How often do you wash your hair, everyday, every other day or once a week?
For some, washing hair properly (opens in new tab) everyday feels about right - especially if hair is fine, greasy or if you're exercising daily. Similarly, if your hair is dry, parched and coarse, you might get away with washing just once a week.
If you are dealing with hair loss (opens in new tab) or damaged hair (opens in new tab), washing your hair frequently might seem counterintuitive. We’re often told that washing your hair everyday is an absolute no-no by stylists - especially colourists looking to prolong your shade. But, trichologists and scalp experts seem to encourage it in order to create a healthy scalp.
To dispel the myths and get to the bottom of this beauty conundrum, we asked the experts. Trichologist Guy Parsons and Mark Townsend, hair stylist to A-list celebs including Gwyneth Paltrow and Glenn Close, share their advice.
How often should you wash your hair?
"You should wash your hair whenever your scalp feels greasy, dirty or smelly, regardless of your hair type," according to Guy, founder of My Hair Doctor (opens in new tab). However, he also advises, experimenting with washing your hair more or less frequently than you usually do, and then examining your scalp and the condition of your hair.
‘If you go long periods of time without washing there will be a build up of natural oils, bacteria, dead skin cells and cause greasy hair (opens in new tab). But, if you wash your hair every day you may possibly over-stimulate the oil glands situated beneath your scalp and may eventually experience oily hair,’ he adds.
Mark Townsend (opens in new tab) agrees, "Some shampoos can be harsh and strip all the natural oils from your scalp. This causes your scalp to overproduce oils to replace the ones you’ve just stripped away. I’m not saying don’t shower after going to the gym, I’m just saying skip the shampoo once every few days. But never skip the conditioner. If your hair gets wet, you’ve got to fill that cuticle back up with conditioner."
Essentially, if you’re sweating a lot, wearing a lot of product everyday and feel your roots becoming oily and grimy, it’s time to wash. If your hair looks great, feels comfortable and isn’t causing any issues, you can probably skip a wash.
How often should you wash fine hair?
Fine hair tends to become greasy far quicker than thick hair and for this reason, washing your hair everyday is not off-limits.
‘It depends on the hair,’ says Guy. ‘Some people may feel their fine hair is lifeless when too clean - too flyaway, too lank, etc. Others may prefer to build body into clean, fine hair. If you wash less often there is the possibility that the hair will gain more environmental pollution, dirt and grime from day to day life and be weighed down. Yet others may say once their hair is past day one it is more workable.’
Try and use a clean hairbrush (opens in new tab) to style your hair on days between washes as dirty combs or brushes are just putting all the grime from your greasy hair, back onto your scalp. Keeping your tools clean will extend the life of your hairstyle and mean keep things hygienic.
It might be worth some experimentation. If you haven’t got a busy calendar, try skipping a wash day and use dry shampoo instead. "Spray it on your roots liberally, and then brush it through your hair. It will absorb the oils and the environmental smells," says Mark. You might find that your hair eventually produces less oil over time and you can cut down on washes.
How often should you wash thick hair?
Thick hair textures normally become drier as the days go on so washing your hair every other day or up to once a week is sufficient. But, if you find that your thick hair becomes greasy, wash it more frequently.
"I prefer clients to wash thick hair more often as it can contain bacteria, oil from sebaceous glands, dead skin and it needs to be cleaned more often and thoroughly rinsed to remove all of this,’" says Guy. "The problem with thick hair is people don’t rinse well enough and shampoo particles can dry and look like “dandruff (opens in new tab)”.’
How often you choose to wash your hair is up to you. Only you (and maybe your stylist) will know what texture your hair is and how frequently it needs cleansing. If it’s itchy, irritated or greasy don’t be afraid of washing it - just use a good quality, hydrating shampoo and conditioner when you do.
Using a weekly hair mask to replenish any moisture loss is a good idea for thick hair. One with natural plant oils will keep your hair silky and soft and means you can do a proper job of cleansing your scalp without worrying about dry, parched ends.
How often should you wash coarse or afro hair?
Afro or coarse hair textures can go a lot longer without washing, sometimes up to three months when it’s worn in a protective style. Sometimes, wearing your hair in hairstyles like cornrows or weaves means waiting for your style to grow out before you wash it. Hair can then be washed and restyled and this can mean up to one to three months between washes, depending on your hair growth rate.
According to Guy, "It depends on the scalp condition. Actually, in most cases Afro hair is not coarse, it is actually very fine and delicate. It is the pattern of growth that gives it the appearance of coarseness. Typically people with Afro hair use multiple oils on their hair to control it. And, they spend a lot of time styling their hair so they are more likely to wash less often. So, if there are no scalp issues then washing less often is probably recommended."
It’s a great idea to keep adding moisture to afro hair by using things like conditioning sprays and oils. The wash process for afro hair can be lengthy when you’re including things like a complete comb through, treatments and leave-in conditioners. Therefore, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with going longer between washes if your scalp is OK.
What happens if you don’t wash your hair?
Not washing your hair sufficiently can cause scalp issues like dandruff, scalp acne and excessive greasiness. "Initially you will get a build up of dead skin cells, natural oils and bacteria," says Mark.
‘The key thing is that for many this will itch and then we scratch and the scalp can easily become infected. Healthy hair needs a clean scalp, as blocked or clogged follicles can inhibit quality hair growth. In some cases scalps can regulate themselves, where oil regulation reduces through lack of stimulation of the scalp, but this is rare - the hair itself takes on a normal appearance but over time can become a little “smelly”.’
Not washing your hair at all isn’t recommended by trichologists as it impacts hair health. Your hair sheds between 50 - 100 hairs a day and avoiding washing your hair means these strands will accumulate sebum and dandruff on your scalp. So, if you want to eradicate those bad hair days, find your “sweet-spot” for how often you’re washing your hair.
What happens when you over wash your hair?
Washing your hair too much can cause your scalp pH to rise (it becomes more alkaline where it should be slightly acidic) which leads to it becoming irritated, dry or flaky and actually result in a greasy scalp when it starts overcompensating and producing more oil.
When you are over washing your hair, ‘You strip the hair of all its natural goodness and quite quickly it will become incredibly static and flyaway and you may experience excessive oiliness,’ says Guy.
Keeping hair hydrated is the key to great looking hair and when you are washing, the tools you’re using can make a huge difference. Most people use a towel to dry their hair but using a microfibre towel or hair turban is a great way to reduce dryness. ‘You’ve never seen a hairdresser cringe like I do when I see hair wrapped in a towel,’ says Mark. ‘It can be the most expensive cotton, it doesn’t matter. Cotton is meant to absorb moisture, which it does, but when you twist it tightly around your hair, it pulls on the most fragile hairs you have along your hairline, and you’ll snap so many of them.’