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How To Wash Hair

Updated on March 23, 2012

How to Wash Hair

I admit that I thought I knew how to wash my hair. After all, I’ve been doing it by myself for more than 40 years. But the saying, “You learn something new every day” applies to this subject for me today!

The three parts of a hair
The three parts of a hair

First Off, What the Heck IS Hair?

Hair is a combination of different cells which vary in purpose. The inner most layer is the medulla which is unorganized and sometimes not present. Then there is the cortex which is made of strong rod-like cells. It gives your hair strength and contains melanin to give your hair its color. The outermost layer is the cuticle. This consists of flat, thin cells that are like the shingles on your roof, allowing the hair to swell when wet. It is also covered with a thin layer of lipid which helps it repel moisture.

And all of these cells are dead! The only living part of your hair is in the follicle where the growth happens. The shape of the follicle decides the type of hair (straight, curly or in between) and contains a gland which lubricates the strand. The muscles in the follicle helps move the hair out and helps it stand up – like with a cowlick or goose bumps!

So Much Fuss Over Dead Stuff!

It does seem funny that we would send so much attention, time, and money to a bunch of dead cells. But no one enjoys a “bad hair day” so we do. Through history, the way we’ve taken care of our hair has changed.

Modern times have almost demanded daily washing, but even 50 years ago or less, a weekly cleaning of our locks was more common. Before that, biweekly or less was considered appropriate. There are no hard and fast rules for how often our hair should be washed. However, our modern styles and sensitive noses tend to demand more often, not less.

Comb or Brush First
Comb or Brush First
Massage your scalp with the shampoo
Massage your scalp with the shampoo
Gently pat your hair dry
Gently pat your hair dry

So, How DO You Wash Your Hair?

I thought I knew the answer to this one. After all, I’ve been doing it all by myself for most of my life! Come to find out, I’ve been doing it mostly wrong, all this time. And there’s a good chance you’ve been taught wrong too.

  1. First, you should brush your hair before you get into the shower. This means the hair that normally comes out during shampooing will not clog up your drain. This also helps get the snarls and knots out of your hair.
  2. Be sure to wet your hair completely. This is easy if you have short hair, but if you have longer hair, you’ll need to lift up the different layers of hair to be sure they get completely wet. Be sure not to use really hot water.
  3. Use at least a quarter sized amount of shampoo in your hand. There are lots of shampoos and theories about which is best to use. In my opinion, the more natural the better – try not use shampoos that contain detergents as they are more likely to strip the hair shaft of its natural moisture - the lipid.
  4. Here’s one of the steps I've always done wrong: massage the shampoo into your scalp for two or three minutes. Somewhere in the middle of that, add a little more water to help the shampoo get every where. I always thought this leisurely massaging was just something my awesome hair stylist did to give me a relaxing experience. Come to find out, this step allows the sebum (that oily build up on the scalp) to properly loosen up and wash away. It also allows for hair product to dissolve and rinse out. And, it feels relaxing and luxurious; What a nice way to treat yourself!
  5. Thoroughly rinse the shampoo out of your hair, being sure to pay extra attention to the scalp and the under parts of the hair if you have longer or thicker hair.
  6. If you feel the need to repeat the shampoo, you can. But if you take the time to do the step above, you may not need to repeat the shampoo step as often, saving time and product.
  7. If you condition your hair, do just the ends since this is really where the conditioning is needed. You should only need to condition one or two times per week depending on how much you torture your hair with hair dryers, curling irons, straighteners, or chemical processes.
  8. After you have rinsed out the conditioner, you should rinse your scalp again with cool water. This will help close up the newly cleaned follicles. OK, I’ve never done that step either!
  9. Then, when you’re done, pat your hair dry with a clean towel. That will assure you don’t snarl your wet hair.

Shampoo Smarter, Not Harder!

Our lives are all so busy, it’s easy to just jump in, do a quick, rough shampoo and jump out again. But following these steps is actually quick and more effective. You’ll spend less time repeating the shampoo, use less shampoo and conditioner. It also makes the shampoo process relaxing and enjoyable instead of just a boring task. I’ve begun shampooing this way and find that my hair gets cleaner and I’m more relaxed when I get out. It’s a nicer way to start my day – and I deserve that!

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    • Teresa Coppens profile image

      Teresa Coppens 

      5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      interesting. I miss a few of these steps also. I will be more diligent next hair washing!

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