Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Shampooing Less

Some light fare for y'all today. I want to share a little experiment with you, that I'm a month into.

I have really really fine hair. Light colored and long and super straight. One of the biggest problems I've had with it, as an adult, is that it gets really oily, really fast, and it's really obvious. For most of the past 20 years, I've been washing it every day. With a variety of shampoos, trending towards more and more of the dandruff control shampoos because itching and flaking were getting worse.
If I ever skipped a shower I could count on my hair looking like an oil slick and being itchy and flaky to boot.

This state of affairs was becoming something I was not happy with.  I did some research and came across some interesting points.  Modern Americans wash their hair more than any other culture, pretty much all the way back to when we climbed out of the trees. That's great for companies like Unilever, they make big bucks off of that. They make massive profits off convincing people they should be doing this daily, if not more.  I'm reminded of a story my mother told me about her sister washing her hair once in the morning for the pep-rally then washing it again that afternoon before the game.

So what's a gal to do? Well if you're a hippy like me, the obvious answer is to stop doing that. :-D I already make my own deodorant, and now I'm strongly considering making my own shampoo.  I thought there might need to be an intermediate step though.  Just like my homemade deodorant can't handle my stink when I've been eating eating too much processed food, I doubt a homemade shampoo could handle the crazy oil slick that is my hair 24 hours after the last shampoo.

The reason for this, I think, is that my scalp oil glands are like a PID loop. They want to keep a certain amount of oil on my hair, to protect it from UV, wind, heat, etc. Everytime I strip the oils out with my modern shampoo, they freak out and pump out more oil to replace it. Literally rinse and repeat every day and these oil glands are on overdrive trying to keep up with me.

So my working hypothesis right now is, can I wash my hair with less frequency and calm down these oil glands?  These aren't the smartest glands in the world, I should give them some time to adjust, after 20 years of the previous pattern.

The experiment:
  • Wash hair only 3 times per week, as opposed to the 6-7 I have been doing. (M/W/F mornings is what I decided on.)
  • Use conditioner on the bottom 2/3rds of my long hair after I shampoo. (While the roots are an oily mess, the bottom 2/3rds of my really long hair tends towards frizzy dryness.)
  • Do this for 3 months, using the same shampoo I've been using most often for the past 5 years. (To limit the number of variables I'm testing at once.)

The results so far?  Well, the first week was awful. I worked from home a couple of days, and felt really self conscious about the oil slick.  The second week, it seemed a little better. I was able to do some up-do's that masked the mess a bit. I also used a bit of my homemade powder deodorant, which is mostly corn starch, to calm down a couple of troublesome areas and keep things looking presentable. The third week, last week, seemed even better still. Itch and flake were both down. My hair seemed not as oily on the no wash days, I didn't have to use any corn starch. It also had a bit more body since every other day it was a "second day" hair and had kinks and waves in it from the first day hair style.  It's definitely been enough positive improvement that I'll be finishing out the experiment.  Maybe even after the first 2 months see if I can go even lower on the washings for the 3rd month.  But, we'll see.

Once I feel like the oil problem is under control I can try making my own shampoo and transitioning away from the dandruff shampoo and see how that goes. I'll also have to see how summer exercise fits in with things, but maybe sweat and dirt can be rinsed out with water and I can still avoid the oil stripping shampoos most days. Again, we'll see.

On a positive note, if anyone noticed my extra oily tresses, they never said anything. Maybe they just chalked it up to Mom-of-toddlers. :-D

I'll let you know the final results later this year.  Has anyone else tried something similar? How did it go for you?