I don’t shampoo my hair.

Now that you’ve all scooted your chairs back from your computer to escape any dirty-hair smell that might have rubbed off on this post, let me explain that a bit. I clean my hair pretty much daily using conditioner but I stopped using shampoo a couple of years ago and I’ve never regretted it. My hair is clean, silky, and shiny and it stays clean longer than it ever did when I regularly used shampoo. I can go several days before it looks oily, even if I’ve been sweating.

I have naturally curly hair. It’s very fine and has a tight wave to it that stops just short of being kinky. In the DC spring and summer, it’s a mess. Frizz everywhere. Products just weigh it down because it’s so fine and I sprout frizz in spite of them. When a Groupon deal for a Brazilian Blow-out landed in my email in-box a couple of summers ago, I jumped on the deal. This was before the company behind Brazilian Blow-out was being sued for having excessive quantities of formaldehyde in their product, mind you. At that time, it was touted as great solution to frizz, leaving hair wavy and manageable for a couple of months before gradually wearing off. I figured it would be a cute change and carry me through the last months of summer frizz free.

Wrong. It was a disaster. I don’t know if my hair just “took” the treatment too well or if the stylist over-did it on the application, but I came out with hair that looked like David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust mullet, minus the spiky parts. It was flat, flat and FLAT. Nothing I could do would add body or wave to my hair.  I rushed out for an emergency haircut to at least get a style that would flatter my new stick-straight look and then went about waiting for the process to wear off my hair.

As I waited, my hair began to dry out. The ends frayed and frazzled. I felt like a scarecrow and feared I would never have a good hair day again. My search for a way to stem the dry tide led me to testimonials from curly-haired women and their luck ditching shampoo and switching to a conditioner-only regime. Since my hair was curly hair in straight hair’s clothing, I reasoned that a shampoo-free existence might benefit me.

The deal was, I was supposed to scrub my hair with conditioner, concentrating on the scalp. Supposedly keeping my scalp from being stripped of oils would lower oil production and lead to cleaner hair without the stripping and drying effects of shampoo. I didn’t actually care about my scalp, I just wanted my head to look less like a thatched roof so I was willing to try it. Worst case? I ended up with dirty hair and needed to shampoo it, right?

From the outset, using only conditioner made my hair softer and less dry. I had to conditioner-wash it daily, and intently with lots of concentrating scrubbing at first because otherwise, my roots looked oily in under 24 hours. I probably had to break out shampoo once a week or so to get it really clean but because the overall condition of my hair was improving, I persevered. Eventually, I noticed that the whole chemistry of my scalp really did seem to improve and it was cleaner overall and less likely to get greasy looking.

The changes were gradual. It took a year for the curl to return to my hair and it took probably just as long for me to phase shampoo out of my routine entirely. By then my hair was soft, manageable and I noticed far less fraying at the ends. I kept a bottle of shampoo around to deal with the aftermath of serious sweat or a missed day of washing but, really, there weren’t a lot of oily-hair days. Now, two years into this process, my hair almost NEVER looks oily. I could probably get away with conditioning every other day and just rinsing and restyling on the off days at this point. I can also longer between trims because my ends don’t fray. Seriously, it’s probably been six months since I got a hair cut and not a split end in sight.

Sadly, my conditioner-only routine has not stopped the frizz. That is a battle I need to surrender entirely. But with my no-shampoo regime, it’s soft pretty frizz.