I have a confession: I wash my hair Every. Single. Day. And I know what you’re probably thinking — I can’t tell you how many times friends have gloated about the number of days they went without washing, and how many hairstylists have politely asked me to please aim for every other day at the very least.
I’ve heard it all: I’m stripping my hair of its natural oils, it’s unhealthy for my scalp, and how TF do I have time to style it every day? Yet I’m still not quite persuaded to change my ways. While I’ve certainly attempted to wait a few days in between washes, I’m always frustrated with the result… which leads me to believe my current regimen is working pretty well for my hair.
But all the recent shame surrounding washing your hair too often has gotten me thinking: Is shampooing your hair every day really that bad? Should I be trying a little harder to wash my hair less? I needed to investigate.
So after chatting with dermatologists, hair stylists, and even one trichologist (aka a hair and scalp doctor who thoroughly analyzed my scalp!), I’ve come to the conclusion that both my scalp and hair are in healthy condition being washed and shampooed every day, so I’ll be sticking to this routine. But I also learned that everyone’s hair is super different, so you really have to find the formula that works for you. Plus, I’ve discovered that people have extremely strong opinions about how often you should be washing your hair.
While washing your hair once a week might be all the rage these days, you might want to reconsider your hair routine. Or at least just hear me out!
Healthy hair comes from a healthy scalp
First things first: many hair experts I spoke to repeated this mantra: “A healthy scalp makes for healthy hair.” When it comes to washing your hair, it’s easy to forget about the importance of scalp health, but you should really be focusing on cleansing your scalp, not necessarily your hair.
Hair and scalp expert Philip B says regardless of how often you choose to shampoo, you should always deep-clean your scalp. “Hair health starts at the roots,” he says.
Not cleaning your scalp properly can clog or block your hair follicles and potentially even lead to hair loss, adds Edward Tricomi, co-founder of Warren Tricomi Salons.
And Penny James, a certified trichologist (a specialist trained in hair and scalp health), says that you should especially pay attention to cleaning your scalp if you’re prone to oiliness, itchiness, or scaling.
It really depends on your hair type
Most experts also agree that for the most part, the frequency at which you should wash your hair really depends on the type of hair you have — is it fine and straight? Curly and frizzy? Dry and coarse? Or is it a combination of a few of these descriptors? It’s not only important to understand your hair type, but also the right products to use for your hair.
Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Shari Sperling says people produce different amounts of oils depending on their hair types.
If You Have Fine, Straight and/or Thin Hair…
This hair type tends to get oily and greasy pretty quickly, as the oils at your root gravitate down the hair shaft. Washing every day or every other day is best, according to the experts I spoke to. (FYI, this is my hair type!)
If You Have Curly, Coarse, Thick and/or Dry Hair…
You can definitely wash less often in between shampoos. According to the experts, once or twice a week works for those with this hair type.
Use the right shampoo for your hair
You might not realize what you wash your hair with plays into how often you can give it a rinse. Koby Ben, founder at Alibi NYC Salon, believes we need to shift the way we think about treating our hair. Less frequent washers argue that shampooing your hair too often strips your scalp of your natural oils, and they’re right, but to some extent. “People don’t want to wash their hair often because shampoos today can contain ingredients that strip your hair of natural oils that are there to help your scalp,” Ben says.
Thus, Ben recommends sticking to shampoos with natural ingredients and cleansers, and straying from those with detergents, like silicone and sulfates. Using these types of gentle products is especially important for every day hair washers.
Our Favorite Gentle Shampoos
Additionally, according to one of Fox & Jane Salon’s lead stylists, Brittany Jones, you shouldn’t have any issues with frequency as long as you’re using the correct shampoo for your hair type. For example, if you have fine, straight hair, avoid oil-based shampoos and conditioners. If you have drier, curly hair, skip hair products with sulfates as they can be super drying.
Maintaining fresh hair in between washes
Whether you choose to wash your hair every day or every five days, there are ways you can keep your hair fresh and clean, without using tons of dry shampoo.
According to celebrity hair stylist Mark Townsend, you don’t have to shampoo your hair every time you wet it. For example, when you need to shower (perhaps after a workout) and you want to avoid the “harshness” of shampoo, he recommends using your fingers to massage your scalp with water, sans any product, to break up the oils on your scalp.
In addition, Philip B recommends co-washing (aka, conditioner-only washing) in between shampoo washes. Particularly if you have dry or curly hair, co-washing will keep your hair from getting frizzy or puffy.
Our Favorite Conditioners for Co-Washing
On the other hand, if you wash your hair every day, he suggests alternating shampoos: a clarifying formula one day and then a richer, more conditioning formula for the next.
Our Favorite Clarifying Shampoos
Training your hair
Less frequent hair washers (plus many stylists I spoke to) say you can “train” your hair to need less washing. But after multiple failed attempts and only a few days of trying to “train” my locks into adjusting to a new routine, I gave up. I wasn’t sure if I was just impatient, or if I was just forcing my hair into something it didn’t want to do.
According to Philip B, you can’t train your hair to adapt to less washing because once it grows, hair is dead tissue. Like skin, your scalp produces oils and sheds dead skin cells (which creates buildup in your hair) that need to be washed away. “[Hair] is made up of keratinized proteins and only takes in as much or as little moisture you give it,” he says.
Mindblowing, right? But don’t get worked up yet — while you can’t train your hair to need less washing, you can definitely buy time between shampoos, but only if you’re keeping your scalp super healthy and clean.
Use dry shampoo sparingly (and correctly)
Honestly, I can’t imagine living without dry shampoo. It helps extend days between washes, gives you extra volume when you’re in a pinch, and generally freshens your hair. But while dry shampoo does absorb scalp oils and add great texture to your hair, experts warn that you probably shouldn’t rely too much these products.
Our Favorite Dry Shampoos
Dr. Sperling says that while dry shampoo is great for extending a wash, it should never be used as a replacement for regularly washing with water and shampoo.
“Your hair follicles can get clogged with dry shampoo buildup, which can lead to scalp issues and dull-looking hair in the future,” adds Penny James. “I always suggest using dry shampoo only once a week at the very most.”
Mark Townsend calls dry shampoo a “misunderstood” product, as he sees many people use it incorrectly. Townsend says you need to hold the dry shampoo at least ten inches away from your hair (not two or three!), and be sure to brush through your dry-shampooed hair thoroughly afterwards.
OK, so I’m not going to lie — the science behind washing your hair is overwhelming AF. But throughout this process, I learned that understanding your own hair and knowing what works for it is SO important. Regardless of whether you choose to wash your hair with shampoo every day, find the treatment that works best for your hair. But as Koby Ben says, “your hair is your most expensive accessory — don’t be afraid of washing it!”