02 October 2014

In which washing my hair is still overrated

One cliché I seem to hear a lot – on movies and television and my endless collection of favorite mommyblogs – is that when you have a baby, you never have time to shower. Anytime the kid sleeps an extra twenty minutes? “I got to take a shower! A shower!” Apparently a shower is a luxury and, subsequently, the first thing to eliminate when it comes to caring for a tiny new roommate.

Fortunately, I stopped washing my hair with any great frequency a few years ago.

In that post, I told you how I spent a year convincing my scalp that if it wouldn’t make a bunch of oil, I wouldn’t take the time to wash it away. It took an immense amount of patience, but holy moly it was worth it.

A few things have happened in the years since I wrote that post. First, I have become even worse about washing my hair. I recently realized, about ten days into September, that I hadn’t washed my hair since August. Oops. It had cooled down, and my head wasn’t as sweaty, and I just sort of... forgot. Later I realized I hadn’t washed my hair since I had the previous realization... another ten days prior. I’m not saying it smelled great, or looked all that nice, but really it wasn’t any worse than many ladies’ hair after just two days of not washing. And anyway I am saving so much money on my expensive shampoo, y’all.

The other thing that’s happened is a couple of my female coworkers have become super intrigued by my infrequent hair washing – so much that one is now on her own personal quest to the land of weekly shampooing. (I think she’s up to four or five days! Go go go!) Another intrigued coworker insists her hair is way too oily to try it herself, but now she has two evangelists insisting it’s possible. And so I decided I’d revisit this topic and give a few other tips that I think makes this possible for almost everyone!

First of all: You gotta have patience. We already discussed this.

Second of all: You gotta find a hairstyle that is low-maintenance, suited to your hair type, and, preferably, doesn’t require product for styling (it just gets gross over time). For example! Maybe you remember that my hair is actually naturally curly:

But the cruel irony is, while my hair is naturally curly, it hardly holds a curl. That’s right: over the course of a day, my natural waves start to resemble unraveled rope. The top is frizzy, the bottom is stringy. There’s no way to even start to wear my hair curly without scrunching with mousse, and even then, by the next day, it’s flattened itself out. Plus, it feels gross with day-old mousse in it.

And so. On the rare occasions I do wash my hair, I blow-dry and hot roll. Yup.

(Is that late-night, post-shower mirror selfie the definition of “no shame”? Probably. These are the things I do for you, dear readers.)

Hot-rolling adds volume, which my surprisingly thin hair needs – the curls add the illusion of thickness. That can be time-consuming, which was part of the reason why I wanted to stop washing my hair as much in the first place. But! With a half-hour investment in blow-drying and curling one night a week, I barely have to do much more than comb my hair for a week. Worth it.

This hairstyle makes my hair happy. It looks fine the next morning with zero input.

Actually, it looks fine after I’ve slept on it several times (three nights for the photo below). Over the week, the curls fall out, but that’s fine. That’s just what my hair does, so I need to embrace that rather than force it into another style.

I bring this up because my coworker’s hair does the opposite. She has curly hair – a bit more curly than mine in the photo above – and hers gets more curly as she skips washing it. For her, blow-drying it straight would be dumb, because it’d curl back up over the coming days, and having to re-style it all the time defeats the purpose of not having to deal with your hair. You just have to find the hairstyle that your hair falls into naturally.

Moving on. Third of all: You gotta get this stuff.

Same photo as before. Same product as before! I am still an Oscar Blandi dry shampoo evangelist. It’s pricey but it can last forever. The more you don’t wash your hair, the less you need it.

Applying it directly to your head leaves weird white patches that look like you were experimenting with baby powder. I squirt it in my hand instead...

... and just pat it on the grody-looking spots of my scalp. For me, that’s my temples, around my ears, and the crown of my head. Ideally, I do this the night before (usually somewhere around day four post-washing), so I wake up with non-greasy and super voluminous hair! In practice, I apply ten minutes before I leave for work. Whatever, it works.

And finally: You gotta find a dirty-hair hairstyle that works for you.

Mine is almost always a updo-twisty-bun-thing secured with a big claw clip.

You know this look – it’s what I look like in most of the photos on this blog, after all. It keeps my hair up when I’m walking/cooking/painting/sciencing/living, so it works well for me. I do the half-up barrette thing sometimes, and I’m a fan of sunglasses-as-a-headband on the regular, too.

Your dirty-hair hairstyle might be a ponytail, or a half-up with a barette, or a side-braid, or a headband. Whatever works for you! It’s actually better to avoid hats and scarves – they’ll just make your head sweaty = dirtier hair in the end. But once you find that hairstyle, it’s your go-to for those awkward days during scalp-training when you want to wash your hair but can’t, and later when you are just being lazy (this is me most of the time).

And that’s it! It’s all about letting your hair do its thing that it would do if you weren’t washing it all the time. I used to have a super dry, itchy, unhappy head of hair, and the only thing that ever worked was to stop washing it all the time. Now my head is happy because I’m not messing with it constantly, and I’m happy because I save time and money washing it rarely. Not to mention... I won’t be that brand new mom with the gross unwashed hair. Maybe I’m ready to have this baby after all!


Janice said...

Not sure if it would work but I have used a dry "shampoo" of cornstarch and baking soda... on the dog! I was pleasantly surprised how it took the odor right out of her fur. When you think about it, it makes sense. Haven't tried it on my own head yet though ha ha I hear more and more women going with the non-daily shampooing. I think I'll stick with my mild shampoo on a daily basis though ;)

Anonymous said...

I thought I was the only one!! I wash my hair about every 5 days I guess. I also don't brush it if I can possibly avoid it. This came about because I went on a 2 week trip and forgot my hairbrush... first few days were a nightmare but then I started to get used to it and lo and behold by the end of 2 weeks didn't need a hair brush any more. Result: I go a year between hair cuts no problem and have very few split ends. Its awesome, but I don't tell people why my hair is so healthy and easy to manage because it just seems a bit slovenly to not brush your hair ever and avoid washing it as much as you can. But my hair is so much better than it was when I used to put the effort in. You're right about finding a cut and style that works for your hair though, that's key.

Sarah said...

@Anon, you are absolutely correct! I should've mentioned that too! I usually just finger-comb for the first day or so, then only comb the underside (which is more prone to tangle) for the next day or two, and then finally start combing it for real after that. I only break out the brush for blow-drying! Down with over-styling, yes to happy, healthy hair! :)

Carlye said...

You've inspired me! I'm an everyday gal, but would love to get that down to 2-3 times a week, especially as I grow out my hair. I made it through my first work day yesterday, and (*GASP*) no one was the wiser. Thanks for the tip on the dry shampoo. I've loitered over various brands in Ulta before, but never wanted to commit without knowing if it would actually work. Here's to healthy hair a reclaiming my time for better things!