Global consumption of water is growing twice as fast as the world’s population and droughts are affecting swathes of the planet. So it was no surprise that this week the mayor of an Italian town in Emilia-Romagna, which is experiencing a severe heatwave, banned hairdressers from shampooing their customers’ hair twice, saying it would save thousands of litres of water a day.
As we all attempt to reduce waste, that additional shampoo at home or in the salon can seem like overkill. So is what is known in the trade as “double cleansing” really necessary? No, but every hairdresser and trichologist is seemingly in agreement that the second shampoo has distinct benefits to scalp and hair, regardless of skin and hair type.
The celebrity hairdresser George Northwood says double cleansing hair will usually mean it stays cleaner for longer. The first shampoo can be cursory, he says, and “removes superficial styling products and external dirt [it’s worth noting that our bodies – which we tend to wash only once in the shower – are generally not clogged up with products] and will typically yield little lather”. Think of it as removing your clothes before taking a bath. The second shampoo will then clean more thoroughly.
This is certainly true in my experience (yes, double cleanser, here). The hairdresser Adam Reed agrees that two shampoos will always give greater results but he saves on water by applying the first shampoo to dry hair. “It’s actually the best way to get rid of styling products, sweat and grease,” he says. “Then, when I’m rinsing off that, I’m getting the hair wet, ready for the basin shampoo, as I would anyway.”
The amount of water used varies wildly according to where the washing is taking place, of course. In a home shower, the falling water is incidental as we simultaneously wash the rest of our bodies, so a second shampoo may not automatically mean more water. But at the salon basin, two shampoos does mean roughly twice the time and water.
The hair salon brand L’Oréal has partnered with the Swiss tech startup Gjosa to develop a water-saving system via a low-flow showerhead, which breaks up the flow of water while accelerating the pressure and speed of the droplets. Prototypes are already in use in South Africa and the US, and the company says it will yield a water saving of 70% in salon washes.
Hopefully two shampoos may soon cost the salon and the planet less than the price of one.