Hairwashing can be both a catharsis or a reset. It is the purifying sluice water rinsing bad days down the plughole.
Anya Hindmarch started her first business as a teenager. She is a 53-year-old fashion designer and has five children. Her successful business is also a CBE. One of these types. It is encouraging to know that her secret to success is not rocket yoga at 5am, leaving parties after 10 mins, intermittent fasting at a standing table, or any other boilerplate alpha guff. The title of her new book is “If in Doubt, Wash Your Hair,” which is her most valuable life advice.
She says that a good scrub with shampoo “makes me calmer, more confident, and thus better able to deal with situations. When I am standing in the shower with my eyes closed and not looking at my phone is when I get my best ideas. It’s a bit meditation for me. A fresh start, a new day.”
It’s a simple way to make your hair look great. Many people dialed up their at-home haircare to make sure they looked presentable even though the salons were shut down. Olaplex, a deep conditioner that can be used in salons as well as for rinse-at-home, saw its sales double in 2020. Meanwhile, specialist purple shampoos were popular to bring shine to silver hair. As women accepted their new greys and learned how to care for them, so did the sales of Olaplex.
Jamila Lee-Smikle, a London-based fashion publicist aged 27 years, started an Instagram account called @girlfreethefro to share her learnings about hair care at home. “Now, I wash my hair every Sunday morning. I make a cup of tea and listen to some music. Then, I take my time. After that, I style my hair and feel ready to go for the week ahead. It’s therapy.”
George Northwood, the stylist to Alexa and the Duchess, launched Undone this year, a line of home haircare products. He says that the “skinification” of haircare has changed the way people view shampoo and conditioner. “We named one our products Moisturising Cream as the language of skincare is starting through to haircare.” His reopened salon has clients savoring having their hair done by professionals, which brings back the childhood experience of being pampered. “My friend was almost overcome by the joy of a scalp massage and professional wash after her lockdown appointment. After being locked down for a long time, she was feeling incredibly empty and very hungry. She says that 10 minutes at the sink was the ideal re-entry level to human intimacy.” She added, “I don’t think I’m ready to receive hugs, even though they are a great treat. It was both sensual and practical to have my hair washed. I didn’t feel awkward about it.”
Hindmarch wasn’t the only writer to write about shampoo therapy. This life philosophy was first introduced to me by Jilly Cooper, a national treasure in sunlounger fiction. If a Cooper heroine has a bad day, such as if her lover is a double-crossing bastard or the roof of the conservatory are falling in, she doesn’t crawl back into bed. She washes her hair and then takes a sip of a strong drink before continuing. Cooper believes that the scent of freshly washed hair is a sign of good news. She was right, as shampooing your hair can be more important than styling it. Northwood says that most people make the mistake of using too much shampoo and allowing them to build up. “Healthy hair begins with properly cleaning it.” Professionals will wash your hair twice. The first shampoo removes dirt and the rinse-and repeat gets it clean.
Before I heard the term “self-care”, washing my hair was something I knew. I hate bubble baths. All of these sound like tedious chores to me: dry body brushing, jade roller facials, and foot exfoliation. My hair is my reset button for the day. It’s cathartic and like having a good laugh. You can have both and you won’t get puffy-faced if necessary. The olfactory rush from lemon, grapefruit, or rose, and the cleansing sluice that water runs down your plughole. There’s also the satisfying chemistry lab alchemy of bubbles, lather, and the soothing chemistry of the chemicals. If you need to be convinced that hairwashes can be thrilling, Out of Africa’s scene where Robert Redford gives Meryl Steep an alfresco shampoo will convince you.
Hindmarch’s book has a chapter called Put Your Own Oxygen Mask On First. “Many women my age feel like they should be doing the same things as their mothers, but work just as hard as their dads. It’s easy to do so much for others that we lose the energy and time to care for ourselves. This is why it’s important to take the time to wash your own hair before you go on a big day. This is not about being indulgent, but taking care of those who are responsible for others.” Hindmarch says that this has been especially important recently because it felt like women were bearing the brunt of a lot the past year, often taking over the homeschooling, even though both parents worked.
Hindmarch celebrates her book launch by hosting a popup blow-dry bar and party. “I saw a picture of a woman in a salon drying her hair, and she was enjoying a cup of coffee while the sun was shining on her face. I thought, after the year that we’ve had, this’s where you want to be.” Soon enough, I’m sure, there will be parties again. However, I may still go in to wash my hair.