Kicking the shampoo habit.

Much in the same vein as my last post, this article is all about hair and resolutions. My hair, my resolutions. Possibly your hair as well, and maybe you’ll resolve to do as I do.

Being a hater and a commentator, one thing that never fails to get my eyes rolling is New Year’s Resolutions. Mainly because we always set ourselves excessively ambitious, non-specific ideals: “do something new at least once a month!!!” “Lose sixty pounds!!!” Then there’s my favourite catch-all, “turn my life around completely this year!!!”

I’m not saying you shouldn’t shoot for the stars. I believe identifying where you fall short and resolving to do something about it once and for all is decidedly a good thing.

But it would be helpful if, along with the earth shattering, life-altering, generalised items on your annual agenda, you also included something both a little more targeted and somewhat easier to accomplish.

I’ll give you an example. One rather specific resolution that reappears on my list year after year is “wear more accessories.”

Sounds easy to do, right? But I consistently fail at it.

I start off every January with an accessory bang. I’ll have bought a couple of bracelets, maybe three or four funky statement necklaces. I might even wear each of these items, at least once, if not twice. But give me a couple of weeks and the knowledge that these baubles languish in my jewellery box recedes to the back of my mind.

imagesNeed. More. Accessories!

My outfits become progressively less cute — why should I get dressed up if all I’m doing today is working at the café and going for a jog, with a vague plan to maybe watch Twin Peaks as I eat leftovers this evening — and you very well won’t find me adding flourishes and embellishments to un-cute outfits.

So, it only took about 21 days from the start of 2014 to fall off the accessory wagon. Except that the great thing about this particular wagon is that its progress is fairly slow and you can always hop back on from one outfit to the next.

So what about my hair and deceptively easy resolutions?

I’m a compulsive showerer. Why only yesterday, I took two showers and a bath. Just ‘cos. I find hot water very comforting, and sometimes a steamy shower is the best thing about my day.a

images-2Caution: person showering furiously.

I love my shower habit, but my hair suffers for it.

For about a year now I’ve been shampooing my hair every day.

Yes. Every day.

No, don’t worry, I don’t shampoo it every time I shower. I don’t lather, rinse, repeat during a session (too often).

And once a fortnight (when I remember to) I’ll apply an overnight deep conditioning treatment to keep it healthy.

I know washing my hair everyday with a harsh shampoo is not doing it any favours. I used to have more self-control — washing it only three or four times a week, but somehow I went off schedule one day and that feeling of squeaky cleanness is hard to resist for the compulsive inside me.

But after a chat with my hairdresser on Friday, I decided to add another targeted resolution to my list. It was time to give my poor scalp a break and cease with the daily shampoo ritual.

To boost my motivation, I decided to do some background research on the matter. Why exactly is excessive commercial shampoo usage bad for my hair and scalp? What were my alternatives? And when would would the feeling that my head was playing host to GreaseFest5000 go away?

There’s a lot on the Internet about this, but the quick and dirty (HA!) of it is that the lather-effect we usually associate with cleanliness (mmmm…foamy lather) is usually created by the harshest ingredients in shampoo: sulfates. And sulfates aren’t actually necessary for cleansing the scalp–they’re just included because we feel robbed if we don’t get those bubbles.

george-marks-woman-shampooing-her-hairI actually wear this exact expression on my face while I shampoo, because it feels glorious. Except my eyes are closed and I’m usually wincing.

Along with making lots of beautiful foam, sulfates strip your scalp of its natural oils and remove excess skin cells, causing your scalp to compensate by producing more oils, making your hair feel even greasier.

One thing to be said for sulfates, they’re very good for a thorough clean if you use heavy products that have silicone in them, but then you’re caught in a vicious cycle — you coat your hair in silicone-based conditioners and serums to smooth the damage caused to your hair by the sulfates, but then you need the sulfates to remove the build-up of gunky silicone product in your hair.

Personally, I want off the hair-styling ride.

What are my alternatives? Well, luckily, sulfate-free shampoos and their accompanying silicone-free conditioners are available. Lots of women just “Co-wash” — ditching the shampoo entirely but keeping the conditioner. You can go the “No ‘Poo” route, whereby you cleanse your hair with a solution of baking soda and water, and condition it using a solution of apple cider vinegar and water. Lots of people swear by this method, you can read about one woman’s experience with this method here. Then, there’s the extreme option of just going the whole hog — at the time of this article, this brave Independent reporter hadn’t washed her hair at all for a year. And she seems pleased as punch about it.

So what am I going to do about my own hair? Well…I have no intention of setting up a laboratory by the side of my tub and mixing up pastes using various household items to apply on my head. It’s just not my M.O. Nor am I brave enough to go entirely without product, for all time. It’s far too extreme for me.

Instead, I’m going to attempt something that still feels incredibly extreme to me: I will wash my hair only once a week. I, of course, went ahead and bought myself some sulfate-free, silicone-free shampoo and conditioner, as well as some dry shampoo for days when the grease party gets to be too much for me. Now I just have to exercise the self-control to resist using my new shampoo till this Friday.

My time-line? Apparently it takes several weeks for your scalp to adjust. And I can’t be sure that I have the will-power and self-control the resist breaking down and succumbing to the ‘poo.

See how difficult seeing through even the simplest resolution can be?


  1. In case you must know, yesterday was an anomaly — I usually take one shower a day, but if I can fit in shower no. 2, you can bet I’ll take it.  (back)