Worried that shampoos and styling products are hurting your hair (and your body) rather than helping it? You might be right. It’s for this reason that Siobhan O’Connor and Alexandra Spunt, co-authors of No More Dirty Looks, launched a Summer Hair Challenge to encourage ladies everywhere to go natural.
Q: What is the Summer Hair Challenge?
S: The Summer Hair Challenge was a fun little dare, basically, but with a point! We wanted to show that when you switch to clean, natural hair products and then leave your hair alone it behaves much more than any of us would have thought. We all get stuck in beauty ruts, becoming slaves to these products we think we need. Turns out, though, we don’t.
Q: What are the rules?
S + A: Wet your hair, use a non-toxic natural shampoo and conditioner (or nothing at all), air dry, and say cheese! No leave-ins and no heat allowed.
Q: Why did you start it?
S: For the book, we both experimented with leaving our hair more or less alone and, happy surprise, found that it actually looked and felt the better for it. Alexandra stopped washing hers at the start of 2009, opting instead for just nourishing conditioners that smell nice and soften her hair, and I ditched occasional highlights and frizz-fighting, silicone-based hair products for a gentle natural shampoo and conditioner. The transformation has been incredible. I can air-dry my wavy, formerly temperamental hair and it looks great. I still blow dry sometimes, but it’s nice to know that I really don’t have to.
Q: Are there certain things we should avoid in our hair products? Certain things to embrace?
A: Obviously, as a non-washer I’m at one extreme of the spectrum. But Siobhan and I both agree that the harsh surfactants found in most shampoos are a big no-no. Here’s why: They completely strip natural oils from the hair — the oils that make your locks healthy and shiny — which actually forces you to use more products. When you wash with these shampoos you’re then required to “restore” your hair’s appearance with chemical conditioners, silicone leave-ins, sprays and gels. That all changes when you switch to a natural shampoo (or if you’re game and have really dry hair, no shampoo).
Q: How is the Summer Hair Challenge working out for you? Are you happy with the results?
A: We were thrilled! We really launched the challenge to amuse ourselves, hoping people would participate, but totally unsure if it would catch on. Turns out, 75 women — most of whom we don’t know personally –did the challenge and sent in their pictures to our site.
S: The challenge was picked up on our favorite blog, Jezebel, twice, and it was amazing to see how liberating women seemed to find it. So many people sent us emails saying they were delighted and surprised at how great their hair looked.
Q: What hair-related advice do you have for the ladies?
A: Work with what you have instead of fighting it.
S: For sure — which isn’t to say you can’t pull out the curling iron or blow dryer sometimes. We’ve just found that the kinder you are to your hair, the more accommodating it will be with you.
I would be very careful with the “no wash” method as I tried this and resulted in the chronic skin condition known as seborrheic dermatitis. The no wash method is NOT for people who have much oil in their hair. My scalp condition is now something I will have to deal with the rest of my life, and is very uncomfortable on a daily basis. I, and all the dermatologists I have been to, recommend washing DAILY with a gentle chemical free shampoo.