Summer Hair Challenge Report

As I told you last week, I’ve been going product-free for the past few days as part of the No More Dirty Looks Summer Hair Challenge — both to see what my hair does when it gets to exist without the unholy triumvirate of styling oil/styling cream/styling spray, and because I’m becoming more and more convinced that subjecting ourselves to an onslaught of chemicals in the name of beauty is a dicey proposition.

Here’s the lovely photo gallery that Siobhan and Alexandra put together of all 72 of us in all of our air-dried glory:

No More Dirty Looks Hair Challenge Photo Gallery

Totally rad, right?

I’ve also been digging reading about other bloggers’ experiences with the challenge (like here’s Kendra the Skin Detective and Amy of Things We Make). But I was kind of surprised to see the discussion going on over at Sephora’s Beauty and the Blog, where the general sentiment seems to be, Pooh! What challenge? Says blogger Jenna Mahoney:

Is this really that shocking? I’ve been—shh—known to skip the shampoo, brush and dryer before showing up at the office. I’ve also attended black tie events with a mere scrunch and toss. Those days were thanks to an awesome cut or the power of an elastic band. So your term to chime in: Is this challenge actually a dare?

The commenters are all amen-ing that and talking about how they wouldn’t touch a curling iron with a ten foot pole anyway, so what’s the big deal. Which is freeing on the one hand, if even the Beauty Mecca that is Sephora is endorsing the less is more policy. But I find it a little curious because I just checked and yup, still lists 140 styling products for sale, not to mention 29 heat styling tools. Because it’s not out of nowhere that we’ve gotten all hyped up on heat styling and curl creams — that smooth, bouncy blow-out look is pretty much the gold standard when it comes to hair. Some seasons it’s straighter, some seasons it’s curlier, but it’s always super styled.

And, I’ll just say it: I fricking love a good blow-out. My summer TV addiction has been Pretty Little Liars because OMG, the hair. I don’t care how genetically blessed you are, or what crazy amounts of omega-3s you’re consuming, you cannot achieve this:

Pretty Little Liars have perfect hair

Without a hell of a lot of time, tools, and chemicals. (Also extensions.)

Which is why I was totally up for this challenge — because I’m not as evolved as those Sephora commenters and I knew it would take me out of my beauty comfort zone to go cold turkey on my curl defining gel, frizz-fighting Moroccan oil, and shine spray.

And I admit, I was not all that psyched about the amount of frizz that popped up on day one of no products. By day two, I was digging it more because my natural hair oils smoothed things out — but by day three, I was so oily (the natural kind) that I had to wash my hair, and then I was back to frizzy square one again.

But then something funny happened: I semi-fell off the wagon, washed my hair and added a little product and let it air dry. And pretty much the same amount of frizz popped up as when I was product-free. And on day two it looked better, and by day three, I needed to wash it.

So my revelation wasn’t that my hair was sooo glorious when I just let it be. Alas. My epiphany came from going back on the product and realizing that even with all that crap, my hair is just my hair. It’s great — but kinda frizzy in the summer.

Because if that’s the case, then maybe it’s being constantly locked in this epic frizz/styling battle that is the insane part. It’s not like frizz is fatal. Don’t get me wrong — I still think Pretty Little Liar hair is bloody fantastic. But this is one of those times where it’s hard to tell where the beauty world’s anti-frizz propaganda ends and my own genuine preference for shiny popular girl locks begins.

And if I’m not even sure why I like a hairstyle so much, I’m not sure it makes much sense to spend a lot of time, money and chemicals failing to obtain it.

Except on fancy days.



Filed under Beauty Labor, Beauty Schooled, beauty standards, Hair, Happenings, week 38

14 responses to “Summer Hair Challenge Report

  1. Three problems with the Summer Hair Challenge: 1) I’m happy to let my hair air dry, but it takes (and I’m not kidding) HOURS and HOURS for it to completely dry, which sometimes just isn’t practical. 2) My hair is oily and awful by day 2, which means that no matter what, it’s going back in a ponytail, or I have to wash it again, leading to the whole air drying problem. And 3) I sweat like a crazy person when I work out, which also leaves my hair kind of gnarly, meaning (you guessed it) that I have to wash it, and again, the whole air-drying-takes-FOREVER thing. I like my hair just fine when it air dries. I just don’t have the patience for it.

    • Mine takes at least two hours to dry fully too, but I just run around with it wet in the summer (sometimes in braids), or in the winter, plan it so it can be wet while I’m at my desk (one of our secret work from home perks is the laid back dress code, after all!) and dry by the time I need to leave the house.

      I need to pester Siobhan and Alexandra for more tips, but having devoured their book cover to cover now, they seem pretty convinced that your scalp will adapt and balance out on the whole oily head/dry ends issue once you get off the synthetic shampoos and conditioners that strip away oils you need and freak out your system. (We learned this at Beauty U too, for what it’s worth: The more you wash your hair and skin, the more oil they’ll produce because you’re stripping away a natural protective layer.)

      Of course you have to be patient enough to ride out that adapting time. Which, I admit, I’m struggling with — hence the wagon rolling away, me not on it.

      (Oh but I think I’ll always have to wash my hair — or at least rinse it out – post workouts. Nobody wants to walk around with a sweaty head. Gross.)

      In case any of that is helpful to you. xo

    • I haven’t even owned a blow dryer since Dec. 2004 (when I broke it trying to dry a pair of jeans – don’t remember the last time I used it). For me, generally showering at night alleviates the time-to-air-dry issue. If you have to wash in the morning, try patting as much moisture with the towel, letting it hang out for a while (hehe), then turning your head upside down and “fluffing” your hair. For me, that works through enough air to get it a bit dryer.

      It does take time, but if you start stretching the time between washes, your scalp will cool down on the oil production. If you don’t have anything planned over the weekend, that’s a great time to “practice.”

      Working out – admittedly this is something I don’t do regularly… But, if you are working out daily, one option is to try the water-only method every other/every two days. Basically, scrub your scalp as you normally would, simply sans shampoo.

      But, if it doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t work for you. Ultimately, it is your hair. For me, it really isn’t much of a challenge, but it has been fun to see other people try it!

  2. I hardly blow dry or use styling products, primarily because I’m lazy.
    I agree that you don’t have to do much to your hair if you have the right haircut.

    Weening off shampoo is probably the toughest part of the whole thing.

  3. @Emily, wish I could wash at night but it just flattens out my hair! Oh well.

    Yay for fancy days! I love a good blow-out. But I appreciated being “dared” to forgo the gel. Thanks for linking to me, and thanks to Siobhan and Alexandra for the idea.

  4. Michele

    Every single human being in these pics is gorgeous. Wow! Forget photoshopping & makeup & chemicals. Y’all are beautiful! I have super thick hair that takes all day to dry naturally. Laziness and a refusal to spend 2 hours with a blow dryer have allowed me to accept that I will go into the office with a wet head. I don’t use “product” to straighten or curl or manage. Just shampoo & a little conditioner to reduce the electric shocks…

  5. Marian sole

    Having blown my hair dry for some 30 years I am amazes to see how curly my hair really is and like it. The difference is also how much nicer and silky it feels to touch – no stiff gels or sticky sprays. One night’s sleep and it is a complete tangle so I do need to wet it a little every day but in an hour it is dry again- not so bad if you like to enjoy breakfast and reading the paper before going to work.

  6. Alexandra

    I guess I find the challenge sort of surprising because I am apparently really naive. I thought that, aside from a quick and unskilled blow dry, most people really didn’t “style” their hair per se on most days. I think unstyled hair looks pretty much like hair styled by your average, unskilled person. Like, all the people in that collage above – their hair looks like what I see going out every day.

    I let my hair air dry always. I blow dry it myself maybe once a year, and the only other time it gets a blow dry is when I get my cut/color done. I put products in it maybe once a month. I like perfect hair as much as anyone, but styling my hair every day is, in my mind, akin to working out for three hours a day – you’d look hot but be wasting too much time to justify it.

  7. M

    If you are having problems with frizz, why not forgo shampoo and use a light conditioner to cleanse instead? Try to massage only the scalp. For my curly hair, I use a mix of oils as a conditioner. (Though you have to be careful how much you use, or you’ll get really gross really fast. It’s trial-and-error. Also, the time between washing, shampooing, and/or conditioning varies. It just depends on how my hair is doing that day.) If I just want to restyle, I’ll wet it but I won’t shampoo.

    I used to have the frizziest hair ever, and after a few weeks doing this, I can’t believe that I’ve dropped my 8 (EIGHT) daily hair products (and I can be as lazy as possible and not “style” my hair before leaving the house).

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  10. Josie

    Firstly, I apologize for my late reply to this thread. I just wanted to reply to say that I am pretty surprised. I mean, whenever I read “‘women’s’ magazines”, I tend to assume that all the products shown in them — suggested for use… Well, I tend to assume that nobody *really* uses ’em. Maybe I’m just super low-maintenance (or lazy, haha), but I NEVER style my hair. EVER. Sometimes I go for a whole week without washing it, even. My hair hasn’t been blown dry since I was, like, eight, and my mom made me because it was wintertime and she didn’t want me to get sick. I don’t care about split ends. It is rare that I should even BRUSH my hair. And nobody seems to care. I will admit that as a fifteen-year-old girl whom is also a high school freshman, I sometimes feel very out of place with my peers. (But only the girls.) I find it interesting that there is so much pressure to have perfect hair, yet my hair is so far from perfect (and it’s blatantly obvious that I don’t even make an effort for perfection with it), and no one really judges me for it. No (guys) really judge me for my choice not to wear makeup* (I’ve never worn makeup, ever) or to wear “feminine” clothes, either. Of course, because I don’t, they also don’t view me as someone who is dateable. But I’m fine with that. (If you met them, you’d understand.)

    I think I might also get a “pass” on this “behavior” because, in their eyes, I compensate for my lack of conforming to traditional girlhood in other ways — like I’m quite smart, or the fact that I’m a nice person. I’m really tempted to conduct a personal experiment, though. As in, for a month or so, adhere to all that is “feminine,” gauge people’s reactions to me (i.e. Will I be taken less seriously? Included more?), then go back to how I was before and judge their actions. ‘Twould be sehr interessant, ich meine.

    Whoa — this got long! Sorry. By the way, I love what you’re doing with this blog here.

    *Too, I think I’m a little odd in this category: people always tell me how confident I must be, to not wear makeup, but for me, wearing makeup has always served to make me extremely self-conscious — to the point of stupidity. I can’t say why, though.

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