The 21st Century Herbalist

Washing your hair…you're doing it wrong!

So maybe you’re not doing it all wrong, but there might be things you can do to reduce the amount of damage that something as innocent as washing your hair can cause.  When I first started studying herbalism about 7 years ago, I couldn’t read enough books on the subject.  I devoured them one after another.  After a while I started to notice that they almost all had a section on hair care and within each of those chapters was at least one paragraph dedicated to the proper way of washing your hair.  I usually skipped those paragraphs (or in some cases, pages) of instruction. I found them to be kind of insulting –  surely I can wash my own hair.  Then one day I actually read one of those paragraphs and wouldn’t you know it…I learned something.

For the third week of DIY Hair Care Month I’ve compiled all of my hair washing tips, some of which you may already know and some of them you may not.

  • First things first, most of us shouldn’t be washing our hair everyday.  I covered all of the reasons why and the dry shampoo solution to those greasy roots in last week’s post: Dry Shampoo: Yea? Or nay?  As far as my own hair care goes, I used to wash everyday because my hair gets really oily, really fast.  I would be mortified to go to work without thoroughly scrubbing my tresses – it would make me feel very “People of Walmart”.  As an experiment for you dear readers, I’ve been taking one for the team and trying to go the entire weekend without washing.  I’ve got to admit, so far, so good.  Which is saying something because I have really oily hair!  Like, super oily; like gas companies should be trying to harvest this stuff, oily.  I have noticed that on Monday mornings before my shower, my hair is not as oily as it used to be.  It’s definitely ready for a cleaning but it’s not as dire as it used to be.
  • So once I do start washing, what’s the best way to prevent damage?  Wet hair is vulnerable hair, so gentleness is key.  When washing your hair, lather the shampoo in your hands before applying it to your head.  This lubricates your hand and fingers and reduces damage when shampooing.
  • When shampooing your hair, you only need to wash the roots.  Start at the roots and gently massage the shampoo on your scalp using your finger tips, not your nails.   Little to no scrubbing is required for the rest of the strand, so stick to the scalp area.  The only reason that you should deliberately apply shampoo to the lower part of your hair is if you have product in it.  In that case, lather in your hands first and gently move the shampoo over the strands.  Don’t pile and knot it up on the top of your head like the lovely lady above.  If you’ve ever been to a nice salon, you’ll notice that they don’t typically do the “knot and scrub”.
  • Rinse with cool to cold water.  I just love the way hot water feels running over my scalp but this is bad for my hair, especially super hot water. Remember, we’re trying to be gentle with the hair.  Rinsing in cool water also tightens the cuticle, which adds shine to your hair.
  • When applying conditioner, only apply to the hair shaft, you don’t need to apply it to the roots.  And you know that section on the conditioner’s use instructions that tells you to leave it in for 3-5 minutes?  Well, they mean it.  Leave it in for a few minutes.  Wash your face or  shave your legs while you wait but let it do it’s job and leave it there.
  • Once you’re out of the shower, pat your hair dry.  Don’t scrub it with a towel.  Scrubbing should never be associated with  cleansing your skin or hair, save the scrubbing for shower tiles.
  • Finally, the best thing you can do for your still vulnerable wet hair is to comb it through with a wide tooth, preferably smooth-wood, comb.  Don’t be tempted to brush it or use your fingers.  Both of these can pull and tug on your fragile hair and create weakness in strands, which eventually leads to breakage and split ends.

So, how did you do?  Are you 7 for 7? 6 for 7?  Let me know in the comments!  And may you have a lovely hair day!

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