Tips on Washing & Prepping Your Hair Before Getting an Updo

Knowing when to wash you hair and how to prepare your locks before an updo helps you get the best look.

Updated January 29, 2024
Fancy updo

Nothing says chic and effortless like the updo. It's the quintessential hairstyle to add to your beauty routine — and a favorite for fancy events like prom, homecoming, weddings, and more. And yet, it takes a bit of effort to perfect!

But don't stress. We've got you covered with some tips and tricks on when to wash and how to care for your hair before getting an updo to get the best look possible. 

How to Prep Hair Before the Updo

Whether you choose to work with a professional stylist, try it yourself, or have a friend help, caring for your locks before getting an updo can make all the difference.

Choose the Best Time to Wash Your Hair

Should you have clean hair or dirty hair for an updo? How long before the hair appointment or doing your updo should you wash? These are common questions, and deciding if or when you should wash your hair before your updo can be a bit tricky. 

It's typically best to work with generally clean, dry hair, but washing too soon before the appointment can be counterproductive. Women with thick hair may not be able to dry the hair completely before the appointment, and the moisture can make creating a lasting updo difficult since the hair's texture and volume change as it dries. Hair that's "too" clean also may not hold the style as well as hair that hasn't been freshly washed. 

While it's usually best not to wash your hair immediately before an updo (unless that's your personal preference or your stylist's recommendation), keep in mind that it can be also hard for stylists to work with hair that's too oily or has a lot of build-up, so choose the pre-updo wash window that works for your hair. 

It depends on your specific hair, but some general guidelines include the following:

  • For thick hair: Wash at least 24 hours before your appointment since you want to make sure it's fully dry.
  • For thin hair: Keep at least a few hours between washing and styling time.
  • For oily hair: Washing it about five hours before might be optimal.
  • For dry hair: A good wash the day before styling may allow some good oils to build up for the best updo.
  • Consider your normal washing routine: You know your hair best, and if you typically go longer periods between washing or have very dry hair, you may want to go with a longer window of time between your last wash and your updo. 
  • Condition hair as usual after washing and rinse well. 
Quick Tip

While you don't want to do an updo while your hair is wet, if your updo style is one with a part, you may want to set your part while your hair is still damp. It can be harder to set the part on dry hair. 

Related: Easy Ways to Remove Build-Up From Hair

Consider the Products You Use Before an Updo

Like when to wash, what products you should or shouldn't use depends on your hair — and what you like. How your hair reacts to products is also a factor.

The reason many experts don't love washing hair right before styling is that it gives the strands a little time to adjust so there are fewer flyaways and frizz, and more texture. That's also where products come in. 

If you're doing an updo yourself, consider products that add texture and volume, without adding stiffness or too much slickness. Products can also help the style have more staying power, even if the hair is initially a little "too" clean.

  • Gel and mousse are traditional products that can add extra texture before updo styling.
  • If you have thin or fine hair, volumizing sprays can boost volume.
  • Dry shampoos and sea salt sprays are favorites to add a bit of texture. 
  • A light mist of hair spray or hair spray at the roots to prep can also help the style to have lasting hold. 
  • If you're adding curls or heat, consider using heat-protectant sprays or leave-ins to protect your hair from damage. 
  • Depending on your hair type, you may want to skip leave-in conditioner or oils, as those have the potential to weigh hair down and could make it harder for the updo to stay in place. 
Quick Tip

Use texturizing and volumizing products sparingly, and check with your stylist before using them if you're getting your updo done at the salon. 

Consult Your Stylist Before the Updo 

A good stylist will know what to use on your hair. Even if you are doing your updo yourself, check in with your stylist the next time you get a haircut.

You can also stop into a salon to ask for a quick consultation and if they recommend any products that would work best for your type of hair.

Quick Tip

Stylists generally recommend against getting a drastically different cut or color right before the event. If you're planning a big change, do so well in advance so you'll be comfortable and happy with the look of your updo. 

Watch Updo Tutorials for Your Specific Hair Type

Social media is full of excellent beauty content to help you achieve your best updo. The right look, prep, and care can depend on your hair type and the specific updo style you're looking for. 

Two updo specialists with major cred include Jaime Lyn Vandenberg @jamielvandenberg and Shalini Samuel @knot_me_pretty.

Related: 90s Hairstyles We Love

Pamper Your Locks Ahead of Time

If you're prepping your hair for an updo look at a special event, pre-care is where it's at. Here's what to think about to prep for your updo (or for the most lush locks anytime): 

Keep Up With Trims

If you're someone who gets regular trims, then do just that. When you're in the stylist's chair, ask for tips on the best updo for your face and hair type.

woman getting hair trimmed

Brush With Care

Haphazard hair brushing is what so many of us do, but shouldn't. The best brushing technique is to start at mid-length then brush to the ends, and gradually work your way up to the roots. This helps avoid breakage. 

Be Mindful of Products

Try to find products without harmful ingredients so your hair gets the best treatment. And don't overload your hair. Too much product can cause build-up. 

Helpful Hack

Using a deep conditioner once a week is a treat for your hair to keep it healthy, so consider adding this to your routine in the weeks leading up to the event when you'll wear the updo.  

Related: How to Make Your Hair Smell Amazing

Flaunt Your Look

Updo styles are stunning — everything from a halo braid to a French twist to a tousled top knot exudes elegance. Caring for your hair before your updo is key to getting the best look. Get inspired to create an updo for yourself, then watch as your style inspires others. 

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Tips on Washing & Prepping Your Hair Before Getting an Updo