How Often Should You Really be Shampooing Your Hair?
Clinical Herbalist Reviewed on February 21, 2019 by Paulina Nelega, RH
Posted in Hair Care Tips
When it comes to washing your hair, most people make a habit of lathering up every time they take a shower—usually once a day. But lately, you might have heard that this practice is actually bad for your hair. So what should you do?
It’s difficult to set a hard-and-fast rule about how often you need to wash your hair. Like most aspects of personal hygiene, the answer is just that: personal. However, there are some guidelines that might help you understand the best routine for washing your hair.
The dangers of daily washing
Do you need to shampoo every day? The answer is usually no. Skipping a wash every other day won’t cause major damage, it won’t make your hair fall out and it most likely won’t even look or feel gross due to oil.
For some people, shampooing your hair too often can actually cause more damage than it heals. Shampoo is designed to trap oils, dirt and leftover product and wash it out of your hair. Your scalp produces a natural oil called sebum, which coats your locks to keep them nourished and shiny and protects your scalp. A moderate amount of this oil is a good thing for your hair.
Shampoo isn’t able to distinguish between what’s good and bad on your scalp, so it washes it all away. Thus, when you shampoo too frequently, you’re removing a large portion of the oils that are supposed to be there. This can lead to dry, lackluster hair and a flaky scalp.
Not only that, but when you wash away this oil too often, your sebaceous glands can go into overdrive, working double-time to produce the oil that you’ve lost. Over time, this can lead to even more oil, making your hair oilier than before. If you already have oily hair, this can be a nightmare.
Skipping washes is okay
The average person can get away with skipping washes for a few days—often with better, more beautiful results. If your hair is medium-length, is moderately oily and doesn’t have severe damage or dryness, it’s usually recommended to skip a few days between washes. Washing around every three days will keep you at the optimal level of shine without drying out your scalp or hair.
People with very dry, thick or curly hair can most likely go even longer between washes because oil takes much longer to accumulate and has a harder time getting down the curly strands. With already dry hair, you definitely don’t want to over-wash, or else you may cause breakage. Aim to wash only once per week.
If you have oily hair, you should also be mindful of how often you wash—although you probably won’t be able to skip washes as frequently as others. If possible, try skipping a wash every other day to keep your sebaceous glands in check and prevent them from producing even more oil. This might require you to get a little creative—try new styles, wear hats or change your part to hide the areas of your hair that might look a little greasier. You can also try products that are designed to absorb oil, like dry shampoo.
This doesn’t mean you need to skip showers, either. When you take your shower each day, try tying your hair up into a high bun to keep the water off, or wear a shower cap to prevent wetting your hair. Sometimes, just rinsing the hair can help refresh it without stripping it, as well.
When to wash more frequently
On the other hand, people who have extremely short and fine hair might need to wash more frequently. Allowing excess oil to build up on your scalp can feel extremely uncomfortable. Your hair will start to look greasy or dirty, and you may even be at risk for scalp problems. People with dandruff should also wash more frequently—not less.
If you’ve exercised, you should at least rinse your hair afterwards, since oil is able to build up faster and in higher quantities. If you have fine hair and are exercising, a wash is best. Additionally, if you’ve recently used a lot of hair product—for example, if you applied a lot of hairspray for a special event—you will want to wash your hair as soon as possible to get all the product residue out.
It’s all about balance
As you can see, you need to maintain a delicate balance between shampooing too little and shampooing too much. Shampooing is personal, and it can be difficult to find the right routine for you right away, so test out a shampooing schedule and see what works best.
You don’t have to follow that schedule as a rule, either. Some days, your hair will be oilier than others, and you’ll need that extra wash. Take it day by day—if your scalp starts to itch, a quick shampoo is likely the solution.
In time, you’ll be able to find a routine that keeps your hair looking and feeling fresh, shiny and healthy.
Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan