Gary Barlow
Gary Barlow did not wash his hair for 14 years Getty Images

So Gary Barlow didn't shampoo his hair for 14 years. Sensible chap. I haven't applied detergents and chemicals of any sort to mine for more than five years and it's clean, sweet smelling, soft and manageable.

The scalp produces natural oils. The cosmetics industry wants us to wash then all away – at least once in three days according trichologist Anabel Kingsley from Philip Kingsley. Then, of course, you are expected to put them all back with another expensive bottle labelled "conditioner" or smarm it down with hair gel. My word, they see us coming don't they?

According to a 2014 survey, British women spend an average £460 ($580) per year on hair products, a third of which goes on shampoo and conditioner. That equates to a pretty astonishing £28,520 in a lifetime – and that's before anything you spend at the hairdressers.

Shampooing is a cycle. The more you wash away the oils the harder your scalp will work to compensate. And the more you will spend on fancy bottles of stuff you don't need.

The facts are these – trust me, I know. If you stop shampooing your hair, your tresses will take a few days to settle, during which it might look a bit lank. Be patient. If you've been using detergent on your head frequently all your life it will obviously take your scalp time to adjust. But it's all over in a few days.

"Self-cleaning" is a myth. But you don't need a bottle of pricey gunk to clean it. Buy a good hairbrush. Brushing distributes the oil along the follicles: it's a natural conditioner. It also helps to get rid of any flaky bits, dust or dirt – a bit like a cat grooming itself. I brush mine vigorously morning and night. Remember how Victorian children were told to brush their hair with a hundred strokes to make it shine? Well it works.

If you rinse your hair with warm water and rub your scalp at the same time, it squeaks with cleanliness just as when you rinse shampoo off. I do it about twice a week. It takes less than two minutes.

Rinsed hair is not, I repeat not, "smelly, greasy and flaky" as "experts" contend. In my view, advice from "experts" who have vested commercial interests should be ignored. Many companies sell a wide range of products which perpetuate hair-washing dependency. They want customers to keep coming back for more. It's an insidious form of advertising which plays on people's insecurities. It's hard to feel confident if you're afraid that your hair smells.

When I've spoken to the press in the past about the issue, I've received some pretty vicious comments on my so-called dirty habits. Fortunately others are just intrigued. Some people responded to Barlow by calling him "filthy", "gross" and "disgusting".

Organisations such as Belgravia Centre and people like Cardiff-salon owner Mark Coray, former president of the National Hairdressers' Federation, are unlikely to have an impartial view either. The former said in a recent BBC interview that "rinsing will not remove bacteria or the excess oil from your scalp if you have greasy hair". I beg to differ about the grease and as for the bacteria, most of them are meant to be there – just like on every other inch of the body. Mr Coray argues that the ingredients in shampoo help to make your hair look lustrous. So does brushing and keeping it gently clean.

More and more people seem to be getting the rip-off message about shampoo and other hair products. Journalists Andrew Marr and Matthew Parris, have talked about it in the past. The market for shampoo, conditioner and hairstyling products dropped by £23m in 2016. For me, it's definitely the way forward: freedom from the tyranny of time-consuming hair washing and the cost of the products the manufacturers and retailers want us to pour on our heads.

You get healthier hair too. Mine actually looks better than it used to when I was shampooing it on alternate days. It's also better for the environment to pour less detergent down our drains.

A no-brainer then. The only mystery to me is why Gary Barlow shampooed his hair last weekend after 14 years of sensible abstention.

Susan Elkin is a freelance journalist, author and former secondary English teacher. She has written more than 50 books.