Experts Reveal: The Best Tips and Products for a Low-Maintenance Wash Day Routine

Wash and go.

By Langa Chinyoka
low maintenance wash day

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The literary loss of innocence in my young life came in realizing that a “wash and go” was nowhere near as simple as it sounded. Turns out, you don’t just wash your hair and go. You wrestle with a brush and combs as you work multiple products through your hair. Then, you try to style it in a way that holds moisture and doesn’t damage your strands. Phew. My arms hurt just thinking about it. No wonder curly-haired women everywhere are turning to a more low maintenance wash day routine.

Caring for your natural hair doesn’t have to be a hassle. For a long time, I would dread wash days when I was between protective styles. But neglecting my hair needs just led to dryness. And over-straightening my afro led to breakage. But there’s hope for anyone looking to simplify their routine without compromising their natural texture. Yes, a nourishing and effective low maintenance wash day is possible.

Featured image by Riley Reed.

Sanetra Nere Logno applying skincare products smiling_low maintenance wash day
Image by Michelle Nash

The First Rule: Less Is More

To untangle the secrets of a simple wash day regimen, I looked to some of my favorite natural hair experts. First, I spoke to Jamila Powell, the founder of both the clean hair brand Naturally Drenched, and the Maggie Rose Salon in Columbus, OH, one of the top texture salons in the country. Cassandra Olivia, a luxury hair stylist and colorist, shared her insights as well.

It can seem impossible to keep all the necessary wash day products straight. Deep conditioning masks and leave-in conditioners, wide-tooth combs and detangling brushes, styling products, and natural oils—oh my! But both the experts I spoke to emphasize a simple approach. You don’t have to do a lot to keep your hair healthy and encourage hair growth.

“Choose products that will not only add moisture but will help with the structural integrity of the hair from within,” Olivia told me. Read on to discover the best hair products and tricks of the trade for your low maintenance wash day routine.

Riley Reed putting on shoes
Image by Dagny Piasecki

What should a low maintenance wash day look like?

A wash day routine should be personal. To break from a high-maintenance routine, you need to be intentional. According to Olivia, a minimal routine starts before you even change your product rotation. “Use products specifically designed for curly hair,” she says. “Don’t use styling tools with heat daily. Don’t over-shampoo.”

With these golden rules in mind, you can begin crafting a low maintenance wash day routine that nourishes your natural hair without taking up your whole Sunday.

What products should be included in a hair care routine?

According to Powell, even a minimal wash routine should include:

  • A clarifying shampoo used monthly to remove build-up
  • A great shampoo and conditioner
  • A styling foam with a light hold
  • A gel with the desired hold
  • A lightweight oil to help break the cast

Choose products that focus on hydration. “Curly/textured hair wants moisture,” says Olivia. “So you want to ensure that all products you use, from shampoo to conditioner to styling products, will add moisture to the hair.”

woman looking at phone
Image by Riley Reed

How can I make my wash days last longer?

Powell says low maintenance is the way to go. To keep your hair fresh between washes, it’s best to do as little as possible.

“The best thing to do is leave it alone and try not to alter it, get it wet, or apply more product, if you are reapplying product, it is going to add build-up,” says Powell. “If your hair is feeling dry or getting tangles, that’s a sign to wash your hair and style it again. But if you need to do a touch-up on curls, you can use a styling foam or gel to get your curls back.”

To make the most out of your wash day, choose products that add moisture and nutrients to your hair while clearing build-up and minimizing future care. Try sleeping in a silk bonnet or using silk pillowcases to retain moisture.

“Always remember,” says Powell, “your hair will get bigger as the days go by!”

Simone Boyce smiling in living room_low maintenance wash day
Image by Teal Thomsen

Tips and Tricks for Preventing Build-Up

Keeping your hair clear is half the trouble of keeping it clean. Low maintenance doesn’t mean letting product build up. Instead, there are simple tips and tricks that can keep your wash day easy and effective.

“Incorporate a clarifying shampoo into your wash day routine,” says Powell. Detoxing once or twice a month can be major for your hair. “Apply a pre-conditioning treatment to provide your hair with extra nutrients to restore your hair’s pH and ensure hydration and shine.”

But it’s not just what you put in your hair, it’s how you put it into your hair.

I don’t know about you, but my TikTok is full of unconventional hair care hacks. Washing one side first, using shampoo and conditioner backward, or investing in an at-home steamer. Powell helped me untangle the good advice from the bad.

“Apply your hair products an inch away from your scalp to help reduce scalp build-up,” she said. “When you are doing a wash-and-go, use a hooded dryer or diffuser to help dry your hair before breaking the cast, then go in with a lightweight oil to lock in moisture and make sure the cast is completely gone.”

Babba Rivera_low maintenance wash day
Image by Belathée Photography

The Best Products for a Low Maintenance Wash Day

Hair care sets

Bread Beauty Supply Wash-Day Essentials Kit

u003cpu003eThere’s more to this cult-favorite brand than its cute packaging. Get the Hair-wash, Hair-mask, Hair-oil, and Bread-puff (scrunchie) in this essentials kit for a quick and hydrating wash day ritual.u003c/pu003e

Sienna Naturals Issa’s Wash Day Ritual

u003cpu003eSienna Naturals teamed up with Issa Rae to create this must-have ritual set. It hydrates and cleanses hair from root to tip, removing build-up from styling products, sweat, and environmental toxins that clog hair pores and prevent moisture from reaching your strands. u003c/pu003e

Flawless by Gabrielle Union Protective Hairstyles Bundle

u003cpu003eUse this duo to keep your protective style fresh, clean, and neat. It’s an essential pairing that keeps your scalp clear no matter what style you’re rocking.u003c/pu003e

LEAF + FLOWER CBD Instant Curl Refresh

u003cpu003eThis collection helps u0022distribute essential moisture from the scalp to the tips of each strand, while gently cleansing to remove excess oil, minerals and product build-up, all of which can weigh down curly hair. CBD molecules absorb into damaged areas, smoothing out inter-fiber friction to stabilize hydration for curls that are refreshed, weightless, and bouncy. u0022 u003cemu003e— Cassandra Oliviau003c/emu003eu003c/pu003e
Megan O'Neill smiling_low maintenance wash day
Image by Belathée Photography

Best hair care tools

Pattern Beauty Shower Brush

u003cpu003eHeavyweight yet gentle on hair, this brush is like a magic wand for styling happy curls. It’s your must-have tool for gently detangling and helping curls clump for great definition.u003c/pu003e

Ceremonia Scalp Masajeado

u003cpu003eCeremonia’s Scalp Masajeador invigorates blood flow to the scalp to help promote healthy hair. It exfoliates the scalp by gently, yet effectively lifting sebum and product build-up that accumulates between washes.u003c/pu003e

The Q-Redew Hair Steamer

u003cpu003eThis revolutionary handheld hair steamer is designed to help you quickly refresh and restyle your hair. In minutes, it will hydrate, reshape, detangle, stretch, deep condition, and add volume.u003c/pu003e
Riley Blanks Reed styling hair in mirror_low maintenance wash day
Image by Dagny Piasecki

Must-have low maintenance wash day products

Aztec Secret Deep Pore Cleansing Clay

u003cpu003eThis cult-favorite bentonite clay has many uses. While it’s too strong for most facial use, it cuts my detoxing efforts in half. I use it after a protective style to get all the excess product out of my hair and reinvigorate my curl pattern.u003c/pu003e

Innersense Organic Beauty Hydrating Cream Hairbath

u003cpu003eThis lightweight hair bath boosts hydration with sage and tamanu to balance scalp oils while nourishing emollients soften and smooth the cuticle.u003c/pu003e

Naturally Drenched Rebalance Pre-Conditioner Treatment

u003cpu003eUse this treatment in the shower before conditioning to detangle, restore, and nourish hair with almond oil, bamboo extract, calendula, and papaya to restore your natural curl pattern.u003c/pu003e

Design Essentials Almond u0026 Avocado Curl Enhancing Mousse

u003cpu003eThis must-have mousse for all curl types is a lightweight, quick-drying formula that smooths frizz and adds shine.u003c/pu003e

Ceremonia Pequi Curl Activator

u003cpu003eThis milky, sweet-smelling serum gives your curls a weightless boost with maximum definition, while the blend of Castor Oil and Murumuru Butter conditions and hydrates for a nourishing styling ritual and reduced frizz. u003c/pu003e

Pattern Beauty Strong Hold Gel

u003cpu003eThis newly minted cult-favorite gel provides a flexible, long-lasting hold without breaking hair or edges. Infused with sea moss, aloe vera, and chia seeds to nourish and fortify curls, the gel texture has built-in slip to easily distribute through the hair.u003c/pu003e

Nuele Hair Serum

u003cpu003ePrime your hair for styling with deep hydration and heat protection, giving you an all-in-one, lightweight hair treatment. A residue-free blend of five concentrated oils detangle, repair, enrich, and protect strands all day.u003c/pu003e