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The Return of the Beehives, Brylcreem and Botanical! An Historical Review of Hair Care Practices with a view to Opportunities for Sustainable Design

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  • Design
  • Ecology
  • Geography


This paper considers hair care as a network of activities and routines which have consequences for environmental sustainability and which may be modified by design. It proposes that together with cultural knowledge, embodied skill and objects, these activities can be thought of as ‘practices’ that are reproduced and also change through time (Shove 2006). They consume resources and are therefore implicated in the issue of environmental sustainability. The paper draws on research into hair care practices conducted through in-depth interviews with female participants, as part of the first author’s PhD study. The discussion here however centres on historical work and Shove’s (2003) writing on bathing to explore the changing products and substances including ideas, technological and infrastructural aspects of cleansing and conditioning hair. Because these factors may determine when to wash or not to wash your hair they affect resource consumption. The paper concludes by outlining opportunities for sustainable design that follow from the insights gained by investigating the history of hair care in relation to the data collected during in-depth interviews. It highlights, as outlined by Hand et al (2005), that the resources consumed through hair care are influenced by the integrative nature of hair care as a practice rather than by individuals being dedicated to sustainability. To concentrate on single products without taking into account that hair care is practiced in everyday life is not likely to provide opportunities for sustainable living. What is considered ‘normal’ standards of hair care and means to achieve them needs to be conceptualised to identify opportunities to modify what is considered ‘normal’ through design. Keywords: <br /> Everyday Practices, Sustainable Design

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