Water Only Washing: A Skeptic’s Opinion

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By: Rachel Edwards, Contributor

The natural hair community is no stranger to change; everywhere we turn, there are new styles, methods, and products promising us healthier and more beautiful hair. As the movement gains more and more clout, naturalistas are bombarded with more and more information–hidden wisdom and hoax alike. For some, this wealth of knowledge can be paralyzing. In the midst of an abundance of resources–from natural hair forums to YouTube help channels–it is becoming increasingly hard to find what works for you and to stick with it. We have a tendency to forget that hair is unique to the individual, and that no product, just like no method, is created equal.

And so goes my story of the Water Only Wash (WOW) method: in a time of great need (my hair was dry, my ends were breaking, and I was at my wits end), I stumbled across Love Layefa’s video on her WOW method experience (shown above). The name of the method is a bit of a misnomer, the WOW method is a method of rinsing your hair with only water–no shampoo, co-wash, or conditioner–on a semi-frequent to frequent basis. The objective is to use only warm water to rinse your hair of dirt and impurities without stripping it of its natural oils–something both shampoos and conditioners tend to do. Through a process of “scritching” and “preening” (loosening up your natural hair oil, or sebum, and smoothing it down your strands), your hair is said to become shinier and more moisturized as you reach full sebum coverage. As the science behind the WOW method can be a little confusing at first, check out Green Beauty Channel’s excellent breakdown of the process below.

It would be an understatement to say that I was more than a little skeptical of the method, at first. The idea of washing your hair with only water seemed ludicrous. I understand the desire to protect your hair from harsh chemicals, but that’s easily accomplished by using all-natural, sulfate and paraben free, products. Cutting product out completely seems a bit much for the average girl. More troubling, however, was the thought of detangling my super thick, kinky, 4C hair without the slip that conditioner and detangling products provide. I remember what wash days were like as a kid: pretending to be asleep until past noon so my mom wouldn’t drag me out of bed and pull a wide-tooth comb through my hair–an act that always, without fail, ended with an onslaught of tears. I would be crazy to willingly chose to detangle without conditioner…the flashback of days past was enough to convince me of that.

After completely closing my mind to the method, a few months later Whitney White (Naptural 85), Youtube extraordinaire and natural hair guru, came out with her new experimental wash routine. After cutting her color-damaged ends off, she embarked on a journey to grow out her hair and nurse it back to health. Low and behold, her new regimen employed modified techniques from the WOW method. Not only was I shocked to see this, but it inspired me to do a little more research on the method. Here’s what I found.

Water Only Washing Benefits

1.     It’s Cost-Effective.

There is a 100% guarantee that this method will not break the bank. All you need is water… and maybe the occasional jar of Coconut Oil as a faux conditioner, Apple Cider Vinegar as a clarifying rinse, and Shea Butter to use until the sebum (the oils your pores emit onto your scalp) covers your ends. Still, the price can’t be beat!

2.     It Stimulates Hair Growth.

The daily scalp massages that are a characteristic feature of the WOW method invigorate the scalp and stimulate the hair follicles–both are effects known to promote hair growth.

3.     It’s Hydrating.

With this method, your hair is constantly receiving water. The water is hydrating, and your hair should (should being the key-word here) stay soft and smooth. However, too much of a good thing can always become a problem… So, here’s the flip-side…

Disadvantages of WOW on Natural Hair

1.     It Can Be Extremely Drying.

Depending on the frequency of your rinses, this method can initially be very drying–especially considering there is no use of oils or creams to lock moisture into your hair. However, it’s said that after a short to medium transition period (the length varies from person to person), your hair will grow accustomed to the WOW method, and the dryness–and inevitably dandruff–you may be experiencing will become a thing of the past.

2.     It Requires Time…And Dedication.

The frequency of “washing” that this method requires may not be for everyone. The lack of products in your hair demand a high level of gentleness in both detangling and styling. This can quickly become very time-consuming, and detangling, depending on your hair type, could be a nightmare.

The Verdict

All in all, don’t knock it until you try it! The WOW method, like all methods, will not work for everyone. Nonetheless, it seems like a great way to get to know your hair, and to build healthy hair habits (like scalp massages, scritching and preening, and hydration). Even though I’m still too scared to bite the bullet and try it out for myself, I am much more receptive to it than I used to be. Like all things in my natural hair journey, it would be an experience, and that’s what the journey is supposed to be about–experiencing my hair as a means of experiencing myself. Regardless, for now, I’m content with my Coconut Oil and Shea Moisture products. It works for me, but who’s to say I won’t switch it up in the future.

What is your opinion of the Water Only Wash Method? Will you try it?

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Team Unruly
Team Unruly
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One comment

  1. This is definitely an interesting article. We’ve gone from co-washing to water only washing. While I love the natural hair community for it’s innovativeness in new methods of hair care, I don’t think I’d ever try this. For one, if you were to tell me to wash my hands and body with water only, no soap and water for months, I’d look at you like you were crazy. While water only may seem to clean your hands, I don’t think it would ever be enough to really get rid of all the germs. The way I see it, our hair and scalp pick up just as much impurities and dirt from the environment as the rest of our body, and especially so if you work out and sweat a lot. So while this WOW method may work for a while and for some, the idea of that much dirt and whatever else piling up on my hair over time, I’d say this method would be a pass for me. But hey, to each his own.

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