Photographed by Amelia Alpaugh.
Jessica NovakHair Type:
For two weeks, Jessica went "natural" and cleansed her hair with baking soda
and used an apple cider vinegar rinse.
On day one, Jessica worked out and tried to hold out on the inevitable. "I went for a run this morning and just rinsed off, so it still feels a little dirty," she wrote. "I haven’t used the baking soda and vinegar yet; I’m a little worried about how it will smell, to be honest. Am holding off for one more day."
She finally cracked on day two, with great results. "Admittedly, I was terrified I would spend the rest of the day smelling like an Easter egg.
My hair is actually incredibly shiny today. I’m wearing it up, but it has more volume than normal and feels like I conditioned it. It’s almost back to its normal texture. Styling my hair is so much easier than yesterday. I can actually comb through my hair effortlessly. The apple cider vinegar rinse
surprisingly mimics conditioner. The smell, I am happy to report, is virtually unnoticeable. My boyfriend has confirmed that no, I do not smell like a walking bottle of vinegar, and yes, my hair looks especially shiny and clean. Am toying with the idea of giving up shampoo forever. I’m thinking this could actually work."
By the next day, however, things went decidedly foul. "Disaster," she typed in her daily log. "Like I bathed in oils.
I flew down to Austin in the morning for SXSW and had a run the night before, so my hair was in an especially rare state of unwash. I read somewhere that adding lavender oil to the vinegar mix can make your hair smell better, so I decided to try it — I added a dash of essential oils to the mix and went to town. A quick note if you ever try this: Use sparingly. My hair is now completely drenched in essential oils
and matted to my scalp as I’m trying to style it for an important event. The silver lining? I smell lovely." A note to those trying this at home: Get crafty, but go carefully.
The next couple of days at SXSW saw some braided styles
to keep her newfound texture under wraps, but the ease of finding the ingredients for her experiment started to get taxing while she was traveling. "It’s funny, I’m actually finding it difficult to find these products — you can’t buy apple cider vinegar
at any corner store or drugstore, so this method is a little bit difficult when you travel." It took a few days for the oil and the lavender smell to dissipate, but once the goods were procured at a local grocery store, the styling of her hair became easier than ever. "While my hair still feels oily, it looks fairly normal — it’s holding curls crazy well and isn’t falling flat. The ends are starting to feel a bit dry, honestly, but it’s still pretty easy to style."
Over the next couple of days in the dustbowl known as SXSW, Jessica's styling options and scalp start to feel a bit…irritable. "Hair continues to feel thicker day after day and especially oily at the base," she wrote. "It’s giving me volume, but only because I’m accumulating buildup. Once I have the materials, the process itself isn’t difficult. It is getting harder to make my hair look decent, though. I can curl it, but wearing it straight is out of the question — I would look like a giant grease ball. I’m starting to have an uncontrollable urge to scratch my scalp." While her feelings of cleanliness continue to deteriorate, the one good note is that her hair no longer smells overwhelmingly like lavender.
By the beginning of week two, Jessica reported her hair felt like it was moulding together. "The roots are super oily. It just feels really thick at my scalp, and heat styling is a bit of a challenge. I had a dream last night that I took a bubble bath in shampoo. At this point, even the rinse isn't really making me feel better. Perhaps I’ve hit a point of diminishing returns. My boyfriend told me my scalp looks surprisingly clean and healthy. So, there’s that."
During the weekend, her hair perked up for a big event. "I went to visit my boyfriend’s parents this weekend and, despite the fact that my hair felt really dirty, it actually looked great. I just have to blowdry it the way I want it to fall, and it generally stays there (since it is now a semi-solid mass of oil and dirt)." Fun!
By week two, Jessica's big takeaway is that looks can be deceiving when it comes to your hair's appearance vs. how it feels. "When I use the rinse and actually take the time to style it, it looks decent — it just doesn’t feel clean, no matter how much baking soda I use," wrote Jessica. "This is definitely getting harder."
The final day sees Jessica crafting her hair into tiny sculptures. "I’ve fashioned my hair into a top knot and realised that no hair tie is necessary. My hair behaves like Play-Doh. It just kind of stays where I put it."