I once heard that if you don’t wash your hair with shampoo, after a few weeks your hair becomes self maintaining. I tucked that tidbit of hearsay in the back of my mind.
Almost a year later, I decided to investigate on the internet. I didn’t dig too deep, but the claims were mostly unanimous: If you don’t wash your hair with shampoo, using only hot water to rinse it, after three weeks it would become self-cleansing.
Based on the reports I imagined that my hair would get really greasy, that I would have mild dandruff, and that week 3 would be the worst. They said that most people want to quit during week 3, but if I were to persevere, I would wake up one morning, and notice that my hair was significantly cleaner– I would have reached the point where my hair would take care of itself.
These websites said that shampoo is just another product that we are told we need, but are being duped into continuously buying. They used logical appeals such as: “Our ancestors didn’t need to shampoo, how do you think THEY kept their hair clean?” Personally, the idea that my hair could become self-maintaining did appeal to the hippie in me a little bit, but mostly I was just curious if it was true. Also, I thought that being able to ditch the shampoo would be beneficial for backpacking, one less thing to carry around with me on my back.
About six weeks ago I stopped washing my hair with shampoo. Every time I showered, I just rinsed it well with hot water, and I would comb it afterwards with a brush the massaged the scalp (some sites recommended doing this to help stimulate the hair follicles). The initial claims were correct, my hair did get oilier the first three weeks. Although I did have dandruff, it was very little and not noticeable. My scalp didn’t itch very much like many sites said it would. After three weeks, my hair oiliness hit a plateau and even felt a little less oily. The oiliness didn’t bother me that much during the process. It did leave an oily feeling on my fingers when I would run my hand through my hair but that was about it. No one ever seemed to notice a difference in my hair’s appearance nor did it smell. I carried on the experiment for a few more weeks to see if it would ever get significantly less oily. This morning, I washed my hair with shampoo for the first time in six weeks.
After trying the self-cleaning hair hypothesis out for myself, I would say that yes, to some extent your hair doesn’t need to be shampooed daily. Hair can surprisingly maintain some level of socially acceptable cleanliness without shampoo (provided that you comb it often and rinse it with warm water when you bathe). Since I have relatively short hair, however, my conclusion might not hold up in the case of someone with longer hair. It is probably safe to say that even if you can get away without using shampoo, your hair won’t be as clean as when you do.