HairI’ve been a fan of the late, great newsletter-cum reference book The Tightwad Gazette since I was a subscriber in the early 90s. I loved the idea of people across the country sharing simple, creative little tricks for creating a quality, happy life, while spending less money and amassing less unnecessary stuff. In that wonderfully friendly, miserly tradition, I’d like to share any fun ideas I come across that help me use less money, less time, less space for stuff, or all of the above. I think it’s fitting here. My “nomad” lifestyle is all about staying as free as possible from the fetters of unnecessary bills and unnecessary stuff.

Here’s my latest discovery: Since I grew up enough to wash my own hair, I’ve always shampooed my hair every single day. I felt I had to. My genes have blessed me with the charming combination of an oily scalp and baby-fine hair, so that any oil in my hair sticks it flat to my head. To add to the ickiness, my hair is light in color as well as texture (shifting, through my teenage years, from pale blonde to my current light, reddish brown), and any extra oil covers the pale color, making the entire flat mess dull, dark—quite obviously an oil slick. I’ve always felt the need to do a full shampoo at least every 24 hours, and sometimes even more often.

Well, fellow oily folks, check this out: The beauty magazine in a web site, Total Beauty, gives targeted advice for all hair types. After I took a quiz on the site, my hair was diagnosed as “oily” (big surprise), and I was given this advice: “It may sound counterintuitive, but don’t wash your hair every day. Why? Because it dries out your scalp, causing it to produce more oil, which just makes the situation worse.” I’d, um, never thought of that. The site suggested that I wash no more than once every other day, but assured me that I could just rinse my hair with water on off days, for styling and anti-ick purposes. I’d never thought of that, either. It had never occurred to me to just rinse my hair without going through the whole shampoo-and-conditioner-and-styling products routine.

Well, I’ve been following the advice for about two weeks now, and I’m delighted with the results. The oil slick seems to come on a bit more slowly, and just rinsing my hair in the shower on the second day does wonders: My hair gets its color back, and it dries fluffier and cuter than it does on the days I shampoo. I don’t feel the need to add volumizing hairspray (which I do on shampoo days), because my hair already has just the right amount of residual stickiness. Better yet, I use only half as much shampoo and conditioner, and my non-shampoo showers are lightening fast, saving time, water, and heating costs. It’s sad to think how much shampoo, conditioner, time, and natural resources I’ve wasted over the years because I just didn’t know any better. I’m glad someone finally enlightened me.

This is a prime example of the fine example set by The Tightwad Gazette. From it, I learned the power of scientific experimentation in everyday life. Its author, the brilliant and entertaining Amy Dacyczyn, always encouraged her readers to find new uses for old things, new fixes for broken things, and to question how much laundry detergent they really needed, whether the dishwasher or the sink used more water, and so on. Now that I’ve realized that my lifelong hair-washing assumptions were wrong, my scientific tightwad mind has been reawakened. I’ll let you know how my future experiments turn out.

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