Sometime toward the middle of week two, the itchiness, greasiness, and matte halo of frizz become unbearable. No one likes the sexy bed-head look more than I do, but there’s a difference between fashionably messy and Pig Pen. Compelled to cheat, just a little, I buy a canister of dry shampoo powder. Big mistake. Like the talc we used at boarding school for the same purpose, it turns my hair a dusty gray and leads to even more itching. To keep myself from running to the salon for a full-on wash and blow-dry (and believe me, I am very, very tempted, with an important black-tie event on the horizon), I make an emergency call to Joseph Zelasko, co-owner of New York’s Salon 74 and a keen “no poo” proponent.
According to Joseph, who has convinced many of his clients to stop shampooing, it takes four weeks to “turn a corner.” If I can only persevere for another 18 days, he promises, I will be blessed with smooth, soft, shiny locks. “Most commercial hair products, I believe, are pathogenic,” he says. “And there are lots of ways to keep your hair luxurious and clean without using them.”
Joseph suggests that I buy a hairbrush from Mason Pearson, one of the few with actual boar bristles. Apparently the natural material does the best job of redistributing sebum. Every morning and evening I administer 100 strokes, bending at the waist and brushing upside down to move emollients from the roots to the ends. After two days, I do, indeed, notice a difference. For one thing, my hair is not nearly as gloopy as it was on top, and I feel brave enough to stop wearing plaits in public. My officemates, who were appalled by my shampoo ban at the outset, are now fascinated by how “normal” my coif appears. I am too, but at the same time I can’t help feeling like a piece of vintage clothing that hasn’t been properly dry-cleaned. Back in the Seventies, British novelist Jilly Cooper famously defined a slut as one who irons her underwear but doesn’t wash it. Is someone who brushes her hair but doesn’t shampoo the 21st-century equivalent?
In search of solace, I once again call Joseph—and hang up the phone thrilled. “Who says you can’t rinse your hair or even have it blow-dried?” he asks. So, at the beginning of week three, I head for my salon, Richard Ward Hair & Metrospa, off London’s King’s Road, armed with his instructions. Stephan, the brave boy who has elected to execute the gruesome task, rinses my tresses in the hottest water I can stand and administers a deep scalp massage. Next, for shine, is a soak in a white vinegar solution. “Don’t worry,” Joseph has assured me. “You won’t smell like a tossed salad. As soon as the vinegar hits the hair, its odor dissipates.”