Beauty and Style

What happened when I stopped washing my hair

November 24, 2014

shampooI have washed my hair every single day for more than 10 years; this is the story of what happened when I stopped.

OK, so I admit that I would occasionally skip a day of hair-washing (usually there was a hangover involved…), but the norm for me, until last week, was to shampoo it daily. I have friends who I know don’t wash their hair that frequently – Rachel is one example – but I always thought that was because they have different types of hair to me. Then I started noticing on a lot of blogs that women would say they only washed their hair every few days or once a week and once you start looking, information about the benefits of not washing your hair are everywhere.

Now, I am not a fully paid-up member of the ‘no-poo hair’ club, nor have I switched to baking soda and cider vinegar as shampoo substitutes. However, I will say that by the end of the week I was enjoying the experience and having mostly good hair days. Add to that the amount of time and money I saved (laziness and cheapness being key characteristics of mine, and ones that I’ve noticed crop up quite frequently in my blog posts so far…) and I am certainly on the road to conversion without quite being an evangelist yet.

What I didn’t do: shampoo or condition my hair for a whole week. I washed it at lunchtime on Saturday and didn’t wash it again for seven whole days.

What I did do: wet it just a little most days by sticking my head under the shower head. Some days I dried it with a hairdryer and used straighteners. On the Friday, I did allow myself a spritz or two of dry shampoo to go out in the evening. On a couple of days, I used a little hair oil to tame the frizz; other days I used a bit of hairspray.

And here’s what happened, day by day…Everyday30//What happened when I stopped washing my hair

Day 1
My hair looks fine and I’m having a life administration day at home so I don’t do anything to it. The difficult part comes in the evening when I go to play netball and return home with a very sweaty head. I would usually always wash my hair afterwards. It’s difficult to resist the shampoo, but I settle for a rinse under the shower instead. I’m not going to lie: I feel quite grubby.

Day 2
My hair doesn’t smell, as I feared it might. It’s actually looking remarkably under-control, and I get away with just a little bit of straightening and a dab of hair oil and I look presentable enough for work. Following a heavy post-office gym class, however, I am once again in sweat-central. The urge to reach for the shampoo is strong, but I grit my teeth and just give it another rinse.

Day 3
I am still concerned about potential odour coming from my unwashed hair, so I fill my face with a fistful of it and am quite pleased there is no discernable pong. A bit of straightening and some light hairspraying and I’m ready to go. I am starting to get excited about the experiment, and cannot stop asking people to guess when I last washed my hair. Of course, no one is as interested in my minor life tweaks as I hope they’re going to be. Also, people are either (a) completely unsurprised because they themselves think nothing of leaving hair for days between shampoos (these are mostly women), or (b) likely to make some lame joke about a stench coming from my head (these are mostly men). But, ha! It doesn’t smell bad – I checked! The joke’s on you: I’ve saved about 45p’s worth of shampoo this week! I play netball again and the sweat-head dilemma resurfaces, but I find it easier to accept the rinse option this time. I decide I am too tired for blow-drying, so I towel-dry it as far as possible, then plait it damp and sleep on it.

Day 4
I remove the overnight plait, finger through a dab of hair oil and – voilà! My newly wavy hair is ready to face the world. Today is the pinnacle of the not-washing-my-hair smugness: my hair has more texture than usual but it’s not greasy yet. That evening I give it a little rinse, straighten it a little, then pop it in a half-up ‘do’ with a few bobby pins before heading out.

Day 5
Serious work awaits today at the office so the waves have to come out. I wet my hair, then blow-dry and straighten. By now it has started to feel a bit heavy and I can detect some grease at the roots. (On that note – am I the only wavy-haired person who always chooses to straighten it for major work events and job interviews? I’ll keep my wavy hair on normal office days, but if there’s a particularly serious meeting, my poor cuticles get smoothed to within an inch of their life.)

Day 6
There is now some definite root grease going on. I’m exhausted, so I throw my hair up in a bun. It certainly has more volume than usual and stays put more easily than freshly washed hair. I’m grateful it looks OK and I can just head to work with the minimum of fuss expended on it. This is my unhappiest hair day so far though. Since I’m going out tonight and want to wear it down, I need it to look decent; I give it a rinse and attack it with the straighteners. There is certainly some grease at the roots now, so I give it a quick spray with the dry shampoo. The volume of my hair is great by now, but it doesn’t move in the same way that clean hair does. I barely think about my hair all night – usually, I would be worrying about a wave or two creeping in, or a frizz-halo developing.

Day 7
Today is a typical weekend day – I just pull my hair into a bun without giving it further thought. My hair has a bit of texture to it today, and I am even feeling brave enough to venture out without a hat on. It doesn’t smell badly and it doesn’t have too much of a grease slick to it. In fact, today I probably feel more ambivalent about the obligatory shower-rinse than I did on previous days.

Day 8
I washed my hair and as much as I was enjoying my experiment, it feels so good. All in all, I’m pleased that I managed to keep going with this project for a whole week. I had attempted to do it in previous weeks, but kept capitulating by day three. I think I had some OK hair days during my eight days of hair-washing abstinence, and it actually got easier to resist the urge to reach for the shampoo as the week went on. Don’t get me wrong: I was really looking forward to washing it today, but I’m pleasantly surprised at how long I can actually leave my hair without it getting greasy. Plus, the time and money I saved makes not washing my hair a compelling enough prospect that I’m going to stick to only shampooing once a week for now.

How about you? How long can you leave your hair without becoming a recluse? What are your secrets?

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  • Reply Nicky November 25, 2014 at 9:58 am

    Rose, I salute you. I have to wash my hair every day as it’s so greasy. When I was in hospital for three weeks and wasn’t allowed to get out of bed, I couldn’t wash it and I had to resort to using tonnes of dry shampoo. Until I was in hospital, I totally believed the myth that your hair self-cleans after a while. It does not. Mine got greasier and more unwieldy until my mum said I looked like Wurzel Gummidge. After that, I just wore a big Alice band that covered most of my head. I was SOOOO pleased when I could finally wash it!

    Reply Joanna November 25, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    Super interesting article, thanks! I have daydreams about not washing my hair, but everything I’ve read about it seems to be written by people who don’t do sport… or commute… or go to work… or go out… Really helpful to read about your experience during a ‘normal’ week.

    • Reply Rose November 26, 2014 at 7:43 am

      Thanks Joanna. I know exactly what you mean! Especially the the sports bit – my head gets really sweaty y’know? Turns out a rinse is all you need!

    Reply Sabrina November 26, 2014 at 11:23 am

    I’m impressed! Pretty sure I’ve never gone a week without washing my hair. 3 days is my absolute limit and I look like I have bacon strips for hair, it gets so greasy. My brother revealed over the summer that he’d pretty much stopped washing his hair a year and a half ago, and now just rinses it with water. I practically fell off my chair. It looks lovely and shiny (he always used to have a frizzy mop) and he keeps it fairly short… but whilst it doesn’t smell at all bad, it definitely has a certain ‘earthy/human’ aroma that I think a guy can get away with more easily than a woman. Plus I know all the arguments in favour of doing it, but I can honestly say that at a stage in my life when ‘me time’ is at an all-time low, and most forms of pampering/grooming have gone out the window due to looking after a baby – washing my hair remains a little luxury that makes me feel clean and civilised and like I’m not completely letting myself go 😉 So for the moment I’m sticking with shampoo!

    • Reply Rose November 26, 2014 at 2:02 pm

      I also read about these people who have dispensed with shampoo entirely and report their hair is softer, smoother and even a slightly different colour but I don’t think I’m ready to embrace that just yet. I still use shampoo when I do wash it, it’s just less frequent. (And don’t tell anyone but I actually shampooed it twice in one day on that final Sunday!). I think the break from the washing has improved the condition of my hair already and a large part of the draw for me was the time saving. I have very long, very thick hair and washing through to drying and styling takes about 30+ minutes which I just started to feel was too much of my day. As with all of these things, it’s whatever works for you isn’t it?

    Reply Lisa November 30, 2014 at 7:26 pm

    One a week hairwash is the norm for me. Your day four hair makes me super jealous

    • Reply Rose November 30, 2014 at 9:28 pm

      I know it is! Haha, thanks – it’s the laziest of them all too.

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