Sorry, I Can’t Come Out Tonight. I’m Washing My Hair

“I have to stay in and wash my hair.”  It’s an excuse we’ve all heard, but nobody I know has ever used it in real life. After all, 40 percent of all Americans wash their hair on a daily basis. If washing your hair was something that required hours of your day, we’d never leave the house. So where did this silly excuse come from?

As someone who’s had to write a letter to her son’s teacher after the dog ate his homework, I can assure you that clichés exist for a reason. Once upon a time, washing your hair was a big deal and required a couple of hours to perfect.

A Brief Background on Hair Care

Up until the beginning of the 20th century, hair was washed infrequently. While researchers differ on exactly how often the average woman washed her hair before the 1900s, the general consensus is that it was probably only a couple of times a month.

This doesn’t mean that our ancestors were dirty people. On the contrary, a lady of the middle or upper class typically spent a couple of hours a day on grooming. Remember that women’s hair was rarely cut until 100 years ago, and elaborate hair designs were typical at many points in history. Ladies mainly cleaned their hair by brushing it regularly with a hairbrush, which was regularly cleaned out. The “100 brush strokes before bed” idea came from a time before shampoo, when women would brush their hair to redistribute the natural oils on their hair.

The first commercial shampoos came along in the 1920s, and were a welcome change from the harsh lye soaps that were previously used on hair. Because shampoo was much gentler than soap, it became possible for the public to begin washing their hair more frequently. Some women even washed their hair every week, a trend that lasted until the 1970s.

The 1970s brought “shampoo girls” like Farrah Fawcett-Majors, Brooke Shields and Christie Brinkley, who credited regular shampooing as the reason for their lovely hair. And it worked; these advertising campaigns brought shampooing out of the beauty salon and into the home.

The No-Poo Movement

Anything that gets too popular runs the risk of backlash, and regular shampooing is no exception. A few years ago the “No-poo movement” sprouted up as a reaction against regular shampooing. No-poo adherents believe that shampooing strips the hair of its natural sebum, which causes the scalp to produce even more to compensate. They say this leads to hair becoming increasingly oily as the glands struggle to keep up.  Another concern of many is that sodium lauryl sulfate, a common additive in shampoos, can lead to health concerns. While scientific studies are few on the movement, the general consensus appears to be that most people who are able to make it through four to six weeks without shampooing will eventually be rewarded with healthier, more attractive hair than ever before.

In the end, there doesn’t appear to be much of a risk of using sodium lauryl sulfate in the minor amounts used in shampoo. The no-poo movement therefore, becomes a matter of choice. After reading all the information, I’m thinking the time has come to give my shoulder-length hair a break from daily washing. But seeing as how almost nothing smells quite as nice as freshly-washed hair, I predict that the shampoo companies don’t have to worry about going out of business quite yet.


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This article is made available for general, entertainment and educational purposes only. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of The Joint Corp (or its franchisees and affiliates). You should always seek the advice of a licensed healthcare professional.