Who would have thought that how often you wash your hair would be a controversial topic? When I was growing up, I had to wash my hair every day, no questions asked. Everyone I knew washed their hair daily, and if you skipped a day, it felt weird and icky.
Now, hair washing is a subject that experts and non-experts alike will wax poetic about. Everyone has an opinion, and almost all of these opinions contradict each other.
It has become trendy in the last couple of years to wash less and less frequently. I think this has a lot to do with the rise of the Curly Girl hair routines and the movement to embrace your hair’s natural texture. As a curly girl, I’m thankful that it’s now easier for me to find hair products that work well for me. I’m also glad that there’s more information available about how to care for my hair!
Unfortunately, the question of how frequently you should wash your hair has left many people frustrated and feeling like they’re doing something wrong if they wash every day or every other day.
It has become trendy in the last couple of years to wash less frequently. But it has also left many people feeling like they’re doing something wrong if they wash every day.
Today, we’re going to talk about how often you should really wash your hair.
Hair vs. Scalp: What the Hair Washing Schedule Is All About
The idea behind washing less often is that it’s better for your hair. Shampoos are formulated with surfactants that trap dirt, oil, and residues and allow them to be rinsed away with water.
Unfortunately, these same surfactants can sometimes strip away too much oil, especially from the lengths of your hair, and this leads to hair that’s clean but dull and dry.
Washing less often means that your hair isn’t constantly stressed with products that strip away moisture, so the idea is that your hair will look healthier overall. For some people, this is true!
However, it’s important to make the distinction between healthy hair and a healthy scalp. When your hair gets oily, it’s almost exclusively at the roots. That’s because your scalp is producing the oil, not your hair. That might seem obvious, but it’s easy to forget.
Your scalp is skin, and just like the rest of the skin on your body, it’s going to require its own maintenance schedule. For example, some people have a naturally oily scalp, and infrequent washing makes them uncomfortable. On the other hand, some people have a dry scalp, so they can comfortably go much longer without shampoo.
The hair washing schedule is geared more towards minimizing the stress and damage that your lengths have to endure. Because curly hair tends to be much drier and more fragile, the across-the-board recommendation for curlies is to wash as infrequently as possible. Somehow, this advice has morphed into “everybody should wash their hair less.”
The hair washing schedule is geared more towards minimizing damage to your lengths. Somehow, this advice has morphed into “everybody should wash their hair less.”
Okay, But How Much Washing Is Too Much For Me?
I hate to sound like a broken record, but the truth is that hair washing is another YMMV topic. The fun (but sometimes frustrating) part of beauty is that almost all of it has to be tailored to your unique body and lifestyle.
For the sake of your sanity, I’ll outline some basic tips for how often you should try washing your hair.
1. If it itches, wash it
If your scalp is itchy, it’s time to wash. There’s no point in suffering for the sake of making it one more day without shampoo! Trust me, it’s not worth it.
2. If you sweat a lot, wash it
I have to wash my hair more often in the summer than in the winter, but that’s okay. If you’re getting sweaty, whether from the weather or exercise, you should probably wash.
A little bit of sweat is okay (that’s what dry shampoo is for!), but if you’re doing intense workouts or spending your days outside in the humidity, washing more often is better for your scalp health.
3. If your hair is fine or thin, wash it
I have friends with thin, straight hair who say that they feel guilty for washing their hair every day, but it just gets too greasy for them not to.
It’s normal for fine, thin, or straight hair to get oily much faster than other hair types. Even if your scalp isn’t super oily, your strands are more prone to being weighed down by oil, and more of your hair is touching your scalp, so it will always look oily faster than other hair types.
That’s okay! Just wash your hair! The Beauty Police aren’t going to arrest you, and if friends judge you, just flip your clean hair in their faces and keep on moving. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
4. If you have scalp issues, wash it (unless your doctor says not to)
People with dandruff or other scalp health issues should ignore the beauty world’s hair washing schedule and do whatever their doctors say is best for their scalps.
If your wash schedule makes your lengths feel dull, dry, or brittle, you can likely add a deep conditioner to the hair that isn’t touching your scalp!
5. If you want to wash it, wash it
You don’t have to do what your friend, sister, cousin, or favorite Instagram influencer is doing, especially if it isn’t giving you the same great results they’re getting. You’re all individuals, and that means your beauty routines will be just as diverse as you are.
I know it’s easier said than done, but don’t let perceived peer pressure make you deal with greasy, itchy, or uncomfortable hair. It’s! Not! Worth it!
What the Experts Say
Most experts (dermatologists and doctors, not celebrity stylists) agree that a lot of people don’t need to shampoo every day.
However, they also agree that hair washing should come down to scalp health, hair type, and personal preference.
Also, the big myth about “training your hair” to produce less oil? Derms agree that it is, in fact, just a myth. According to Dr. Shilpi Khetarpal of The Cleveland Clinic, hormones control the sebaceous glands and their oil production; hair washing has no effect.
The big myth about “training your hair” to produce less oil? Derms agree that it is, in fact, just a myth. Hormones control oil production; hair washing has no effect.
Bonus Tips For Better Hair
You may not be able to train your scalp to produce less oil, but there are things that you can do to keep your hair and scalp healthy!
1. Protect your lengths when you shampoo
Unless you have tons of product in the lengths of your hair, you don’t need to shampoo them. Instead, concentrate your cleansing efforts on your roots, and slather the rest of your strands with conditioner while you cleanse. This adds a buffer between the cleansing agents in your shampoo and your already dry lengths.
2. Invest in scalp care
Figure out how oily your scalp is naturally, and then experiment with products that can help to nourish and support healthy scalp skin.
Super oily scalps might benefit from shampoos with salicylic acid or the now-famous Fanservied-b scalp acid treatment.
Normal or dry scalps might benefit from adding a hydrating toner directly to the scalp after washing (I love doing this while my hair is soaking wet).
4. Use a shampoo brush
As with washing any other part of your body, the mechanical friction of washing is just as important as using soap.
Scrubbing your scalp with your nails might feel good, but it’s damaging to your hair and skin. Instead, use a silicone-bristled shampoo brush to massage shampoo into your scalp and dislodge any sebum or buildup.
5. Switch to a gentler shampoo
Unless you have specific recommendations from a derm or doctor, it’s best to use a gentle shampoo. Harsh cleansing agents can strip away too much of the protective natural oils on your scalp and strands, and this can lead to a flaky, itchy, irritated scalp and brittle, dry hair.
Choosing a sulfate-free shampoo is the best place to start! Don’t be afraid to splurge on minis of several different shampoos to find the one that fits you best.
3. Try dry shampoo
Dry shampoo is great for absorbing sweat and excess oil, but it’s essential to use it correctly to get the most benefit!
Spray with a light touch, and focus on the places that get most greasy: your hairline, part, and the nape of your neck. For the most oil-absorbing power, spray your dry shampoo at night (even if your hair is clean). This lets the powder soak up excess oil all night long so that you can extend the life of your clean hair a little longer.
How Do You Shampoo?
Have you been peer pressured into changing your wash routine? Are you glad that it’s okay to have “dirty” hair now? How do you feel about washing your hair? Drop a line in the comments, and let’s talk about it!