No Water Access: Here’s How to Keep Clean Hair Without It!

If you live in Cape Town, you’re probably aware of how bad the water situation is. Trying to save water in every way possible is more important than ever now and one...

If you live in Cape Town, you’re probably aware of how bad the water situation is. Trying to save water in every way possible is more important than ever now and one of the easiest ways to do so is by cutting showers and flushing.

We might all laugh at Helen Zille being “proudly oily”, but she’s got the right idea. But, if you have long hair, you will know the struggle of trying to keep it clean – especially if you exercise often.

Stopping short of cutting off your locks, there are a few ways you can keep things fresh without having to spend too long in the shower and washing your hair every day. It takes some getting used to, but these are crisis times and we have to do what we can.



Baby powder

This is an age-old trick. Baby powder is good at absorbing oil and if you sprinkle some on your roots when they start getting oily, it will do just that. You can shake the powder directly onto your roots or use a clean make up brush to apply. Let it sit for a while and then massage it into your roots with your finger tips.\

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Dry shampoo

It’s probably a no-brainer, but dry shampoo is a lifesaver. Spary it on BEFORE your workouts to absorb excess sweat and oil and again afterwards if your locks are long. Just be sure to use it correctly. Rule of thumb: don’t spray too close to the scalp, don’t use too much and let it sit for a while after spraying it on, then massage it in.

But, be warned. Not all dry shampoos are alike.

“For African hair, people need to steer away from Tresemmé. Reason be it causes more oil than it gets rid of,” Sisi Nxumalo, owner and founder of Hair by Sisi HairBoutique and Installation Bar tells


Nxumalo recommends Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Dry Shampoo – if you can afford to splurge, but says good old Batiste Original will do if not.

“Remember this is not a replacement for a wash, it is a good way to buy time eg if you are lazy to wash your hair, or if you want to save water/have no access to water,” she adds.

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Tie it up or tuck it in

Everyone familiar with the grub life will know that simply bundling up hair – into a ponytail or with a few hairpins – goes a long way when it comes to hiding away some unstyled or washed locks. Braids, buns and bobbypins are your new best friends.

Lemon juice

Rumour has it that the ancient Egyptians used lemon as a shampoo to remove dirt and grease from the hair. And hey, if it’s good enough for Cleo, it’s good enough for us. Mix 1/4 cup of lemon/lime juice to two cups of warm water in a spray bottle. Shake up and apply a few sprits to your hair – but don’t use too much. It can be quite drying.

Rubbing alcohol

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Much like the powder solution, dabbing some rubbing alcohol onto your roots can help get rid of excess oil or grease.

Use a leave-in conditioner to make up for all the dryness

Many of the “without water” solutions can be very drying, though, so make up for it by using a leave-in conditioner that you can spray on and leave in. If you’ve got long locks, bundle it up into a loose bun before bed and let loose for the perfect, natural waves in the morning.  A quick blow dry will also help add a bit of texture and style.


Photo Credit: Sila Kurippugal

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