I have a little confession to make: I don’t wash my hair very often! In fact, it seems that as time goes on I have been washing my hair less and less often. The weird part? My hair has now grown to almost thigh length, despite all the rest of my life never having grown it nearly that long. And believe me, I tried. What changed? Lots of things - I switched out shampoo for rhassoul clay washes, apple cider vinegar rinses, began using lots of oils on my hair and scalp, and gently dry finger detangling instead of brushing or combing. I have another blog post all about my routine and my story here.
So why have I been washing my hair so infrequently over the past year? A lot has happened in my life! I had a baby (my fifth), we moved across our province, my YouTube channel has taken off and is now supporting our family . . . just lots of life changes. Frankly, washing my hair takes a LOT of time. So I could say this is partly laziness. However, over the past year especially I have done a lot of research on historical hair care, and discovered some fascinating things. Namely, we don't need to wash our hair nearly as frequently as we may think. Not only can your scalp and oil production self regulate over time, there are also methods of dry cleansing hair that work just as well as water, without the hazards of frequent shampooing.
I have decided that washing my hair relatively infrequently, up to one month apart, works fine for me, as long as I combine this routine with various methods of dry cleansing which we will talk about later in this article. My hair is healthier and longer than it has ever been in my life, and my ends are quite healthy and happy despite my hair being this long.
Compare that to the rest of my life, prior to beginning my current hair care routine, not being able to grow my hair past about my ribs - and when it did get that long, the ends were very frayed and uneven. One of the big changes I made to my hair care routine was the way I view water and its place in my hair care routine, as well as the whole concept of how often I need to be wet styling my hair. I believe this change, that is, the way I allow water and my hair care routine to interact, has played the biggest role in allowing me to retain all of this hair length. And to fully understand this, we need to take a look at historical hair care practices.
What’s so important about historical hair care practices? Well, if you are anything like me, you may have looked enviously at the myriad of historical photos and paintings of women with ridiculously long hair, and wondered, what did they know that we don’t?
For much of recorded history, people simply did not wash their hair as often as we do today - and when they did, they also were not using all sorts of chemical, commercially produced concoctions to do it either. The reasons as for why people were not washing their hair as frequently as we do differ according to region and time period - for instance, from about the time of the bubonic plague until the late 1700’s, people actually feared bathing, believing it could cause them to become sick. Prior to that, after the fall of the Roman Empire, what was viewed as “excessive bathing” was associated with lascivious behaviour, at least in Western areas of the world. Other times, the less frequent bathing could have been due to technological limitations and the hassle involved in bringing buckets and buckets of water inside for a bath.
What did this mean, when it comes to historical hair care? Since people were generally bathing less frequently than we do today for many hundreds of years of recorded history, it logically follows that they also wouldn’t have been frequently wetting their hair, or detangling their hair (as we do today).
Compare that to today, when not only are people washing their hair with relatively harsh shampoos quite frequently, which we will talk more about later, but they are usually wet detangling their hair every time they wash - especially for my fellow curly haired friends. So in addition to the potential chemical damage and stripping away of natural oils, this frequent wet detangling can cause mechanical damage, since hair is about 30% weaker when it is wet, and detangling can place a lot of tension on the hair, especially when using a comb as opposed to our fingers. And I have found that as my hair has grown longer, I need to be extra conscientious about this, since the longer hair becomes, the more potential tension and damage can occur from detangling.
I used to be heavily into the curly girl method of caring for my hair, which involves the rather dogmatic belief that curly hair should only be detangled when it is soaking wet and drenched in conditioner in the shower. Not only did this cause me to go through quite a bit of conditioner, probably close to a quarter bottle per wash, but it also meant that my hair mysteriously never grew particularly long, and the ends were always awfully frazzled looking. This was despite me using what I thought was a gentle hair care method of detangling with a wide tooth comb and lots of conditioner, and never using shampoo. Now that I’ve learned to do things in a more natural and minimalist way, as well as to dry finger detangle with oils, all of this has changed for the better!
My Hair Wash Story
Okay, so why on earth have I been washing my hair so infrequently?
Personally, I have always washed my hair relatively infrequently. Even as a child, I only shampooed my hair once a week. Once I got to the age of deciding what I wanted to do with my own hair, so early teen years, I decided I was simply done with shampoo. I didn’t like how it frizzed out and tangled my curls, and I just didn’t see the point of it. My scalp and hair never got noticeably oily, and it seemed weird to essentially be putting soap in my hair. So I switched over to "co-washing", which is fairly common in the curly hair community. That helped me in the area of defining my curls and helping me to appreciate my hair type, but it certainly didn’t help in the health or length department.
Eventually, I switched over to my current natural hair care routine. I was now actually cleansing my hair and scalp more often than I had been when I was co-washing, but I was using natural no poo methods to do so. Mainly rhassoul clay washes and apple cider vinegar rinses. This worked out great for me, but in the past couple of years, my hair has really taken off in the length department - it’s now almost thigh length when it is stretched, and so my hair care landscape has had to necessarily change. More on that in a moment.
Up until about a year ago, I was still washing my hair with the rhassoul clay once a week. Then something changed. Through the process of researching my first historical hair care video, I read quite a few historical hair care manuals and realized that by historical standards, at least of the period between the 1700 and 1900, once a week hair washing is actually quite frequent. I also learned more about the historical practice of boar bristle hair brushing as a means of dry cleansing hair, and how useful protective styles are as a means of keeping hair protected and also looking decent even without the need to wet style it.
Wet styling is a big part of modern curly hair care especially, but not only did it not prove to be the best for the long term health of my hair to be frequently wet detangling and wet styling my hair, but it is now far too labour intensive to be wet styling my hair every few days.
Dry Cleansing Hair
Which leads me to the next reason I have been washing my hair far less frequently in the past 6 months or so. First of all, as I am not a complete slob, one of the reasons I have been able to spread out my wet cleansing of my hair, is because I have learned how effective dry cleansing of hair can be, especially as it gets longer. Boar bristle brushing is a big part of this, so for more information on that see my article on that.
Another reasons I have been spreading out my washes is simply for time reasons. My hair is super long now, and it is prone to tangles and matting up. Thus, I like to give myself a long period of time to gradually get those tangles worked out with my fingers over a period of days, before washing. Natural, no poo, historical hair care doesn’t have to be a big deal. In my case, I’ve found a way to make it super minimalist in order to fit in with my life. Now, with my hair the length it has gotten to be, that means simply not doing the whole hair wash routine as frequently.
The Problem With Shampoo
For most people in the western world, chances are that spreading out your hair washes to some degree may be beneficial for your hair health, especially if you have been using harsh shampoos frequently. The thing about shampoos, is that while they can certainly cleanse away oil and dirt, they also strip away the hair and scalps natural oils, which can accelerate the rate at which your scalp produces oils. I also find that especially for anyone with any sort of curl or wave pattern, the use of pretty much any shampoo, even the most natural, can destroy your natural curl pattern, leaving your hair feeling dry and frizzed out, which then requires the use of a myriad of conditioners and styling products simply to bring your curl pattern back to its former (pre shampooed) glory. Not so with rhassoul clay washing, which is why I love it. Most of the time, I don’t even use conditioner after washing my hair, because with the oil treatments I do before my wash and the gentle curl defining power of the rhassoul clay, my hair feels moisturized and defined without conditioner.
So, how does all of this apply to you? It probably won’t look like starting to wash your hair once a month, and realistically, I don’t see myself sticking with this schedule forever either. But it is nice to know that if life gets super busy, there are other ways of keeping my hair dry cleansed and looking decent than doing the entire hair wash routine that requires tons of preliminary detangling work. Because of my curls, keeping my hair dry means that I won’t create any new tangles, and I can slowly and gently work away at detangling the ones that are already there.
For you, if you have been washing your hair every day, maybe this will inspire you to try every few days, or once a week, or to try an alternative to conventional shampoo.
Either way, thanks for reading this article right until the end, I really appreciate that!
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