I sometimes get asked by the bold and the curious if I wash my hair while wearing extensions.
The answer: Of course I wash my hair! What do I look like, a stray cat?
Just because you have been hooked up with the flyest, illest and sickest weave by the weave gawds, you should NEVER neglect what you were naturally given. That is my number-one rule whilst wearing weaves or extensions, and it's a shame that many weave wearers often neglect their own hair and then wonder later on when they uninstall their extensions why their real hair is so damaged, brittle and unhealthy.
But at the end of the day, it’s not a stupid question. Here is my haircare routine when “wash day” rolls around to nurture and care for my natural hair, as well as to maintain the hair extensions attached to it.
Let me preface by saying that I normally wear human hair full sew-in weaves with a human hair lace closure. I personally do not like leaving my natural hair out so I do not have to apply heat to my naturally kinky 4C-texture hair to have it mimic the texture of the extensions on my head. My braid pattern is always the same: a full head of vertical cornrows with the weft extensions laid and sewn horizontally to avoid any tension to my natural hair and natural hairline (damn you edges!). I found that this braid pattern works best for me and my hair, but to each her own.
For me, “wash day” is usually every two weeks. It is a really simple process but it is also REALLY lengthy, so I like to make sure that I have the time to fully dedicate myself to doing this both gently as well as thoroughly.
First and foremost, my best friend while wearing weaves is an applicator bottle because it is WAY easier to apply the oils and products to my scalp and natural hair while my hair is braided down and weaved up. So I highly suggest you invest in a few them.
Step 1: Oils
As a pre-shampoo treatment, I fill my first applicator bottle with a mixture of equal parts of olive oil, carrot oil, and Jamaican Black Castor Oil.
I like this particular mixture because it fights breakage while promoting hair growth. I separate each track and douse my scalp with the concoction, row by row, until every inch of my head is covered.
Once that's done, I really like to focus on my hairline to avoid breakage of my edges, which has been an issue for me in the past. For my edges in particular, I massage the mixture, in a circular motion, which helps to nurture hair growth by increasing blood circulation in the scalp.
I then put on a thick plastic shower cap and allow my natural body heat to activate the mixture for an hour to an hour and 15 minutes as a "hot oil" treatment of sorts. You can also choose to apply the mixture and proceed to sit under a hooded dryer for 30 minutes to 45 minutes. Either which way, this allows it to really take effect and absorb into my hair follicles.
While it is penetrating, I'll do some chores around the house as time passes (but really I am watching Teen Mom 2 because I am addicted--don’t judge me). I allot this time mostly because I really want to ensure it really seeps into my roots. For those of you with a leave-out, you can use the same mixture and do the same step because all of these oils are beneficial for healthier and stronger hair.
Step 2: Clarifying
I don’t do this every time I wash my hair but instead every other “wash day,” or once a month. This is important to do because it removes the excess buildup of oils that have accumulated over time at my roots as well as stripping the weaving hair of product residue. (I LOVE HAIRSPRAY. Sue me.) Being that my natural hair is braided underneath the extensions, I want to avoid buildup at my scalp so that when it is actually time to take out my hair extensions, whether I keep them in for three weeks or three months time, all of that residue is removed. Clarifying the scalp and hair is a great refresher, giving it a much-needed hair detox.
To do so, I use another applicator bottle and fill it with one part apple cider vinegar to two parts water.
ACV stinks, but the benefits--including removing product buildup, treating hair loss and dandruff, fighting dry, itchy scalp and balancing hair and scalp pH--are worth it. I apply ACV track by track and massage it into my scalp using the balls of my fingers. I also add some to my extensions to help restore them by cleaning away product gunk.
I let that sit for five minutes and then rinse. If you are opposed to ACV, then you can also use a clarifying shampoo.
Step 3: Conditioner
I am all about co-washing my hair, real or fake, and I love a generous dose of moisture for my hair. I use yet another applicator, apply a moisturizing conditioner to my scalp and my extensions; I massage it into my scalp, comb through my extensions with a wide-tooth comb and then rinse.
Step 4: Shampoo
I do not add shampoo to my roots since I did the ACV treatment prior but rather just lather it into my extensions and rinse. For the “wash day” where I don’t do an ACV mix, I use a deep-cleansing shampoo on both roots/braids as well as extensions to remove heavy residues.
Step 5: Deep Conditioning
It is normal to shed 50-100 hairs a day, and while the foundation of the weave is braided down (and if you’re like me, keeping hair extensions installed for an extended period of time), all of that shedding accumulates until removal of the weave. To help with shedding and breakage, deep conditioning is the key.
I found that my hair thrives much better after deep conditioning. I particularly love SheaMoisture Raw Shea Butter Deep Treatment Masque.
I use another applicator bottle to saturate my natural hair with the deep conditioner and rub it into my scalp; I then let it sit for about 20 minutes in a plastic shower cap and then rinse out completely.
Step 6: Leave-In Conditioner
After deep-conditioning my hair, using yet another applicator bottle (I told you to invest in them!), I proceed to then apply my Cantu Argan Oil Leave In Conditioning Repair Cream in between the tracks and into my braids.
Being that this is a leave-in treatment, I do not wash this out but instead allow my natural hair to absorb it so it can do its thang: hydrate, moisturize, and strengthen my real hair. I also like to use this mixture in between “wash days” as well in order to keep my hair underneath hydrated and conditioned in the interim and prevent breakage.
And for those of you with a leave-out, you can also add the same conditioning cream to leave in. As for my extensions, I do add some leave-in conditioner to soften the strands to help restore them back to life by brushing the cream through with a Denman Brush before moving on to the next step.
Step 7: Drying
When I was growing up, I had a legit salon-style hair dryer in my basement since my mother used to do hair for a handful of clients and friends on top of having a full-time job and being a mother of four and wife. Superwoman with a hotcomb.
These days, I turn to my portable hooded dryer. I LOVE hooded dryers because they evenly dry my whole head without direct heat or heat damage, it allows my hair to set while allowing the deep-conditioning treatments or hot oil treatments to absorb more easily. I personally feel that they are a great investment, especially when you are on your natural hair journey like I am.
First, I section my hair into four buns: one at the top right, one at the top left, one at the bottom right, and one at the bottom left. I used to wrap my hair in a doobie with bobby pins to secure it before sitting under the dryer, but I found that the four mini buns technique was more effective since it left my hair more open and thus allowing the heat to reach my scalp better.
But for those who choose to use a handheld blowdryer, first work on thoroughly drying your roots.
And then dry your extensions. If you have a leave-out, I suggest applying a heat protectant first and then blow-drying your natural hair on a low setting. For the extensions, I would also apply a heat protectant because human hair extensions can experience damage from blow-drying just like real hair, and you want to increase your weave's lifespan. You’re not doing all this work for nothing!
But again, focus on the roots first. Some might think it is not a big deal walking around with damp hair, but it is imperative that your braided/natural hair is absolutely and completely dry while wearing extensions. If it is not, mildew and bacteria can form and... eww, just eww.
Step 8: Styling
Pretty simple. I use my favorite extra-hold hairspray, spraying each section BEFORE I pass the flat iron through. Once done, I set my hair with Organic Root Stimulator Olive Oil Sheen Spray for enhanced shine.
And there you have it! I told y'all: it... is... a... process! “Wash day” is legitimately a biweekly holiday in my life. Do not disturb and leave a message after the beep.
I found that this routine is what works best for me and I strongly encourage you to do your research because not all hair is all the same. Whether you are a newbie to the “fake hair, don’t care” club, or you wear weaves as a protective style, or you just love wearing them ‘cuz can’t nobody tell you nothin’, please do your homework to find what works best for you and your hair: techniques, products, oils, anything and everything.
And always remember to show your natural hair the care that it needs and deserves.