The Foolproof Cleansing Method That Everyone With Curly Hair Should Try

Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
I've been natural for about a year now and I'm still learning about my hair all of the time. It's definitely more effort than I intended, but it's still been a worthwhile journey. One of the first things I learned was how essential moisture is to care for my for curls and kinks. I thought that I was doing my due diligence by spraying a daily leave-in conditioner on my 'fro each morning, then slathering some curl cream on afterwards to seal things in. My hair was definitely moisturised after this process, but it was also greasy and felt kind of dirty. That, coupled with the fact that I only shampoo it every two or three weeks, didn't help matters at all.
Because of my 'fro-stration, I visited stylist Anthony Dickey at his Hair Rules salon in New York City for help. I was over dealing with my head of medium-length, thick hair, and craving a fresh start. The first thing he suggested — a tapered cut — did help, but my new natural routine has helped even more. The Anthony Dickey Method probably isn't new to the seasoned naturals out there, but it was a game-changer for a novice like me. "My approach to hair is based off the specific needs of each texture, whether you're a 4, 3, 2, or 1," he says.
What Is The Anthony Dickey Method?
Dickey's method involves water — and lots of it. In the shower, wet your hair so that it hangs down (this "sets" your hair into its natural pattern, he says). Cleanse with a cream-based shampoo, and then use a lot of conditioner to bring out your curl pattern, working it through from roots to ends to elongate the curl while you detangle. Rinse the conditioner out, but try not alter your pattern too much. Apply styling product to your wet hair and work it through, similar to how you did with the conditioner. Shake and go. Makes sense so far? Watch the video below to see how it's done in the salon.
How Does This Simple Method Work?
According to Dickey, it's simple: Drier textures (your level two, three, and four) need more moisture. It's similar to how we look at skin, he says, the drier you are the more you need hydration — and no better source than H2O in the shower.
The mix of daily (yep, we said daily) water and conditioner helps restore the oils that you need. It's so beneficial that over time, your texture can soften up and the curl can loosen, Dickey says. "When your parched hair gets softer, you have more porosity," he explains.
Of course, you also want to be careful of the conditioners that you choose, too. Even though most brands proclaim that its shampoos and conditioners are sulfate-free, there are still some that lather: something that you do not want. "You don't want to strip it down with shampoos," he adds.
Keep in mind that this is a technique that's meant for curly and kinky textures: threes and fours will get the best results. "If you've got straight hair, there's no benefit for conditioning every day," Dickey says. "Not unless your hair is color-treated or coarser. In that case, the conditioner is better-suited for the ends of hair."
The Controversy Of It All
Anyone with curly or kinky texture knows that this method is a bit controversial — to say the least. So what do other experts say?
"The weight of a conditioner, if applied every day, will weigh your hair down and cause buildup on the hair shaft," hairstylist Cynthia Alvarez, who works with Shakira, Dascha Polanco, and Keke Palmer, says. "This can lead to limp, dull hair and may even cause hair loss by blocking hair follicles if applied directly onto the scalp."
As you can tell, Alvarez doesn't necessarily agree with Dickey's method. "Because curly hair tends to be drier, you do not want to co-wash more than twice a week," she says. What's more, tap water, especially in certain cities, has chlorine, which is very drying and strips the natural oils, Manhattan-based dermatologist Julie Russak, MD once told us.
Photo courtesy of Khalea Underwood.
Photo courtesy of Khalea Underwood.
My Experience
Despite opposing opinions, I decided to give Dickey's method a try. While wash and gos aren't as easy as I intended, I do see the benefits. I don't have to load by hair down with a whole bunch of products when I'm styling it. Raking a liberal amount of his Curly Whip, along with some leave-in conditioner after, does the trick. It's way easier for me to detangle these days, and I rarely have to use a comb. I feel that my curl pattern has loosened up a little, too.
Take a look at the photos above: On the left, pre-cut, I had only co-washed my hair and styled it with a little curling cream the previous day. A long road trip to the beach (and sleeping in the car without my bonnet) dried it out, but that was my hair in its most natural state. I had just visited Dickey when I took the photo on the right. With his magic hands and products, he was able to manipulate my curls and make them pop without a twist-out.
However, I'll be honest, after a month or so I slowed a bit with the method. Three months later, I don't get to co-wash every single day. I was hitting that mark during the first month, but found that it took up way too much time in the mornings — but I did find my sweet spot. These days, I'll rewet my hair in the shower, condition, style, and sit underneath my soft bonnet for about 30 minutes. If my hair's still wet, I'll wrap it in an old t-shirt and sleep that way.
Believe it or not, my life has changed so far: I've got more time in the morning, I don't have to spend hours twisting my hair, and I don't trip when my cheap umbrella flips up on windy and rainy days. For the first time, a little water doesn't leave me running for shelter.
"Introducing the wash and go to women who've been relegated to staying away from water is a learning experience," Dickey says. "Gone is the notion that you can't work out and that you have to run from the rain. Plus, you've seen White and Latina women with wet, curly hair all your life. None of them have bronchitis or pneumonia. Their lives aren't busier than women of colour." Amen to that.
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