By Beth Shapouri. Photos: Courtesy of Beth Shapouri.
Take a deep breath, friends, because what I am about to say may be deeply upsetting to some of you. I wash my hair five to seven days a week.
Shampooing frequently isn’t necessarily great for the health of your hair. Cleansers strip it of its natural, nourishing oil leading to more damage than anyone is interested in. I know this. You know this. I’m pretty sure there are now monkeys in caves in untouched lands who now know that stretching the time between shampoos—or ditching the stuff altogether—will provide for more moisturized, happier hair. And I can’t count how many of my colleagues have told me with pride that they’ve now gotten down to a once-a-month treatment, usually with some ritual along the lines of sitting in a steam room while a magical fairy spritzes cleaning oil—collected by monks in a mountain so remote it’s not on most maps—in the air. Hairstylists openly tsk-tsk when I tell them my washing schedule. Hell, I’ve even written the advice to lay off shampoo in my stories countless times.
But here’s the thing: That doesn’t work for me.
I'm a girl who has an aggressive combination of an oily scalp, a finicky wavy texture, and a packed workout schedule. Even if I were to take a gym break, it wouldn’t help much—my scalp starts to look slick on day two as it is. But for a girl who sweats five to six days a week, not washing my hair just feels gross. The perspiration builds up and makes my ends dry, my wave pattern start going bonkers, and my roots start to puff up so I look like the offspring of Fran Drescher in The Nanny and a lion. Here's photographic evidence at day three of not washing:
Would you want to walk around like that?
And it’s not just about me either. I’m doing it for all of you, too. My hair absorbs odor like a sponge, and that can be a lot to deal with when I walk by you.
The good news is I have a doctor’s note on this situation. After looking around for any solid studies that indicate infrequent washing is better for all hair types all the time—and coming up with nothin’—I asked dermatologist Dr. Hadley King of SKINNEY Medspa in NYC who assured me that if I’m happy with the results of my shampoo schedule, there’s no reason to rock the boat. In fact, she pointed out that dermatologists often recommend cleansing daily to treat seborrheic dermatitis (a.k.a. dandruff). Her take: “The bottom line is that the ideal frequency for shampooing is variable and there is nothing wrong with daily shampooing if that's what works best for you.”
And, yet, I know some of you still want to talk me into cutting back. I can hear you now. Dry shampoo will save you! Sure, sure it can help the oily scalp issue. But you know what helps more? Washing it.
Oh, but Beth what about cowashes, you ask? Well, sure, they are kind of an alternative, but here’s the thing: Because I color my hair, I already use sulfate-free shampoo (hint: most formulas for color-treated are), which is gentle enough not to strip out the dye as quickly. If I wash my hair with one of those and condition it as usual, my hair feels the same as when I use a cowash, which also has gentle cleansers in it. I’m not saying it’s all marketing hype—if you have a cowash you swear by, carry on with it. But on my head? I just don’t see that it makes a difference. Either way, I still need some cleansing, and I’m still going to do it every 24 to 48 hours.
As for the slick factor, I know advocates of the no-poo movement say that your scalp will eventually cut back on oil production when it gets used to not being stripped as often. I tried that once. Day two was OK. Day three not great. Day four was embarrassing. On day five my hair looked fully wet. Not like one of those runway pics you see with the “wet look.” More like, “Wow, you really need to wash your hair!” If pushing past that is ever necessary, I will have to sequester myself from day six on. Who has time for that?
If you rarely wash your hair, that’s great—I salute you and support you continuing on with what makes you happy. I completely understand that women with dry, kinky, or curly hair often find laying off the suds is a godsend for their texture. But it’s certainly not that way for me. So when did it become the norm to shame women into caring for their hair daily if that’s what makes sense for them? Or brag about your non-washing habits like it’s an accomplishment of some type?
Different things work for different people. And what now makes my hair look its best most days is washing it. So back off, people. I have a hot date with a bottle of shampoo. And you can’t talk me out of it.
This story originally appeared on Glamour.
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