No Shampoo Update: 1 Month of Water-Only Washing

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A woman water only washing her hair in a shower with white subway tiles.

Flashpop / Getty Images

I'm brushing, massaging, and rinsing my hair regularly, but am not yet sure how I feel about this radical new beauty trend.

It’s been 30 days since I washed my hair. Over the past month, I’ve embarked on an odd hair-care routine that involves rinsing with water once a week, massaging my scalp regularly throughout the day, pulling oil through my hair with my fingers, and brushing vigorously twice a day.

Why? Because I’m curious about water-only washing, which seems to be the next big trend in the green beauty world, and because I’m desperately seeking a sustainable solution for my tough-to-manage hair. While I love my natural color, my hair falls into that annoying ‘wavy’ category that is neither straight nor curly, looks terribly frizzy all the time, and requires excessive styling to look decent. There’s no such thing as leaving it to air-dry, unless I plan to wear it up; it has no shape. I was hopeful that water-only washing would help my hair reach its “final form,” as one beauty blogger calls it.

Woman leaning her head down to show her hair after 30 days of washing with water only
On day 30 of water-washed hair.

Treehugger / Katherine Martinko

So far, it’s going moderately well. I haven’t had the stellar success I’d hoped for, but there are still another 10 days to go before I call it quits (or come up with a modification). My hair is not as greasy as I thought it would be. Oil production peaked around 4-5 days, which is normally when I wash my hair, and then did not increase beyond that. Unfortunately it appears to have stayed at that level. My scalp is not itchy, nor does my hair smell like anything.


Woman smiling, showing her hair after 22 days of water-only washing
Day 22.

Treehugger / Katherine Martinko

The biggest problem has been styling. After a water wash, my hair creates nice curls, but in order to maintain that curl formation, I made the mistake of stopping the scalp massages and regular brushing, which are crucial for reducing and spreading the oil. So I’ve had to go the other direction, trying to smooth and flatten my hair with daily brushing and air-drying under a hat.

Another difficulty has been the texture – not something I anticipated. Rather than the nice softness provided by apple cider vinegar rinses or conditioner, my hair feels stiff. At one particularly low point in the experiment, I took out my ponytail only to discover that my hair remained in place. See disturbing photo below.


Woman's selfie in the car
Day 27. Treehugger / Katherine Martinko

There is no frizziness! This is a huge plus, since I usually have to deal with flyaways and weird wings that pop up around my ears and forehead. While I might not be able to wear my hair down, it pulls back beautifully into a smooth ponytail or bun, which, in the past, could only be created with hair spray and a dozen hair pins.

It’s low maintenance. This has been a fascinating experiment in letting go. My red hair is a defining feature for me, and is therefore a source of much anxiety – and vanity, too. This has forced me to let go and relax.

It has recalibrated my perception of when hair needs to be washed. No matter what I do at the end of this 40-day experiment, I will certainly continue pushing the length of time between washes and coming up with alternative styles that allow me to put off washing.