Giving Up Shampoo: A Horror Story
The following is loosely transcribed from the diary I kept after being asked to abstain from washing my hair for fourteen days in a row.
I would share the actual diary, but I don’t want anyone seeing the specifics of my handwritten plan for a violent government overthrow until the Obamas get back from Palm Springs and I have Sasha’s explicit blessing to carry on. Also, I don’t want anyone to see who I’m crushing on!!
Day 1: The only thing that relaxes me anymore is bathing. I’ve been taking a shower for more than two-thirds of 2017. Eliminating hair-washing from my life for two weeks means more than just an absence of wet alone time. It also means plenty of grease. I’m sweating a lot right now because I’m trying to make it to 100 classes at a certain boutique fitness studio that costs close to $300 a month so that I can get a free pair of logo socks. It doesn’t seem worth it, does it, now that I’m seeing that written down.
I’m also sweating a lot because a no-joke psychopath has taken control of the highest office in the United States and I wake up from a lot of night terrors. For example, I dreamed I went to Disney World and the theme of one of the new areas of the park was “Tyvek Land,” as in that wallpaper that covers houses as they’re being built. I don’t know if you’re familiar with it. I grew up in suburban Chicagoland.
Some facts: I have a lot of hair on my head, possibly too much, and the individual strands are extremely fine, which means they get dirty easily. Plus, I’ve trained my hair to be dependent on shampoo because I, like you, am a capitalist pawn for Big Hair. I wash my hair every day to every other day or else it becomes a late-Kardashian style wet look on top and a yellow tumbleweed on bottom.
I have some hope for this challenge. For as much time as I spend on skincare each month, I do little to my hair, which is medium princessy when it dries on its own. Here I am on Day 1. Technically, I hadn’t washed my hair in two days when I started this exercise. I don’t yet understand the challenges that await.
If you know me, you know I’m a searcher, which is why I continue to embark on unrewarding, expensive multi-week schemes that often involve nudity and blenders for the purposes of personal growth and also logo socks.
Day 2: My hair’s not doing great when I wake up, but I douse it in dry shampoo for 45 seconds straight and go to school. I use this dry shampoo because it has no scent and is cheap, though I find over the course of the day that it doesn’t hold up to much weather agitation.
I’m in a fairly fussy fiction-writing program at a university named after a bad man of note, and few of my peers there know about my secret life as a confessional acne poet and part-time stunt queen. I say nothing to anyone besides, “How was your break. Did you get any writing done? I got no writing done. Did you?”
I leave for school looking like this, which is fine. Do you like my lip stain? It’s this.
But when I get home six hours later, I look like this:
My hair is a lopsided wedge, my lip stain has bled, and I am no closer to figuring out how to land a Twitter-to-book publishing deal despite sitting through an entire day of classes.
Day 3: It was a cold rainy day and I think I’m starting to look like a craggy Jimmy Neutron. You’re wondering why it is that I only own one shirt, this one with a white collar. I’m as surprised as you are. As it turns out, I wear this shirt in roughly 75% of this two-week challenge. I wash it once the entire time, which is better than nothing.
Day 5: Day 4 passes uneventfully in a topknot, but at the end of the day, I take a good hard look in the mirror to assess my values. I decide to self-impose a rule against topknots. Topknots are cheating even though for some reason, dry shampoo isn’t?
Anyway, on day 5, I wake up looking like what I imagine my mom looked like in 1981, except without the same ambition or generally reliable sense of cardinal direction. At this point, my scalp is harboring a metric ton of aerosol talcum powder. The hair begins to stand up on its own accord, which I think is very brave.
I look at this photo for awhile and realize that I need to step up my look because people are going to see my documentation. I put on makeup for like an hour and spend like nine minutes staging this photo against my bathroom wall. I do not, strangely enough, think this might be a good opportunity to wear a new shirt. Oh my god, this fucking shirt. It’s from Uniqlo. This isn’t even an endorsement of this shirt necessarily. I also own it in blue.
Day 6: This is where it all starts to get dire. My head is so itchy that I break the skin while scratching and watching This Is Us at noon on a weekday. I don’t know why I’m still watching this show. I don’t know why I’m still participating in this challenge that literally nobody but me is observing or enforcing. I guess we have to cling to what we have right now. My skin is beginning to break out, which I blame on This Is Us.
Day 7: I email Leslie (my editor) asking if I’m allowed to wash my hair with apple cider vinegar. She says yes, because apple cider vinegar doesn’t foam. As is my custom, I do next-to-no research about what apple cider vinegar is supposed to do to hair. I pour it directly on my scalp and it burns A LOT. I scream, but nobody hears me. I also blind myself for a couple of seconds.
My hair ends up drying like this??? The apple cider vinegar somehow made it stringier and grayer. This is possibly the worst I’ve ever looked, including that spring in eighth grade when I had meningitis and mono at the same time.
Day 9: I take a 10 p.m. train to D.C. and at 3 a.m., I arrive at my best friend’s apartment. I make her tell me about her boyfriend and gossip about people we haven’t seen in eight years even though I woke her up and climbed into her bed in the middle of the night.
I sleep until 10:30 a.m. while she conducts conference calls because she has a “job.” This is also inauguration day. I pretend to read a book because I meant to boycott the broadcast but ended up watching it anyway. I have a new catchphrase, and it is “eat shit.”
I have a horrible energy about me and forget to comb my eyebrows into place. I decide for like 45 minutes that I don’t care, that I’m sacrificing my face to the resistance. My hair does seem to be an improvement on yesterday’s sentient-grease rag look.
Day 10: My sister knitted me a pussy hat for the Women’s March. We meet that morning and I am thankful for the homemade gift, which I pull over the unibraid I’ve crafted down my scalp. My entire group is rude to me about how high up on my head I tend to wear hats, but height is important to me. It creates the illusion of power.
We run into Dorinda and Carole. My primary passion is looking at Real Housewives memes on my phone, so I am extremely happy. Neither of them can see how greasy my hair is thanks to the hat. I regret that I had some gossip about Jill Zarin and didn’t share.
My sister is to my right, looking like the 3.0 version of me. It’s not fair sometimes.
I spend the entirety of the night in my best friend’s bed faving Instagrams while she goes out and communes and brainstorms with friends and other young people.
Day 11: I finally get a new outfit. I’m still in D.C., don’t have any dry shampoo with me and am about to go to brunch with a baby whose social media presence I follow closely. I need to look good. I’m not satisfied with my wedgehead (left), so I look to the advice of a British teen on YouTube to create this simple topsy-tail look. I watch the video on my phone while taking a body shower and using my best friend’s razor.
My hair possibly looks worse post-YouTube.
That night, I get back to New York and brush my hair for the first time all weekend. I’m more concerned about hormonal chin acne than my hair and spend ~two hours picking at it while catching up on This Is Us, which continues to not be a good television program.
Day 12: A corner, it has been turned. Without the aid of dry shampoo, I leave my house with pretty good hair. I Instagram the below picture and receive the validation I so crave. This is my version of a thirst trap. Look how I have those two buttons undone. I’m in the blue version of that white shirt.
Day 14: I’m riding high on Day 13. I wake up the final day of this challenge, which happens to coincide with my 100th fitness class. I finish the class.
The pair of socks I’ve been working towards for six months are on back order, according to the studio manager.
This is a devastating blow.
I wanted to Instagram those socks.
To add insult to injury, I get home and I discover I have dandruff and have possibly had it that whole time because I never bothered looking on top of my head. It could be worse, I told myself, it could be lice.
In lieu of celebrating with a pair of socks, I decide to shower.