5 Steps to an Easy, Quick & Cheap Old School Hair Care Regimen

5 Steps to an Easy, Quick & Cheap Old School Hair Care Regimen

woman using Old school hair care
Credit: GDJ/pixabay.com

Old school hair care? But why, you ask?

New school hair care is complicated, expensive and time-consuming. No wonder people give up on natural hair and run back to weaves and relaxers.

Who has time to mix twenty different oils, fifty butters, aloe vera juice and a dash of glycerin? Every year there’s some magical new oil from the deepest part of the Amazonian rainforest. Or another expensive butter we’ve all gotta try. I was fed up, and so were many others.

And that’s why we went back to old school hair care. To save money, time, and our sanity!

If you’re old enough to remember old school hair maintenance, my regimen is a reminder of the old days. If you’re too young to remember, you’re gonna see how much easier things used to be.

My regimen is cheap, easy and doesn’t take hours every day. Best of all, it’s grown my hair from shoulder length to almost butt length. It’s not guaranteed to work for everyone, but nothing is. If it doesn’t work, at least you didn’t waste hundreds of dollars on oils, butters and other organic goodies.

This is the old school hair care regimen I’m currently following. It’s based on how my mother used to care for my sister and I’s hair. I’ve also added some new school hair care to the mix, but only because my hair prefers it.

Let’s get started, shall we?

Here’s a summary of my old school hair care regimen:

Week 1

Step 1: Detangle Before Washing Your Hair.

Step 2: Wash and Condition Your Hair.

Step 3: Quickly Dry Your Hair.

Step 4: Style and Leave Your Hair Alone.

Week 2

Step 5: Maintain or Redo Your Hairstyle. Now Leave Your Hair Alone!

Week 3

Repeat Step 5: Maintain or Redo Your Hairstyle. Now Leave Your Hair Alone!

Week 4

Repeat Step 5: Maintain or Redo Your Hairstyle. Now Leave Your Hair Alone!

Week 5

Wash Your Hair and Start the Cycle Again!

Now let’s go into more detail about what each step involves. If you have any questions, check the FAQ to see if they’re answered or email me at contact@zadagreen.com.



Week 1

Step 1: Detangle Before Washing Your Hair

Detangle hair.

I finger detangle my hair in eight sections. I used to separate my hair into many sections, but it took approx six hours to do so. There’s no point in spending hours and hours like that. Old school hair care was much quicker with better results.

I comb through my hair using my thumb. You can try using your fingers if you like, or even a comb or brush. Just make sure your detangling tool doesn’t hurt your scalp or break hair off. Pain is a sign you’re doing something wrong. Excessive breakage is another sign. You shouldn’t lose massive balls of hair daily or weekly.

Separate hair into 8-12 sections.

The new school hair care movement suggested separating hair into countless tiny twists or plaits. No wonder it took me a quarter of the day just to plait my hair. Now I keep my hair in the same eight sections to save time.

Why not fewer than eight sections? I tried keeping my hair in 2-4 sections, but the roots were very tangled. The roots of plaits are looser than the rest of the hair, so they have room to shrink up and tangle. You can try fewer plaits, but it didn’t work for me.

You don’t have to wash your hair in plaits. Twists are another option. Twist ONE section to try washing your hair in twists. Some people find that washing their hair in twists causes lots of tangles. That’s why I go with plaits instead.

Step 2: Wash and Condition Your Hair.

The old school hair care method involves washing and conditioning loose hair, but that caused excessive tangling for me. That’s why I wash in sections. If you have no problem doing the old school hair care method of washing hair completely loose — no tangles, breakage, painful detangling, etc — then skip this step.

There are two different ways to wash hair in sections. I use the first method because of the benefits, but try both and see what works for you. Both methods help me save time and hair I lost washing my hair completely loose.

Method One.

Wash your hair in the plaits. Make sure you get the shampoo onto your scalp and hair to strip dirt away. It’s a fresh start for your hair, and prevents product build-up. Don’t undo the plaits. Just wash your hair as if it were loose.

Now repeat the process with a conditioner, but focus more on your hair. Your scalp doesn’t need conditioning, but your hair does. Once you’ve applied conditioner to your hair, wash it off right away. Leaving it on for longer is a waste of time.

When you’re done, squeeze your plaits thoroughly to get excess shampoo, conditioner and water out. Wrap a towel around your hair and leave it to start drying.

Pros of this method.

No tangles.

The hair is detangled prior to washing and stays detangled because it’s kept in plaits the entire time.

Cleans your scalp.

It’s easier for me to reach my scalp. Afro hair is very dense, so keeping my hair in sections means I can easily reach all of my scalp without my hair getting in the way.

A time-saver.

Washing my hair loose takes longer because I struggle to reach all of my scalp with shampoo and get all of my hair coated in conditioner. When I washed my thick natural hair loose, it took over an hour. The hot water ran cold eventually and I still wasn’t done yet!

Washing in plaits only takes ten minutes, not hours upon hours. This is part of the reason why my old school hair care regimen lasts no more than five hours in total a month. Others spend up to three hours a day!

Save money.

It saves money spent on hair products because you need less shampoo and conditioner to coat plaited or twisted hair than you do to saturate loose hair. My shampoo and conditioner last for months, not days.

Cons of this method.

Less breakage.

For me personally, I get a bit of breakage when I undo wet plaits. That’s why I squeeze them dry for around ten minutes with a towel before starting to thoroughly dry them with a hairdryer.

Not a deep clean.

When I undo my hair, I still feel hair grease on parts of my hair. Because I’m washing in plaits, hair products can’t reach all of my hair. My hair feels amazing, but I know not every strand was cleaned. They all get soaking wet, but they won’t be equally shampooed or conditioned.

Method Two.

Another option is washing in loose sections.

After detangling your hair, choose a way to keep each section separate. You could plait, twist, tie each section into mini buns or bantu knots, or just clip each section up so it doesn’t come undone.

In the shower, take down one section and wet it. Hold the hair taut so it can’t shrink up and tangle. Now shampoo the roots and down the hair to the ends. Rinse off until the shampoo is out. Then add conditioner, focusing more on the hair. Rinse it out.

Now tie your hair up again. This stops the hair from tangling and keeps each section separate. Work on the next section, repeating the process. Continue until each section has been washed and conditioned. Then wrap your hair in a towel so it can partially dry.

If you choose plaits, undoing and redoing each plait takes much longer than twists and bantu knots. Keep this in mind.

Pros of this method.

Deeper cleaning.

You’re undoing each plait so you can do a more thorough job when cleaning. Shampoo and conditioner reach every strand of hair. Product build up has nowhere to hide. It’s coming off whether it likes it or not. Unlike the first method, you get to thoroughly clean your scalp and hair.

Less density.

When you have thick hair, particularly when it’s natural, washing all the hair at once can seem like a chore. By separating the hair into sections, the process is much easier. You’re only focusing on one part at a time. Breaking up a job into smaller chunks makes anything “difficult” look and feel much easier.

Cons of this method.

Takes longer.

It takes me up to thirty minutes to wash and condition via this method. That’s 2-3 times longer than the first method. Working on each section is more time-consuming than working on all the hair at once.

More tangles.

If water makes your hair shrink up quickly like mine, undoing your hair for a moment or so is enough time for some tangles to form. The hair isn’t as tangle free as it was when you started, which is frustrating.

More product, more money.

By undoing the plaits you’re exposing more hair. The loose hair requires more product to clean and coat it. Using more hair product means you’ll finish it faster. Then you’ll end up buying more hair products more often. Buying more often means spending more money.

Step 3: Quickly Dry Your Hair.

Gently towel dry first.

Start by towel drying the hair. Don’t aggressively rub the towel on your hair. That’ll cause breakage. Instead, wrap the towel around each section and squeeze. Squeezing sucks the moisture into the towel and out of your hair.

Despite what you’ve heard, towel drying isn’t guaranteed to cause hair damage. Just squeeze it on your hair to dry your hair. It’s not going to dry your hair completely, but that doesn’t matter. We don’t want soaking wet hair because wet hair is more fragile than dry hair. Fragile hair breaks off more.

After squeezing each section of your hair a couple of times, you can wrap a dry towel around your hair and leave it on for up to an hour, or move on to the next step straight away.

If you washed in plaits, undo them now. Keep the sections separate.

Goodbye air drying. Hello blowdryer.

Blowdrying is better than air drying.

Air drying my hair took a whole day. I dried my hair in plaits because if I did it loose, my hair tangled really badly. Air drying also left my hair feeling very rough and crispy.

In contrast, the blowdryer dries my hair within an hour. My hair is left smoother and softer. It allows me to detangle, wash and dry my hair in only 3 hours.

How to stop the blowdryer causing heat damage.

Get your blowdryer ready and test the different heat and speed settings on your skin. See how hot each setting is. Also note how long it takes until the hot air starts to hurt. Don’t burn yourself! Be careful.

I stick with the hot setting and low speed. The high heat and high speed setting was too hot on my skin, so I don’t use it on my hair. The cooler settings took too long to dry.

Grease your hair.

Take each section of hair and cover it in grease. I use two fingertips’ worth of grease on each section, but you can use more or less. Then blowdry until it is mostly or completely dry. If you’re worried about hair grease, read this great article on myths about it. She makes excellent points about how grease has been wrongfully demonised! If not for women like this and old school hair care, my hair would still be above armpit length and breaking.

Add more grease, particularly on the ends because they are older and more fragile. Hair grease keeps them more protected than oils and butters that rub off easily. Keeping your ends protected cuts the chance of having split ends.

Improve your scalp condition.

Now grease your scalp. This stops dry scalp and flakes. Plus your scalp feels so smooth and soft. If you don’t like rubbing grease onto your scalp, feel free to skip this step. Remember, grease clogging pores is a myth! My hair wouldn’t have reached past my waist if I hadn’t added grease back into my regimen.

After greasing your scalp and hair, style your hair. I plait my hair at this point in those same eight sections. Repeat this step for each section of hair.

Step 4: Leave Your Hair Alone.

The new school hair care regimen involves restyling your hair daily. People are retwisting, rebraiding, bunning, washing and going, and much more every day. No wonder people get fed up with their hair. If I spent hours on my hair daily I’d get fed up too!

Old school hair care was so much simpler. We styled our hair on the weekend and left it alone all week. We might have reapplied grease to our scalps if we felt like it during the week. Most of the time, we just left our hair alone. Covering the hair at night helped preserve the hairstyle.

Daily manipulation always broke my hair off. Leaving my hair alone during the week helps it thrive. Every time you restyle your hair, it causes damage. Leave your hair be. Let it grow. Restyling your hair doesn’t help it grow. It does the opposite. It breaks it off.

Change your hairstyle for special occasions.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t ever change your hairstyle. There are people who wear their loose daily and it still thrives. I’m not one of those women. Are you?

I follow old school hair care when it comes to manipulation. On special occasions e.g. dates, Christmas, New Year’s, birthdays, holidays, etc you can let loose. Experiment with more manipulation. Discover new hairstyles that suit your personality. But keep this high manipulation period short. Your hair will thank you for it.

I know it’s hard to leave your hair alone. Distract yourself from the strong urge to play in your hair. Go watch TV, go for a walk, go eat something healthy, or just go and do something productive. Damaging your hair daily isn’t productive. It’s a waste of time. That’s why old school hair care worked for so many people. The hair was left alone to grow.



Weeks 2, 3 and 4: Sunday

Step 5: Maintain or Redo Your Hairstyle

I’m offering two options again. I follow the first method because my hair maintains length better that way. The second method worked too, but it took more time and I experienced more breakage.

Method One.

Moisturise your plaits.

I spirtz my hair with water to moisturise it. There’s no need to drench the hair. A light spritz is enough to wet my plaits. I spray directly onto each plait to make sure they all get moisture.

I don’t wet the roots because that makes my natural hair shrink and tangle. If your hair is relaxed then this isn’t a problem. If your hair has been straightened, make sure you stretch your hair to maintain the length or it’ll revert back to its natural state.

Grease your scalp and hair.

Apply a generous amount of grease to each plait. This ensures they are all coated equally. I also add grease to the ends because that’s the oldest, weakest part of our hair.

The hair inside each plait is still coated in grease, so don’t worry about those hair strands. They don’t need extra grease or moisture. It’s the hair exposed outside each plait that needs a top-up on grease. The grease was rubbed off them throughout the week for various reasons e.g. putting your head on a pillow, wearing hats, wigs or head wraps, getting your hair wet, etc.

Pros of this method.

It’s quick.

It takes me no more than ten minutes. Save more time by not greasing your scalp. If it’s still smooth and soft, you can skip greasing it this week. See how simple and easy old school hair care can be?

No tangles.

Keeping the hair in a protective style like plaits or twists makes sure you don’t create tangles. The hair stays nice and detangled because it isn’t being manipulated.

Cons of this method.

Shed hair build up.

You aren’t detangling, so shed hair is still trapped in the plaits. This means you’ll have more shed hair to remove the following week. The hair will be a big ball of shed hair, so prepare for that. Don’t let it scare you.

Remember, everyone sheds approx one hundred hairs a day. If you detangle your hair after two weeks, you’ll have more than one thousand shed hairs coming out. It looks like a lot, but it’s perfectly normal.

Not moisturising every hair.

Only the hairs exposed on the outside of each plait will get the most moisture. The hairs inside still have grease on them, but the moisture will have dried up over the week. Despite this, my hair still retains length.

I believe moisturising hair is overrated. Those drier hairs inside each plait grow just fine despite not getting the full benefit from being moisturised.

Method Two.

Detangle your hair.

Undo each plait (or twist, bantu knot, etc) and detangle your hair. I finger detangle because it reduces breakage and time spent. You can detangle using whatever tools your hair prefers.

Moisturise your hair.

I spritz my hair with plain water to moisturise. I tried using leave-in conditioners, but I saw no extra benefit. The conditioner moisturised my hair too well. It made my natural hair shrink and tangle, making detangling cause much more breakage. A spritz moisturises my hair without it tangling. Plus using tap water saves money!

Grease your scalp and hair.

Grease your scalp again and massage to fully distribute the grease. The massage also feels really nice! Massaging skin stimulates blood flow, which can increase hair growth. One winter, I massaged every day for three months and got three inches of hair growth — that’s double my average hair growth! It’s nice when you find a new school hair care tip that actually works.

Also grease your hair. This coats your hair again to replace the grease rubbed off during the week. Add extra grease to your ends because they’re weaker than the rest of your hair. It also helps your ends stay tangle free. Without grease, my ends tangled badly. This caused breakage when I undid my plaits.

Restyle your hair.

Plait, twist, etc your hair again. It should feel smooth and soft. Make sure you pick a style that will last until next week. Remember, you won’t be styling your hair throughout the week. Low manipulation is excellent for hair growth.

Pros of this method.

Prevents shed hair build up.

You’re undoing your hair, so you have the chance to detangle your hair. This stops shed hair from building up in your style. Leaving shed hair in your hairstyle increases the chance of experiencing tangles when you start detangling. That’s because shed hairs grab other hairs and refuse to let go.

Playtime!

I love playing in my hair. If you find it hard leaving your hair alone, allowing some weekend playtime is a great compromise. When you’re tempted to play in your hair, tell yourself that you can redo your hair but only on Saturday or Sunday. You can wait a few days, right?

Cons of this method.

More breakage.

Personally, I avoid this method because I retain less hair growth. My hair still grows, but slower. I realised that my hair prefers being detangled every fortnight. I guess it just likes an extra week off from being detangled.

Takes longer.

It takes longer because you’re undoing your hair, detangling, and restyling. That takes me an hour and a half. Your hair might be quicker or longer to restyle.

Week 5: Wash Your Hair and Start the Cycle Again

See how easy that was? No marathon hairstyling sessions. That’s the beauty of old school hair care. A little weekly or biweekly maintenance frees up so much time.

My new school hair care regimen included time-consuming steps like:

  • Deep conditioning (made no difference)
  • Trimming every few months (still had splits)
  • Moisturising hair daily (caused more tangles)
  • Sealing in moisture with oil or butter (benefits gone within a day)
  • Organic hair products (cost so much and delivered so little)
  • Air drying (took a whole day)
  • Protective styling my hair in 50-100 plaits or twists (took 6-12 hours)
  • Protective styling for 4 weeks (caused tangling, matting and breakage)

In comparison, my old school hair care regimen:

  • Hair products cost a third of the price
  • Hair products last for months or years, not days or weeks
  • Maintenance requires fewer than 5 hours a month, not 3 hours daily
  • Requires sealing in moisture once a week, not daily
  • Encourages styling once every 7-14 days, not daily
  • Grew my hair from shoulder length to almost butt length

Here’s a summary of my personal old school hair care inspired regimen.

Week 1

Step 1: Detangle Before Washing Your Hair.

Step 2: Wash and Condition Your Hair.

Step 3: Quickly Dry Your Hair.

Step 4: Style and Leave Your Hair Alone.

Week 2

Step 5: Maintain or Redo Your Hairstyle. Now Leave Your Hair Alone!

Week 3

Repeat Step 5: Maintain or Redo Your Hairstyle. Now Leave Your Hair Alone!

Week 4

Repeat Step 5: Maintain or Redo Your Hairstyle. Now Leave Your Hair Alone!

Week 5

Wash Your Hair and Start the Cycle Again!

If you have any questions, email me at contact@zadagreen.com or check the FAQ here.

I’m not saying this regimen must be followed as is. I redo my hairstyle every fortnight, not every week. You might prefer washing once a week or twice a month. Maybe you’ll swap the blowdryer for air drying. Will you take advantage of the benefits of grease or go for oil and butter?

It’s all up to you.

Your hair, your rules. No one in the world has hair like yours. Through trial and error, you will discover what your hair loves. Not my hair. Or your favourite blogger’s hair. Not a youtube guru’s hair. Or your best friend’s hair.

Your hair.

And that’s the old school hair care way. Everyone is free to do what they want. We didn’t force everyone to do the same thing. Old school hair care respects that all hair is different. There are no rules that apply to everyone.

Use my regimen as a place to start. Experiment to see what works for you and what doesn’t. I mix old school hair care with the new school, but you might go all old school or all new school. Whatever works. It doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing.

Just do what works for you.