Whether you are an experienced natural or someone who is just embarking on their journey, we all go through the growing pains of learning how to properly care for our hair. And boy, talk about a lot to learn! I mean – there is discovering what products to use, what tools to use, should we even use tools, how often to trim, the over use of heat, and the list goes on and on. Don’t even get me started on the laundry list of styling options. The possibilities are truly endless! I know you are probably thinking, how in the world can I tackle all of this? Don’t worry, fellow curlfriends, we’ve got you covered.
What better way to start off on our quest for knowledge than with the age-old debate of hot water versus cold water?
In my almost two years of transitioning (I know two years seems like an eternity), I have heard absolutely everything about this topic. Here are just a few snippets of the chatter that’s been circling around:
- Washing with hot water is better because it removes build up
- Not washing with warm water is better because it won’t damage the hair’s cuticle
- It doesn’t matter what the temperature is because it’s all based on the circular motions you make with the pads of your fingers that gets your hair clean
With back and forth like this, I had no clear-cut answer. All in all, it was getting very confusing. So what’s a girl to do, you ask? I took to the Internet to get the full scoop as well as enlisting the help of my dear friend and stylist, Ziggy Mulugeta of Ziggy Artistry Salon.
Pro: Great for cleansing
Whether you are co-washing or love a good clarifying shampoo, hot water can be very beneficial. The heat and steam helps open up the pores and lift the hair’s cuticles. This allows for easy exfoliation of the scalp and cleansing of the hair shaft. At this stage, your shampoo or cleansing conditioner can be readily absorbed and therefore will leave your hair feeling nice and clean.
Con: Causes frizz.
With the cuticles now lifted, it is much easier for moisture to escape. This can leave your hair in a frizzy state. To help keep the hair frizz free, it is important that it is thoroughly moisturized. Unfortunately, this is difficult to do when hot water’s job is to remove dirt from your hair and scalp. It does so without discrimination. So when the dirt is stripped, so is all of your moisture.
Pro: Seals in moisture
Cold water works wonders when it comes to sealing in moisture. Just as hot water opens the pores and lifts the cuticles, cold water does just the opposite. This makes it a key step in the sealing process. After applying conditioner, try rinsing your hair with cold water and see if you notice a difference.
Pro: Adds shine.
With closed cuticles and locked in moisture, your hair will be left with a beautiful natural shine (or sheen for my type 4 curls). Cold water is also less drying and helps to retain your hair’s natural oil, sebum. Sebum, produced by the sebaceous glands in the scalp, help to keep your hair strong, and full of shine which are the corner stones to healthy luxurious hair.
Con: Flattens hair.
If you are a thin hair naturalista, this could be your worst nightmare. Since cold water closes the cuticles, it also flattens the hair. For those that seek volume with a splash of Erykah Badu (I know I do), cold water rinsing may leave much to be desired. I suggest testing this technique out a couple of times and then deciding what works best for you.
Q: What’s the best way to wash your hair?
A: “Warm water is best when cleansing your hair. It allows for just enough hot water to make sure that all the dirt and build up is being thoroughly removed but doesn’t leave your hair feeling stripped.”
Q: Seeking shiny frizz free hair?
A: Ziggy suggests rinsing your hair in cold water. “It helps to seal in the moisture by closing the hair’s cuticles and it doesn’t have the same drying properties as hot water.”
Ziggy Artistry Salon Nanuet, NY
Hairstylist (specializing in natural hair) for 13 years