Style Hair Unwashed or Washed

Young lady with wet hair
Photo: B-D-S Piotr Marcinski/Shutterstock
Q: If washed the day before a photo shoot, is hair easier to style washed or unwashed? In other words, should the model wash her hair before the day of the shoot or not? And does length make a difference for ease of styling whether or not the hair is washed or not the day before?
A: When styling the hair for a special event/occasion, it is generally easier to work with if it is at least "day old". Typically, this means that the hair should be washed no less than 24 hours prior to the time it is going to be styled, specifically if the hair is going to be styled in an up-style.
Freshly washed hair is usually very smooth and silky, which makes it hard to arrange in an up-style because the hair simply slides off of itself. The moratorium on shampooing the hair is less important if the hair is not going to be up-styled, since most of the techniques for styling the hair involve the use of styling products which will give hold to the style. However, having the hair unwashed is helpful in keeping the styling time to a minimum, even when up-styling is not taking place.
And, yes, the length of the hair can make a big difference in ease of styling (as well as speed), since working with longer hair means there is more hair to be styled. You could generally breakdown the levels of ease and speed in this way:
Faster and easier: up to chin-length.
Average styling ease and time: chin to shoulder length.
Longer styling time and greater difficulty: past the shoulders.
These are all dependent on the type of style desired and the texture and wave pattern of the hair being styled. Creating curls means using rollers or curling irons and the longer the hair is the longer it takes to create curls. Straightening the hair can also be very dependent on length as well, both in blowing the hair straight and flat-iron smoothing.
A good stylist will be able to create hairstyles that use the subjects' natural hair traits in the resulting hair styles. This makes styling easier and generally more suited to the individual in question.
See also:
Is it better to curl your hair when it is freshly washed or will unwashed hair curl better?
Is it bad to wash your hair daily?
Does washing your hair every day affect the growth rate?
Is it better not to wash your hair before a perm?