Module 3 – Cleansing
When we are Consciously Curly, it is our role to acknowledge and reduce the amount of damage that our hair receives to the best of our ability.
THIS is why it is so popular for women to try and extend the number of days between washes in the curly hair world.
The idea is to weigh the damage that can come from not washing and chronically dehydrating out with with the damage that is created every time you use a cleansing product and to genuinely be able to notice when our hair needs to be cleansed rather than doing it on auto pilot.
The absolute best way to do this is by Hand Feel. Let your hair tell you when it’s wash day. Over time I have found that it’s not until when my hair is wet and detangled that I can truly get personal with my hair and gauge what it needs.
When your hair feels heavy, matted, sticky, rubbery, like it’s kind of wet or oily when it’s dry, then you know it’s time to start cleansing.
If you are doing a wet refresh, and your hair is flash drying and struggling to take on water it’s a pretty good indication that it’s time for a wash day.
Build-up is perfectly normal. Even the best hair care products in the world are designed to build up on the hair (especially when you use our Consciously Curly Styling Strategies). The scalps natural oils and skin build-up. Compounds in our hard and treated water build-up. Air pollution and the environment builds-up.
It all builds-up.
The question is this: are the cleansers that you are using able to fully remove the unique combination of build-up that you hair encounters?
In not, and this can be especially hard to tell because it can happen very slowly, we have a problem. If one or more compounds cannot be sufficiently removed from the hair, over time they will build-up excessively and take up the space where we need water, conditioners and styling products to go.
The unremoved build-up causes chronic dehydration of the hair that makes it look frizzier and feel drier and more coarse as it goes.
Have you ever had a product that you loved…at first. But after a few months it kind of stopped working?
The reason that this is a problem, is that those ingredients not only take space and block water out of the hair but they also dehydrate with the hair, hardening and crystallizing making them harder and harder to remove.
Hair That Struggles to Accept Hydration
Wet Frizz/Flash Dry
These are some of the words I have heard used to describe hair that is dehydrated and not able to accept hydration because of some form of build-up.
Some people notice it in the saturation step, others at conditioning – most don’t truly notice it until several months after transitioning because of how long it can take to remove some forms of long term build-up from conventional products and strategies and create the necessary space sufficient hydration.
But here is the thing.
Build-up is normal AND not all build-up is bad.
Hair that is coated has a harder time accepting hydration and eventually blocks water out completely, which dehydrates the hair and causes damage.
Between wash days, dirt, oil, minerals, toxins, products, bacteria and anything else that we come in contact with build up on the hair and scalp creating an impermeable layer in and on our hair, which reduces its porosity and ability to accept hydration.
Even the best hair care products in the world are designed to build up in your hair. But they are also designed to be washed away with their gentle cleansers.
The problem comes in when the compounds that are building-up are not removed for several months.
Our goal for the next few days will be to see how much space there is for the hair for water, which will help us to determine if there is long term build-up that we can start to remove.
This is possible to do over the internet because we have all taken the pledge – we are using Innersense products exclusively for the duration of this course.
This step is important because, by using Innersense exclusively we can know for certain that at least one for of potential long term build-up, being product build-up, is removed from the equation while we are testing this.
In your normal wash day cycle, you will begin to learn when it is time to wash your hair, based on when your hair stops accepting hydration and “frizzing out” instead of getting wet during the saturation phase, but give yourself patience. It may take some time to begin to notice the subtle differences in the hydration of your hair on any given day.
If your hair is still frizzing out no matter how much you saturate and condition it that is a good indication to reach for a cleanser and see if you can create space in your hair shaft for hydration.
The mechanical energy (aka friction) created when you use your fingertips to rub your scalp is the most effective and gentle form of cleansing there is.
No other form of cleansing works without the presence of scalp massage.
In fact, the word “Shampoo” is actually derived from the Hindi word “Campu” which is a form on Indian head massage. That means shampooing actually means scalp massaging.
The cleanser is secondary.
Scalp massage not only removes excess skin cells, buildup, dirt, and oil from the scalp, but also encourages blood flow, new cell growth, the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the scalp and even helps to regulate the scalp’s natural oil production, encourages the oil to distribute down the length of the hair shaft, and improves and maintains overall scalp health so great hair can grow.
From this moment foreword washing the hair is a strategy of mechanical motion, not a product. It’s a mindset.
If saturating and massaging along isn’t doing the trick, Co-Washing is the next most gentle way to remove build-up.
Co-Washing is the combination of scalp massaging with conditioner (used exactly like it were a cleanser or shampoo) to gently remove small amounts of organic matter from the hair and scalp without exposing the hair to unnecessary damage of a more aggressive cleansing product.
When co-washing, imagine that the conditioner is a cleanser, hairbath, or shampoo. Use it in exactly the same way. Really work it into the roots and scalp, massaging gently with the fingertips for at least 60 seconds, and then work it through the length of the hair while rinsing for another 60 seconds.
This is what I call the 60 Second Cleanse, and it should be incorporated into every single cleansing routine, from scalp massaging to co-washing to cleansing to clarifying.
The entire point of cleansing is to remove these compounds.
We do this because cleansers, even gentle one cause damage to the hair due to the alkaline environment they create which lifts the cuticle of the hair to allow the cleanser inside to remove build-up compounds.
Conditioner, on the other hand, is just a bit more acidic and that slight shift helps the hair relax and soften while the oils in the conditioner trap and hold any loosened compounds so that they rinse away with water.
Start with a co-wash and analyze your results. This is an especially good option for women with naturally higher porosity hair types, and might be worth skipping for naturally low porosity curl types.
The next best option is a gentle, sulfate free cleanser. At minimum it should be ‘CGM Approved” and at best is will be Innersense, or one of the other cleansers we have listed in our Product Finder.
Remember that it is the motion that is most important. HOW YOUR CLEANSE is more important than WHAT YOU CLEANSE WITH.
I always start with a gentle Cleanser.
A gentle cleanser can remove the products, dirt and oil that are taking up the space where the water should go.
To use a gentle cleanser, its best to make sure your hair is full of water, then squeeze a generous amount into your palm, and rub your hands together until you it becomes a rich, creamy lather. them pat your scalp, placing the cleanser all around it, and start with your 60 Second Cleanse.
60 seconds of scalp massage and working it in, 60 seconds of massage, raking and rinsing it out.
One thing that I have found incredibly interesting over time is that not all cleansers remove all compounds.
Next week we are going to talk about the various kinds of cleansers and clarifyers that exist and what they are best at removing, but before we to I want to talk a little bit about the gentle cleansing space.
In general, “CGM Approved”, sulfate free cleansers are what we consider Gently Cleansers, and what we are referring to here at Consciously Curly when we talk about cleansing.
Not all Gentle Cleansers remove all CGM friendly conditioners and stylers. Remember what we said about products, even the best hair care products in the world are designed to build up on the hair. It’s how they work.
In my experience, there are very few products, even CGM products, that are removed completely with their “matching” cleanser.
What they tend to do is build up slowly, over time. It might be hard to notice because of how slow it happens.
You know that feeling when you switch to a brand new product and it works amazing, but 6 months later you move on because they stopped working as well.
This is long term build-up and the perfect example of the cleanser not completely removing all of the conditioning and styling compounds.
If you aren’t in a closed loop system, where you are absolutely confident that the cleanser is removing all of the conditioning and styling compounds, then I would suggest the strategy of Cleanser Rotation.
With Cleanser Rotation, you would have several options for gently cleansing that your rotate into your routine to better remove conditioning and styling compounds, preventing them from building-up over time.
Because some cleansers are better than others are removing certain compounds, having a few to choose from is a great strategy until you settle on styling products and a cleanser that absolutely removes them in the long term.
Clarifiers & Chelators
Sometimes, a simple cleanser isn’t enough. Maybe we have long term or hard water build up, or something else that requires a more heavy duty clarifying cleanser that contains sulfates, or a Malibu Un-Do-Gu cleanser can do the trick.
The important thing to remember is that you can to choose the option that exposes your locks to the least amount of damage, and save the harsher options for when they are absolutely necessary.
More aggressive cleansers, typically known as clarifiers or chelators (where “CGM Friendly” shampoos are known as Gentle Cleansers”) can work to remove long term product or hard water induced build-up, respectively.
With more aggressive cleansers of these kind may come compromises to hair health or our ingredients standards but you can think of them as kind of a ‘quick-fix’ or ‘jump start to the build-up removing process.
Sometimes removing the products or water that is causing the build-up and switching to better products is enough to allow the long term build-up to remove over time.
Ascorbic acid mixed with a conditioner, cleansing conditioner, or cleanser, can enhance their ability to remove build up as well. I usually add a tablespoon to two pumps of Innersense conditioner, emulsify, and massage in deeply to my scalp and roots for at least 60 seconds.
Rinse fully and follow up with a gentle cleanser or skip right to conditioning – you’re choice! Find what feels good.
Another great natural option to try, is your hair still isn’t taking on the hydration that you know it can, even after a wash, is ascorbic acid.
Ascorbic acid (essentially crushed up Vitamin C tablets, do a great job at removing mild build-up on the hair.
I generally like to mix it with a conditioner from the Curly Grail, and especially like to use a cleansing conditioner for this step. My choice is Long Hair Don’t Care (LHDC).
Sprinkle about a TSP into about 2 TBSP of LHDC, emulsify in your hands and work into the roots with a massaging motion. Work the mixture down the hair shaft, using roping and scrunching to gently exfoliate and remove any build up.
Some women like to insert a semi-regular “clarifying” wash into their routine. This would include sulfate cleansers, or build up remover like Malibu Un-Do-Goo.
These are the more harsh options, and the trade-off is that your hair is exposed to harsher chemical damage.
e recommend these build up removers as a final wash for women leaving conventional products, and sparingly for women using less expensive, ‘CGM’ products like Cantu, NYMN, Shea Moisture, DevaCurl, JessiCurl, etc. The idea is to be conscious, understand how your hair is taking on hydration, and moving through this series of strategies until you are able to achieve the end goal of the wash day (or wet refresh): Completely smooth curl clumps.
When the hair frizzes and dries out after just 60 seconds without water it a sure sign that hydration is not truly penetrating the hair shaft.
Most hair becomes dehydrated and needs to be cleaned every 3-5 days in order to properly accept hydration this early in the routine.
If that is what you are seeing then try washing your hair.
Products that I recommend to help work through long term build-up:
Some points to remember:
- I do not recommend using an ‘aggressive’ cleanser more than once a week, ideally once a month or even less.
- It is very likely that using a more aggressive cleanser just once will not be enough. Feel free to revisit these deeply cleansing styling strategies and cleansers when you needing them, understanding that you are introducing damage to your hair that makes things more complicated in the long term.
- The point here is to not be blindly dependent on product. Notice your hair and how it looks and feels when it hydrated vs when it’s fighting hydration. Learning this difference is your new #1 objective.
Knowing that our** initial goal** on a wash day (or wet refresh) is to get your hair to accept hydration.
If your hair is still frizzing out no matter how much you saturate and condition it reach for your cleanser and cleanse as deeply as you can for at least 60 seconds using lots of gentle scalp massaging and scrunching to completely work the products into your scalp and roots.
Then work the cleanser out while you rinse it and continuing to massage, rake and scrunch your hair and scalp for at least another 60 seconds, paying special attention to the areas that frizzed out the most during our little experiment.
Notice your hair and what is changing while you cleanse. It is softer, harder, smoother, or more coarse? Then shut off the water and wait another 60 seconds. Take a photo.
If you hair is still immediately frizzed out and dries up it’s a sign that you cleanser is not able to remove what is blocking hydration out and you will likely have to consider your cleansing game.
- Take your hair as far from wash day as you comfortably can, while really trying to push the envelope. If you normally wash every 3 days, try going 5 If 7 is normal for you, try going to day 10. Etc.
- Then before wash day, notice how it looks and feels. Take a photo..
- Is your hair dryer than normal? Heavier? More tangled or matted? More oily? Softer? More coarse?
- Get in the shower. Completely detangle and saturate your hair upside down and from both sides (like you did in step 2 of last week’s homework).
- Notice what your hair feels like. This is your hair at its lowest porosity (because of build-up from going longer than normal without washing.) Get used to this feeling. Knowing what it feels like is very powerful because when your hair starts to feel more like this than normal you know its time to reach for a cleanser, clarifier or chelator.
- Take another photo of your hair as wet as it can be in this moment.
- Wash your hair with your normal cleanser and notice how cleansing changes the hand feel and appearance of your hair.
- This is your hair at a higher porosity, because you just removed all of the short term build-up with your cleanser. Begin to learn what this feels like because this is what your hair feels like when it’s dry, dehydrated and unable to hold hydration as well.
- Does it feel harder or softer? More coarse or more smooth? More dry or more hydrated? More or less knots and tangles?
- Take a photo.
- Condition your hair deeply, not necessarily with a deep conditioner, but with deep strategies like scrunching, pulsing, roping, raking, the bowl method, double conditioning or leaving the conditioner in for longer, etc.
- Take note of how the hand feel and appearance of your hair changes. This is your hair as hydrated as it can be (for today). Learn what this feels like so that you know what your hair feels like when it’s accepting water.
- Take a photo.
- Style and dry as normal and be sure to take notes of your process and a photo of your results for your notes!
Make a post in #CollectivelyCurly discussing how your hair takes on water differently throughout your wash day cycle, and be sure to notice how many hours/days your hair hangs on to this hydration.
Watch this video I did on how to use Innersense cleanser correctly, so that you know you are looking at a clean slate when analyzing how your hair is taking on hydration.
If you are a member of the Perfecting The Process Mastermind, feel free to share your analysis, and ask any questions you have so that I can give you some feedback.
As a member of this course you received a coupon code good for $88 off of a one year membership to the mastermind. Members of the mastermind have unlimited access to all of my courses and the ability to ask questions and get direct feedback from me 24/7 inside of our private Facebook group.
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Xoxo – Lo