The Experiment: Week one and mid-second week of WO hair washing

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Japanese woman combing hair by Hashigushi Goyo

In the Beginning

July 6th:

So, I started my WO hair washing journey on June 23, 2016. It has now been nearly two weeks since my very first attempt at washing my hair with only water. So far it’s been pretty rough. However, there is a little bit of silver lining peeking out from behind the gloomy clouds.

About my hair

To start out, I must address the fact that everyone has different hair. No matter how great one solution works for someone, it may not work for someone else. In addition, hair is particularly strange. Especially when it comes to WO, which is all about bringing the nature of your hair to its most natural and truest baseline, the routine often becomes increasingly particular and specialized for the individual. And that is the greatest thing about WO washing. You get to learn exactly what your hair needs, and what it can absolutely do without.

My hair is dark, and straight. When I say straight, I mean pin-like, flat-against-head, no volume, curl-killing straightness. One time I went to a salon in China for a perm and the stylist took one look at my hair and told me that the 600 RMB perm that lasts forever for most people will most definitely fall out within a month in my hair. I permed it anyway being the stubborn idiot that I am. The curls fell out after 2 weeks, and left me the gift of exhausted and damaged hair. It was a bad break up.

I am asian, however my hair is not like most asian hair. Instead of being coarse and thick, it is thin, and very fine. Growing up, I used to not wash my hair for months at a time. During those days my hair was silky smooth and very very thin. It was so smooth that I all braids slipped out of the bands within hours. I never had an oil problem.

Then for some reason, I started to wash my hair every day once I hit middle school. Even though I didn’t need to at the beginning, I felt that it was necessary to give my clean scalp another scrubbing. Shampoo and conditioner then became friends with puberty and my hair erupted with oil. I managed to keep my scalp oil free with more daily washed. I went from not having to wash my hair for months to greasing up within a day. In addition to this, I soon developed a sensitive scalp that constantly hurt.

A few summers ago, I made the really bad decision to dye and perm my hair. After the perm fell out, I re-dyed again that same summer. As if my hair hasn’t been tortured enough, that consecutive summer I bleached my hair to take on a purple dye. The purple was incredibly beautiful, but it rinsed out after a week leaving purple stains on my towels and spotty magenta hair. I looked like the Chinese Aunties that run around with fake Coach bags on their wrists. The only difference is that they actually looked good.

So there you go, I have oily, straight, dark, not-really-asian hair. It’s also dry, damaged and very porous due to the perm and dyes. On straight, fine hair, oil is a complete nightmare to manage. Starting WO mainly was to reduce this crazy cycle of greasiness.

The first week

I’ve done quite a bit of research on WO. What I’ve seen that was consistent among people was that there is a transition period where the hair doesn’t know what to do with itself and produces a ton of oil. The transition on average begins 2-3 weeks into the process and then ends 6 weeks after the beginning. I’ve seen transitions that last up to a year. Some WO washers do not ever stop transitioning. It really depends on the type of hair and the scalp. Transitioning is normal considering that you are removing all the chemicals your hair had ever known and adapted to. Suddenly, your hair finds itself having to manage itself without the help of stripping shampoos or coating conditioners. It will take a bit of effort and a lot of patience, but the general consensus is that once your scalp balances itself out, hair becomes soft and production of grease is just next to none. What I have noticed is that my hair may be transitioning already. It has consistently gotten more oily without

The first few days:

I consistently brushed and preened my hair. I was pretty oily, but I persisted. I managed a whole 2 days before I had to water wash my hair. After the shower, I was surprised that my hair was still greasy.  I guess since I’ve always had squeaky clean hair after shampooing, I never realized just how much oil the soap took away. Anyways, I hated the feeling of greasy wet hair. It just did not feel clean. I went about my life and let it air dry. Very surprisingly, once it dried, it felt much better. It was still oily but much much less sticky.

Getting my water filter:

On July 1, I received my water filter and installed it. I used a wrench and accidentally took off a bit of the finish on the pipe, so be careful to cushion the area with a towel before you go scraping hardware. My area has terribly hard water. It also has very little chlorine. After extensive research, I came to the conclusion that:

  1. My hair may be sticky and not completely clean after the showers due to hard water.
  2. Excluding actual expensive home filtration systems, filters do only little to moderate filtering of minerals. I went ahead and tried out a showerhead filter which reviews claim to make water softer, but removing chlorine is still its main function.
  3. If the filter does not work, my next step would be to try distilled water or rainwater.

Results: The filter worked in the sense. It took away what little chlorine my water had. It did not produce any significant change in the amount of grease that remains in my hair after washing. This could be that I entered the oily transition phase already nullifying any cleansing  whether I did it with filtered water or not. Perhaps it just didn’t work. Nevertheless, I’m keeping the filter on because I spent a good hour and a lot of elbow grease installing the thing. I also saw how disgusting the pipes were after years of hard water abuse so I’ll take all the help I can get.

What I did notice was that my skin was more moisturized than usual after the shower. I used to have to apply a very heavy cream moisturizer on my face or else it starts cracking and flaking immediately. The filter helped with preventing drying out even with out facial moisturizer.

July 6th

Recently, I’ve been having horrible build-up. I think that my scalp produces too much waxy sebum.

So there are two types of sebum, oily and waxy. The oil moisturizes the hair and dissolves the wax. Unlike oil, waxy sebum is difficult to remove with just water. However, it is helpful in that it protects the hair’s oils during periods of heavy water exposure. For example, sheep wool tends to get very waxy after long bouts of rain. The wax is there to protect their wool from drying out too much in the water. A balanced ratio of oil to waxy sebum means that the oil can remove the wax. When water washes off too much of the oil, the wax remains as build-up, and the hair gets more and more sticky. Some people have more waxy sebum than oil. I’m one of those people.

No matter how many WO washes I take (nearly one a day), I could not take out the wax. Each time I stepped of the shower, my hair at the back of my head (where I sleep on) becomes stickier and waxier. I kept up my routine of brushing and scritching and used ACV rinses. I would pour on the diluted solution as the final step in the shower and wait for a minute or so while massaging it in. Afterwards, I rinse it out completely making sure that none is left behind to contribute to build up. ACV worked a little, but my hair was still waxy. Yesterday, I couldn’t take it anymore. I broke down and washed my hair with sulfate-free shampoo.

Gasp! I know, it’s not water ONLY anymore. I’m honestly pretty disappointed that I did that, and I was hoping that I could be hardcore with this. But, remember what I said about everybody’s hair is different. Well, I guess mine is just really waxy and there is no way (that I know of now) to reduce wax without soap. Also, my hair and scalp feel amazing! I think the WO days really made a difference in how healthy my hair is which I only really was able to notice after I washed the grime off.

I know that this sets me back a bit, but I’m still pushing through. I am very determined to make this work. I will continue to WO wash my hair with wax eliminating days sprinkled throughout. My goals are to find ways to reduce the wax and to find natural, natural ways to wash my hair without soap.

Thoughts on the transition process:

So, transitioning is a very unpredictable thing. I’ve read that many people have oily hair for a long time and then suddenly they just stop. Many others say that it was gradual for them. They have oily hair and then progressively less oily. The period of time this occurs for either is all over the place. What I learned form this is that there is no good way for me to predict (or know) when my hair will begin, or stop transitioning. What I have to do is just keep on bulldozing through without stopping.

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My hair on WO washing after almost 2 weeks

Keep reading about my WO hair journey with daily posts starting with the next one!

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