Hmm. Sort of. The smell that rises up during my blow-dry reminds me of a fish-and-chips shop. Afterward, however, it does look almost as if I’ve had a real shampoo—a little motionless on top but certainly presentable enough for the aforementioned black tie. As per Joseph, I buy some leave-in conditioner to massage into my strawlike ends, and one week later, when I return to the salon for another rinse and blowout, the texture is almost silky smooth. By the beginning of the fifth week, if I may say so myself, I look pretty great.
Still, doubts remain. For one thing, while I don’t notice an odor, a friend leaves a sly comment on Facebook, where I’ve been diligently charting my progress. “Bad smell is like loud noise,” he writes. “After a while you cease to notice it.”
On my 38th day, I call in the services of another expert, famed hair and scalp specialist Philip Kingsley. “Not as bad as I thought,” he says, peering at the top of my head through a large magnifying glass, “but I bet it could be a lot better.” In the business for more than 60 years and a strong advocate of washing and conditioning, Kingsley finds the whole experiment absurd: “You wash your face every day. Why wouldn’t you wash your hair, too? It’s been to the same places, after all!”
Hairstylist Sam McKnight, the man behind Chanel’s always intriguing catwalk coifs, agrees. “If you live on the beach or in the jungle, marvelous,” he says. “But if you go into an office every day? I don’t think so. I have had many people in my chair who haven’t washed their hair in ages, and the bottom line is, it smells.”
I’d been considering whether I could continue indefinitely without washing, and that right there was my answer. It’s not just that I missed the smell of shampoo; it’s that between the 200 daily strokes, the dousing in hot water, the vinegar rinses, the head massages, and so on, not washing proved to be more high maintenance than the alternative. I have no doubt that there is some truth to the theory of self-cleaning hair, but I am neither a cat nor an oven. So after six long weeks, I’m back on the bottle—and it feels marvelous.