Somewhere between early March and May, in a sea of global negativity, something positive happened in my life. ‘Positive’ in an entirely shallow way but also born from a complete sense of despair.
What do I mean by that? It’s 2020 and feelings are complicated.
I didn’t have anywhere to go, constantly checking the news made me feel out of control and— eager to find opportunity in any way shape or form—I wanted to try something I’d heard only whispers about on the outer echelons of beauty forums: Try not washing your hair and see what happens.
Being someone who uses long showers and self-care also as a calming ritual this concept was novel, challenging and provided a lightweight distraction from the heaviness of *looks out the window*… all this.
I also mentioned this on Instagram and you guys went nuts asking about it. So in the spirit of first world problems in a highly problematic time period, here’s the diary of a lockdown experiment gone right.
Week One: Hell Is Empty & All The Devils Are On My Head
Bit of context about me. Back when I was 12 and reading ‘Tomorrow When The War Began’, (that iconic piece of YA action-fiction about a crew of teens tackling hormones and a high-intensity invasion from a foreign land) I remember being distinctly concerned about how they dealt with relatable challenges only my myopic pre-teen brain could fathom. “They’re all fighting and hooking up with each other, how did they shave their legs? How did they wash their hair?’
It’s not that I wasn’t emotionally affected by the drama of the story, it’s just that if you ask any kid from 90s Australia, they’ll tell you ‘Tomorrow’ was really all about the romance between Lee and Ellie.
It didn’t help that years later when the movie came out, none of the actors had a hair out of place, even mid-explosion.
Now here I am 35, staring down a genuine global crisis, and can finally understand how my body would react in a situation where shampoo is extremely lacking. The short answer—not great. At least initially.
I have ‘fine’ hair, which is a tidy marketing term for weak, limp and easily broken. Qualities that definitely aren’t going to serve you well in today’s world.
It also means if I don’t wash it every day I look like a sweaty meerkat. So, for the first 5-7 days of this experiment, I lived in a state of limbo where after stepping out of the shower my hair never felt completely ‘dry’.
Gross— but you asked.
To tackle this issue I started scrunching my hair with a towel and blow-drying my fine follicles every day. This helps IMMENSELY, both for aesthetics and self-confidence.
Again, no one’s really seeing me at the moment but I have to live with myself and sometimes that’s enough to deal with.
Week Two: Is That A Dyson Supersonic In Your Pocket, Or Are You Just Happy To See Me? A Dyson And Stop Talking To Yourself, Meghan
Now we enter phase 2 of the experiment, arguably the most high-maintenance part. I didn’t get into the business of zero-shampoo in order to create extra work for myself but all the experts say if you persevere past this period there’s gold at the end of the greasy-haired rainbow. So I trod on.
The extra heaviness from natural oils started weighing down my hair. My solution? Lots of dry shampoos and root lifting powder.
The products that stood by me through this time were:
Now, any self-respective hairstylist will say that all this extra product will result in intense build-up causing knots.
I am here as living proof that if you choose your products wisely you can continue to wet, dry and re-apply Memory Mist all over your hair like an over-enthusiastic Georgian duchess with ease.
Week Three: Not overwhelmed, not underwhelmed, just whelmed
Around this point, you start to get accustomed to shorter showers or find new ways to extend your brief period of watery bliss. For instance, I have gotten really into double-cleansing.
Yes, that means washing my face. Twice.
Apparently there is a legitimate dermatological benefit to doing this and I use this knowledge to assuage guilt over the extra 5 minutes of water usage. It doesn’t work though, it’s 2020 and we are all distinctly aware of everything we do has an equal and opposite reaction.
I feel good, the planet suffers. I stop washing my hair, that’s a little less detergent down the drain but more dry shampoo used than an episode of Dance Moms.
Actually speaking of pageantry, something news-worthy that around this time my hair shifted from a slick grease pit and into a mane of doll-like ‘Quarantine Barbie’ straw.
As I have read, this is the process on the path to hair divinity. As Budhha says, “pain is inevitable, suffering is also inevitable”**
I say we’re all suffering enough right now so I found that giving my ends a little extra deep conditioning helped a lot through this period.
Here’s what I used:
Week Four: Enlightenment
Maybe it’s because my hair and I came to an understanding of sorts or it’s because I actually succeeded in my mission of re-setting my follicles. All I know is that by week 4 something changed.
I no longer need to blow dry every day.
I no longer need *as much* dry shampoo (I’m still fighting an uphill battle on building ‘body’ and ‘bounce’ and all those fun terms they say on the ads).
But things up on my head feel stronger and I’m not just talking about my locks here, guys.
Yes, ironically, in an effort to put less effort into my hair I ended up having to put more into it but it gave me something fun to focus on during a time of duress.
And as any anthropologist will tell you that for women around the world hair is commonly a symbol of strength, liberation and femininity. In quarantine, I stripped all those things down to a fairly base level and came out stronger on the other side.
And that, friends, is why I recommend ditching shampoo at some point. Like some kind of suburban Ayuahaustica-led fever dream, it’s not something you have to do all the time but a little dip into uncomfortable territory can do wonders for your *whole* head.
**Not a direct quote.
Meghan Loneragan is a writer and editor at Citizens of the World. Follow her at @citizensoftheworld and @meghanloneragan.