My hair is my thing. It's blonde and long. Like, really long. Though I'm not the type of gal to have a beauty "thing," it just took a summer in Kosovo and limited access to showers to realize it.
During the summer of 2010 I spent roughly five weeks in Pristina, Kosovo on an internship with a nonprofit organization called Students of the World. I played the part of journalist on a multimedia team that was there to document aspects of the economy. Kosovo has come a long way since the Balkan wars in the '90s and our standard of living was incredibly comfortable. Except our showers.
When I say we had limited access to showers, I mean we had showers in our apartment, but they were less than desirable to bathe in. The shower was a movable nozzle roughly a foot off the ground that hovered over a 2-by-2-foot basin. We called it the "bird bath." In tune with my regular hygiene regimen of every-other-day hair washing, as soon as we were settled I attempted to take a shower. While sparing you the graphic details, the bird bath was difficult to bathe in and impossible to wash really long hair in.
So, out of sheer inconvenience, and the encouragement of a free-spirited roommate, I just didn't wash my hair. Day by day, my hair digressed into a matted mess.
The moment I stepped foot in my home back in the States, I almost sprinted to the shower. I not only embraced being able to finally stand up while bathing, but I washed my hair in what I can only imagine looked like a glorious shampoo commercial. Though when my hair dried, I noticed something had changed -- it was vibrant and had a texture that seemed to sashay. Not only did I come back from Kosovo with a handful of incredible and insightful experiences, but I came back with good hair.
I don't mean to diminish the purpose of my trip to Kosovo, though. My disgusting hair was the last thing on my mind. The gleaning outcome of great hair just happened to be a welcomed byproduct of this training, i.e., lack of care. And as a result, a habit I kept up after returning home. Since my travels, I am on a once-a-week hair washing regimen (two times a week if circumstance calls for it).
Though five weeks with a video team in a developing country is an ideal situation for training hair, it's not unfeasible in your regular day-to-day. You just have to get clever. I don't use special shampoos for my once-a-week hair washing routine -- in fact, I couldn't even tell you what products are in my shower right now.
A hairbrush and baby powder are the only tools I use to maintain well-coiffed strands between washings. I know there is a high price put on the plethora of dry shampoos and hair powders out there, but a $3 bottle of baby powder is my weapon of choice. The only additional texture I get is from the daily deposits of beautiful New York City grime.
If I'm feeling especially wild, I'll wear my hair out in its week-long sans-wash glory. A lot of baby powder, some strategic brushing and voila, I'm rocking a gnarly mane. And this is something I would have never been able to achieve before my dirty hair in Kosovo. My strands were pretty, but pall.
On this note, I can't give all credit to the dirt in my hair. Luck bestowed good genes upon me for good hair. I had an affinity for sponge curlers in elementary school and dyed my hair pink once in high school -- but I currently don't blow dry or straighten my hair or dye or highlight it. I even have a conveniently-placed cowlick in the front of my part that gives me the guise of some sweet Kelly Kapowski-esque volume. Though the trip into a personal care abyss made me realize that dirty hair works for me. My once-nice locks are now luxe locks because I don't wash them.
So, I may have embarked on five weeks of my lifetime hygiene low, but hey, sometimes it takes getting filthy to get good hair.