Reader Q&A: CurlyNikki's Top Tips for Wash Day

Curly Nikki LEAD

Calling all naturalistas: Do you have urgent tress questions? If so, you're in luck. Every Thursday, natural hair blogger extraordinaire CurlyNikki will be solving your curly hair conundrums! Submit your questions by tweeting them to @EssenceMag with the hashtag #AskCurlyNikki.

READER QUESTION: Nikki, I have such a hard time when I wash my hair. What can I do to simplify my wash day?

CURLYNIKKI'S RESPONSE:  Here are three additions to my natural hair routine that have changed the game and not only made wash day easier and less stressful, but also changed my hair for the better.

Health over styling- When I’m mindful of my hair’s health (moisture/protein balance), everything else falls into place. Folks are always super duper concerned about curl definition, but if your hair curls, then you’ll achieve the best definition on moisturized hair. I get the best hair days after deep treatments (DT). Which is one of the reasons why I do my best to DT at least once a week. So if we can re-calibrate and re-focus on the health of our tresses, the aesthetic will naturally follow. My favorite DT right now is any rich conditioner mixed with yogurt!

Finger detangling and styling- This helps me to not only achieve better definition but also improves length and volume retention. I have bigger and longer hair when I religiously opt for my 10 digits over any brush or comb. As far as detangling, it’ll take a bit of practice to master the technique. Just remember to do it in small sections, working from the ends up in a gentle manner. Don’t pull or rip at your hair, but gently remove shed hair and tangles. While I can finger detangle on dry hair successfully, I suggest beginners start on wet hair that’s soaked with conditioner in the shower. The power of the shower stream and slipperiness from your conditioner should make finger detangling a cinch. For styling a wash-and-go, use your fingers like a comb. The raking motion (which captures chunks of hair between my fingers) creates perfect little spirals. Using your fingers will keep more hair on your head and allow you to enjoy longer lengths. Some people liken using a comb or brush (especially on dry hair) to getting a trim! Yikes.

Pre-poo’ing- The cleansing process, while necessary, can be stressful on our delicate strands. Shampoo can strip hair of vital oils and leave strands rough and all the more tangly. A pre-poo is a treatment applied prior to shampooing that consists of oils and/or conditioners. It is usually performed to help the hair maintain necessary moisture during the drying shampoo process. Pre-poo treatments greatly reduce hygral fatigue — the expanding and contracting of hair as water enters and exits — and help maintain the structural integrity of the cuticle and cortex. Pre-pooing also makes hair easier to detangle, which results in less breakage when it's combed. The night before wash day, or sometimes just 15-30 minutes prior to jumping in the shower, I’ll apply a ton of coconut oil and don a plastic shower cap. I can’t even describe to you the wonderful effect this simple step has. Try it and thank me later!

Nikki "CurlyNikki" Walton is a successful psychotherapist and creator of one of the most credible online sources about natural hair care, maintenance and decoding the psychological ties between black women and their hair. Visit her at her blog CurlyNikki or follow her on Twitter @CurlyNikki.