Here's What Happened When I Stopped Washing My Hair For Two Weeks

What's all this fuss about shampoo? Do you need it? Is it actually bad for your hair? I forwent shampoo for two weeks — this is what happened.

All I've wanted in life is to have the hair of an Herbal Essences shampoo commercial.

A quick Google search regarding the proper frequency of shampooing our hair results in an overwhelming variety of responses. So, what is it, world? What's the formula for beautiful hair? (I'm not asking for much, am I?)


There's a new stigma against those who shampoo, especially those who allegedly do it too much. Some articles discuss quitting shampoo entirely, often in favor of just water or some kind of baking soda or apple cider vinegar mixture. Others claim that a break in washing your hair can retrain it to become less greasy.

So I decided to put this to the test and gave up my hygienic reputation by not shampooing, or even getting my hair wet, for 14 days, to see how my hair would react. I was hoping that the good oils produced by my scalp would take care of a lot of annoyances I have with my locks. (Spoiler alert: I was wrong.)

To be candid, my hair is far from untouched. I've had highlights in some form (bleached and hot pink tips, represent) since high school. Most recently, in the past year, I've bleached my entire head three times so that I could dye it a random slew of colors. So, yes, my hair is damaged, and I normally wash it every two days or so because my ends are dry and my roots get oily. 

Starting out...

The first two days were normal. In fact, my second-day hair looked better than my first-day clean hair. Day three is when things got messy, as in greasy, and the ends began to feel dry. This is usually when I would suds up, but not this time. 

By day four, the pieces framing my face were thick with grease. I resorted to blotting my scalp with paper towels, but I think that was pointless and more embarrassing to share. That evening I stopped by my friend's apartment. She took one whiff of my hair and cringed. I had still been styling my hair into waves with a flat iron, and it was beginning to smell like dirty, fried hair. Out of desperation and social pressure, I had to spritz myself with some of her dry shampoo. 


The next day, also known as day five, my male friend said my hair looked normal. Well, it certainly didn't feel normal. The dry shampoo from the previous night helped my hair not stick to my head, but the ends were so dry. For the rest of the two weeks, I found my constantly touching the ends — they were so brittle (in other words, those good oils on my head did nada).

Also, my scalp got so itchy.


In the middle...

By day seven, my hair was just stiff. It was heavy and hard to run your hands through. Brushing it in hopes of redistributing any oil didn't really help anymore. I now resorted to clipping the sides back or putting it in a ponytail and applying some oil on the ends. 

By day eight, however, my pillowcase felt just as dirty as my head, for obvious reasons. On day nine, I noticed my face breaking out. I know they say live with no regrets, but...

The home stretch...

By day 10, the status of my hair never reached the grease factor of day four, but it continued to feel heavy with buildup. My sister tells me, "It doesn't look that bad for day 10." Even hot tool styling wasn't cutting it anymore, and my hair would fall within hours into a sad, matted mess.

Although I had changed my pillowcase, I still felt gross when I went to sleep. I had dreams about washing my hair. I hoped for it to rain outside so that I could pseudo-wash it. I would shower and still feel grimy. 


On day 12, I asked my roommate to braid my hair. We joked about washing her hands afterward. It wasn't really a joke, though. 

On day 13, I sat around with a ponytail, counting down the next 24 hours by reaching out to trichologist Penny James of New York's Penny James Salon. I had some questions about my experiment. She promptly debunked the "No Poo" method, noting that many types of shampoo these days don't have harsh detergents as they once did.

"Our scalp needs to be cleansed for it to function properly," she told me. "This stops our hair follicles from getting clogged up with dirt and oil that we naturally secrete from our sebaceous glands."

Her motto? "Healthy scalp, healthy hair." If your hair type is fine curls and you have a dry scalp, you will probably wash it twice a week. Other hair types should wash it about five times a week. Using a scalp clay masque and moisturizing conditioner or treatment will also lead you to a happy scalp.

After finally washing my hair at the end of day 14, my scalp and I were definitely happy. I'm grateful for a clean scalp and soft ends, but I am glad I know what my hair is like during a 14-day no-wash cycle — and that I do prefer (read: need) shampoo. But hey, that's just me. It's your hair, you should be the one to choose if you want to wash it. 

Banner/thumbnail credit: Unsplash, Tanja Heffner 

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