This is what happens when you stop washing your hair

woman with dirty hair

Can we be real for a minute?
We’ve all gone longer than we’d care to admit without washing our hair.
Washing, drying, and styling our manes is a whole thing and, sometimes, you just
can’t be bothered to do it. But, what if you skipped washing your hair for
longer than a few days? What if you went weeks, months, or even years — yes,
years — without shampooing your locks? 
In the early 1900s, this
would’ve been the case for all women. Nicole Rogers, assistant clinical
professor of dermatology at Tulane University in Louisiana, explained to Health
that modern shampoo is relatively new. Prior to the ’30s, people would use bar
soap to clean their hair. Once shampoo arrived on the scene, it wasn’t used
with the frequency it is today. “Women would go to the salon and get their
hair set, using products that were meant to hold their style for several days,
because the act of drying and styling took so long,” said New York City-based
celebrity hair stylist Sarah Potempa.
While many people in the
United States now wash their hair on a near-daily basis, there are others
who’ve joined the “No Poo” movement and given up shampoo entirely. Is
that a good idea? Well, here’s what could happen when you give up on washing
your hair.
hair will be a thing of the past

woman twisting her hair
If you’re someone who washes
your hair on the reg, you may have noticed some seriously parched strands. One
of the benefits of forgoing daily shampoo sessions is the return of nourished
hair. While you may think conditioner is the best thing you can use to prevent
dry hair, our scalps are actually pretty proficient at doing that all on their
“Sebum is produced by
each individual [hair] follicle via the sebaceous gland,” Guy Parson, a
hairstylist and certified trichologist, told Harper’s Bazaar. Sebum, or
oil, is, of course, responsible for making our hair feel greasy in between
washes, but it’s also what our scalps produce to naturally hydrate our
hair. “This sebum is just as important to get silky strands as any
conditioner you can purchase,”  Elle Kinney, a hairstylist at
Livian Salon in New York City, told Prevention. If left to its own devices,
your hair’s oil will effectively hydrate your strands.
shiny hair

woman brushing shiny hair

When shampooing your hair, you
may be cleansing it, but you’re also stripping your scalp of what it needs to
make your hair shiny. “Hair will certainly be more lustrous when given
time to renew in its own oils,” Kinney told Prevention. And, really, who
doesn’t love shiny hair? Unfortunately, your scalp is not exactly great at
evenly distributing oil. This is why the tips of your hair can look dry while
your roots will look mighty greasy when you skip a wash. 
If you want to maximize shine,
Kinney suggested using a flat boar bristle brush to pull the oil from your
roots all the way down to the ends of your hair. Lorean Cairns, co-founder of
Fox & Jane hair salon in New York City agrees. She explained
to Bustle, saying, “Using a boar bristle brush is great, because the
natural fibers help distribute the natural oils throughout your hair.”
bye-bye to a greasy scalp and hello to a shiny head of hair.
might just experience a breakthrough

smiling woman with shiny hair
If you decide to give the
“No Poo” movement a go, you may just experience a total hair
breakthrough. Once you’re several weeks in, your hair may start readjusting to
infrequent washings and, instead of being a greasy mess, will start to look
incredibly healthy. 
“Certainly there is some
truth to that,” Angela Lamb, a board-certified dermatologist with Mount
Sinai Hospital in New York, confirmed to USA Today. However, a lot of the
results you will, or will not, experience comes down to what type of hair
you’re working with. Lamb explained that women with fine hair or those with
naturally less oily locks usually have more success when going shampoo-free.
Curlier hair, too, can often survive — and thrive — without frequent
If you’re not sure if your
hair could handle weeks without washing, Lamb suggests trying three to four
days to start. If your hair feels greasy, you’ve got the all clear to proceed.
If you develop redness or itchy scales on your scalp, though, it’s time to suds
up. “That’s your body trying to tell you that it needs more frequent washing,”
she added.
could get some serious product buildup

woman with itchy flaky hair
Just because you’ve chosen not
to use shampoo doesn’t mean you have to give up all of your styling products,
right? Well, you may want to consider, at the very least, cutting back. Annie
Chiu, a dermatologist in Redondo Beach, California, told Prevention what
happens when you add product without later taking it away. Styling creams and
other products tend to stay on your scalp if you don’t use shampoo to get rid
of them. When that happens, the residue can become visible and your hair could
even start looking a bit lackluster. This all happens pretty quickly, too. In
just a few days of not washing your hair, you may experience some scalp
inflammation. “This feels and looks like pimples on the scalp, and can
be tender and uncomfortable,” Chiu said. 
So, what should you do? If
your scalp experiences these issues, there may not be much else you can do but
give in and use shampoo. Lorean Cairns, as referenced above, told Prevention,
“Clarifying shampoos are the best way to get rid of buildup of any
kind.” In order to avoid drying out your hair, clarifying once a month
should be enough. 
that smell?

bad smell
This is arguably the grossest
part of the shampooless trend, but it would be remiss to exclude it: Your hair
may start to smell pretty funky when you stop washing it.
Dr. Lamb told USA Today that
while not everyone who skips washing their hair will develop a foul odor, those
who do may have to endure smelling like sour milk — seriously. According to
Lamb, hair traps moisture, which in turn collects bacteria. In just about a
week, you may get a tinge of a mildew scent or, worse, a sour smell emanating
from the top of your head. 
A lot of the science behind
the stench has to do with your lifestyle. “If you run five miles a day,
you can’t go three months without washing your hair,” Lamb put it bluntly.
And if you have thick hair? Watch out: you’re at risk for some real deal
malodorous hair.
lasting color

colored hair
If your hair smells likes a
dirty washcloth, there’s probably no convincing you of the benefits of going
without shampoo. Conversely, if you’re one of the lucky ones with a scent-free,
shampoo-free mane, you’ll be happy to know that your hair color will last a
whole lot longer than those who do wash their hair. 
“Hair color is like
clothes: The more you wash them, the more worn out and faded they become,”
Will Francis, a colorist at the Sally Hershberger Downtown salon in New York
City, told Prevention, “It’s the same for your hair — the less you wash it,
the more vibrant it will be.”
So, is the cleansing effect of
your shampoo to blame for the dulling of your dye? According to Francis,
it’s really not so much the shampoo as it is the water that causes fading.
Protecting your hair from water, even if you don’t use shampoo, can be
difficult though. Rinsing with cold or lukewarm water as opposed to hot is your
best bet for long-lasting color.
scalp will become home to dust, dirt, and worse

woman on a city street
It may come to no surprise to
you that if you stop washing your hair, your hair will get dirty. Really dirty.
If you don’t shampoo you hair with any kind of regularity, Eric Spengler,
resident hair scientist at Living Proof, a company that formulates dry shampoo,
even admitted that dry shampoo wouldn’t be able to cut it at that point. In an
interview with Marie Claire, he also said, “If cleansing frequency is
not often enough, the dirt and debris could lead to discomfort.”
But dirt isn’t the only thing you’re going to be contending with when you toss
out your shampoo. You might just start noticing the signs of pollution — on
your own head.
“The skin and hair are
the first things exposed to pollution, but skin often has the advantage of
being protected by lotions, creams, or other treatments,” Susanna Romano,
partner and stylist at Salon AKS in New York City told Shape. Your
hair, on the other hand, doesn’t have that superpower. Dust, soot, smoke, and
even “gaseous pollutants” (like car exhaust fumes) can make a home in
your hair and onto your scalp, making for an itchy, irritated head. If you live
in a major city, this problem will likely be even greater for you.
dirt hurts

woman with dirty hait
Do you remember the old adage,
“Beauty is pain”? Well, as it turns out, dirty is pain, too. At least
when it comes to your hair. When you’ve gone a little too long
without washing your hair, you’ve probably pulled it up high and tight into a
secure ponytail. If you’re just starting on your “No Poo” journey and
are awaiting an epic hair breakthrough, you likely rely on wearing your hair
up. However, that comes at a cost.
“Just a couple days of
tight ponytails or buns can create enough traction on the scalp to irritate the
superficial nerve endings around the hair follicles,”Jennifer Chwalek, a
New York City dermatologist and a researcher of hair biology told Allure.
Additionally, oily hair is heavier than freshly shampooed hair, causing even
more strain on those nerve endings. You’re much better off opting for a loose
braid then a tight hairstyle during your oily hair stage.
hair may stop growing or worse

woman losing hair
When you have a cold, you
experience a stuffy nose and all of the annoying symptoms that come with
congestion. Much the same, your scalp can get congested, but it’s not from
anything viral. Jenna Mast, a hairstylist in New York City, told
Bustle that the overuse of hair products, combined with not washing them
away with shampoo, can lead to buildup or, as she explained, “a congested
scalp.” When your scalp is dealing with too much of that buildup, hair
loss can occur. Although you’re not exactly going to go bald — phew — it should
serve as a clear message to cleanse your hair or, at the very least, take a
break from dry shampoo and other hair products for the time being.
Dr. Lamb concurred, explaining
to USA Today that this buildup can also be responsible for causing damage to
your hair and even impeding its growth. 
could get some pesky ingrown hairs

woman with painful scalp
If you’ve ever
gotten ingrown hairs from shaving, you know just how painful they can be.
That said, if you wash your hair fairly frequently, you may have never had to
contend with one on your scalp. That may all come to an end when you kiss your
shampoo goodbye.
When you stop washing your
hair, you also stop getting rid of your natural oils. Of course, your hair
continues to do its thing, which is to keep on producing sebum, or
oil. “The longer you go between washes, the more dirt and oils will
build up on your scalp, which can … cause ingrown hairs,” celebrity
hair stylist Scott Yance informed Bustle. Even if you’ve given up
traditional shampoo in favor of the occasional spritz of dry shampoo, you’re
not exactly protected from ingrown hairs. According to Yance, it, too, can be
held responsible for causing the pesky and often painful problem. 
in all, your hair could end up looking great

woman with long beautiful hair
With all of the weird and
downright scary side effects that potentially await you when you stop washing
your hair, why would anyone be willing to take the risk? Well, because your
hair may just end up looking beyond phenomenal.
After embracing dirty hair
herself, senior stylist Jill Engelson told Bustle,”It’s strange that I
used to think my hair had to be clean to look good when today I literally hate
my hair clean because it is always overly silky and flat.” If you’re a
frequent hair washer, it could just be that you’re not giving yourself — and
your hair — enough time to adjust to the change. You may be someone who can go
weeks without any negative results or you might get to day four and have
already begun scaring your coworkers with your incessant scratching. It’s
impossible to truly know unless you give dirty hair the ol’ college try. 

Kayode Ojo
Kayode Emmanuel Ojo is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at SHEFFA Limited. He is presently studying Computer Science at the National Open University, Victoria Island, Lagos.