How to wash your hair, according to the experts

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  • Discover how to wash your hair properly and stop bad hair days in their tracks.

    Washing your hair is probably something you don’t give much thought to. But actually, how often you wash your hair – whether it’s every day, every other day or once a week, washing your hair correctly can really make a difference to the health of your hair and scalp. 

    Hair loss and damaged hair are common problem, but have you ever considered that the way you’re washing your hair might be having an effect? 

    To find out how to wash your hair correctly, we asked trichologist Mark Blake – who specialises in hair and scalp problems and treatments. And,  hair stylist to the stars George Northwood, whose client list includes Rosie Huntington Whitely, Julianne Moore and The Duchess of Sussex.

    How to wash your hair properly

    Lather, rinse, repeat…right? Washing your hair properly can be as simple as double shampooing, applying conditioner and towel drying but to really get your best hair ever. Mark outlines the steps he swears by for washing your hair properly…

    1. Brush your hair

    Start by using a clean hairbrush to get rid of tangles and knots to ensure the shampoo and conditioner reach every strand. Matted hair makes it difficult for you to really clean your scalp and hair so always brush through first.

    Young woman brushing hair in bathroom before washing

    Alamy

    “Start from the ends of your hair and gently work your way up to the roots,” say Mark Blake, Trichologist for Nioxin. “This will avoid tugging and damaging your hair while you’re detangling any knots. If you’re really struggling, try using a detangling spray to loosen the hair and give it more slip.”

    2. Wet hair (but avoid the bath)

    As indulgent as a hot bath is, washing your hair in the tub is a no-no. You’re rinsing in dirty water, which dulls the hair and leaves roots feeling dirty. Always wash your hair in the shower as this allows for suds and dirt to rinse away down the length of your hair. It also means conditioner won’t end up in your roots and cause them to become oily.

    If you live in an area with hard water, a shower filter like  is a great idea. It’s easily fitted to most shower systems and removes traces of chlorine, heavy metals and mould, leaving hair a lot cleaner, softer and smoother. We like Hello Klean Shower Filter | £60.

    The temperature of the water is important too as washing in cold water won’t clean hair effectively but too hot and you risk damaging your hair and scalp. “Washing your hair in the shower is best, with warm water – if the water is too hot for your skin it’s too hot for your hair,” says Mark,

    3. Apply shampoo

    Most people are probably using too much shampoo and only shampooing once. But the secret to great hair is double washing with a smaller amount of shampoo than you’d expect. The first wash you probably won’t see a lot of lather but this will break down product build-up and excess grease. The second wash will really cleanse the scalp and remove dead skin and grime.

    According to Mark, “If you are using a good quality shampoo, use around double your finger nail size and if you use styling products, wash, rinse and repeat to remove any build up.” A decent shampoo should cleanse your hair but still keep it feeling hydrated.

    Getting the right formula for your hair type is another key component to achieving glossy locks. A rich, moisturising shampoo can be too much for oily hair types and a clarifying shampoo can leave dry hair feeling stripped. Pick one that keeps your hair hydrated but effectively cleanses your roots.

    4. Massage

    Instead of using your palm, which will matt the hair together, use your fingers or an in-shower scalp brush to gently stimulate the scalp and spread the shampoo across your hair. This will exfoliate the scalp and get rid of dead skin cells and excess sebum that might cause dandruff or scalp acne.

    Be firm but not too vigorous, “Use your fingertips to rub the scalp firmly, but not hard enough to hurt yourself,” says Mark. You want to avoid damaging delicate strands of hair and pulling any out.

    Treat yourself to at least 60 seconds of scalp massage to really see and feel the benefits – another plus side of scalp massage is that it promotes blood flow to the hair follicles, encouraging hair to grow faster and healthier.

    5. Rinse

    Using lukewarm water, make sure you rinse all the shampoo from your hair. Get under the nape of your neck and get rid of all the suds – this will improve hair texture and really get the gunk out. You don’t want to leave any residue in your hair as this can dull the natural shine of your hair.

    Be wary of your shower pressure though, a forceful shower can damage your hair while it’s at its most delicate so rinsing for longer with less water pressure is best.

    6. Condition

    Those with oily scalps will often shy away from using conditioners but regular washing can dry your hair out so it’s important to replenish it. “Apply conditioner about an inch away from the scalp, comb gently through from lengths to roots and rinse thoroughly. Leaving conditioner anywhere near the scalp can cause itching and flaking,” suggests Mark. If you have extra thick or dry hair, you may want to apply a hair mask to the ends to really let the moisture soak in.

    Leave your conditioner on your hair for at least 5 minutes to allow it to detangle, nourish and moisturise straggly ends. Using a wide-toothed comb to comb through the ends while your conditioner gets to work is a great idea for long hair that tangles easily.

    7. Rinse

    To avoid lank, dull hair ensure you’re rinsing your conditioner out really well. It can be tempting to rinse it quickly and hop out of the shower but staying an extra few minutes will make sure all the product is out and not weighing down the hair.

    Adding a blast of cold water at the end of your shower will not only wake you up, it will also ‘seal’ the hair shaft and lead to less frizz and more shine. It might sound tempting to skip this part after a lovely warm shower but a blast of cold water will make all the difference when it comes to styling your hair and keeping frizz at bay. 

    8. Dry

    Using your hands, squeeze out the excess water from your hair but make sure not to pull, twist or stretch the hair. Your hair is at its most fragile when wet so a gentle squeeze is all you need to avoid damaging your hair. Next, wrap your hair up in a microfibre towel. They’re great for reducing drying time and won’t tug, or break the hair while its wet. 

    If you’re going to heat style your hair, make sure it is 100 per cent dry before you use a straightener or curler. Using hot tools on damp hair can dry the hair and cause damage. A heat protectant is a great idea before your blow dry as this will stop your hair from becoming overheated.

    If you’re worried about the condition of your hair, try and leave it to air dry as much as possible. Continuously heat styling your hair can cause breakage and irreparable damage until your next chop but you can avoid frizz by applying an air-drying cream. 

    Should you wash your hair everyday?

    You should be washing your hair everyday if it’s suitable for your hair type. If you have greasy hair, then it’s fine to wash it everyday but dry and coarse hair can go much longer between washes. If your hair is extremely dry and just seems to dry out between washes, try using conditioning sprays to keep its moisture levels topped up.

    “You can wash your hair every day, but you don’t have to,”’ says Mark. “It’s more important to keep your scalp clean than your hair. Use a good quality shampoo as they have humectants that take moisture out of the air and put it into the hair, so no condition is lost. My advice is to treat your hair and scalp like any other part of your body.”

    Is it ok to wash your hair twice?

    If you are shampooing twice, you might be worried about stripping your hair and over-cleansing it but according to celebrity stylist  George Northwood, ‘Most people don’t actually get their hair truly clean when they wash it, so it ends up covered in a sort of film which leads to dullness and lack of shine over time. By shampooing twice you have a first wash, to remove excess dirt and grime, and then a second wash to really get it squeaky clean.’

    If you’re worried about using too much of that expensive shampoo, you might be pleasantly surprised at how little you actually need, ‘If you’re washing your hair twice you don’t need much shampoo at all – maybe a two-pence-sized blob for each time,’ says George. ‘The first wash probably won’t create much lather as it’s just cleansing away all of that grime and build-up. It can actually be quite half-hearted – just squirt the product into your hands, rub them together and run through the hair. I call it external cleansing. Then the second shampoo is your opportunity to really get it right into the roots and create a proper lather.’

    Which is the best shampoo?

    The ideal shampoo is one that will suit your hair type, nourish your hair and suit your washing routine. Whether you have coarse, thick hair or fine, greasy locks, choose something you enjoy using and that leaves your hair feeling and looking incredible.

    Best shampoos for thick, dry and coarse hair

    Ouai Shampoo for Thick Hair | £22
    Deeply nourishing and fortifying. This gives real nourishment to every strand when washing your hair and makes thick or dry hair look uber glossy and luxe.

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    Shea Moisture Manuka Honey & Yoghurt Hydrate & Repair Shampoo | £10.99
    Perfect for coarser hair textures looking for softer hair. It’s hydrating and repairing and great for preventing breakage.

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    Best shampoos for fine, flat hair

    Nioxin Cleanser Shampoo System 1 | £18.60
    Give flat hair a real boost when washing with this body-building shampoo, from Nioxin’s expert range.

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    Pantene Pro-V Miracles Lift’n’Volume Shampoo | £5
    An affordable alternative that gives incredible root lift to fine hair without the hefty price tag.

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    Best shampoos for frizzy or curly hair

    Living Proof Curl Shampoo | £15
    Define your curls and keep them smooth and chic with this new shampoo from Living Proof.

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    Kiehl’s Smoothing Oil-Infused Shampoo | £19.50
    Frizzy hair will lap up this oil based formula. It’s great for washing and smoothing the hair shaft, and giving incredible shine.

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    Best shampoos for greasy hair

    L’Oreal Elvive Extraordinary Clay Re-Balancing Shampoo | £4.99
    Greasy, flat hair will relish the deep cleansing properties of this re-balancing formula. It’s perfect when your roots are oily but your ends are dry.

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    Aveda Rosemary Mint Purifying Shampoo | £16.50
    An invigorating product to use when washing your hair in the mornings, this shampoo will take away excess grease and leave your scalp clean.

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    Best shampoos for coloured hair

    Oribe Shampoo For Beautiful Colour | £44
    Protect your precious colour with this caring shampoo. It’s formulated with strengthening ingredients that look after treated hair too.

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    Herbal Essences Ignite My Colour Shampoo | £2
    Make your colour last – even with regular washing – with this vibrancy enhancing formula. It’s affordable and smells incredible.

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    Which is the best conditioner?

    The best conditioner will de-tangle as well as provide much needed hydration. Hair is essentially dead as soon as it’s grown from the scalp and needs extra moisture for it to feel smooth. These are our top picks for how to wash your hair with best conditioner for every hair type.

    Best conditioners for thick, dry or coarse hair

    Cantu Shea Butter Hydrating Cream Conditioner | £6.99
    Coarse hair will become soft and manageable with this deeply hydrating conditioner. It’s full of nourishing shea butter and does a great job of detangling when washing.

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    Undone by George Northwood Unparched Conditioner | £18
    Let this sit on dry ends and you’ll have glossy hair in just a few minutes. It’s really nourishing and perfect for split ends or flyaways.

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    Best conditioners for fine, flat hair

    Revitalash Thickening Conditioner | £46
    With a similar formula to their best-selling lash growth serum, this conditioner is a game changer for those with thin hair.

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    Josh Wood Miracle Hair Conditioner for Fine & Fragile Hair | £15
    Don’t let fine hair become weighed down and lifeless with a heavy conditioner. This one detangles when washing and provides nourishment without being too much.

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    Best conditioners for frizzy or curly hair

    Tresémme Keratin Smooth Conditioner | £4.99
    To smooth frizz it’s essential to use a conditioner that nourishes and smooths every strand. This is that conditioner.

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    Curlsmith Curl Quenching Conditioning Wash | £21
    Curls stay defined, hydrated and won’t descend into frizz when you’re using this conditioning wash from curl experts, Curlsmith.

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    Best conditioners for greasy hair

    L’Oreal Elvive Dream Lengths 8 Seconds Wonder Water | £9.99
    This amazing conditioner uses Lamellar technology to detangle and condition the hair without greasiness.

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    Sukin Oil Balancing Conditioner | £9.95
    Rebalance your hair with a conditioner that looks after greasy roots and dry ends. It’s wonderfully nourishing but isn’t thick or gloopy.

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    Best conditioners for coloured hair

    Kerastase Reflection Fondant Chromatique Conditioner | £25.90
    Keeping coloured hair in good condition is key for maintaining your colour between salon appointments. This one might be expensive but it’s worth every penny.

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    L’Oreal Elvive Colour Protect Rapid Reviver Conditioner | £5.50
    Revive your colour and say goodbye to dullness with this bargain conditioner suitable for all coloured hair.

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