Written by Lisa Truesdale
To wash or not to wash? That’s the question, but there isn’t an easy answer. A quick Internet search reveals every possible response under the sun, from “once a day” to “never” (we’ve even heard of someone who went five years without shampooing).
If you’re wondering how often you should wash your hair, it really depends on a number of factors. Regardless of your hair type, most dermatologists and hair stylists we spoke to agreed on one thing: For most people, shampooing once per day isn’t usually necessary and can even cause damage.
Here are some tips for determining how often you should wash and condition your hair – and why your shampoo and conditioner matters.
When you shampoo more often than necessary, these oils are stripped away. As a result, your hair can start to look dry and lifeless, and it’s also more prone to breakage.
Those with thick, wavy, or curly hair have a slight advantage here, since they normally need to wash less frequently than people with straight and/or thin hair (oil is much more noticeable on straight, thin hair). Thicker, curlier hair also tends to be drier since the sebum has a harder time reaching the ends.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), some people with dry or curly hair might only need to shampoo their hair every 7 to 10 days. By contrast, if you suffer from excessively oily hair, you might need to shampoo daily (or every other day) to keep oil under control.
People with chemically-colored, straightened, curled, or hairstyles like tight braids that pull unnaturally at the roots should not wash their hair every day (or even every other day).
Scalp sebum production differs based on factors like age, gender, genetics, and living environment. Teenagers and young adults (in their 20s and 30s) tend to produce more sebum than children or older adults. So even if you had excessively oily hair during puberty, that doesn’t mean you’ll have the same issue when you’re older.
If your hair gets greasy after one day, you may need to scrub your scalp every morning or evening. However, most people with normal oil production can probably get away with washing every few days.
Some of us are super sweaty. Some of us live in humid climates. Sweat spreads sebum and causes hair to look dirty or smell stinky. Hats and helmets (especially when worn during sweaty workouts and bike rides) can also produce more sweat and oil.
We recommend shampooing after a substantial workout, but if your hair isn’t overly sweaty, a water rinse should be good enough.
If you use chemical-based products in your hair (e.g. mousse, gel, hairspray), you probably need to shampoo more frequently. These products can cause harmful buildup over time and can irritate the scalp.
Many conventional shampoos and conditioners contain things like parabens, sulfates, and dimethicone. Harsh, unnatural ingredients are known to strip hair of its natural oils. In people with sensitive skin, they can also cause itching and redness.
Some shampoos and conditioners can also disrupt the balance of your scalp and dry out your hair. Instead, reach for a pH-balanced shampoo.Puracy Natural Shampoo and Natural Conditioner are pH-balanced formulas that are specially formulated for all genders, ages, and hair types. They contain natural, plant-derived ingredients and are non-toxic, sulfate-free, and hypoallergenic.
After taking these factors into account, you’ll want to develop a hair-washing schedule that works best for you. Try this experiment: Switch up your hair-washing routine by cutting out one or two washes per week. Keep notes about how your hair looks and feels each day.
After a month, make any necessary changes to your routine, and keep notes for another month. After two months, you should have all the data you need to determine how often you should shampoo your hair.
While there isn’t a simple answer for how often you should shampoo your hair, you should use conditioner after every shampoo. Not only does it seal split ends and hair shafts, but it also combats static electricity and free radical damage.
Remember: Conditioner is only meant for the fragile tips of your hair (as they need the added moisture). If you apply conditioner to the entire length of your hair, it can make it look limp and lifeless.
On days when you’re not shampooing, consider using conditioner on its own or simply rinse with plain water.
Sometimes, shampooing your hair is an inconvenience, like when you’re pressed for time or when it’s the middle of winter and you don’t want to go outside with wet hair. That said, no one wants gross-looking tresses, so here are a few ways to make your hair look less greasy without washing it:
Sprinkling a little near your roots will help soak up excess oils. For darker hair, you can mix in a little cocoa powder to disguise the whiteness of the cornstarch.
Blotting paper (the kind you use for freshening your face) can also be used on your scalp and hair to soak up excess oil.
Although excessive blow-dryer use can damage hair, the blow dryer can really come in handy sometimes. Flip your head over, turn on the lowest setting, and point it at your scalp near your neckline. The heat will help dry up some of the oils while adding a little volume.
If all else fails, wear a cute hat or headscarf.
The AAD offers these important haircare tips for avoiding damage and keeping it healthy: