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Last night I was browsing through Facebook, and I saw a post from a friend in West Virginia who has been without usable tap water since the chemical spill. She wrote about going to the grocery store and seeing all the local people with scarves over their hair, or caps hiding the locks they can't wash. It's been two weeks or more since that spill, and I don't blame anyone for not wanting to wash their hair with Charleston's water.
But it is saddening to think that people are embarrassed about their dirty hair.
Before I go one step further with this, I want to add that people in any region of the country would feel this way under similar circumstances, so this in no way impugns the character of West Virginians.
How often do you wash your hair? What products do you use? Do you buy conditioner? Moisturizing shampoo? Ever asked yourself if you really need all that stuff?
I reveal my geezerhood here when I tell you that, when I was a kid, no one I knew washed hair more than once a week. Women who could afford a visit to the beauty parlor got a wash and a set on Saturday, in time for looking good at church the next day. After that, women slept and showered in hair nets to protect the set of their hair until the week was out.
Something happened in the late 1960s. From a source unknown, people began to believe that they needed to wash their hair almost every day. The market became flooded with daily shampoos and conditioners. All of a sudden, you could find products for oily hair, dry hair, straight hair, curly hair, and colored hair. Where before you had basic regular or dandruff shampoo and cream rinse.
This coincided with changes in hair style. It became vogue to blow-dry your hair after that daily shampoo. The styles began to require blow-drying. Which meant more washing. And more conditioning. Which meant more buying of specialty shampoo. Conditioner. Mousse.
News flash: Somewhere, a handful of entrepreneurs have become billionaires selling us on the idea that we need to wash our hair frequently. It just isn't true. In the absence of cooties, no one needs a daily hair-washing, or even two times a week.
I have a specialty haircut that looks best when it's washed and gelled. But a combination of laziness and the sneaking suspicion that all that hair-washing is actually bad for my hair often leads me to go days and days without a hair wash. I'm writing this on a Sunday, and I last washed my hair on Thursday. I'll probably go at least two more days before I wash it again. That's almost a week.
As if this admission won't lose me two of my three readers, I confess even further. I don't shower every day. I don't use deodorant. Basically, the only part of me that gets daily cleaning is my pearly whites. The rest? Situational. I heed the need, not the norm.
So, Anne ... what's it like to go a week without washing your hair?
Admittedly, the roots start to tingle a little, and it does get a bit oily. But a headband is a terrific concealer. No one has ever sniffed disdainfully at my tresses. Ever noticed? Dirty hair doesn't smell bad. It just looks greasy (sometimes) or frumpy (Anne).
I find it terribly sad that people would cut their hair or be embarrassed about it if unsanitary water conditions did not allow them to wash it in a couple of weeks. This represents not a reasonable reaction to uncleanliness but a triumph for the hair care industry.
In solidarity with the citizens of Charleston, WV, I, Anne Johnson, will only wash my hair once a week for the next three weeks at least. When I get to Day One, I'll start posting photos.
If you wish to avoid me due to my dirty locks, I live in New Jersey.