It is a truth universally acknowledged by the internet that a woman who washes her hair more than twice a week must be deeply confused, or perhaps living under a rock and therefore unaware of the 2015-2017 ban on this practice.
I’m kidding about the ban (that would be some next-level Handmaid’s Tale shiz), but I’m not kidding about the fact that concern over hair-washing frequency has intensified over the past few years, to the point that it seems like a publicly accepted facet of hygiene philosophy. Just like the sky is blue and grass is green, shampoo is public enemy #1.
There have been countless articles cautioning against daily washing and preaching the virtues of shampoo abstinence. “We are well trained to lather, rinse and repeat,” writes the New York Times. “But chances are you’re washing your hair far too often.”
Not only is this seen as not ideal, it is also touted as damaging. “You should never wash your hair every day,” says celebrity hairstylist Ted Gibson to The Huffington Post. “All this does is strip essential oils from your hair. Day-old hair styles better and generally looks better than freshly washed hair.”
You guys! We are living in a hair-washing fear culture filled with shampoo smear campaigns and 14-day fasts. I didn’t realize the extent of it until I was getting my hair highlighted last weekend and my beloved stylist (blonde-making magician Cara Craig of Suite Caroline salon) offhandedly mentioned that she washes her hair every day. My reaction was one of horror. “You do!?!?,” I asked, stunned. My gut reaction was to immediately start…well…hair-shaming her. “You’re not supposed to do that, you know,” I wanted to say. But then I thought, who am I to question a hair stylist about hair? Isn’t she the one touching hundreds of scalps all day long? So instead, I asked, “What do you think about all the hype about how you should only wash it, like, once a week?”
“I do support not washing your hair everyday if that’s your preference — it’s just not for me,” she said. “I wash my hair every day because I think it looks better. I have fine, blonde hair and my scalp is relatively oily. Maybe it’s just that my face is not dry and I wear longish bangs, so I like to keep them clean. I also exercise in the morning and need to at least rinse my hair after that. It feels good when my hair is clean and it looks better, too.”
Huh. Sounded pretty logical to me. Exceptionally logical, actually.
I asked her if there was any validity to the blanket statements people make about how literally everyone on the planet (hyperbole intended) could benefit from washing their hair less.
“Several years back, everyone started talking about not washing your hair everyday and how washing your hair everyday is ‘bad,’” she said. “That’s the tricky part about beauty trends — they just aren’t made for everyone. Everyone’s hair and grooming habits are different. I guess I am uncomfortable when clients feel like they are ‘in trouble’ for washing their hair everyday. That’s my least favorite part about beauty trends.”
I was blown away — not because what she said was particularly radical, but because I hadn’t realized how narrow-minded my thinking about hair hygiene had become. I too, hated the idea of women feeling “bad” or “in trouble” for doing something that made them feel good, so why was I so quick to hair-shame?
For context, I’m one of those lucky people who can go a week, even a week and a half, without washing my hair. My hair is naturally very coarse, curly and dry, so forgoing shampoo for days on end is NBD. But until that moment in the salon, I didn’t think of myself as lucky — I thought of myself as “good.” I was a good hair-washing good girl. (Translation: I was a self-righteous hair jerk!!!!)
The next week, I polled the Man Repeller team to find out how often they wash their hair on average. To those who admitted to washing their hair daily or every other day, I posed the a follow-up question: Have you ever been shamed for washing your hair too much?
“Yes,” said Yvonne, who washes her hair every other day. “I only started washing my hair every other day because I was shamed for washing it everyday. And that’s why my hair looks like crap every other day now. I’m probably gonna go wash it right now.”
Edith, who washes her hair daily, reported a similar experience: “It’s the same as blow-drying daily, which I also do. I’ve seen no negative side effects but am shamed regardless.”
Leandra, Leslie and Amelia, who have hair with more texture, wash every three days, and Shari and Erica, who have tighter curls, wash their hair once a week like I do. There is an obvious correlation between texture and hair-washing frequency preference, which makes a lot of sense, but what doesn’t make sense to me is why we started assigning moral value to hair-washing frequency in the first place.
The internet is a wild place, where “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” spread faster than creamy peanut butter on hot bread, especially in the beauty/health/wellness sphere. Sometimes a simple gut check is necessary. If it makes you happy, do it — and if it doesn’t, don’t. Right now, what would make me happy is some creamy peanut butter on hot bread, if that can pls be arranged.