Moisturized Hair: It Starts on Wash Day


When I’m in the guise of my alter ego, “Hairscapades” ;), I often receive or read cries for help that go something like this:

“Can someone please recommend a good moisturizer? My hair is always so dry!!”

I came across just such a question this past weekend on CurlyNikki’s Facebook page and I did my best to answer it. As I wrote the response, I realized that my answer to this frequent query might be helpful to other … so this post was “born.”

Now, here are a couple of disclaimers before we get started. One, my hair is a mix of regular and high porosity strands, you may need to modify some of these steps if your hair is under-porous. Two, my suggestions here are for hair that is really in need of moisture. It is not for hair that is over-moisturized and in need of protein to help it retain hydration. For more on dry, brittle hair that may be a result of over-conditioning caused by regular co-washing, overnight baggying, protein avoidance, etc., check out my posts: Moisture and Protein: Finding the Balance and Can I Over-Condition?

6 Steps to Building Sustained Moisture

Okay, now back to the question at hand. When, I see inquiries like the one above, I rarely make product recommendations for “daily” moisturizers. This is because, I think building sustained moisture starts on wash day. I think the importance of this day can sometimes be underestimated. Therefore, the advice I offer is related to techniques (and the products) that I have found successful in hydrating hair so that it will sustain the moisture level between wash days. This is not to say that a moisturizer will not be needed between wash sessions. However, by building hydration levels on wash day, re-moisturizing sessions during the week may be more effective and required less frequently.

So, here we go. These are the steps that I take to hydrate my hair and seal in all that “moisturiffic” goodness;).

“Naked” hair (left); hair with leave-in (right)

1.  Start with a pre-poo (on dry hair) prior to shampooing. Coat hair with a penetrating oil, like coconut, olive, avocado or Vatika (coconut oil base), which has the ability to enter the hair shaft and reach the cortex to moisturize the hair from the inside out. Leave oil on hair under a plastic baggie for a minimum of one hour up to overnight (heat optional).

What I Use: Right now, I’m loving Aubrey Honeysuckle Rose (moisturizing) or GPB Conditioner (protein) mixed with Vatika oil as a pre-poo. I alternate moisture and protein as needed.

2.  Wash with a non-stripping, sulfate free shampoo.

What I Use: DevaCare No Poo (diluted with water in a dye bottle for easier application and slip).

3.  If necessary, apply a moisturizing, cheapie conditioner to thoroughly detangle hair.

What I Use: Herbal Essences Hello Hydration (HE HH). Best detangler I’ve found for my hair so far.

4.  Deep condition (DC) for 15 minutes to an hour with heat. Then, this is key, COOL and SEAL. Cooling and sealing was a game-changer for me. The short of it is that you remove the heat source and allow the DC to cool in your hair for 10-15 minutes. Then, you dilute a regular daily conditioner in cool/cold water and apply it directly over the DC prior to rinsing everything out with cold water. For more details on this technique, check out my post: Deep Conditioning Tricks … Cool & Seal.

What I Use: I’m really feeling Matrix Biolage Conditioning Balm to deep condition right now (the Sally’s GVP version is good too). But, I’m also a fan of Darcy’s Botanicals Pumpkin Seed Moisturizing Conditioner, JessiCurl Weekly Deep Treatment, Shea Moisture Raw Shea Deep Treatment Mask and Carol’s Daughter Tui Hair Smoothie. I use HE HH or Aussie Moist as my “sealing” conditioner.

5.  After rinsing the deep conditioner, apply a leave-in conditioner thoroughly to wet or damp hair.

What I Use: I’ve been getting really good results with Aubrey Honeysuckle Rose Conditioner as a leave-in. But, I also often rely on a modified Kimmaytube leave-in recipe (2 tbsp Kinky Curly Knot Today, 2 tbsp aloe vera juice – whole leaf, 1 tsp of oil [mix of EVOO, JBCO and jojoba oil]).

6.  Seal in the water, leave-in conditioner and any stylers/moisturizers used with an oil, butter or oil/butter blend.

What I Use: JBCO/EVOO mix.

Doing these things on wash day enables my hair to hold onto moisture throughout the week and between wash sessions. Oh, and if my hair is feeling a little dry a few days into the week, I simply apply a moisturizer (with water as the first ingredient) and re-seal with an oil. Happy hair!!

So, if  you are struggling with dehydrated hair, maybe some or all of these steps will help you!! Good luck!!


How do you build and lock-in moisture on wash day?


46 responses »

  1. Hi Shelli..I follow the same routine, but I do everything on the same day with different products. I do not have patience or the time for a long pree-poo or deep condition so I do them for shorter time periods and I still get great definition. I do this 2-3 times per week, since I am not a bun or braid girl. I exclusively do wash n go’s. I pree-poo with what ever conditioner I have( especially ones that did not work well or have much slip) with coconut oil for 5-10 minutes before my shower, rinse in the shower, wash with sulfate-free shampoo or cowash with either pantene or cleansing conditioner then rinse. Finger detangling gets easier during every step. Then I detangle with my wide tooth comb with either pantene or HeHH under the stream of water. Deep condition with any deep conditioner for the rest of my shower then rinse when I am done. At the end, my hair feels buttery soft. I add leave-in conditioner, then a styler or curl cream and seal with castor oil or coconut oil and air dry. The pre-poo reduces my detangling time, it only takes a few minutes. I am out of the shower in 20 minutes. I don’t get ssk and my tangles are at a minimum as long as I wash every 2-3 days and detangle well. If I wait for a week, I have a tangled mess. With this routine, I have minimal shedding and almost no breakage. Very simple routine. I have 3b-3c long hair like you.


    • I have done the cool n seal twice since reading ur post…and my hair has transformed b4 my eyes from barely holding finger twists 4 one day w/o feeling dry n looking cottony to being well defined..shiny…moist…God Bless u 4 sharing with the community..especially me…3″; 4c; salt n pepper bleached n highly porous.


      • That is awesome!!! Thank you so much for the feedback Patricia!!!! It makes me so happy to know that things I share are helpful to others!!! And the cool & seal was so pivotal for me that I’m so happy to learn that it works for other women!!


    • No need to apologize Denise!!! I LOVE meaty responses!! And that was great feedback!! Also, I love to know that you get great results with minimal time. That’s good for everyone to know!! The only reason I tend to cross over days is because I’m too lazy to do it all in one day!! I keep saying I want to leave the pre-poo in less time, but I always fizzle out on Friday or Saturday nights and don’t feel like getting in the shower!! But, I do only do this 1 time a week, whereas you do it 2-3, so may be about the same time when you think of it that way:)!!


  2. Okay, I’m sorry I’m a little slow on getting this, but I’ve got questions. Is there an additional step between #3 and #4–do you rinse out the HEHH you used to detangle before you use your DC? And do you completely cover your hair from root to end with DC? Also on #6, do you seal all of your hair or the ends only? Thanks.


    • Hi Veronica. Yes, you rinse out the HE HH after you detangle and before you apply the DC. Yes, completey cover the hair with the DC from root to ends. In regard to 6, because my strands are fine, I only seal the last couple inches of my hair. However, when I use kimmaytube leave-in, all of my hair gets a little oil as it has oil in it and I apply to the LI to my entire head.


  3. OK, Shelli, So I always sleep in my DC unless I have more time on my hand:) And when I receive your morning wake up call (morning email), I was estatic and couldn’t wait to try this step!
    I have a TWA and never thought about placing condtioner on the DC, so this morning while preparing a load of laundry and getting clothes for the day, I added Aussie moise 3 min conditioner, with a drop of Honey, Jojoba oil and Coconut oil ontop of my DC. After rinsing, my hair is so soft, it is amazing. But my TWA seems to be without a few curls, did I miss a step?

    Thanks for the tip!
    Looking forward to many more.


    • LOL!! Awwwwww, thanks Anon w/the bat wings;). Did you dilute the Aussie in water before applying over your DC. And, the Aussie mixed with the honey and oils may have been a little heavy and weighed down some of your curls. Try just using the Aussie Moist diluted with water only to apply over your DC next time. And if your curls are still looking limp your next wash day, before doing the DC, try clarifying with a sulfated shampoo (dilute that it in water too, will give it more slip and it won’t be as stripping). HTH!!


  4. Shelli,

    Get post and very informative. Question…”if my hair is feeling a little dry a few days into the week, I simply apply a moisturizer (with water as the first ingredient)”…..What product of choice do you use? And, what others have you tried?


    • Ummmmm … did you ask this question for everyone else Rhonda? Because, I know that you know the answer! LOL!! I use whatever I’m feeling that day:). I have tons of stuff under the sink. But right now I’m really feeling re-moisturizing twists and braids with Aubrey Organics HSR diluted in water. If I’m wearing a loose style, I’ll use Wonder Curl BTL Pudding and I’ll seal with either JBCO, JBCO/EVOO or WGHO Light. But, again, in regard to moisturizers, it could be anything. I have Carol’s Daughter Healthy Hair Butter, Curls Souffle (I think), etc. I just grab whatever is handy or whatever I want to test out that day:). I always return to WC BTL though as it’s the best thing I’ve found for my hair other than the Aubrey HSR for braids/twists.


      • Yupper ~ I knew the answer, but I have a friend who is “lurking” (dont want to call her out), so I thought I would pose the question for her benefit and anyone else who might be curious.


    • Lily, actually, constantly fully saturating the hair can be damaging because of hygral fatigue. Every time you wet your hair, the strands absorb the water rapidly, swelling and disrupting the cuticle. If the cuticle becomes lifted, it increases porosity and can make it harder for your hair to retain moisture. The better choice is to just spritz the hair with water or a leave-in conditioner between wash days. Or, if rinse because you work out and sweat a lot, you may want to try just swabbing the scalp with an astringent instead and if that isn’t an option, it would be good to apply some coconut oil for about 30 minutes before water rinsing to reduce hygral fatigue and the protein loss that occurs with saturating/soaking the hair with water. Here’s an article that was on CurlyNikki that you might find helpful:


  5. I HAD to come on here and share my experience with your washing process! My hair has no real curl pattern in most places, it mainly has a very cottony texture. I have some small corkscrew curls in various places, but overall my hair is very cottony. You and I have very different hair textures so I didn’t really think this would work on my hair when I started it last night.

    Okay so I pre-pooed with coconut oil and extra-virgin olive oil mixed together (I heated them in the microwave so it was like a hot-oil treatment or something). I applied A LOT of oil to my hair and really concentrated on the ends. I put a plastic bag over my head and then put on one of those huge beanies/winter hats. I sat like that for about an hour.

    To shampoo, I used Shea Moisture Organic Yucca & Baobab Thickening Shampoo. I then applied a mixture of Herbal Essences Hello Hydration and Suave Professionals Almond & Shea Butter conditioners and started finger detangling my hair (well… trying to…). This was rather unsuccessful and rather than continue to try detangling my hair and end up losing a whole lot of it, I went on with the process. To deep condition, I used Aussie Moist 3-Minute Miracle. After putting my plastic bag on, I grabbed my blow dryer and heated the product on my hair for about 5 minutes. Then I turned off the blow dryer and put my beanie back on for a little less than an hour. I added some more Herbal Essences Hello Hydration and then rinsed my hair.

    It was late so even though I never fully detangled (a big mistake…) I sectioned my hair into 6 sections, added my leave-in (I also use a modified version of Kimmaytube’s leave-in… different from yours), added a 50:50 mix of extra-virgin olive oil and castor oil (just regular castor oil) and braided my hair for bed.

    I slept with a satin scarf on… today, I am prepping my hair to add extensions so I took the braids down and detangled. I ended up losing quite a bit of hair (I typically lose hair each time I detangle … I think I need a protein treatment and have needed one for a while but I’m not sure what to use and don’t want to pay a lot of money for something I’ll use once and hate!) and having to cut off some single stranded knots, but what I can definitely say is that my hair feels soft, moisturized and … dare I say … MANAGEABLE! I’m flipping out a little bit! So I just wanted to say thank you for outlining this so well! I have learned so much from perusing your blog and I will definitely be putting what I have learned to good use.


    • Thank you so much for providing the feedback Leeshy!! I’m so happy that this worked well for you and that you are finding other things helpful on the blog!! In regard to your issue with breakage/shedding and need for protein, have you seen my posts on the ApHogee 2 Minute Keratin Treatment and Aubrey GPB? Those are two protein treatments with which I’ve had GREAT results and they are both under $10 and available on the ground. ApHogee is at Sally’s. Aubrey is available at a lot of health food stores, Whole Foods and Vitamin Shoppe (cheapest at Vitamin Shoppe). ApHogee was good (but you need to follow w/DC … I applied between the detangling step and the DC step). Aubrey GPB I use as a pre-poo mixed with Vatika oil (you could use it alone or mix with coconut oil also). Aubrey was a GAME CHANGER for me too!! My hair LOVES it! Okay, HTH!!


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  11. Hi. I have had relaxed hair since I was pretty young, so I’m not 100 percent positive about which hair texture I have, but I’m guessing that it is between 3 and 4. I recently decided to start giving my hair more tlc and I aim to grow it out. I have 2 questions for you: 1. Is it okay to leave in wash out conditioner overnight and wash out the next day? 2. What are the precautions I should have about using the baggy method?


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  13. I love this! I have a daughter that is mixed and has hair past her butt. I just found out my daughter has high porous hair so I’m gonna take your advice and try this. I do have a question though. My daughter’s hair is very fine, and I have never deep conditioned her hair before because I’ve always been told not to deep condition fine hair. So I want to know if that is true and if it is true, could I cut some of the time and still deep condition it?


    • I don’t know why someone would say to never DC fine hair! I understand that you don’t want to over-condition and weigh the hair down, but DCing is still part of any healthy hair routine, I think. That being said … if her hair is to her butt, sounds like her hair is healthy!! So, maybe she doesn’t need it? If you think her hair is dry and can use it though, yes, I think deep conditioning for 10-15 minutes (or whatever the DC instructions say, which is sometimes as little as 3 minutes) should be fine.


      • Thank you for the reply! We live in a small community and there aren’t a lot of experts dealing with biracial hair. Her hair is healthy but I have to add product every day and sometimes twice a day. It does dry out but only because it absorbs everything I put on it. I’m just looking for ways so I don’t have to use as much product. Thank you again for the advice. I really do appreciate it.


  14. Hello! Great article! Are you using the reformulated AOHR condish with alcohol as the second ingredient? I’m guessing you haven’t experienced any added dryness from it? Thanks!


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  17. Hi! Thanks for sharing! I wash weekly and use a deep conditioner every other week and a protein treatment the opposite weeks. Would this process work if using a protein conditioner during step 4?


  18. Hi Shelli!

    I love you page, I am going back to the basics with my hair and decided to look at your moisturizing routine…I see that it says you use HE HH, I wanted to know if you experience build up of silicones, since i see that you dont use a shampoo, do you clarify?



    • Awwww, thank you!! But I do shampoo my hair. What I use changes as does the frequency, but I reference using some type of shampoo in all my regimen posts. I used to generally use DevaCare No Poo, but I have tried and used a variety of sulfate free and sulfated shampoos. One other thing, HE HH uses amodimethicone which is a silicone that resists build up. So, have never had an issue with it. I do tend to avoid dimethicone and the cy- one (can’t remember the full name/spelling off of the top of my head) b/c they build up. But my hair seems to LOVE amodimethicone and do well w/products containing it.


  19. Hi Shelli! I just want to say I love this blog! Thank you for sharing all this info! I’m going to start using this wash day routine. I need to eliminate or at least reduce SSKs. Do you have any suggestions?


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  21. Love the blog! I have been lurking for years and have seen you posting on other hair sites also, with lots of helpful information. I have read this post three times to make sure I absorb it all LOL. My hair is fairly long, down to waist, and pretty healthy. I want my curls to look like my hair does when I have it in twists or braids: sleek and shiny and dense. But a lot of times it gets very staticy and cottony before the end of the first wash day, so I’m excited to try this method.

    I have one question. I have never really done a sealing technique before, do you apply the sealing oil over your leave in on wet hair, or dry hair when you crunch it out?

    Thank you,


    • Awww! Thank you! I apply the oil on wet hair before styling. But, if needed, I might apply a little oil after dry and between washes. HTH!


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