Three Steps I took to Enhance the Hair Wash Day Experience

Three Steps I took to Enhance the Hair Wash Day Experience


Here’s some exciting news about KYH and the great ways we are infusing cultural beauty traditions around the world.

Three Steps I took to Enhance the Hair Wash Day Experience

Textured hair, ranging from afros to curls and coils, is a crucial aspect of Black women’s identity as it links to our culture, ancestry, and social and emotional well-being. The resurgence of the natural hair movement is challenging Eurocentric beauty norms, and we are here for it! As a hair stylist and natural hair enthusiast, I enjoy seeing people fully embracing their textured hair.

And while the natural hair movement has made strides towards dismantling Eurocentric beauty standards, there is still some residual colonial sentiment that we as a community must continue to dispel. This is an inside job my friends. It starts with one of the most important beauty rituals practiced by so many people of African descent…Wash Day.

Hair Wash Day is the number of hours or days set aside to attend to the care and styling of textured hair. Curly, coily, textured hair requires additional moisture and due to the intricacies of some of our cultural hairstyles, often requires additional time and attention to detail. This makes Wash Day the best opportunity to bond with our loved-ones and speak life into each other, rather than perpetuate negative sentiments. So how can we change the narrative and continue to uphold the social and emotional health of our community? Here are the three “Ps” that changed the Wash Day routine for me and my daughter, Zara.

PREPARATION. Studies show that structured activities for children can create a sense of security and predictability. This can lead to better emotional regulation for both you and the child. Once I started to include Zara in the planning of Wash Day, she stopped rebelling and exhibiting signs of irritability. I even started to build excitement leading to our bi-monthly appointment by letting her know that I look forward to that time with her and letting her choose the hairstyle. It also helps to have the products you need on hand to create the end result and make sure you create buffer time to complete the appointment. You may also want to consider picking out a movie or music that can keep the child entertained throughout the appointment. This way, wash day is happening with the child and not to the child. 

PATIENCE. As the leader of this 4C household, I know first-hand that the detangling process can present challenges, especially on a tender head. Some of my earliest memories of Wash Day was muscling through the pain of a heavy-handed auntie who had no issue silencing my cries and strongly suggesting that I “toughen up.” As an adult, I sarcastically joke with my girlfriends about this shared experience, but I admit that this iteration of “being seen and not heard” and suffering in silence was traumatic. I had to find a way to break the cycle for me and Zara. Today I recommend acknowledging the child’s discomfort and using detangling techniques/tools to minimize discomfort. For instance, gently finger detangling and misting the hair with a leave in conditioner can prep the hair prior to detangling with a comb or flexible detangling brush. Also, using wide-tooth comb to gently rake through small sections from the ends to the root can minimize damage and tugging. Lastly, bundling the detangled hair into loosely braided or two-strand twisted sections (6-8 depending on density), and shampooing and conditioning one section at a time to keep the strands detangled.

POSITIVITY. Speak life into the child and practice using affirming language, even in times of frustration. For example, our hair is not “difficult, tough, or hard to deal with.” The coils, curls, twists, and zig-zag strands have personality. Our hair is linked to our powerful ancestry. Then try showing children pictures of great Black leaders who have hair like them. This foundational information builds confidence which can transform how children and adults approach the world and see themselves. I noticed a huge difference in Zara’s self-esteem once I took this approach. Our collective transformation inspired the book Zara’s Wash Day.

We have the power to dismantle hundreds of years of negative attitudes towards our aesthetic. It will not happen overnight. But let’s hold hands because it takes a village.




Zenda Walker is the award winning author of Zara’s Wash Day and CEO of Know Your Hairitage,LLC-a business consulting firm. Zara’s Wash Day and her second book, Zion’s Crown will be published globally under Running Press Kids in 2024. Visit for more information and booking inquiries.

Reclaiming Our Time: Embracing Shrinkage

Reclaiming Our Time: Embracing Shrinkage

People of African descent all over the world are embracing their natural hair texture. There is an influx of social media videos showcasing the versatility of afro-textured hair and we are here for all of it! The celebration of the African aesthetic is a welcomed evolution of the 1960s Black Power movement and the much-needed healing we need from the ongoing policing of coily, curly, strands and protective styles. I went natural in 1997 and quickly learned about the dedication required to keep my hair moisturized, hydrated, and styled. In fact, the upkeep of my natural hair required more product, time, and effort than the chemical relaxer I wore for a brief period in high school. While I did use some of the methods that are popular to define curls today, I often rocked my afro in all its shrunken glory. Today, I am noticing a curl manipulation trend, particularly in highly textured hair, that can be interpreted different ways. First, I acknowledge that the stretching, reshaping, shingling, twisting-out, braiding-out, recoiling, and fluffing is our way of experimenting and discovering all texture possibilities especially now that there are so many curl-specific products in the market. However, I can’t help but notice the lengths (pun intended) that we are going through to make textured hair more palatable for mainstream audiences. I believe that the over-manipulation of our hair is the manifestation of the lingering psychological effects of colonization. For example, let’s examine attitudes towards shrinkage. Shrinkage occurs when the water moisture that expands and lengthens the hair during a wash evaporates and the curl contracts or reduces in length when dry. It is a sign of healthy hair and acts as a barometer for moisture retention. Shrinkage is what our true natural hair texture looks like. Unfortunately, raw texture presented as shrinkage is often judged as unkempt, undone and undesirable. It is common to see influencers pose with shrinkage in disappointment, hopelessness, and disgust before revealing the joyous transition of being “rescued” by anti-shrinkage products. I get it. The frustration is likely linked to the feel and look of dryness. But we are not simply re-misting, adding additional moisture, and allowing the curl to spring back freely. We are willing to add hours or even days to our wash day routines by using techniques that involve blow-drying the hair completely straight-just to re-wet the hair and manipulate sections into another protective style that stretches and smoothes the curl pattern when dry. I’ve learned in my research of this topic that the preference for loosening curl pattern so it is closer in proximity to Euro-centric beauty standards is known as texturism. Texturism also involves the discrimination of people within the same race who have tighter curl patterns. Could the hundreds of years of policing and degrading Black hair, have caused a deeply engrained and subconscious rejection of our raw beauty? At the end of the day, we have to do what makes us feel beautiful and confident. Maybe the time we are dedicating to defining and altering our curls is all about self-care, self-discovery, and self-love. If that is the case, then let’s continue to explore! But if the weight and pressure of Euro-centric beauty standards is continuing to influence what “type” of curl we deem acceptable, it’s time to shift. I’m with Auntie Maxine (Representative Maxine Waters D-CA) and her viral quote from the 2017 House Financial Services Committee meeting on the importance of “reclaiming my time.” The true freedom of just letting my hair be is priceless. I challenge the natural hair community to unlearn attitudes toward shrinkage and begin to peel back the layers holding us hostage from basking in the glory of our authentic curl patterns-shrinkage and all! **** Zenda Walker is the Executive Director of Know Your Hairitage, LLC-a DEI consulting business. She is the author of Zara’s Wash Day– a children’s book that celebrates hairstyles of the African Diaspora. Know Your Hairitage offers in-person and virtual vocational hairitage demonstrations, corporate DEI training, and author visits for K-12 school districts. For inquiries, contact for more information.

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