BBC presenter Andrew Marr has given up washing his hair - saying the scalp's natural oils will keep it glossy and clean. We challenged five women to do the same...with surprising results:
Lucy Sutton, 24, a trainee marketing executive, is single and lives in Hammersmith, West London. She says:
Three weeks into the great hair challenge, my sister came over to my flat for the evening. She took one look at my hair and said: "What have you done to it? That's a great style - did it cost a fortune?"
I burst out laughing, and replied: "I haven't washed my hair for three weeks."
A look of revulsion came over her face and she said: "That?s awful." But then she looked at me curiously. "The weird thing is," she continued, "it really suits you."
My hair is naturally very fine and thin, and I used to wash it every two days, then use hair straighteners. A good 90 per cent of my self-confidence in how I look comes from my hair, so much so that if I was having a bad hair day I could barely drag myself out of the house.
Looking back, I can see how much I?ve been damaging my hair by doing so much to it. My hair always looked neat, but I think it was lifeless - the shampoo was taking all the natural oils out of it. Since I stopped using shampoo, my hair has more volume, and I?m astonished to find it has a natural wave - I always thought it was just straight and boring.
Six weeks on, I love my new look. But it has been a real test of nerve. I am applying for a new job at the moment and I need to look my best, so when I took on the challenge I thought: "What on earth will I look like in six weeks? time, when I have my job interview? And will it smell?"
I have always prided myself on looking clean and neat and my friends all thought the challenge was hysterical. They said: "You?re crazy. You?ll never keep it up."
I must say, I nearly cracked after a week, when my hair was at its worst. It was dry at the ends, but greasy at the roots, and I became obsessed with it, checking my appearance in the mirror every hour to see if it looked as bad as it felt.
In that first week I refused to go out with my friends, but I persevered, and by the second week I was beginning to see an improvement. The ends were still dry, but the roots were less greasy - my hair seemed to have a kind of film over it, like a natural sheen.
Luckily, my hair smelt clean - there was no unpleasant odour. Then it started to look rather healthy and bouncy. I now really love its natural wave, and I am worried that if I go back to washing it, I will lose that curl.
An old friend from university asked me last week: "When did you start curling your hair? It looks great." I smiled and said that in fact I just hadn?t washed it. He burst out laughing and thought I was joking. Now, my hair looks in really good condition, but it does need the ends cutting off.
This experiment has made a huge difference to my life, because I?m no longer wasting an hour a day washing and blow-drying it. I?m also saving about £40 a month on hair products.
I am now never going to wash my hair with shampoo again and feel positively liberated by this experiment. I can?t believe I used to waste so much time and money obsessing about my hair.
Helen Drake, 27, is an advertising account manager and lives with her partner Mahesh, 31, an IT consultant, in Crystal Palace, South London. She says:
Six weeks into this experiment and my hair is so itchy it literally feels as if it is crawling off my head. I have been going up to people in the street who stare at me saying: "My hair does not normally look like this. I am doing this for an experiment and I hate it."
I nearly cried off a Bristol University reunion a few weeks ago, because my hair looked so dreadful. In the end, I wore a headscarf so no one could see it. My hair, which is straight and blonde, is my crowning glory.
Like so many women, I rely on my hair to make me feel attractive, and I love nothing more than going out with sleek, shining, fresh-smelling hair. I use top-of-the-range Cobella shampoo and conditioner, and I have an £80 hair cut at Daniel Galvin every six to eight weeks.
I am extremely fussy about my hair, and I have survived this horrible challenge only because at the end of it, Daniel has promised me a full wash, cut and blow-dry.
Even my poor partner Mahesh has had to bear the brunt of my misery - he often sleeps with his hands entwined in my hair, but I have been shrieking at him, "Get off! You?ll make it even more greasy!"
My work has also been affected - we have been pitching to several big, new beauty clients and my boss said, as politely as she could, that I should not attend the presentations, because she didn?t want anyone to be put off.
Normally, the longest I would ever go without washing my hair is two days, then I would be running shrieking to the shower. So this has been a major test of nerve for me. It?s also been really hot in London, which has made it much worse - sitting on the Tube, I am sure people are staring at my hair, and, worse, I think it is beginning to smell. My friends say it doesn?t, but I don?t believe them.
My scalp is very greasy, and my hair has become static, which it never was before. I have rinsed it in warm water morning, noon and night, but it has very little effect. The only way I have coped is by styling my hair - at first I slicked it to my head, then when it became too greasy I put it back in a tight ponytail. For the first time since I was a teenager, I have a spot on my forehead from the grease in my fringe. It is revolting. The first week my hair looked greasy, the second it had become lank, and by four weeks it was abominable. It was like a greasy mound of spaghetti.
At that point I stopped looking in a mirror, and I have not worn eye make-up for the past six weeks. There seems no sense in bothering if my hair looks so horrid. My confidence is rock-bottom and I feel really depressed.
I have refused to meet friends for a drink, because I don?t want people to see me like this. My friends all think it is hysterical, because they know how much I love my hair. Mahesh has been supportive and tried to say it doesn?t make any difference. But for all his reassurances, I will never give up shampoo again.
Stephanie Cuthbert, 23, works in marketing. She is single and lives in Southwold, in Suffolk. She says:
These have been the worst six weeks of my life. I am normally a very clean person, and I wash my hair two or three times a week. My hair is shoulder-length and blonde. Naturally it is quite curly, but I straighten it using tongs.
I must spend at least £30 a month on hair products alone. I love all the new products on the market, like anti-frizz serum and wax serum. I have my hair cut every six weeks, and I love to keep it in tip-top condition.
Normally I keep my hair long and loose, around my shoulders, and it makes me feel very feminine. But as the weeks have gone on I have become progressively more depressed, as it started to look lank and greasy. I have simply been scraping it back in a ponytail for work, and it?s really been an effort to put on make-up and wear nice clothes, because I think if my hair doesn?t look good, what?s the point?
I kept waiting for this so-called "turning point", when the natural oils would reassert themselves, but it just didn?t happen for me. All my hair did was get more and more greasy and lifeless. The ends also became very dry, which hasn?t happened to me before, because I am so careful to use conditioning treatments.
The only thing that has surprised me is that it doesn?t smell as badly as I thought it would - there?s a vague whiff of sweatiness, but it?s not overpowering. I?m so ashamed of the way I look and the fact that people assume I?m not very clean, I?ve become a recluse.
I haven?t wanted to meet friends for drinks and have made excuses not to go out. I love to look well-presented all the time, and this has severely dented my self-confidence. I have learnt my hair is a big part of who I am.
A week ago I was supposed to go to a ball in Leamington Spa, but I cried off because I couldn?t bear friends to see me like this. Instead of dressing up, I have been sloping around in jeans and comfortable clothes. This experiment has made me realise how much I rely on my hair to make me look and feel good. I cannot wait to wash my hair ? I am never doing this again.
Andrea Dewsbury, 25, works in television drama. She is single and shares a flat in Stockwell, South London. She says,
I had no idea what to expect, because I have a very sensitive scalp and normally can only use baby shampoo on my hair - if I use normal hair products, my scalp becomes very sore and itchy.
But going without shampoo has made my scalp condition much better, and it has stopped itching. I?m now convinced we use shampoo far too often and are stripping our hair and scalp of essential oils.
My hair is naturally quite frizzy, and I normally use straighteners to make it sleek and smooth. But I have stopped doing this for the past six weeks and my hair is in much better condition. It has made me realise how much we damage our hair in the name of beauty.
My friends think my hair looks glossy and healthy, and one or two of them are thinking about ceasing to wash theirs, too, to see if they get the same result.
In the first week, my hair became more frizzy and dry at the ends, and a little more greasy at the roots. But this soon disappeared, and in fact my hair seems to have more volume and bounce. It is less lank around my face, and I have been wearing my hair up more, to show how full it is looking.
Going swimming was a test of nerve, because I normally wash my hair afterwards, but in fact rinsing in warm water was just as good. My hair does feel a little wiry and coarse, but it has a much better natural sheen.
I am really surprised by the results ? I thought it would look much worse. I did the Race For Life at the weekend, which was five kilometres, and at the end I thought my hair would look dreadful, but in fact it looked great.
This has made a very big impact on me - in future, I am going to keep washing my hair with shampoo to a minimum. One thing this experience has made me realise is how much I depend on my hair to give me confidence.
If I?m having a "bad hair day", I don?t feel like socialising and it knocks my confidence. I can spend hours agonising over my hair and trying to style it just so.
Not washing my hair for six weeks has been really liberating because it?s stopped me focusing on my appearance so much. I?ve also saved £35 in products.
Tamaraye Sawacha, 24, is an HR graduate who lives with her parents in North-West London. She says:
My father is Nigerian and my mother is from Barbados, so my hair is black Afro-Caribbean. Normally it is very dry, and I wash it maybe every two weeks using Dark And Lovely shampoo, which is specially designed to add moisture and shine to dry hair.
If I wash it more often than that, it becomes even more dry. I also have hair extensions, and my natural hair becomes extremely brittle, because the extensions pull at the scalp and make it harder to wash and condition the hair underneath.
So I was very interested to take on this challenge, and the results have been fascinating. After six weeks, my natural hair is the softest it has ever been. It looks so much less frizzy and I am thrilled with it.
I am now going to go without washing my hair for much longer periods, because I think it is a much more natural state. My scalp feels so much softer and smoother, and there is none of the itching I used to experience.
The greatest thing holding all of us back is psychological - we think that if we don?t wash our hair, it will look awful and smell. In fact, this isn?t the case at all. My hair looks great, it is much softer, and it doesn?t smell at all.
None of my friends have noticed any difference, apart from saying that my hair looks nice. The difference in texture is astonishing - it has taught me that hair is not designed to be washed day after day in expensive products which strip out all of the natural oils.
Now, it neither looks nor smells dirty, and it feels great. This experiment has been fabulous for me, because it means I will save time on all that washing. Like most women, I?m a bit of a slave to my hair in terms of how much time and money I spend trying to get it right.
But the past six weeks has illustrated that I can just get on with my life and let my scalp?s natural oils take care of my hair. It?s been a revelation.This is the second article I've read on this topic, in two days. Apparently its starting out in England.
I'm really thinking about it....