Dirty-Hair Updos For When You Can't (Or Just Don't Want To) Wash Your Hair

After getting stitches on my finger recently, I decided I’d rather put up with a little greasiness than deal with a plastic-bag-covered hand to shampoo every day. Here's how I wear my hair when I skip a shower.
Publish date:
August 28, 2013
How-To, ponytails, updos, hair accessories, hairstyles, French twists, side combs, banana clips, pencils

Everyone, inevitably, hates time. And I don’t mean that in a doomsday “time is running out” way. Just in general, everyone at some point hates time. Time to wake up. Time to go to work. Time to see the dentist. Time of the month.

Me? I hate 4:44.

To most of you, 4:44 means next to nothing. It means that it’s sixteen minutes until five. It means that it’s either way too early to be awake in the morning, or that it’s time for that one coworker to burn her popcorn in the communal kitchen. To me, 4:44 means something much more malevolent. Yes, even worse than the smell of burnt popcorn.

Kind of like Voldemort, the number 4 is He Who Shall Not Be--err--Seen. There’s nothing worse than looking up and seeing those three 4s flashing, mocking, taunting me because, to me, the number 4 symbolizes DEATH.

Time for a short story. My parents both grew up in Hong Kong. They didn’t know each other back then, and they both ended up leaving Hong Kong for the States--my father to Austin to become a hippie and go to the University of Texas; my mother to the great city of New York. As fate would have it, my dad decided to spend a summer in New York where he landed a job at my maternal grandfather’s restaurant. Word on the street (according to my mother) is that on the first day they met, my father took one look at my mom and, overwhelmed by such unearthly beauty, he immediately dropped every single plate in his hands. The dishware was shattered, but not my father’s heart, because my mom agreed to go out with him, and the rest is history.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, I’m Chinese-American. (What my dad is trying to say is “DON’T BELIEVE ANYTHING MOM TELLS YOU.”)

If you aren’t very familiar with Chinese culture or, more specifically, Chinese superstition, then let me enlighten you. In Chinese, the number 4 sounds eerily similar to the word “death.” Naturally, the number 4 is regarded much like the number 13 is in America. THE UNLUCKIEST. Kind of adds an extra layer of danger to those two cheeseburgers, a medium Coke, and fries in the #4 at Mickey Ds, doesn’t it?

A relevant example: in America, most buildings don’t have a 13th floor. In China, they don’t have any floor with the number 4 in it (or 13 for that matter).

In addition to the numbers thing, the Chinese have other superstitious beliefs such as, most notably, the practice of Feng Shui. Some of the most superstitious traditions, however, fall on Chinese New Year. Like, did you know that you’re not supposed to do any cleaning at all on the holiday? Otherwise you’ll clean out all the good luck that comes with the New Year. Naturally, not cleaning was the best tradition for this lazy kid, next to eating tons of good food and getting lucky red envelopes FULL OF MONEY, of course.

The one superstition that I absolutely hated? Not being able to wash my hair on the New Year. Like the cleaning thing, some people believe that if you wash your hair on New Years, you’ll also wash away all your good luck. Apparently, good luck resides in dirt and scalp oils.

I happen to have pretty--well, OK--very, greasy hair (LUCKY ME). My doctor sister tells me that we are genetically predisposed to greasy hair. This could mean that Asians tend to have oilier hair, but I like to think that my parents’ specific genes combined to create super-greasy kids. It’s why I’ve washed my hair almost every day for most of my life.

It’s also why days like Chinese New Year, in which I must forgo a good shampooing, cause me such distress. My hands get greasy because I incessantly play with my hair. My scalp itches, leading me to play with my hair even more, causing my hands to get even greasier. The excess oils from my scalp and hands build up until my face starts feeling oily, too. And so, I’ve always been content, if not slightly rushed every morning, with my daily wash.

That is, until recently.

A couple of months ago, I had a kitchen accident involving a cleaver and my ring finger (unlucky me). It wasn’t a pretty sight -- “it” being me. I cried like a little baby. I ended up at my local urgent care where the doctor Steri-Strip-ped my laceration, fit me into a finger splint, and instructed me to avoid water for a couple of weeks. And so, before every shower, I was forced to protect my wound with an elastic-secured plastic bag around my hand. It was inconvenient to say the least.

At that moment, I decided that I’d rather put up with a little oil than have to deal with a stupid plastic bag everyday. At long last. I am finally getting over my abhorrence to greasy hair.

Now, I know that the beauty industry and the lovelies over here at xoVain have long ago encouraged skipping a hairwash and, if need be, using a dry shampoo. In fact, you can find excellent recommendations for dry shampoo on this very site. I, myself, have tried a variety of them. Unfortunately, my greasy hair is powerful enough to render them ineffective.

Baby powder actually works the best at sopping up my oil. But even then, it only helps for a few hours before my greasiness comes back with a vengeance. And then, well, you know the drill: oily scalp, oily face, oily hands, and OH GOD OIL SMEARS ALL OVER MY PHONE SCREEN.

Bottom line is: my stretchmarks. LOL.

But seriously. The bottom line is that I need to prevent my hands from getting all up in my hair. I can’t tie my hands (outside the bedroom). However, I can tie up my hair.

Normally, as you may already know, I throw my hair up in a bun to achieve perfect beachy waves, which I maintain is an easy updo and technique for wavy hair. But let’s face it: A bun inspires as much originality as a Spider-man reboot.

Luckily for me, grease conveniently adds texture to my otherwise limp hair, which in turn makes it easier for me to style. Which I now do. At least every other day.

And so can you! Here are my easy, go-to updos that have tons more flair than a bun and Spin Pins.


Nope. I am not making a joke (for once). Then again, I’m not exactly talking about your run-of-the-mill elastic-secured ponytail, either. I’m talking about taking a step back in time to revisit the banana clip.

If you’re not familiar with the banana clip, also known as a “clincher comb,” then ugh, what’s your damage (aka you probably didn’t grow up in the ‘80s to early ‘90s)?

The banana clip works by pulling your hair back through its combs and creating a mane-like ponytail at the back of your head. I know a lot of you out there rocked this look back in the day. Probably even more of you wish that this look would stay back in the day. But NOT ME!

I couldn’t find my rad neon-colored banana clips of yore, so I went out and purchased a boring black one at my local beauty supply store.

Banana clips come in a variety of sizes, from short to medium to long. I chose a medium one because my hair is of medium thickness.

Step one: open your banana clip and place it underneath your hair.

Step two: close banana clip and fasten.

Yep. It’s that simple. Of course, if your hair is very thick, you may have a bit more trouble getting all of your hair to stay within the clip. For thick hair, try twisting your hair once or twice. Place the opened banana clip beneath your twisted (and better contained) hair. Then close.

You can also experiment with where to place your banana clip (e.g. lower at the nape of your neck, or higher towards the crown of your head). Something to keep in mind: the higher you place your clip, the more your ponytail will start to droop over time.

For those of you who still think that the banana clip is like totally grody to the max, you can try:


For this easy take on a French twist, you will need a side comb.

First, pull your hair back down by the nape of your neck as if you were going to tie it into a low ponytail.

Twist your hair counter-clockwise, lifting your hair upwards so that it starts to tuck into the twist.

Once you have a nice twist going, fold back the top part of your hair and tuck the ends into the twist. Depending on how long your hair is, you may need to fold it several times.

By now, your hair should be in a French twist. To fasten your twist, take your side comb so that the teeth are facing your hair and the curve is pushing out to the left so that it looks like a C. Insert the teeth near where you tucked in your hair. The comb should still be sticking out, perpendicular to your head.

Next, push the comb so that the teeth, still embedded in your hair, are facing towards the left.

Then, push the comb into your twist. You may have to jiggle the comb to really get it in there. This may also hurt a bit.

If a side comb (or the pain that sometimes comes with them) just isn’t your thing, you can also use a hair stick. Make sure to choose a stick that’s sturdy, comes to a point, and can glide smoothly into your hair. For me, this means a no.2 pencil.

The process is the same as above, except instead of the side comb, insert your hair stick near where your hair is tucked in. The stick should be slightly angled at about 10 o’clock.

Once the tip, just the tip, of the stick is in, rotate the top of the stick so that the point at the bottom hooks onto your hair as you now position the stick at 2 o’clock.

Then ram that stick through.

Some of you might get to this last step only to have your hair immediately tumble back down to your shoulders. If that is the case, you can try it again with slightly damp hair. Or, just give up because the texture of your hair won’t work with this style. Sorry.

But, hey. In that case, why don’t you give this next one a try?


Sounds more like something with a hint of cinnamon that you’d drizzle with vanilla frosting, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, cinnamon and frosting are not what you’ll need for this twist. You will, however, need a hair band and some bobby pins.

First, tie your hair into a low ponytail.

If you have an egg-shaped head like me, you probably prefer to have a little extra volume at the top of your head. You can do this by loosening some of your hair from the elastic band by pulling upward. While you do this, though, be careful that the elastic remains tightly secured at the nape of your neck.

Next, make a hole directly above the elastic band as if you’re about to split your ponytail in half, but not really because of the elastic.

Flip your ponytail up and loop it through the hole. It should now look like the sides of your hair have been rolled.

If your hair is very long like mine, you will have to loop the ponytail once more until the length of the remaining ponytail has shortened considerably.

When there is just a little ponytail left, loop it back into the hole, making sure to tuck in the ends. Then use your bobby pins to keep the roll in place.

Go ahead. Throw on a flowy dress. Frolic in a meadow and make sure someone’s there to Instagram it for you. Pictures or it didn’t happen.

And there you have it: my go-to styles that I use to deal with greasy hair. I could have done 4, I didn't ON PURPOSE! HAVE YOU LEARNED NOTHING?!

So, which look is your favorite? Can you hold up your hair with just a pencil?