Shampoo commercials and hair care product packaging may imply that frequent, even daily, hair-washing is the key to a great head of hair. But that’s not necessarily the case.
There’s no hard and fast rule for hair-washing frequency that applies across the board, which is why some people remain firmly in the “every single day” camp, while others are reluctant to lather up more than once a week.
Plenty of personal variables can factor into how often you wash your hair: hair texture, hair condition, your lifestyle or schedule, and more.
It might feel perfectly natural to wash your hair every day or every time you hop in the shower. Still, daily hair-washing often isn’t necessary. In some cases, it might even play a part in those bad hair days you’re trying to avoid.
Frequent washing won’t necessarily leave you with the soft, luscious hair of your dreams. Washing daily might keep you squeaky clean, but when it comes to your hair, that’s not always a good thing.
Shampooing too often strips your hair of sebum, the natural oils produced by your scalp. Sebum helps protect your strands from moisture loss.
Washing it all away can lead to a tight, dry scalp and dry, coarse strands prone to breakage. Over time, you might even begin to notice some long-term side effects of overwashing, including damaged hair and hair loss.
There are no set rules when it comes to hair care, since everyone’s hair is different. Finding the routine that works best for you will usually take a little trial and error.
Some people will want to wash more frequently than others. For example, you might choose to wash daily or every other day if you:
- use a lot of styling products that leave hair feeling sticky or coarse
- have straight hair that gets oily quickly
- have a job that exposes you to dirt or pollen
- get sweaty on a daily basis
That said, you can wash your hair every day if needed without using sebum-stripping shampoo. (You’ll find some helpful tips further down.)
Again, there’s no specific washing frequency that works for everyone, so it’s important to experiment to find what works best for your hair type and lifestyle.
Still, these guidelines can help you zero in on a good strategy.
Thick, wavy, or curly hair is often on the dry side, since sebum can’t coat the strands as easily as it can coat straight hair. That’s why straight hair often begins to look greasier much faster between washings.
You’re generally fine to wash straight hair as needed, even if you feel the need to wash most days.
If you have coarse or curly hair, especially tightly curled hair, you’ll probably want to cut back on washing. Try washing every 2 to 3 days to see how your hair responds. If your curls still feel dry, consider easing back to once weekly.
If you have Afro-textured hair, you’ll want to wash even less frequently, since it’s particularly
Washing too often can lead to long-term problems, like split ends and breakage, particularly when combined with tight hair styles, heated styling tools, and chemical smoothing treatments.
Hot oil treatments and regular conditioning can help reduce damage.
Oil and product buildup
Oil can be a major reason for frequent washing, especially if you link its effects — limp or clumpy hair — with signs of uncleanliness. Still, most people only produce enough oil to need washing every few days.
That said, if you regularly use styling products, buildup can also cause limp strands, not to mention scalp irritation. Washing more frequently can help prevent this buildup, but it might also be worth considering easing up on products, if you can.
Sweat and dirt
Sweat can affect how your hair looks, feels, and smells. If you work up a sweat every day, you might prefer to suds up more often.
You might also feel inclined to wash your hair more frequently if you’re regularly exposed to pollution, dust, pollen, or dirt.
Wondering how to tell whether you’re washing too frequently? Perhaps you’ve noticed a few key signs:
- dry, coarse strands with little to no elasticity
- tight scalp
- Itching and flaking
- limp or dull hair
Try going a full day between washes to see how your hair responds, and then extend by an additional day until you’re happy with the condition of your hair and scalp.
If your hair looks or feels dirty, that’s probably a good sign it’s time to give it a wash.
Try this easy trick: Massage your fingers into your scalp and give them a sniff. Any unpleasant odor is a sign that you’re overdue for washing.
You might also want to consider washing more frequently if you’re dealing with dandruff. More frequent washing can help prevent the oily buildup that contributes to more flakes.
There’s really no right or wrong way to shampoo, and it’s just fine to follow the directions on the bottle.
But for the best results, start with thoroughly wet hair. Lather the shampoo in your hands and massage it into your roots and scalp with your fingers. Don’t worry about shampooing the ends of your hair, since the shampoo will run down your strands when you rinse.
Make sure to rinse well. Follow up with a conditioner, concentrating on the ends. If you have wavy or curly hair, apply conditioner evenly all over your hair to add moisture.
For deeper conditioning, leave your conditioner on for a few minutes before rinsing well.
Worried you’ve fallen into a habit of overwashing? You don’t need to give up shampoo completely. There are a number of shampoo alternatives worth trying.
- Dry shampoo. You apply this hair product, which usually comes as a spray or powder, to your roots to absorb oil. It doesn’t clean your hair, but it can extend time between washings.
- Co-wash. Co-washing uses conditioner or products known as cleansing conditioners to wash and condition without the detergents in traditional shampoos. It’s a good way to clean without stripping the hair.
- DIY shampoo. Mixing up your own shampoo offers another way to get cleaner hair without stripping it of the oils it needs to look and feel good.
- Water alone. If you need to rinse away sweat or dirt or just want to refresh your hairstyle, plain water often does the trick.
There’s no set rule that dictates exactly how often you should shampoo, but shampooing your hair every single day could do more harm than good.
Most people find that their scalps and strands look and feel better with less washing, not more. If your hair needs some new oomph, swapping out a wash or two with other options, like dry shampoo, co-washing, or plain water, could give it a healthy boost.
Jessica Timmons has been working as a freelance writer since 2007, covering everything from pregnancy and parenting to cannabis, chiropractic, stand-up paddling, fitness, martial arts, home decor, and much more. Her work has appeared in mindbodygreen, Pregnancy & Newborn, Modern Parents Messy Kids, and Coffee + Crumbs. See what she’s up to now at jessicatimmons.com.