In Which Our Heroine Boldly Stops Washing Her Hair

Natalie Holbrook and her dirty hair, reporting for duty!

It’s the new cool thing in hairstylist advice, I’m sure you’ve heard it by now: “Don’t wash your hair so often!” “Every other day!” “Every third day!” It’s the new “Take a multivitamin!” or,  “Rinse your hair in cold water!” Do you remember that one? I mean, who on earth is going to rinse their hair in cold water?! That sounds awful. Only washing your hair once a week, on the other hand, that sounds blissful. Blissfully lazy. I am so down with that. It also sounds sort of awful in an unhygienic sort of way. But laziness always wins out for me and plus–it would be an experiment! A Great Beauty Experiment! I was so in.

I talked to my friend Becca about it first. She said that both she and her husband just one day up and stopped washing their hair. I mean, not completely, just not as much. They didn’t plan it either… it just sort of “happened.” Like one day they were going two days between shampoos and then suddenly it had stretched to five days and then–what do you know?–once a week or so, they weren’t even really paying attention. Their hair? Thicker, shinier, less oily, RIDICULOUS VOLUME. I can attest to this, I mean, I know them, I saw their heads.

The theory behind this is the theory behind all of our bodily functions, when you think about it. The human body responds to all our efforts to control it by working harder to do what it thinks it needs to do, which in our head’s case, is produce oil. Oil, oil, oil. The more we remove it the more it makes. Sort of like when you have a container garden of herbs and you trim it and it somehow grows even bigger?

So, in theory, by washing your hair less, your scalp takes a chill pill and slows on the oil production. It realizes, “Hey! No rush! This oil I made’ll be here tomorrow, I’ll go read a book.”

And then your hair thanks you and also, did I mention? This is perfect for lazy people.

So, I decided I’d do it. For a full calendar week, I wouldn’t wash my hair. Would it be life changing? Would it itch? Would this be the key to unlocking my inner Gwyneth Paltrow? (I betcha old Goop never washes her hair, that minx).

Let’s find out! After the jump.

Warning: This slideshow contains a lot of pictures of my silly face. All of my deepest apologies.

  • DAY ONE 1 of 22
    I'm a bed time shower girl, so the night before Day One I followed my usual wet hair after shower routine (brush before hopping in the shower, comb through with fingers while conditioner is soaking in, only comb the very front part of my hair once out of the shower, let air dry). And here is my only bit of advice for this endeavor, should you wish to try it: if you can embrace your hair's natural texture, it'll be a lot easier. I have a slight wave to my hair, so I added a few curls in the morning with the curling iron and let it be a bit of a mess. (Sometimes now I'll straighten it on Day One, but it is really a lot easier if I just let it be.)
  • image-8 2 of 22
    (That night my husband took me to see Garrison Keillor live at Lincoln Center for my birthday and let me just say, he's a dream boat.) (My husband AND Garrison, that is.)
  • DAY TWO 3 of 22
    Day two is my favorite day, traditionally. It's a little thicker and a little mussier and etc. etc. Day two hair is the best day hair.
  • image-9 4 of 22
  • image-10 5 of 22
    The curls mostly held up so I didn't use any heat tools this day. (This is also why I was particularly interested in testing this out: my ends are severely damaged and thin and I'm trying (futilely?) to grow my hair out, so a break from heat can only be good, right?) Right, I love Day Two! But after Day Two comes Day Three and by Day Three there is a bit of upkeep involved to rocking the dirty hair, and so now we're going to discuss the dry shampoo, because you're gonna need some major dry shampoo if you're not going to be washing your hair for a week.
    Here we have my favorite dry shampoo. It's made by Suave, it's hilariously cheap, it smells good, you can find it HERE. I like to spray a lot of it at the roots at night before bed, and then again in the morning (in significantly smaller amounts). It will leave a white residue sometimes, but if you work it in with your fingers it will usually go away. (Use a bit of water if you need to.)
  • image-11 7 of 22
    Another good dry shampoo, which you can get HERE.

    And while we're here, a word on showering when you're not washing your hair: Whether or not you choose to get your hair wet is up to you. I choose not to. My friend Becca rinses her hair out every night or so between washes (and uses her fingers to massage her scalp as if there were shampoo involved), but she has a daily work out routine and I do not. If I were sweating a lot I'd definitely rinse my hair out at night, but I don't.... so I don't. 😉
  • image-12 8 of 22
    The last dry shampoo I recommend is called Psssssst and it's really hard to say in person without feeling stupid. You can get it HERE.
    Should you decide to rinse, or even if you decide not to rinse, it's a good idea to have a really good conditioner on hand. Apply it every time you're rinsing your hair (just to the ends, please), and, starting day three or four I usually take a dime size amount and rub it through the ends of my hair leave-in style before I comb it out. I like this one from Nexxus, which you can find HERE. (This one smells real good.)
  • image-13 10 of 22
    Oh and P.S., I like using a comb like this to comb my hair after my shower every night
  • DAY THREE 11 of 22
    Day Three was new territory for me. I woke up, sprayed more dry shampoo where I needed it, tousled it with my fingers just a bit, and then thought, "Huh. This isn't so bad!" It took me ten minutes to get ready that day, start to finish. Brilliant.
  • image-14 12 of 22
    The wave in my hair sort of had a mind of its own on Day Three and seemed to come together and really work it, super awesome teamwork style. I was kind of proud of my hair waves that day.
  • DAY FOUR 13 of 22
    On Day Four Huck and I flew to Utah. Here's the thing: airplanes are so gross on your hair, right? I was fully prepared to give in once I got to the hotel and just use whatever sample sized shampoo they had on hand, but the most surprising thing happened any time I found myself worried about my hair falling flat during the millions of hours I spent either in the air or wandering the airports: A simple scrunch of the roots with my hands and my hair would instantly volumize, and actually stay that way! It was so filthy it sort of stood up on its own! Also my expectations of how my hair should look at this point were really low, so I'm sure that accounts for a lot of it.
  • DAY FIVE 14 of 22
    Here's what about Utah: it's DRY. So, possibly that was a huge help, but by Day Five I was feeling positively giddy about not ever washing my hair ever again. More dry shampoo before bed and more dry shampoo in the morning and I combed through the ends a bit and I was like, dang! This is so easy! This is the best! That day I filmed a quick promo for some friends' new project as a favor (buy their ebook! A Hip Handmade Holiday!) and felt strangely fine with the fact that I was wearing really dirty hair on my head and that it was behaving sort of crazy. In my imagination I was Alexa Chung or some rockstar's filthy fabulous French girlfriend. Only here's the down side: By Day Five my ends started to be reeeeeally interested in tangling up and looking mangy. (If you saw the video I posted on my blog this week, I'm sure you noticed. Pass the comb, stat!)
  • DAY FIVE: IN ACTION! 15 of 22
    See it, there? Brush that hair, girl! Was it the dry shampoo? Was it the arid climate of Utah? Whatever the case, I felt like I needed to brush it a million times an hour and was glad I had a tube of hand creme in my purse I could use to slather on the moisture (this is a trick I learned from my hairstylist--better than conditioner she says). (Subsequent weeks of no-washing since have shown that yes, I think the dry shampoo does dry out your ends, and also yes, I think the desire to dread lock is a natural byproduct of being hair that's not having been washed in a while.)
    I totally stole this picture from a reader's Twitter feed. Here's the story: I met this cute girl while in Utah and she was adorable and she asked for a photo and when I saw it posted on her twitter feed I thought with surprise, "Hey! My hair looks okay!" This was the moment when I decided I was a fan of not washing my hair. I am always disappointed with my hair in photos.

    (Someone on Instagram said something along the lines of how Day Five is the best and I say back, YES YOU ARE RIGHT.)
  • DAY SIX 17 of 22
    Day Six was another long travel day. We had a long flight and I had to be out of the hotel by 7AM so let's just say, no matter how it looked, I was really glad not to have to wash my hair that day.
  • DAY SEVEN–AM 18 of 22
  • DAY SEVEN–PM 19 of 22
    Dude I totally wore seven-days-unwashed hair to church. By Day Seven I was feeling mostly invincible. I MAY NEVER WASH MY HAIR AGAIN! I thought. But also.... it was getting sort of itchy?
  • image-16 20 of 22
    ANd not to gross you out or anything but when I would scratch my head I'd sometimes find white powder under my finger nails -- yes, that would be the dry shampoo accumulating into a lovely build up. So it was at that point that I was like... Yeahhhh. Whether or not this still looks passable for a hair style, it's time to wash this mess.

    And so... I did.

    The verdict? Day Five is the new Day Two. I may not go seven days between shampooing again, but I'll at least make it five from here on out. Because Day Five hair is THE BEST.
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Since my first week of no-washing I have gone: six days, seven days, nine days (that one was an accident, I lost track of time), three days (slept on it wrong the first night and hated how it looked and figured it needed a dramatic reset, you know how that goes?), and currently at time of writing we are on Day Four, my dirty hair and I.

Verdict? Yeah, not washing your hair is sort of amazing. I’m a convert.

Article Posted 4 years Ago

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