Weaning yourself off the shampoo bottle might seem daunting, but anyone can do it, given the right approach.
I have developed a reputation for being TreeHugger's 'hair' person, thanks to all the weird experiments I've done over the years, from ditching shampoo in favor of baking soda and apple cider vinegar to not washing with any cleanser for forty days.
As a result, I get a lot of questions about hair care, particularly from friends who read my posts and wonder how I do it. The most common complaint I hear is, "My hair is so greasy. I could never go that long without washing." Many women and men are preoccupied with this idea of greasiness and needing to fight it on a daily basis. I used to be in this situation myself.
I've come to believe that this is a real problem, and that our obsession with combatting greasy hair gets in the way of appreciating how much more manageable and healthy hair can be when it does have a bit of oil in it.
It is crucial to understand that the more you wash your hair, the greasier it will get. When shampoo strips the hair of its natural oils, the scalp compensates for that loss by producing more oil. It creates a cycle in which more washing leads to more oil, and so on. In order to break it, you must be willing to put up with levels of oiliness that may not feel acceptable at first, but eventually an equilibrium will be established.
I give the following advice when people ask me about how to improve their hair care routines.
#1: Accept the oil. Hair is not meant to feel dry and freshly washed all the time; and even if that's what you're used to, you'll learn to appreciate the feeling of slightly oily hair that's smooth, easy to style, frizz-free, and shiny.
#2: Slowly reduce the number of washes. This won't happen overnight. If you wash daily, try to push it by 12 hours, then skip a day. Avoid washing on weekends if you don't have plans.
#3: Use less cleanser. If you're a shampoo user, use less so that your hair doesn't get quite so clean. Avoid the unnecessary repeat wash. If you use baking soda and apple cider vinegar, use less. (I started using 2 tbsp of each per wash, but now I'm down to 1 tbsp when I do it. See quantities here.) Do a water-only rinse if you're sweaty after a workout.
#4: Massage and brush. Give yourself a vigorous scalp massage with your fingertips to move the oil away from the scalp and distribute down the hair shaft. Do this once or twice daily. Use a hairbrush to do the same. But for the rest of the time, see the next point...
#5: Avoid touching your hair. There's oil on your fingers that will make hair limp and lackluster, the more you touch it. Try to keep your hands off your hair unless you're styling or massaging.
#6: Use a natural dry shampoo to stretch the time between washes. Here are some recipes for DIY dry shampoo, with a cornstarch or rice flour base. Store-bought dry shampoo spray isn't great; it creates buildup on hair that needs to be washed out soon.
#7: Learn the hairstyles that work. The trick to managing greasiness, I've discovered, is about figuring out how to wear your hair in ways that work. Take advantage of braids, ponytails, buns, headbands, and hairpins to feel presentable and to stretch the time between washes. I find that straightening my hair a day or two after washing helps it go much longer.
#8: Think of washing as something you do only when you need it, not because it's time. You probably have a hair-washing schedule; but rather than washing it automatically just because that time has come, reassess your hair and see if it can go further. You might be surprised. I now push my washes from 6 to 10 days -- and the difference in the amount of greasiness from day 6 to day 10 is minimal.
#9: Don't give up! Reducing the frequency of hair-washing will save you loads of time and money. It will result in healthier, stronger, more manageable hair. Go gradually and steadily. It might take two or three months, and you may feel discouraged along the way, but realize that anyone can do this.