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.
Why Daily Shampooing Can Hurt More Than Help
When most of us experience oily hair, we head straight for the shower to wash it away. Yet sebum (produced by the scalp) is there for a reason: It’s essential for healthy-looking, hydrated hair. Sebum naturally distributes down the hair shaft, adding much-needed moisture that keeps hair from drying out.
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.
How Often Should You Shampoo Your Hair?The optimal frequency of your hair-washing sessions depends on several factors:
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).
How Much Oil Your Scalp Produces
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.
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How Much Sweat You Produce
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.
The Styling Products You Use
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.
Why Your Shampoo Matters
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. These sulfate-free, hypoallergenic formulas contain natural, plant-derived ingredients.
Try a New Hair-Washing Schedule
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.
How Often Should You Condition 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). Applying it 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.
How to Go Longer Without Shampooing
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.
Blot, Blot, Blot
Blotting paper (the kind you use for freshening your face) can also be used on your scalp and hair to soak up excess oil.
Break out the Blow Dryer
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.
Essential Hair Care Tips
The AAD offers these important haircare tips for avoiding damage and keeping it healthy:
- Don’t rub wet hair vigorously with a towel. Instead, wrap it in an absorbent towel or let it air dry naturally.
- Don’t brush wet hair. Let it dry a bit first before brushing, and always use a wide-tooth comb.
- Try to avoid touching your hair excessively during the day. Our fingertips are covered in oils (not to mention traces of everything else we touch).
- Limit your use of heat-generating hair appliances. Blow dryers, straighteners, and curling irons can all damage hair. Use them as little as possible and on the lowest heat setting when you do.
- Chemicals in swimming pools can be particularly hard on hair. If you’re a swimmer, wear a swim cap and rinse your hair as soon as you get out of the pool.
- If changing up your shampooing routine and/or following the tips above doesn’t help your hair look and feel better, we recommend booking an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist.