For the past few weeks, people have been coming up to me and asking if I’m all right. I’ve seen looks of concern all over–surprising especially, because every fashion writer spends September a little more ragged, a little more tired, a little thinner. People have been asking me how I’m doing, if work’s going well, and if I’ve been under any new stress.
The reason this is happening is simple: I have not washed my hair for a while. Running around the city during NYFW probably contributed to a more-bedraggled-than-usual appearance, but I think the real culprit is that my hair has collected weeks worth of dirt, oil, grit and old fashioned amorphous New York City grime. I’ve been testing dry shampoos for this very post, and I’ve been doing it by going about a week between washes.
I realized, though, when I sat down to write this that 1500 words on dry shampoo would be a hell of a lot more interesting if I also had a drug problem.
I’m reminded of a really old episode of Doug where Doug has to write an essay on silt. He sits at his desk for hours, but the only words on his paper remain, “Silt is…” In the echelon of uninteresting things of the world, I’d rank dry shampoo right near silt, alongside the weather, dry toast and hearing about your dream last night. How, I wondered, was I going to squeeze a longform post out of this without admissions of vastly more alluring subjects like, I don’t know, smoking PCP or absentee parents? I wondered.
As all deeply boring things begin, here is a definition: dry shampoo is sometimes a spray but, more traditionally, a white powdery substance (perfect!) that can be used to “clean” and freshen up the hair when it’s not possible to actually wash it. Dry shampoo works by stripping out all the excess oil–along with leftover sweat and general nastiness–that the hair is producing because you’re not washing it.
The product has become increasingly popular in recent years as more and more research suggests that washing hair too frequently can be really, really bad for it–especially using commercial shampoos and conditioners, often loaded with harsh, unpronounceable shit–and strips away the hair’s natural oils. Dry shampoo can extend that time between washing a few extra days, but keep you from looking like a greasy, drug-addled mess.
Oh, and the first dry shampoo hit the market in the ’70s, was called Pssst! and was advertised like this:
She gets very depressed!
I opted to write about dry shampoo because I’d never used it before and didn’t really understand what it was (which I suppose makes me more of a “beauty critic” than a beauty editor). I first heard about the product from my impossibly beautiful French former-ballerina friend, who had a perfect, short pixie cut like prime “Freedom”-era Linda Evangelista. She was a big fan of dry shampoos but I was leery of adopting anything ridiculously gorgeous French girls swear by because… because what’s the point? Anyway, I didn’t investigate further because, back then, I didn’t have a terribly demanding job and shower time was pretty easy to come by.
Nowadays, it’s not. I’ll be honest: I probably don’t shower as often as I could. My day job is writing for TheGloss, but I sold a book last year and have been trying to turn a 50 page proposal into an 80,000 word manuscript for the last six months. Blogging also requires more than a little after-hours work–going to events and the like–so, add to that trying to have a social life, and showering isn’t always my #1 priority.
Look, I’m not a saying I spritz my armpits with a lemon wedge and go weeks without bathing and convince myself I’m saving the world because of it; I’m saying I can’t make time to shower every single day. It’s not crazy.
A few weeks ago, I had to leave work, commute home, shower, and get back on the subway to see some friends who were in town for a few days. I gave myself an hour to do so. As I walked down onto the subway platform, I thought, “Fuck it,” I’d rather have that extra hour with my friends. …Until I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the train windows and realized I looked exactly like the little girl from The Ring. Dry shampoo, I’ve since learned, probably would have saved me in this situation.
There are, of course, cons to using dry shampoo: it’s crucial not to consider it a permanent substitute for actually washing your hair (who would do that, though? I have no idea) because it, inevitably, leaves residue. Also, it doesn’t really clean it, per se, it just perks it up. I haven’t alluded to any personal problems one might have for a few hundred words now, so here are some I’ve heard are very intriguing: eating disorders. Abortion. Men in leather jackets. Riding your bicycle against traffic.
So, after my Ring moment, I figured I should give dry shampoo a try. I started by asking for recommendations from Karol Markowicz, of Fix Beauty Bar on the Upper East Side. Our connection is a mutual friend but I’ve never actually been to Beauty bar, so I suppose there’s the possibility it’s a ramshackle Hooverville, but it looks very nice from the pictures and our mutual friend loves it. Anyway, Markowicz is a fan of dry shampoo. As a cosmetologist, she sees it as a way to “extend the life of your blowout” (between salon visits, of course) “and freshen your hair.” Her favorite versions are “The Alterna Caviar Dry Shampoo”–which they carry at Fix–“and the L’Oreal Professionel Texture Expert Fresh Dust Dry Shampoo.” She adds, “The Alterna one is the one I use most but the L’Oreal one comes in spray form for people who don’t want to use their hands.”
Having been a beauty
editor critic for a few years now, I was very leery of the word “caviar” in my personal care products. Was this shit going to cost $150? …No, apparently. To my great shock, it was less than $20. I bought that and the L’Oreal spray and, lying around the office, I also had a sample of Shu Uemura Volume Maker, which is “an invisible texturing powder” that isn’t explicitly marketed as a dry shampoo but does promise to offer “instant root lift, texture and body. It also helps to refresh any blow-dry for long lasting hairstyles.” You know, like a dry shampoo.
So here we are, back to not washing my hair. Don’t judge me for the pictures you’re about to see; I did it for science.
Basically, my plan was to go 4-5 days without washing my hair (I rinsed it every now and again, I’m not a monster) to work up a good grease. Then I tried a dry shampoo.
Surprisingly, I liked all of them.
Here’s the Shu Uemura:
I left a little bit in (in the after photo, to the immediate left of the part) so you can see what it looks like pre-combing.
Here’s the L’Oreal spray (on a friend, because I could only work up so much grease):
I was really impressed by the volume this stuff offers–also, it’s a spray, so no risk of powdery hair. It also seems strong enough to do some light styling.
The Alterna Caviar one:
Stuff is really nice, just like our stylist friend said. Gives the hair a soft, warm and freshly-washed look.
I also got a sample of Oscar Blandi‘s, which I used on my gnarly, grease-exaggerated bedhead:
So, really, what I learned is this: dry shampoo is pretty great and, if it sounds like something that might be useful to you, you should look into finding one.
The problem is I didn’t really know how to bulk that up into 1500 words and keep things engaging. So, in desperation, I salvaged an idea from months ago and kind of executed it, but added some photos. Lazy though it may be, I figured it was only one step below writing about your drug use to make yourself interesting.
So it’s a wash?