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I’m a strong believer in making lemonade out of lemons — after I’ve stomped on, cursed at, complained about, and otherwise viciously abused those lemons. That being said, when we realized that the boiler in the basement of the old building we just moved into has gone kaput, and will apparently take weeks to fix just as we’re starting to get snow and frigid temps here, I was forced to face some hard truths when it came to my hair.
First of all, who wants to sleep with a wet oil-treated head when it’s freezing in your bedroom? Not me, which doesn’t bode well for my poor wind-bedraggled mane. Second of all, no matter how much I diffuse my curls after washing them, they will always stay wet and I’ll be freezing again within a matter of minutes. Now, it’s easy for you in your warm seat atop your ivory tower to say that I should just suck it up and wear warmer clothes. But friends, when you’re in a freezing apartment at night and the cold is so bad that it’s seeping into your bones until you sit in front of a space heater for a good 20 minutes, the last thing you want is long wet hair dripping down your back or soaking through your pillow as you try to go to sleep. Washing in the morning is even worse with temperamental winds that feel like ice picks hitting you from every direction.
So the aforementioned lemons needed some sweetening. How can I find a way to have fun with this? I knew I didn’t want to straighten my hair, I could be more creative. Thus began the 1-week wash-free challenge.
Some of you will say, “big deal, I go a week without washing my hair all the time.” Ladies or gents, this post is not for you. It’s for those of us whose thin hair gets quickly and easily greasy from product use, dirt and crud from city living, or sweaty work-outs. For those of you screaming “EWWW,” just remember that daily hair washings are a very new phenomenon as far as mankind is concerned, and is a product of our over-obsession with being squeaky clean and bacteria-free. Any crud in your hair is nothing compared to that on your jackets, shoes, and kitchen sponges. Also, VERY IMPORTANT: I am not saying shower-free. I am still showering and washing my body every day.
If you’re interested in how I maintained a relatively normal 7 days with work-outs, going to my office in Manhattan of all places from Monday to Friday, and doing all of my usual routine stuff, please read on for a daily play-by-play and you just may learn a trick or two.
Day 1: Sunday. I washed my hair after taking a nice jog outside. It was early enough in the day that I could sit in front of the space heater and wait for it to try completely before going anywhere. I used minimal gel, about 2/3 of what I usually use. The more product you have in your hair, the cruddier it will get.
Day 2: Monday. I woke up with clean hair; I had been careful the night before to keep it up off my neck by fanning it out over my pillow while I slept. Fluffed it up a little and left for work.
Day 3: Tuesday. It was starting to look a little tired, so I sprayed in some nice volumizing dry shampoo after I woke up. I prefer my natural powder brand, but in a pinch the Klorane spray brand gives you a much cleaner feeling. Fluffed up my roots and went to work.
Day 4: Wednesday. My hair held up pretty well after the dry shampoo, and I slept with a side braid to keep it off my neck and to reduce snarls. Still, when I woke up this morning my roots were feeling pretty stiff and greasy. I grabbed a boar-bristle round brush and my blow-drier. (My fabulous hair stylist/model friend taught me this trick for eliminating oil at the scalp and adding height to the roots.) I concentrated on my roots and lifted the hair with the boar-bristle brush while aiming the blow drier directly at my roots. I did this all around my head. I did not pull the brush through my hair in order to disrupt the curls as little as possible. This gave me a much more unstructured look, but I loved how full and long it appeared! Sometimes it’s ok to have a more tousled style. In order to make it a bit more organized, twist some of the curls with a slightly wet finger to add definition amidst the chaos. So far this was my favorite hair day this week!
Day 5: Thursday. It was time to embrace the grease and try the famous sock bun. Looked awesome, and I wet the palms of my hands and ran them lightly over my hair around the crown (not touching the bun) and then put a light coat of gel on my palms and ran that over my hair as well. It kept frizzies in place all day. During my morning commute, in order to combat wind-fraying or impromptu humidity in the subway, I wrapped a light scarf loosely around my head.
Day 6: Friday. I woke up and felt once again that my roots needed a little lift and de-greasing. This time I reached for my Cold Spring Apothecary all natural dry shampoo made with no harmful chemicals or inhalants. I separated my hair into several different parts and sprinkled it directly onto my scalp. I then rubbed it in, carefully threading my fingers under my top canopy of hair so I wouldn’t ruffle the strands themselves. Next, I put my hair in a high pony tail so that the front of my hair maintained a little lift around the crown, and I braided the pony tail. Then I took several bobby pins and pinned the braid to the back of my head to disguise any greasiness or unkempt curls there. It kind of resembled the back of a corset, which was pretty neat! I then sprayed some hair spray around the crown of my head to keep flyaways in line.
Day 7: Saturday. I woke up for my morning run and employed the sock bun again, but this time with a much larger leg warmer instead. It was kind of funny running with this big sock on my head, but I also pinned it in place with tons of bobbies and put a thick cloth headband around my head to keep my ears warm and sweat off of my hair. When I got home I took it all down and it actually wasn’t bad! But it did need more body. So for my final act during this waterless week, I prepped to go out with my boyfriend and another couple for dinner. I grabbed a comb and started back combing my hair at the ends this time, not at the root. This gave me some extra body. Then I piled my hair up again on top of my head and smoothed back frizzies around my face, and did the leg-warmer bun again. With the added volume it looked amazing! The hair around my face was starting to look a little worn, so I drew some extra attention to the bun by wrapping a cool metallic headband I have around the base of the bun and clipping it into place. I felt very Hepburn-esque!
So here we are again at Sunday and I washed my hair the moment I woke up. I really enjoyed this experiment, and if we don’t get some serious heat in this place I can see it becoming a rather regular occurrence this winter. My hair is definitely no worse for the wear, I guess the oils from my scalp helped to keep it moisturized even without an oil treatment.
* A week water-free isn’t so bad if you keep on top of scalp greasiness by blow drying it and using dry shampoo. Just limit aerosol use since it’s not good for you!
* Toward the end of the week, learn to work with the grease. Choose styles that require your hair to be plastered to your head, then just frizz out the ends for more body.
* The sock bun is a great way to limit sweat distribution throughout your hair while you’re working out! Just don’t use it if you’re going to be turning upside down or doing jumping jacks a lot, that could get messy.
* Wearing a scarf loosely over my hair instead of a hat elicits weird looks from strangers and co-workers. Still not going to stop doing it because it works!
* Not a single person seemed to notice that my hair was unwashed all week, and I suspect that my hair appreciated a break from the wash and dry routine.
Voila! I hope I’ve convinced you to try a waterless week yourself sometime, it really forces you to be creative, and there are lots of blogs with fun hair ideas that you should experiment with. Enjoy, and stay warm!