A Guide To Washing Your Hair Only Once A Week

There are certain steps to take if you want to wash your hair infrequently. (This doesn’t mean showering once a week, mind you.)
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There are certain steps to take if you want to wash your hair infrequently. (This doesn’t mean showering once a week, mind you.)

I’m going to assume that the recent “trend” of dry shampoos is due to some High Council of Beauty Bosses putting the kibosh on shampoo sales because “suds are SO last season!” Maybe it’s some sneaky bid for water conservation. Or perhaps it’s a way to devalue the “I can’t, I’m washing my hair” rejection button women use to turn down invitations.

I like to think of the beauty (and fashion) industry as if it existed in a Zoolander-type universe with conspiracies galore and Milla Jovovich disapproving of all my second-hand and fast-fashion purchases.

I’m not terribly susceptible to celebrity how-to-get-the-look squawkings or even things like widely accepted social rules of hygiene. I’ll wear an item of clothing so many times before laundering as long as it doesn’t smell and isn’t visibly soiled. 

You’re probably contorting your face in some expression indicative of disgust, but hold up--children aren’t scribbling crayon drawings of me with stink lines emanating from my body just yet (children are not scribbling anything about me).

Aw jeez, you've got the stink lines and everything!

Aw jeez, you've got the stink lines and everything!

When the thermometer dips below 47 degrees Fahrenheit, my inner house cat emerges and with it, so does my aversion to putting my naked body in contact with water. Inevitably, some part of showering will be unpleasantly cold and it takes my hair FOREVER to dry, and going outside with damp head is not an option since I still have the fear of mom in me (“You’re going to get a head cold if you go outside with wet hair!” Mom, I don’t know if there is such a thing as head cold. I think you made it up. It’s just a cold. Unless you meant I was just going to have a cold head, in which case… this is the life I chose).

Now that puberty is eons behind me, and there are such delightfully scented and effective products like Arm & Hammer’s Essentials Natural Deodorant to stave off any indication that I’m not shower-fresh, my life can resume without any paranoia about being the smelly kid in homeroom. (Fun fact: when I was just a wee virginal pre-teen, ripe with pubescent hormones and body odors, I was not aware that there were natural alternatives for my allergies to all zinc and aluminum deodorants/antiperspirants until years later when I no longer had that problem). 

Now that I no longer have to worry about underage bullies, I am free to be my hygienically laissez-faire self. Seriously though, I’m convinced Americans are WAY too preoccupied with smells and commercial perceptions of “freshness,” but that’s a whole other banana.

Industry conspiracy theories aside, the truth is that not washing your hair very often is good for it. Just how often varies between obsession with haircare versus obsession with hygiene. Generally I subscribe to a “take it or leave it but take it eventually” approach to most beauty quandaries.

Most decisions on how to put myself together on any given day are decided by a) What is the weather? b) Who am I possibly in danger of running into? c) How early do I have to wake up?

I am in favor of any stylings that incorporate looking like “I just rolled out of bed like this.” Models do it, rock stars do it, skater bois do it--WHY NOT ME? Because we have SO much in common, yeah? I like to call it “decisively unkempt.”

I’ve been trying to baby my hairs so that they can be at their healthiest and strongest for when I eventually effectuate my blonde ambitions (I aim to Soo Joo myself, FYI) and bleach the crap out of it. It’s getting the veal treatment, as it were. 

The great thing is that it’s a dead-easy haircare routine to execute; the less you do to it, the better. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t maintenance within itself. There are certain steps to take if you want to work your way to only washing your hair practically once a week. This doesn’t mean showering once a week, mind you, but I go hardcore and don’t let water touch my hair for four to five days.

I do not recommend shunning your shampoo in favor of weekly custodial visits right off the bat. You’ve got to put in a wee bit of prep work, mostly for the sake of scalp comfort. If you’ve ever not washed your hair for a couple days, perhaps in a bout of illness, depression, maximum laziness or possibly under house arrest, you’ll notice that your scalp starts itching like crazy with all the oil and product build-up on there.

In order to stave off the itchiness and “reset” your scalp conditions, be sure to do an apple cider vinegar rinse after your shampoo on the first day. 

Ratios vary for different people, but I find that 1 part ACV with 2-3 parts distilled water (not tap) seems to be the popular vote. I combine them in a squirty condiment bottle, which makes my life a little easier. Condition as normal afterwards. 

Day 1 is the day to do all the heat styling you normally would (if you do that) because this is pretty much how it’s going to keep for the next few days. Go ahead, take all the flat/curling irons and blow dryers to it that you want. Get it all coiffed and whatever. Commit!

Initial styling. I curled the ends and hairsprayed them, as well as the top, to keep things smoothy. And my sunnies broke. :(

Initial styling. I curled the ends and hairsprayed them, as well as the top, to keep things smoothy. And my sunnies broke. :(

Now after the second day, you might be like “Not so bad!” I hope you’re brushing with a natural bristle brush at night before you tuck yourself in, so you can distribute whatever natural oils are slowly squelching out of your hair follicles further down to the ends. Good girl. 100 strokes! (Just kidding, unless you subscribe to the litany of Little Women.)

After the second day with no hair-washing, my roots start to look pretty greasy. However, I don’t hate how my hair has way more body now, and I can kind of flip it in any direction or adjust the part to my liking. It also holds a hairstyle now; dirty hair is much grippier than squeaky-clean hair.

All you need to be gross like me!

All you need to be gross like me!

I’ll generally break out the dry shampoo after two days. Say what you want about fancy aerosol dry shampoos and all that, but I’ve tried a handful of them, and honestly, what works best for me is plain old baby powder. 

I do keep a travel-size can of Psssst! around because I like the name and because I’m so well-traveled. They’re both white in formula and my hair is black, but somehow it soaks up the oil on my hair without getting it greasier after a few hours. Also, you don’t see the white when you’ve massaged it in your roots and brushed it out. Be thorough and you shall benefit. 

If you don’t want to brush it out for fear of sacrificing texture, I do a sort of kitty-batting fluffing with my paws to the areas where I’ve applied it, and that seems to work alright, too. I apply enough to the root areas I find most offensive, since the powder gives my hair a slightly matte look. 

I don’t know if this is a thing that happens to you folks, but pretty much every aerosol dry shampoo has been something of a quick fix, followed by a major sophomore slump in but a few hours or the next day, so you have to keep using it to pump up the volume. It’s just real struggle-y for me. Powder formulas don’t do that so much to me.

Day 3: Noncommittal side part, hair flips for days.

Day 3: Noncommittal side part, hair flips for days.

Come Day 3, you might want to resort to ponytails, buns or braids. Sure, why not--go for it, quitter! Everybody’s got his or her own sense of scalp-consciousness. I’m still rocking my baby powder coif, flipping my hair all over the place with my “no part.” I feel so Cher Horowitz! Or alternatively, Robin Tunney in The Craft with her 90’s hot-mom noncommittal shag.

Hail to the guardians of the watchtowers of the North, check out this volume!

Hail to the guardians of the watchtowers of the North, check out this volume!

It doesn’t hurt to sleep with your hair in a bun, if you’ve got some waves or curls that you want to preserve, lest you flatten them in your dreams. I split my hair into two sections on each side and spin them in opposite-direction buns and then smoosh those on top of my head and secure it with a scrunchie (say what you want about them, but they don’t give you those unsightly hair band dents in your hair).

Day 4: The Wilting

Day 4: The Wilting

On Day 4, things are starting to get dire. My hair is starting to take on a life and form of its own. The oils from my scalp are now palpably distributed down each hair shaft (the brushing, remember?) so that dryness is a thing of the past, which makes me unreasonably pleased with my sense of discipline. I’m only slightly self-conscious that the crush of people I’m on the subway that are scrunching up their noses, thinking, What smells like stale tortillas?

Baby powder scent not doing it for you after three days? Here’s a trick I learned from reckless experimentation: If you have any essential oils around, sprinkle 1-2 drops on your fingertips and run them through your hair. Essential oils are POTENT so you don’t need any more than that, unless you want to suffocate on your own head fumes. Yeah, it’s widely advertised that essential oils can be dangerous undiluted, but I’m not rubbing it on my scalp--I’m just lightly running my fingers over my hair and finger-brushing it through the length. 

I find that lavender is very pleasant for this, as it’s kind of a sharp yet soothing scent, so it’ll mask any possible scalpy odors present.

Day 5: The Flattening

Day 5: The Flattening

By Day 5 (or 6, if you’re going for extra credit) I am so excited about washing my hair. It’s like a religious experience. I am slightly sad to see my bodacious volume wash down the drain in favor of soft sleek strands, but think of it like a phoenix rising situation--from ashes to a beautiful mythical bird of paradise.

Extra bonus credit: If you have long hair, coating the ends in coconut oil and sleeping in it the night before you wash your hair feels amazing post-shower. Like, Herbal Essences fake orgasm amazing.

I can be It Girl now?

I can be It Girl now?