Washing your hair is commonly viewed as a straightforward, routine form of self-care. But the more that’s researched about how this seemingly simple task affects your hair health, the more confusion there seems to be about how you should wash your hair, what products to use, and how often to do it.
Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer here because it all depends on your hair type and styling habits. Here’s a breakdown of the best ways to wash your hair based on your own hair care needs.
You may have had a stylist caution you about over-washing your hair. This is for good reason — shampooing your hair removes dirt and oil, but it also strips the cuticle of its natural moisture.
Following up with conditioner is certainly one way to replenish moisture, but if you can avoid excess moisture loss from the get-go, then this would be ideal.
However, not everyone can last for more than 24 hours without washing their hair. If this sounds familiar to you, then you may have an oily scalp.
People with naturally oily hair don’t necessarily have to worry about excessive moisture loss from daily shampoo sessions because the sebum (oil) in the scalp will always make up for it.
Another exception might be after a hard workout where your scalp and hair are left drenched in sweat. A dry shampoo may provide temporary relief, but if you’re prone to oily hair, you should wash it more often.
Oily or straight hair
So, how often should you wash your hair? If you have oily or straight hair, you should wash it daily. Normal to dry hair types as well as wavy hair may be able to go 2 to 3 days between shampoo sessions. You may also consider going as long as you can if you dye or chemically treat your hair.
Natural hair needs to be washed the least amount because it tends to be drier. You may be able to get away with washing your hair a few times per month. Longer hair may also need to be washed less often because sebum can take time to work its way down to the ends.
Another consideration is your age. Oil (sebaceous) glands produce less sebum as you age, so you may not need to shampoo as often as you once did.
How do you know if you’re over-washing your hair, though? If your hair feels soft and lubricated, but not oily, in the middle of the day, you’re likely washing your locks the right amount.
On the flip side, if your hair feels dry, coarse, and frizzy, you may need to scale back the number of times you wash it.
There’s also a misconception that skipping shampoo sessions will make sebaceous glands less active. If you have oily hair, you may have considered this technique. However, there’s no proof that washing your hair less often will reset your scalp’s sebaceous glands.
The most common hair washing tools recommended by dermatologists are a basic shampoo and conditioner. Shampoo gets rid of dirt, oil, and product buildup.
To avoid drying out your ends, you should concentrate the shampoo in your scalp only. Conditioner helps to replenish moisture in the middle and ends of your hair.
It’s also important to find a shampoo and a conditioner tailored to your hair type. Drier hair types can use thicker, more moisturizing products, while oily hair benefits from lightweight versions.
If you have color-treated hair, you should use color-protecting products to reduce the amount of color loss with each wash.
You can find the following formulas at a beauty or drugstore:
- dry hair
- normal hair
- fine, baby hair
- oily hair
- clarifying, deep cleansing (used weekly)
- color-treated hair
- damaged hair
- medicated (for dandruff)
- two-in-one (shampoo and conditioner combinations)
Another product worth having on hand is dry shampoo. It works by getting rid of oil in the scalp while providing more volume to flat hair. There are different dry shampoo variations for oily and normal hair types.
The idea behind dry shampoo is to help preserve your hairstyle in between washes. You may even find that you wash your hair less frequently.
As interest in home remedies are on the rise, so are natural hair care solutions. Apple cider vinegar may get rid of dandruff or excess oils, for example, but it can prove to be too drying for normal to dry hair types.
Baking soda, another home remedy, is also unproven as a shampoo substitute and may actually damage your hair.
You may also hear about other remedies, such as yogurt, beer, and aloe vera. Overall, the science is mixed. These may be used in between your regular shampoo and conditioner as masks, but shouldn’t replace regular hair washing sessions.
Dyed and color-treated hair also need to be washed less often. The fewer times your hair is shampooed, the longer your color will last.
However, this can be a challenge for color-treated hair that’s also oily. You can help reduce the number of washes by using dry shampoo every other day.
No matter how often you wash dyed hair, always make sure that your shampoo, conditioner, and styling products are designed for color-treated hair. This helps to ensure that less pigment is lost.
Some products may even be enhanced with pigments that are deposited into your hair with every use, leading to better vibrancy overall.
Most city water is safe for washing your hair. If you have hard water, though, your hair may eventually have a filmy, dry texture to it. You’ll know you have hard water if you see film buildup around your shower, sink, and faucets.
Hard water itself isn’t harmful — it’s caused by excess mineral buildup, such as magnesium and calcium. You can help counteract the damaging effects on your hair by using a hard water shampoo and conditioner.
Another option is to use a clarifying shampoo weekly to help remove minerals and other buildup from your hair.
Ideally, you should use the coolest water temperature possible when washing your hair. Using water that’s too hot can make your hair dry and frizzy, eventually causing damage.
Since it may be unappealing to bathe or shower in cold water, you can use lukewarm water in your hair.
- Try not to scrub your shampoo into a lather. This can leave your hair frizzy and lead to breakage. Simply massage the shampoo into your scalp instead, letting it work into a lather on its own.
- Don’t apply conditioner onto your scalp, especially if it’s oily.
- Avoid using products that aren’t designed for color-treated hair, if you currently have dyed hair.
- Don’t skip washing sessions when your hair is oily. This can lead to buildup in your hair, and even cause breakouts along your hairline, back, and chest.
- Don’t skip out on conditioner. If you’re pressed for time, try a two-in-one shampoo and conditioner product, or spritz on a leave-in conditioner after your shower.
- Avoid using hot water. This will leave your hair dry, frizzy, and damaged.
- Try not to blow-dry your hair when it’s still wet. This will cause the same issues as using hot water.
- Don’t rub a towel on your hair after you wash it. Instead, gently blot the towel against your hair instead.
Washing your hair is essential to your overall look, but it’s also a self-care practice. You may need to wash your hair daily, a few times per week, or a couple of times per month. It all depends on your hair type, style, and age.
If you feel like you’re washing your hair the right amount and still have concerns, see your stylist or dermatologist for advice.