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Most of my adult life, I had a hair ritual that basically determined how my day would go.
If my hair cooperated with me, my day was going to be amazing and I was full of energy. If my hair was untamable, it was going to be a very bad day and I might as well just have stayed home. But ugh, adult life work. I would shampoo twice a day – once in the morning to wake my hair up, and then once at night to wash off the hair products I put in that day. In the morning, I would have to dry my hair to a point where it was still slightly moist, but not fully dry before applying a combination of hair products. I had it down to a science.
SEE ALSO: I haven’t shampooed in 5 years
Fast-forward a few years to when I decided to start an exploration of a new hairstyle that didn’t require hair products. Coincidentally, I started my freelance career, which meant I worked from home and need not be seen by anyone in the public eye. My girlfriend had suggested that I stop shampooing everyday, and shampoo only once every two days because she had heard it’s not healthy to shampoo every day. It’s something called “co-washing,” a method Very Good Light actually wrote about. You can read it here. It’s short for “conditioner washing,” that is, not using shampoo, thus, allowing the natural oils to do their thang.
Taking her advice, I decided not to wash my hair.
My whole thought was the more you washed your hair, the better your hair would be. Having thick, coarse, Asian hair, I thought it was supposed to feel like straw. After not washing just for one night, my hair just naturally glorious with its natural oils. It had an instant, nice shine and perfect malleability. Well, that is, until a little bit past noon. My hair would get too oily and started to smell like sweat and, well, hair. Not good. Definitely not sexy. I didn’t know that running my fingers through my hair became an unintended method of moisturizing my hands. It was gross.
I didn’t know I could get through all of this oil. After doing more research, I realized that shampoo is a product that strips your hair of its natural oils. Because it strips it, your scalp over-produces oils because it’s expecting you to strip it again with shampoo. It’s one vicious cycle. Thus, your scalp will stop producing any and oil once it figures out there’s no more shampoo that will strip it.
Getting through to not needing shampoo at all like designer Dan Snyder (who hasn’t shampooed at ALL FOR FIVE YEARS!!!), takes practice. And patience.
Some thoughts you will have over the next few days:
“I’m so self-conscious my hair smell right now.”
“Okay, it’s getting a little too greasy… but Must. Power. Through.”
“Oh god, my hair is like wet seaweed.”
“So itchy and oily.”
The trick is weening yourself to stop using shampoo but doing it a few days at a time. If you stop cold turkey, you will have a congealed mess on top of your head. It’ll get on your face, your pillows, it’ll drip everywhere. Before you start co-washing, I suggest a few products that’ll get you to being completely ‘poo-free.
What you’ll need:
-Dry Shampoo (for when it gets TOO oily). This one from R+Co is really good ($29).
-Salt mist (to give it texture and absorb some oil). I’ve been using Olivine Atelier Love + Salt Mist ($28) for a natural beachy hair texture.
-A good shampoo (on rare shampoo days!). I like Kiehl’s Shampoo + Conditioner ($20)
-Conditioner (for when you’re not ‘pooing!). I’m using this $7 one from Giovanni Eco Chic.
-Or even a good co-washing cleanser, like this one from the brand Un-Wash ($24). This will wash your hair via its conditioner.
Here’s a good roadmap of how to do it below. (Note: you refresh back to a “day 1” every time after you’ve stopped shampooing).
Day 1: No shampoo. Day 2: Shampoo.
Day 1: No Shampoo. Day 3: Shampoo.
Day 1: Shampoo. Day 7: No Shampoo.
Day 1: Shampoo. Day 14: No Shampoo.
Day 1: Shampoo. Day 21: No Shampoo.
Day 1: Shampoo. Day 30: No Shampoo.
After this point, your hair will probably stop being so oily. It’ll probably stop itching. After you get to 30 days (and it’ll take some patience!) you’ll realize your hair won’t need so much oil.
Today, I can count the number of times I’ve shampooed since November 2016 one hand. I’m a naturally sweaty guy, I go on 5-8 mile runs (thanks to my inspirational marathon-running mom), and I have a LOT of hair. I wake up every morning, and comb my hair with my fingers, and I’m good for the day. It keeps its volume and has a nice healthy shine. No nasty hair and sweat smells. No face pimples from the hair-to-pillow-to-face oil and dirt transfer.
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As someone who shampooed twice a day, I can proudly say now it’s just hot water and conditioner. It’s much like Dan Snyder’s method. The result? No dandruff, no itchiness, no excessive oiliness.
Immediately after co-washing this is what’ll happen:
1 You get a lot of compliments. I’ve had a colleague interrupt in the middle of a working meeting to announce that she thought my hair was amazing and that they had “waves of the future.”
2 You save money on not buying shampoos and not really needing hair products. Super helpful for my grad student budget.
3 A cool story whenever your friends asks you what you do to your hair. Now I can just send them a link to this article, so they are prepared for the journey.
Good luck on your journey, guys! It’ll be worth it.
Let me know if you co-wash or are co-washing in the comments below!