente cloth dresses, or has a “Mother Africa” bumper sticker on her car. But what if you’re slightly more…run-of-the-mill? Or just different? Take me, for example. Yes, my parents are Nigerians. But I was born in Southern California, raised on cornflakes and Jane Austen. I love opera and Masterpiece Theater. I can’t dougie to save a crippled puppy, and I speak like the child of a London ex-patriot and a Los Angeles valley girl. Well, first of all: Your ethnicity means whatever the heck you want it to mean. Anyone who tells you you’re not acting “black,” “white,” or fill-in-the-blank enough obviously doesn’t understand how diversity works. Also, they they should go soak their heads and mind their own business. You should also know that natural hair is extremely versatile. I have an endless supply of flower/jewel clips, ribbons, and even fascinators for as many moods as I have books. I like all styles from Nigerian majestic to Victorian prim. It doesn’t take long to find a style that makes you flutter inside, one that’s completely and irrevocably you.

So remember: More than anything, the leap to natural hair takes commitment. That doesn’t mean time or money. It does mean looking at yourself in the mirror every day and thinking “This is me. This is my hair. And it’s fine.” In fact, it’s beautiful. Will you have a bad hair day every so often? Yes. Literally everyone does, and no one will care as much as you think they will. Need help? Ask for it- from videos, articles, blogs (hint, hint) and of course your friends and relatives (grandmothers existed before straightening irons, and boy do they know their stuff). I’d suggest sticking to it for at least 6 months before giving yourself the option to quit. By then you’ll have established a routine and found products and styles you like- but more importantly you’ll have gotten used to yourself as you truly are, and found, I hope, that you’re drop-dead gorgeous. Here’s to many more years of kinky curly.

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