Saturday, March 14, 2009

Hair rituals

From Simon Cowell's hair ritual to Aaryn Belfer's tale of combing her daughter's hair, to Photographer Brenna K. Murphy's attempt to evoke her mother's memory by playing with her own hair, one thing becomes clear: hair is more than a means of keeping our heads warm.

We gather in the name of hair as an excuse for social interaction. We commit to certain regimens to give ourselves a sense of order and even control. And as far back as Samson, we have equated our hair or some aspect of it (length, color, curl, shine) to some quality about ourselves (strength, confidence, fashion sense, desirability) that we either want to minimize or highlight.

Obviously, a single blog post could never address this topic adequately, but I was recently struck by how incredibly willing, even eager, so many of us are to adopt a very defined procedure for doing our hair. Take a look at any of the descriptions provided by the women I featured in the Cold-Weather Hair Care series, and you'll see what I mean.

We love our hair. And even when we hate it, it's only because we want to love it but can't find a way. The ritual, we often think, is the way.

All hail the ritual!

On one of the curly discussion forums, I once saw a post about how one curly swore that if she scrunched product into her hair with no less (and no more) than eight pulses per section, she got better curls. She could have said five and she could have said 103 -- people would still have jumped on the advice and immediately tried it the next time they washed their hair. (And yes, I did try it. I never said I was immune to the lure of the ritual. Eight did not prove to be a magic number.)

More recently, a long thread at informed all interested parties that by bending forward to apply and rinse product, better curls and clumps were formed. The thread became a fascinating glimpse into the quest for exactly the right procedure to achieve the often-elusive goal of clumping. Women were willing to get water up their noses and endure back pain if it meant their hair would look great. Questions about precisely how much conditioner and what brand came up often. Experiments were launched and results reported. More questions ensued until finally everybody in search of a ritual had tested this one. Some adopted it, others undoubtedly moved on to find a more successful one. (I tried this one, too. And you know what? It worked quite well! And so far, I've managed to avoid swallowing any water.)

The most common hair ritual, though, is the deep treatment. Some of the homemade potions are a real testament to the desire to make this experience special. Coconut milk and Lustrasilk, egg and honey and mayonnaise, cassia and yogurt -- you name it, and somebody has thought to combine it for a unique concoction all their own. Women set aside time for this act and often combine it with a relaxing bath or a manicure or maybe a great movie. The deep treatment for hair is part of a woman's "me" time, it seems. Even aside from the fact that they have to wear something profoundly silly on their heads to undergo the treatment, they prefer to be alone while the beautification happens. One can only assume, then, that the soul as well as the hair is getting the attention it needs.

I started to think about my own hair rituals and realized I have several. (I know you're stunned.) The scrunching technique is one but here are some others:

- Every morning while I wait for my hair to dry, I wear my robe belted and off the shoulders. This does nothing to keep me warm (and believe me, my house is cold) but it keeps my curls away from the microfiber collar of my robe. My boyfriend thinks it's sexy but to me, it's what must be done in order not to disturb my curl formation. I do this regardless of how cold I am.

- Every four weeks, I go to the salon to get my hair colored. I don't like the smell of hair color and I don't like shelling out money to keep my gray out of sight. But I think I do like sitting in the salon, drinking tea, and reading trashy magazines that I never in a million years would otherwise read. And I like catching up with my stylist, who I sincerely enjoy.

- I diffuse my hair holding the dryer in the same eight locations on my head. I never deviate from this. I must think it works.

What are your rituals and why do you think you observe them?


Michelle said...

HMM I only "noPoo" everyother week..I'm new to the whole curly girl I'm still adjusting to my ritual. I flip my head forward after showering and let it drip, I apply a little leave inconditioner, then get out and attempt to dry my body while my hair is dripping then put in my Rockin' Ringlets scrunch with microfiber towel then add the confident coils- I'm big into JessiCurl right now(plop for just a few minutes while I put in my contacts) diffuse/scrunch upside down for 3 minutes or so then flip my head up dry another minute clip my roots up dry another minute or 2 then let the rest air dry while I go about getting ready for work. then I pull out my clips right before I head out the door..and once my hair is all the way dry I scrunch a bit.

Susan said...

Personally I think some of my rituals are what make my hair curl more than some of the products I use. Hence my thought that my routine is as important as products. I always put in my products upside down first and I always start diffusing upside down first. I really enjoyed this one!!

Girl with Curl said...

I tried the upside down rinsing too and it did work but I don't do it all the time just because it's not one of my normal habits. Sometimes my hair would get all tangled up from being upside down.

I do still apply my products and diffuse a majority of the time upside down.

Bonnie said...

Slightly off-topic, but the upside-down rinsing/scrunching reminds me of one of my best all-time hair tips:

Several times in my life, I've completely tortured my hair by coloring or chemically straightening (I went through phases of changing my hair color every few weeks... drastically) and the ONE thing that made the biggest difference in getting my poor hair back in reasonable condition was washing it upside down, over the tub or sink, instead of standing under the shower.

In the shower, water pressure exerts a good deal of force right on top and in front of the head, which incidentally is also where hair gets the most sun, and takes the most abuse from clips, bands, and dryers.

By washing and rinsing upside down, the most vulnerable part of hair is protected. Whenever I switched to this method, breakage was reduced, shine increased.

Yes, yes I know in a perfect world, I'd never touch my hair with heat or chemicals, but that's not the world I choose...