Since we're clear on the fact that less-often is generally healthier, now I want to talk a bit about the actual washing routine.
Each person's hair is different, and will need to be handled differently, including different lengths of time between washings, and different shampoos/conditioners as well as methods for washing. So my goal here is to share a few that I have tried or learned about which might be helpful for you. With each method I've listed what hair types it is probably best suited for.
A few basic guidelines:
- Don't pile your hair on top of your head or flip your head over and wash it upside-down. Remember how it's bad to rub hair the wrong way, especially when wet? Well, this would be a classic case of that. Just keep it down, work with it from top to bottom, and spray the water in from top to bottom. Remember your hair is like fine antique lace! Treat it like you love it, and it will love you back!
- If you comb your hair when wet, use only a wide toothed comb--never a brush, and not too narrow a comb as either can stretch or break hairs.
- Remember that there is no 'one method fits all' way to wash hair. Your climate, hair length, and personal body chemistry will all affect what your hair needs. But hopefully these suggestions will help you see some of the alternatives you can utilize to improve your routine!
- The fewer products (sprays, gels, etc) you use in your hair, the less often and less harshly you'll need to wash it. Oh, and the less often you wash it--stripping all it's natural oils--the more healthy it will look and the more soft and manageable it will feel. At least, that has been my experience! Using product was a vicious cycle...I'm so glad I ditched all that stuff!
- Be wary of 'cones' or silicone products in conditioners. Essentially they coat your hair with silicone, which does give lovely shine and reduces tangling, but then requires harsher shampoos to get the goop back off. It can make damaged hair look great, but the subsequently harsher shampooings may cause more damage than there was to begin with. Most of the top-shelf conditioners contain cones. Cones are not inherently evil, and I recommend reading the article I linked there to help you understand them and make your own decision about whether you want them around or not. (The article also has a list of 'cone' ingredients, since the ingredient list on most conditioners looks like latin!)
good for dry ends and oily scalp, or for any hair that is dry/damaged at the ends
Get all your hair wet, then put in conditioner from about the ears down to the ends. Next, shampoo just the scalp--the conditioner on the rest of the hair will prevent the shampoo from getting into it and stripping it. Massage the shampoo on the scalp and roots. Fully rinse hair. Condition full head as normal.
"CO" or Conditioner-Only see details here
can be nice for dry hair, but won't work if your hair is very oily or you use a lot of product
If you go this route, you definitely need a cone-free conditioner. Basically you just only use conditioner. No shampooing. The benefit here is that you never fully strip the natural oils from your hair...
"No-Poo" (no shampoo) or washing with baking soda
this is an excellent deep clean, and certainly cheaper than standard shampoo!
Get some baking powder, put it in a cup, mix in some hot water until you have a paste...then goomp it in your wet hair and massage your scalp thoroughly with the pads of your fingers--not your nails. Spend several minutes on the massaging part, as baking soda is gentler than mainstream shampoos and needs longer to work.. The baking soda will absorb oils and pick up dirt, so you are left with very clean hair and scalp.. The one downside of this is that it affects the ph balance of your hair, so especially if you do it regularly you will need to replace the natural acidity of your body/hair by doing a vinegar rinse afterwards--mix a couple Tbs of vinegar with warm water and rinse through. I'm told this leaves remarkably shiny and clean-feeling hair.
Please note that I have had people tell me that they fried their hair doing this long term...my own experience is limited to the occasional deep-cleansing wash this way, and I still use regular conditioner afterwards
Deep Condition with Mayo
this is nice for dry hair, or just to pamper your hair if you live in a dry climate
Both oil and egg can be beneficial to hair. Get your hair damp with warm water. Goomp in mayonnaise that has been blended with some water to thin it out--focus the mayo on whatever areas need the moisture, and don't put it on oily places. Wrap it all up in a warm towel, and let it sit for 20+ minutes. Then take a good shower, washing well... I did a double shampooing to get it out, I've heard others say they have a hard time getting it out but I think the secret is to get your hair damp before putting the mayo in.
Oiling Your Hair
a lot like doing the mayo, only vegan, and a little classier☺
This helps keep hair moist all the way to the ends, as well as being a detangler. It won't do much good on its own, but is supposed to be excellent as part of a healthy-hair-care routine. I've never done this, but here is an article explaining the how and why of it, as well as discussing different types of oil and where to get them.
Oh, and did you want to know what *I* do? I do plain old shampoo at the scalp and then condition (cone-free) from the middle down and comb it through (distributing the conditioner). I finish up with a cold rinse. Occasionally I deep-clean with a no-poo treatment. If my hair seems on the drier side I do a condition-shampoo-condition routine for a couple of weeks. I also use henna from time to time. Of course, when I lived in Utah I did things totally differently.
I have mentioned before about doing a cold rinse at the end of your wash cycle to stimulate growth? Well, here is an article which explains how that works--and it seems that this cold-rinse thing helps with hair strength as well as growth, because it's stimulating the muscles that hold the hair shaft (basically giving yourself 'goosebumps' on your head).
Here is a link to several articles with additional details/recommendations for healthy hair care.
By the way, I'm currently only washing my hair every 8 or 9 days...up from 6 or 7. It just doesn't seem to need it sooner than that...it's lovely! I know that keeping it up or braided does help because I'm not playing with my hair (getting dirt in or stirring up scalp oils). Even if I do leave it loose though I can easily go a week without it looking greasy or gross. Is that cool or what?! Nice for a busy mommy who has a hard time finding time for anything!