Friday, February 22, 2008

Hair We Go Again: To Wash or Not to Wash

I feel a hair post coming on. It's been a while after all. I read this article yesterday about how there is a rising trend among some young American women of foregoing the benefits of shampoo. I first heard about this several years when I used to cruise natural hair websites and boards like they were closing shop the very next day. I was in a phase where a lot of my personal identity was caught-up in my hair. I was also growing out my hair from its former low-cut and needed guidance on how to manage it.

So then I came across the "no poo" strategy i.e. severely limiting or eliminating your use of shampoo altogether.

YUCK!! was all I could think. I'd heard all the stories before about how washing your hair less could make it grow faster. But, erm, HELLO, your hair and nails grow at the same rate and I can't see how letting dirt accumulate on your scalp could change that. Of course, there is the truth that washing your hair probably means less stress on your hair - especially that which will come from the blow-drying and combing that follows. This tactic is supposed to be especially suited to curly and kinky hair, which tend to be more fragile than Caucasian and Asian types of hair.

However, as I thought about it I realised that so many young women barely wash their hair anyway. Let's say you put in braids or a weave that have cost a fortune and you really want them to look good for as long as possible to maximise the amount of money you have spent on them. So, you don't wash your hair for fear that your newly acquired tresses will start to go fuzzy and look rough. Weeks eventually go by with nary a whiff even of shampoo coming anywhere near your hair. Hmmm, this trend towards uncleanliness should really give us reason to pause and contemplate our hair habits. (Hasty Disclaimer: Writing about this does not mean that I also am one of those who perpetrate such heinous crimes against hair.)

Anyway, the article does talk about how some young women are farming out the washing of their hair and returning to what their mothers and grandmothers used to do i.e. going into the salon once a week for a wash and set, or wash and style. It's funny, because about a week ago, my aunt and I were talking about the decline of this very same habit. She reminisced about the days when she used to go to the salon every weekend to get her hair done. I also remembered accompanying my mother to her salon every Sunday for her wash and set (in time, I too would visit the salon for my wash and set - although my visits were less regular than my mother's). There was a feeling of camaraderie, which is lacking in many of today's braiding shops. My aunt and I pondered on the reasons for the decline of the weekly wash and set and, in the end, we took the easy route and blamed it on a lack of time.

Anyway, like I know I have said countless times before, I would like to wean myself over what has turned into an over-dependence on braids. It's a convenient crutch for me. Let's just hope that it won't be all talk this time....


nneoma said...

To wash - that has always been my philosophy. I was one of the few who after a week of a new set of braids, would wash it, to chagrin of the womenfolk around me (mom, aunts, etc.). I tried the no-poo thing like two years back, but found that i had to wash my hair more often.

I feel you on the overdependence on braids and I am not sure what it is like in Lagos, but whenever I traveled to the East, braids were my best bet since natural hair was seen as the unpopular option. But even while here in the US, many cannot recognise me without braids. It's a crutch I have used for more than a decade. that is why i have opted for a more permanent solution to a dependence on relaxers and braids.

dont hold back on the hair posts, I enjoy them.

Ore said...

Thanks, Nneoma. So, what's your alternative to braids?

Uzo said... shampoo? Now when i braid my hair,...I may not wash it but once a week, i do the whole clean the scalp thoroughly with spirit and then moisturize scalp with my anti-dandruff treatment and then use a blow dryer to ensure no moisture is left...

Nigerian Woman in Norway said...

i use a conditioner every day on my natural hair. and i wash maybe every fortnight with a shampoo that doesn't contain sodium laureth sulfate.

AnyaPosh said...

I try to wash my hair every other week. The weekends I don't wash I do a co-wash (washing with conditioner instead) on my natural hair. I'm no longer dependent on anything like maintaining a weave or keeping the braids looking fresh at the expense of stinky hair. So I wash often...oil my scalp and let it air dry. There's nothing like my man telling me I smell like mangos and coconuts when I've done nothing to cleanse myself first thing in the morning.