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Three Steps I took to Enhance the Hair Wash Day Experience

by | Mar 21, 2023 | Hairitage, Natural Hair, Textured Hair, Wash Day | 0 comments

Textured hair, ranging from afros to curls and coils, is an important 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 negative attitudes towards curly, coily, Afro-coily hair, there is still some residual colonial sentiment that we, the Black and Brown textured hair 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-an inclusive education and business consulting firm. “Zara’s Wash Day” and the second book in the Know Your Hairitage series, “Zion’s Crown,” will be published globally under Running Press Kids in 2024. Visit for more information and booking inquiries.

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