Ssomething we all learn at a young age: good hygiene starts with regular bathing. But the lines tend to fade when it comes to washing your hair. Shower caps exist for a reason, after all: are we supposed to shower every day and save our shampoos for just once a week? Twice a week? After?
Logically, one would think that the more often you wash your hair, the healthier and better it will be, but this is not always the case. Sure, there’s a camp that defends the need to soap up daily, but these days it seems like most people are looking for bragging rights about how long they can go between washes. And when someone proclaims that they only wash their hair once a week (or even less), they tend to earn their hairstylist’s praise and become the envy of their friends. Which brings us to the question of the day: why can’t anyone agree on how often our hair should be washed?
In an attempt to answer this common beauty riddle once and for all, we asked a hairstylist, colorist, dermatologist, and trichologist to share their expert opinions — and it turns out is no single answer. “There is no single rule for recommended hair washing frequency,” says Shab Caspara, trichologist and hair expert.
In most cases, hairstylists and colorists will favor washing less, once or twice a week is fine, as physical hair and color tend to look and style better that way. From a clinical perspective, however, dermatologists and trichologists will say that more frequent washings are better because they focus primarily on the scalp and they want to encourage people to keep it clean and healthy.
“Most often, I find that patients need to wash their hair one to three times a week,” says Tiffany Libby, MD, board-certified dermatologist at Brown University. She explains that your position on this spectrum largely depends on four main factors. Keep reading to find out exactly what they are and how you can use them to find your own shampoo magic number.
The Big 4 Factors That Determine How Often You Should Wash Your Hair
1. Hair type and texture
Those with curly, thick, or curly hair require fewer weekly washes because these hair types need to retain as much oil as possible in order to stay properly hydrated. A wash a week, or even every 10 days, should do the trick (but keep in mind that some of the other factors listed below can increase this number). On the other hand, those with straight or very fine hair require more frequent washing, as even the smallest bit of oil left on the scalp or added via product can turn into an oily situation very quickly. You may need to wash these textures every day or every other day, and if so, be sure to use a mild shampoo that won’t strip your hair.
2. Oiliness of the scalp
If your scalp tends to get oily easily, you may need to wash your hair more frequently, Caspara says. That’s not to say every day is a must, though. “Washing your hair every other day is an ideal approach,” she says, and recommends implementing glycolic acid products, which can help temper excess oil production. She loves The INKEY List Glycolic Acid Exfoliating Scalp Scrub ($13).
It’s worth noting that your oil levels can change from season to season and year to year, which means you’ll need to adjust your hair washing habits accordingly. “During the summer months, you may need to increase the frequency of washing your hair, but then you may need to decrease that frequency during the colder, drier months,” says Dr. Libby. Also, you may recall from Skincare 101 that our bodies tend to produce less oil as we age, so those who have dealt with oily scalps before may notice that they don’t need to wash their hair as much as they get older.
3. Activity Levels
Some experts will say that every time you sweat you should wash your hair, but the four we spoke to weren’t so adamant – it came down more to a matter of preference. Dr. Libby says if you choose to wash your hair every day, you can, but Adam Reed, professional hairstylist and founder of ARKIVE Headcare, says you really don’t need to. Personally, I exercise daily and rely on the cool setting of my Dyson tumble dryer to make my post-workout sweat go away.
When it comes to dry shampoo, i.e. everyone’s best post-workout beauty friend, remember it can be “a quick fix for soaking up oil on your hair and scalp,” but “doesn’t replace shampoo and certainly doesn’t cleanse the scalp,” says Dr. Libby. So while it’s perfectly fine to use it between washes, you want to make sure you’re taking precautions to avoid buildup, which can clog your follicles and create a whole host of problems for your hair. , such as slimming and fat. Reed recommends starting with a dry shampoo. before you actually need it (ideally on day two locks) so you don’t pile it on already super oily hair and spray it on a brush instead of directly on your scalp and roots. “Brushing helps moisturize the hair [with the oils from the scalp] and to maintain volume and body,” he explains. Finally, if you are a frequent user, it is important to rub your scalp well every time you use a real shampoo.
4. Hair color
“Over-shampooing your hair is the best way to fade your color,” warns Justin Anderson, celebrity colorist and co-founder of dpHUE. “It also helps with dullness and strips away essential oils that your hair and scalp really need.”
Reed agrees, saying the chemically colored hair has been treated in a way that changes the tone of the hair, which can be washed away by frequent shampooing sessions. For those reasons, Anderson says shampooing once or twice a week is enough and recommends the ACV Hair Rinse ($37) from her line as a shampoo replacement for those days when you might still want to “wash,” just without foam. It’s also great for removing product buildup on the scalp, a concern Caspara encourages everyone to keep in mind.
How to tell if you’ve washed too much (or not enough)
To determine if you’ve hit your Goldilocks weekly wash count (i.e., “just got it”), pay attention to how your hair reacts. Inflammation, dryness and flaking of the scalp as well as dull looking locks are all signs of overwashing; while thinning, dandruff and itching are signs that you need to wash more often.
Since balance is key here, there are a few routine tweaks you can make if you need to cut back on weekly washes…which literally start with cut back on weekly washes. According to Reed, daily shampoo can remove natural oils from the hair, which triggers the oil glands in the scalp to produce oil, making your hair oilier faster. He explains that when you reduce your washes, your hair won’t need to produce as much oil and this will give the glands a chance to rebalance themselves. Another thing to stop: touching your hair, especially your scalp, as this can also lead to excessive oil production.
It says it all: when it comes to how often you shampoo, do what works for you. Follow the guidelines above and take inspiration from your scalp and locks. When they tell you they need a wash (or not!), you’ll want to listen.
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