Today I’ve got the theme tune for the movie ‘Grease’ going round in my head, making me smile at the appropriateness of the lyrics for me right now…
‘We take the pressure and we throw away conventionality belongs to yesterday
There is a chance that we can make it so far
We start believin’ now that we can be who we are – grease is the word…’
It takes me straight back to my teenage years during the late 197os when this whole daily hair washing habit first began for me. The erratic hormonal changes going on in my body played havoc with my sebaceous glands, giving me the same greasy hair and troublesome oily skin of every other adolescent I knew, and the only way I could cope with it comfortably was to get myself into the habitual practice of daily hair washing alongside a rigourous facial skin-cleansing routine.
Looking back now, I have to say it never occurred to me at the time that, although my spotty skin eventually rebalanced itself out easily enough, four decades later I’d still find myself tied to such a restrictive, limiting, self-imposed daily-shampoo hair-care routine – I’d initially presumed it too would be yet another necessary transitional phase that would pass in time as I grew up, but somehow it’s a habit I’ve never lost… until now.
The physical process of giving up my daily shampoo is one thing – to be discussed at length in another post or two, no doubt – but the emotional rollercoaster I seem to have started in myself over this past week is something else. It’s as if I’ve been transported back to feeling self-conscious, vulnerable and exposed, like a teenager all over again. My self-confidence seems to have taken a real knock, which feels crazy in a 53-year-old grandmother.
I suppose I hadn’t realised how much I rely on looking what I consider to be ‘presentable’ in my daily life to feel ok about myself – for forty years I’ve hidden behind a mask of make-up (however minimal) to even out and enhance my skin-tone, framed with perpetually oil-free but frustratingly frizzy and flyaway hair. I tell myself my hair may always look messy, but at least it’s kept clean!
I think what feels so disturbing emotionally right now is questioning so fundamentally everything I ‘know’ about looking after my hair. I know not to touch it too much, not to brush it too much, and to shampoo it when it feels greasy. Yet here I am turning all of that life-long knowledge on its head. I’m not shampooing my hair daily, instead I’m touching it intimately in what feels like a profoundly personal way.
I’m massaging my scalp twice a day, and coaxing the natural oils through each strand in turn section by section from root to tip, and then I’m brushing it all through with a boar-bristle brush. After seven days of no shampoo it no longer feels quite so sticky, although it still looks ridiculously greasy. I’ve washed it with water-only three times this week, and have tried so hard not to feel despondent when it air-dries almost as oily as it began.
I know ultimately the idea is to aim to wash it as little as possible, but I also have to balance out my short-term need for my head to feel as clean as possible in the interim with my long-term desire to achieve a more natural relationship with my own hair. It seems amazing at my age that I have no idea what my hair really feels like in a healthy natural state – what it might look like moisturised by its own in-built, self-regulating conditioner?
Hopefully I’ll find the continued motivation to carry on with this new experimental routine for long enough for it to succeed, but until then, whenever that potentially far-off time may be, I guess grease is the word… 🙂