Daily Prompt: Nest

As a child in the sixties my hair was always fine and flyaway, but it never bothered me that I always had ribbons running loose and stray strands sliding softly out of the sturdiest of clips. I liked wearing my hair loose and free, and in spite of the constant tugs and knots the permanantly unkempt look somehow suited my tomboy lifestyle to a T!

My teenage years in the seventies coincided with me embracing the scruffy hippy look, where thankfully a carefully-coiffured hairstyle was neither fashionable nor desired. I suppose I could have adopted the whole glam-rock thing instead, but to be honest bling has never been my thing. I’m more of a muted tie-dye and patchwork kind of girl than someone who seeks out sparkly sequins and glitter.

Once my three kids were born one after the other in the early eighties the state of my hair was the least of my concern, and it was only once I went out to work after me and their dad split up that I really gave it much thought. So for a couple of decades I took as much care as I could to keep my hair cut and coloured regularly to ensure it looked as smart as possible. Yet still it basically did whatever it liked, albeit in a slightly more coaxed and controlled, reined-in way than in my earlier years.

But since I hit menopause a few years ago my now-frizzy greying-blonde locks grow more like a bird’s nest every day, and I’ve learned to live with the reality of it as it is. I’ve tried wearing it short and layered, and growing it long to wear tied up, but for now it’s in a collar-length bob, trimmed every now and again whenever it becomes too unruly to manage any more. We’ve reached a kind of uneasy truce, me and my hair, which will hopefully last through whatever happens next with it 🙂

Daily Prompt: Nest

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Tugs, Snags and Breakages

I so admire people with lovely long hair, but it’s looking increasingly like I won’t ever be one of them. For most of my adult life I’ve worn my hair in variations of a practical bob, from jaw-length to shoulder-length, with or without a fringe, but always worn loose. Over the years I’ve also tried one disastrous perm in the early 80s; a short, layered cut maybe about once a decade since then; and only twice in my adult life have I succeeded in growing my hair down beyond shoulder-length. Now is one of those times, and having persevered for so long to get this far with it, I find I absolutely hate having longer hair.

Disappointingly it seems I hate the tickly feeling of my loose hair falling over my shoulders and down my back, and hate getting loose strands of my hair trapped in anything and everything, so I always seem to tie it up out of the way to stop it annoying me even though I don’t like wearing it tied up. I hate the constant tugs and snags and breakages that seem (for me) to be an unavoidable part of having longer hair, regardless – I’m always having to be so careful. If I wear it loose it catches in everything and breaks off, but if I tie it up it resists and breaks anyway – it feels like a never-ending lose/lose situation, very disheartening all round and it’s really getting me down.

The thing is with me, I’m really not a very girly girl – I wear minimal make-up, and even then only when the situation dictates I have to. And in the same vein I’m much better with a naturally easy-to-wear kind of hairstyle, which is probably why a bob works best for me. Short layered crops on me need a lot of ‘oomph’ to look acceptable, which takes time and effort. Oh, and product – it takes a lot of product, which I hate using as I can’t stand the feel of it in my hair. So all in all short layered crops don’t really work for me. And as having longer hair is proving to be surprisingly high maintenance too, it looks like I’m going to have to admit defeat once more and go back to my tried-and-tested bob…

Oh well…!

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Hair

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Linda’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompt word for this week is ‘hair’ – perfect timing for me to update you all on my ongoing quest to give up my daily shampoo. For the last few years my hair has not been happy, as the number of grey hairs has increased it’s seemed to become infinitely more wiry in texture and unruly in nature, and a lifetime of daily shampooing has left it dry and frizzy at the ends but always all-too-quickly greasy at the roots.

Six weeks ago I decided just to stop using shampoo completely and wash my hair with water only, following instead a very hands-on routine of scritching, preening and brushing regularly to distribute the natural oils and remove any dirt. I persevered for four weeks, but seriously struggled living with constantly lank spaghetti strands even immeditely after water-washing, so decided instead to try a less extreme approach by using only a sulphate and paraben-free shampoo, and simply stretching out the days between washes.

So here I am, two weeks on from that time, washing my hair every three days now with my new shampoo, and I have to say I’m absolutely delighted with the results. My hair is much softer and shinier all over, far less frizzy at the ends and far less greasy at the roots. Not surprisingly it looks at its best on the day I wash it (see above pic), but still looks fine on the following day too. It’s only on the third day it starts to look a bit on the limp side, but I simply tie it up out of the way and all is well.

I’m planning to continue using my new shampoo, and will try to increase the days between washing my hair, slowly but surely. So although it’s been a bit of a rough ride, especially those difficult first four weeks, I suppose I’ve actually achieved what I set out to do in the first place, so for now it’s smiles all round, as you can see… 🙂

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Hair

Hybrid Hair Care: The Best of Both Worlds

After four full weeks of washing my hair with nothing but water, I’ve decided to re-evaluate exactly what I’m trying to achieve, and to re-think where I want to go from here. I feel I’ve become so engrossed in not giving up on my quest at any cost, in not failing in my resolve no matter what, that I’ve lost my way a bit, as if I’m no longer able to see the wood for the trees…

I started this whole experiment on a whim based on feeling increasingly frustrated and fed up wih having poor condition, frizzy flyaway hair with all-too-soon greasy roots I’ve shampooed daily forever. I wanted to try to break that habit so simply stopped using shampoo, just like that, and only afterwards did I properly start to research all those less extreme, perfectly reasonable alternatives out there. In retrospect, perhaps it would have been better not to go cold turkey straight off, but I did what I did, and I am where I am.

Where I am right now is having lived through four dismal weeks of constantly greasy hair, even when newly water-washed. And no matter how thoroughly I’ve scritched and preened and have boar-bristle-brushed between times, the daily grime may be removed as intended but my hair has never looked any less greasy. It’s fair and fine and increasingly greying, so shows everything without mercy – there’s just nowhere to hide with my hair.

In order to look minimally presentable I’ve had no option but to tie my shoulder-length hair up in a ponytail every day, and have worn a hat every time I’ve gone out. I’ve persevered so far in the hope that things would improve enough to motivate me to keep going, but right now it feels all too much to deal with and is seriously getting me down. So I’m looking to change tack and try taking a more hybrid approach to my continuing hair-care.

I’m certainly learning a lot about my hair in its natural state, and that’s a good thing – even the negative stuff is helpful. Leaving its natural oils in place for so long have left it feeling so much softer and silkier than before, but sadly however smooth it feels it still hangs from my head like well-oiled spaghetti. It seems that the singled-out separation of strands that occurs when hair is naturally coated in sebum simply looks absolutely bloody awful on my caucasian-straight dark ash blonde.

But I’m finding I really enjoy the feel of taking a more hands-on approach to my hair, so I’m going to continue with my original aim of washing my hair less frequently and less harshly, but from now on, for now at least, I’ll be giving the water-only washing a miss. Instead I’ve bought myself a sulphate-free, paraben-free conditioning shampoo, so will use that instead of regular shampoo, and come what may will continue trying to stretch out time between shampoos, scritching, preening and brushing regularly between times.

It’s obviously not the perfectly wholesome organic solution I was hoping for all those weeks ago, but realistically I accept I have to live my daily life in the way it best suits me, not chasing some utopian ideal of natural perfection. Still, onwards and upwards, and as the old saying goes, there’s more than one way to swing a cat… 🙂

 

Hair Update… Waiting To Be a Butterfly

Hmmm… it’s now been 26 days since I last used shampoo on my hair, and still I’m persevering with my water-only hair washing experiment. I almost gave up last weekend, my hair just felt so greasy and lank even when freshly water-washed and it really got me down, to the point where I sat and cried at the pointlessness of it all, but I somehow got through it without reaching for the (shampoo) bottle and I promised myself I’d be patient, leave it yet another week, and see how it goes…

So here I am, not quite one week on from there, still struggling with myriad emotions on what feels like a never-ending roller-coaster cycle of determination and despair. I’m still quite clearly in the no-shampoo transitional period (which tends to last between six to eight weeks), where my understandably confused scalp is learning to adjust its natural sebum production from a lifetime of being chemically stripped daily to a new routine of being managed manually.

And it is definitely a hands-on job, an infinitely intensive labour of love to coax my shell-shocked hair into some kind of manageable state using only water, my fingers, a wooden comb and a boar-bristle brush. But there’s also something surprisingly sensual about the whole manual process – it feels so good to finger-massage my scalp, patiently pull the oils down through each hair shaft, and brush out the daily build-up of dirt. It has a repetitive rhythm all of its own that I find soothing to my soul.

I keep telling myself this is a monumental shift for me, to be moving from a daily wet shampoo to (hopefully) a less limiting and far more rewarding hair-care regime once this transitional phase has passed. And I do have to keep reminding myself constantly that this excessively greasy stage is only temporary – it will pass, it won’t always be this way. Already it’s not quite as bad as it was, my hair is slowly becoming a little less surface oily so there is some improvement to show for my efforts, but it takes it own good time and cannot be rushed.

So I can’t judge the success or failure of my experiment because as yet it is still incomplete, and I have to see it through to the end. Only once everything is rebalanced naturally can I decide on whether or not to continue with water-only washing, or find another alternative. But the more I get used to the feeling of having heavier, healthier hair, the more I like it. Rather than feeling frizzy and flyaway, frequently frazzled and parched, my hair does look and feel softer and shinier; it sits flatter but fuller with far more internal volume.

I know it will look very different once it settles down – different from how it was, and different from how it looks now. I’m trying to imagine this phase as similar to being in a chrysalis – one day soon I will emerge, shake free my naturally conditioned hair, and be a beautiful butterfly at last. But until that time arrives, I must continue to be patient, and simply wait and see… 🙂

An Exercise in Patience and Perseverance

I posted at the beginning of this year to say that, tired of daily shampooing my hair, I was going to be experimenting with water-only washing my hair for the next while, in the hope of rebalancing the natural oil-production in my scalp over time resulting in shiny, more manageable locks through menopause and on into the future. Well, that’s supposed to be the long-term goal, anyway.

I’ve also since posted briefly about how I frequently feel tempted in the short-term to throw in the towel and just shampoo my constantly-greasy hair, and about how I’m really struggling with the reality of the inevitable transitional period as my body slowly but surely adjusts to the sudden change. I mean, forty years of daily stripping my scalp of all my natural oils is not going to fix itself a few days, however much I’d like it to hurry the hell up and behave ‘normally’ again!

Now well into my third week with no shampoo, although I’m still clearly in the midst of the decidedly-difficult-to-deal-with transitional stage, I’m finally beginning to understand that there really is a point to it all. My hair is starting to feel so much softer and smoother at the tips, to the extent that even (wonder of wonders) the previously rougher, wirier grey hairs that are (not-so-randomly any more) peppered through my natural dark ash blonde show a sort of supple sinuousness I quite like the feel of.

My hair still looks straggly and stranded-spaghetti-like even immediately after water-only washing, but is no longer clumpy and claggy like it was to begin with. I can now easily run my fingers through my hair from root to tip without ever meeting any recalcitrant tugs or tangles tending to turn it into a bit of a bird’s nest, and there’s now a satisfying overall heft to its natural-flowing fall onto my shoulders that I haven’t felt in years.

And to my surprise, I’m really enjoying the feeling of thoroughly brushing it through morning and night, to redistribute the natural oils and remove any daily dirt. Brushing my hair ‘properly’ is a new experience for me as an adult – apart from a radial styling brush used minimally when blow-drying I’ve only ever regularly used a comb in my hair since my teens. It felt so odd to begin with, but the more I’m getting to know my hair the better I’m feeling about it. We’re not quite the best of friends yet, but thankfully we’re no longer arch-enemies…

I still have such a long way to go with this experiment before I can even begin to judge whether or not it may be successful long-term, but it’s doing me the power of good to feel some kind of improvement along the way, however small my victories may be. It really is as much an exercise in patience and perseverance as anything else. I have to trust that my body knows what it is doing, and that ultimately, my patience will one day be rewarded…

PS Still not taken any photos of the whole process yet – I’m nowhere near reaching an acceptably photogenic stage, and I’m thoroughly uncomfortable taking pics of me at the best of times – but if it works as planned, after the absolutely god-awful transitional phase has passed, I promise I’ll post some pics for you all to see 🙂

 

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Coat

Another boring hair-related post, as much as anything because that’s what’s in (as well as on!) my head just now. It’s now been two whole weeks since I last used shampoo on my hair, and I’m seriously struggling with the ongoing process of giving it up cold turkey. I knew when I first decided to start this experiment of water-only hair washing that it would not be easy to stick with.

I knew it would take an extended period of transition (apparently anything up to two months – eek!) for my scalp to rebalance its natural production of sebum to a manageable level, and that during that transitional period my hair will inevitably look and feel horribly (and excessively) greasy until everything settles down. I also suspected I’d find it emotionally as well as physically difficult to deal with (and I am!) but so far I’ve persevered. Two weeks down, about six more to go… sigh!

It’s never nice living with greasy hair, even temporarily, and especially deliberately. I find it always feels ‘dirty’ even though I know it is technically clean, just over-oily. But it feels even harder to live with when there is absolutely no guarantee that at the end of it all (a) I will eventually succeed, in that my over-active oil-producing scalp will indeed rebalance itself, and (b) I’ll actually like the final effect.

I’ve been reading up on it all so I can keep a realistic perspective on what to expect (forewarned is forearmed!) and it seems that although I can’t wait for my hair to return to normal, I no longer truly know what ‘normal’ means. Even once my hair stops looking so ridiculously greasy, even once this transitional period is over, it seems I’ll still have a coat of protective oil covering each strand, making it feel more like silky fur than what I might recognise to date as hair…

Hmmm… not so sure about that… 😦

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Coat 

Daily Prompt: Tempted

It’s been twelve days since I decided to stop using any shampoo at all in my hair, and more than once in that time I’ve seriously considered giving up my crazy quest, throwing in the towel altogether and just washing my hair PROPERLY again! Luxuriously lathered locks, softly scented and squeaky-clean have for now become a thing of my past, a memory, a lure to tempt me away from trying to achieve a more natural relationship with my steadily ageing body.

The thing is, I’ve become really fed up with my 50-something greying hair always looking frizzy and flyaway at the ends yet greasy and grotty at the roots, and I just need to change the way I look after it. It’s ridiculous to me that I’ve habitually been washing (as in shampooing) my hair daily (or thereabouts) for the last 40 years – basically from puberty to peri-menopause – and I feel it’s time to kick that unnecessary habit once and for all, however difficult I may find it to break the cycle.

I’m not really trying to find an alternative shampoo – I know some people use bicarbonate of soda and apple cider vinegar to cleanse their hair, or honey, or sulfate-free soap – but instead of finding a replacement I want not to have to wash my hair so often with anything much at all. I simply want my sebaceous glands to stop over-producing so that in time I end up with a healthy head of hair, naturally moisturised  of its own accord, soft and silky…

So far, so good – and so bad! I’m clearly still very much in the transitional phase, which research leads me to believe lasts on average between five and eight weeks – so basically anything up to two months. My hair on day 12 is (not surprisingly) still quite greasy-looking, but thankfully at last it’s also beginning to feel decidedly less ‘yukky’ to the touch, which feels like a vast improvement on how it felt last week.

Because it’s regularly rinsed through every time I bath or shower, any dirt is removed, but I’m not stripping it of all the natural oils. I’m faithfully following the recommended procedure of dry-massaging my scalp twice a day, methodically pulling the oils gently down through each strand of hair, then brushing well, and however alien that may have felt to begin with, I’m now quite enjoying the feel of it. For the time being, putting it up in a ponytail every day keeps it out of the way easily enough at home, and I always wear a hat when I go out.

I do appreciate that giving up shampoo is necessarily going to be a long-term process, and I believe it will take some time to get to the point where I feel truly comfortable with how my hair looks and feels again, but with a bit of patience and perseverance I’m hopeful I might get there sooner rather than later, without being tempted too often to give in before I get there… 🙂

Daily Prompt: Tempted 

Daily Post: Interior

We tell ourselves that in our book looks don’t matter, that to us it is what is on the inside of people that counts most. We tell ourselves so often that we believe that this is how we live our lives – being totally un-biased, non-judgemental, always looking below the surface and seeing through the stereotypes to appreciate the soul beyond the skin – but is it really true?

Even within ourselves, within our own bodies, how often do we judge our self-worth to be dependent all too often on our external appearance? If I look good, I tell myself, I’ll feel good. But what does it say about me, deep down, when the thought of being seen in public without visibly clean skin, clean hair, clean clothes fills me with such concern?

My internalised notions of public presentation judge any failure in myself to reach a certain exterior standard to be an indication of an interior lack. I don’t like that I think that way about myself, and possibly by extension how I sub-consciously think about others, but I find that old habits die hard. I still seriously struggle with the idea of popping out to the local shop for a pint of milk and a loaf of bread in scruffy old clothes and unwashed hair.

How polished I look on the outside matters to me as much as anything because a lifetime of experiencing recurring depressive episodes has left me with the marker of consistent and continued self-care having become a particular tipping point on my personal barometer between coping, and not coping, with life. As long as I can succeed in hiding my internal angst behind a facade of external acceptability, I feel I must be doing ok.

But underneath it all, I do understand that ideally I need to feel confident on the inside no matter how I may look on the outside at any given time, and sadly for me, it seems that particular yardstick is most definitely still very much a work in progress…

Daily Prompt: Interior

Grease is the Word…

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… 🙂