If my hair and I had a relationship status, it’d be “it’s complicated.” Thick, slightly rough, and naturally wavy, its texture is supposedly “in” right now (thank you, French women and off-duty models), but the days when I’d spend hours straightening and subsequently frying it still haunt me—and, fine, maybe I resent it a little for putting me through that ordeal.
However, since switching over to sulfate-free shampoo—and thanks in part to the glorious invention that is dry shampoo—my hair and I have reached a mostly stable plateau in our relationship. The roller coaster of emotions is gone, and we’re definitely in the sweatpants-sofa-sushi-takeout phase (mostly thanks to these products).
But that doesn’t mean we don’t have our problems. For instance, my hair never feels as clean as I’d like it to after shampooing. Maybe it’s because the gentler products I use don’t contain the detergents that give it that squeaky-clean feeling, and maybe it’s because half of the time I shower at my boyfriend’s apartment (his water pressure is atrocious), but I find there’s always a bit of a gritty, greasy feeling at my roots, especially in the back area of my head near my neck. It’s not noticeable to anyone who looks, but if anyone were to touch it, it’d be really obvious.
It was after a particularly dismal shampoo that I arrived at Ramirez-Tran Salon a few weeks ago for an event celebrating the talented owners, Johnny Ramirez and Anh Co Tran, and their partnership with L’Oréal Professionnel. There was a station where one of the salon’s stylists could style your hair, and I sat down, meekly apologized to hairstylist Sal Salcedo for the sadly greasy state of my strands, and then allowed him to work his magic. As he curled and waved my hair with deft hands, he asked me about my current hair routine—and then shared a piece of advice that changed the state of my hair forever. Keep scrolling to see what it was!
The Game Changer
I told Salcedo I had just washed my hair the day before, and he seemed a bit appalled. I didn’t blame him—that troublesome back part near my roots was heavy with buildup (curse you, water pressure). Then he asked me a question that seemed so simple it almost didn’t even make any sense: “Do you shampoo once or twice?”
Um, once—doesn’t everyone? Apparently only oblivious people like me. Salcedo explained that shampooing twice in one shower instead of shampooing more frequently (i.e., once a day) would fix my dull, greasy hair problem for good. This solution seemed so basic, so simple, that I almost refused to accept it. Plus, I thought I was being a smart beauty editor and ignoring the "rinse and repeat” instructions because it was all a ploy from shampoo companies to trick consumers into going through their products more quickly (and thus have to buy more).
The following scenario proved that I was not. A day later, I hopped in the shower and followed Salcedo’s instructions, lathering up my strands with Reverie’s Shampoo ($38) per usual. After rinsing it out, I lathered up my strands again—and immediately noticed that the second time was decidedly…latherier than the first. I’ve always noticed that I don’t get that bubbly hair-commercial lather (are you sick of reading the word lather yet?) but just assumed it was because I was using a shampoo with fewer detergents. Turns out I can get that satisfyingly foamy feeling—but only if I shampoo twice. I followed with conditioner and then let my hair air-dry per usual.
I raked my fingers through my air-dried hair and couldn’t believe it: For once, it actually felt clean. Really clean. Like, freshly laundered sheets, post–Korean spa clean. In fact, for the few days following this paradigm-shifting shampoo, my hair was noticeably softer and less greasy than usual. More importantly, I was able to go my normal three days before shampooing again, and the state of my hair was just so much better during that period.
I emailed Salcedo immediately and asked him to explain this miracle. “Shampooing your hair twice is beneficial because it allows for proper cleansing, giving you longer periods of time with a clean scalp and keeping away the oily hair problem,” he says. “It also keeps you away from over-shampooing your hair, which is a mistake that most women make.”
He explains how excessive shampooing can over-dry your hair, and most of the styling problems and difficulties women encounter come from having overly dried hair. So, instead of shampooing once a day (which Salcedo says is too much), you can just shampoo twice in one shower, allowing you to extend the length of time before your next shampoo.
Salcedo explains that the logic behind this is that the first shampoo breaks down the oils and buildup in your hair while the second shampoo completely gets them out. “I look at the hair the way I would look at a precious fabric,” he explains. “You don’t want to over-wash a delicate garment. You take care of it—the same goes with hair. It’s about washing your hair right so that you can go longer periods of time without shampooing.”
Let the genius simplicity of this logic sink in for just a moment.
Have you gotten ahold of yourself yet? Good. Salcedo says that this technique is a game changer, no matter your hair type. (From my own experience, I’d recommend doing it with a sulfate-free shampoo to avoid over-drying.)
To try it on your own strands, follow Salcedo’s instructions:
- Start off by wetting your hair.
- Pour a handful of shampoo on your palm, and distribute it only on the scalp.
- Scrub with your fingertips all over the scalp with enough pressure that you can actually feel your fingers massaging your scalp, for about 30 to 45 seconds.
- Pour a smaller amount of shampoo only on your scalp (the amount should be determined by the density of the hair).
- Scrub for a minute.
- Rinse completely. (The soapy water that rinses out is enough to clean the ends.)
- Apply conditioner only to the ends.
If your hair is damaged or naturally on the drier side, apply conditioner from midshaft through the ends before you shampoo. That way the shampoo doesn’t touch the dry and damaged ends; it’ll only clean your scalp, leaving the ends alone.
I’ve been following this technique for the past few weeks and can honestly say my hair has never looked—or, more importantly, felt—better. No longer do I wince, afraid my boyfriend will balk at my scalp’s weird oily texture when he runs his fingers through my hair. For the first time ever, my hair feels completely clean and healthy—not too dry or too oily.
You could say I’ve learned that my relationship with my hair, like any relationship, takes effort to maintain. And in this case, it’s well worth the extra few minutes in the shower. Things will probably always be somewhat complicated with us, but I think I’m ready to take our relationship to the next level and finally commit.
Follow Sal Salcedo on Instagram (@salsalhair) for plenty of hair inspiration.