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Although I make my own homemade shampoo and even created a better-than-conventional shampoo and conditioner at Wellnesse, I don’t use them every day. How often to wash hair depends on several factors, but there are some big benefits to skipping the daily suds.
Here we’ll explore why too much shampoo can damage hair, how often you need to lather up, and other hair-raising facts.
Why I Don’t Wash Hair Daily
Lather, rinse, repeat. It’s simple right? We all know what shampoo and conditioner are, but there’s a little more to the story.
Shampoo is designed to cleanse the hair and scalp while restoring things like shine and strength. Most brands however rely on harsh detergents that strip hair of its natural oils. Conditioner is supposed to replenish the oil we just lost, but it often coats the hair with a film of chemicals.
So while it’s important (and feels great) to wash your hair, we’re also disrupting the natural balance of oils and potentially damaging hair and scalp health. Natural shampoo is gentler on hair and scalp, but it does still remove protective oils.
Too Much of a Good Thing
Over-washing hair can cause damage over time to both our hair and scalp. Hair follicles try to compensate by producing more oil, which leads to more washing. This can lead to dry, damaged hair that’s more likely to break and harder to handle.
Too many hair care products, including shampoo, can actually cause hair to age faster. A 2020 study in the international Journal of Cosmetic Science found shampoo and conditioner have some negative consequences. Overuse of these products damaged the hair cuticle and quality.
Other issues come into play too. The popular “no poo” method is natural, but it can be harsh on hair for several reasons. Although it doesn’t use conventional shampoo and conditioner, the method often uses baking soda. Not only is baking soda abrasive to the scalp, but it has a pH of around 9, while our skin is around a 4.5 pH. Some people love it, but for many, no poo is too harsh over time.
How Often to Wash Hair
Now that we’ve covered all that, what’s the real answer? What’s the magical number of times a week we need to break out the shampoo bottle? It’s not as simple as that and how often you wash your hair depends on several factors.
Age – Teenagers and young adults tend to have more oil production and need to shampoo more often. Oil production declines with age, so older adults need to wash less often. Be careful though, as overwashing can increase oil!
Ethnicity – Certain people groups have naturally coarser or finer hair and this affects how much it needs washed. Coarse, kinky hair needs to be washed less since the oil doesn’t reach its way down the hair strands as fast.
Environment and Activity level – Those who are more active or are around more pollution, like in the city, need to cleanse more. Sweat, dirt, and pollution can build up on the scalp and block pores.
Hormones – It’s not often mentioned, but hormones play a key role in how often hair needs washed. According to the Cleveland Clinic, androgens (a type of sex hormone) control our oil glands. These androgens are higher in young people and diminish with age, especially after menopause for women.
The Industry Weighs In
There are plenty of expert opinions out there, but it helps to keep a balanced perspective. A 2021 study looked at the impact of how often Asian populations washed their hair. Researchers found study participants preferred to wash 5-6 times a week and it had no “detrimental effects.”
It’s important to note there are environmental and genetic roles at play here. Asian hair types aren’t as coarse as others, and Asian countries commonly have higher pollution levels than some places. Both of these factors typically encourage more frequent hair washing.
What’s most telling though is this study was 100 percent funded by a major company that sells shampoo. With such a clear conflict of interest, it’s hard to expect them to tell consumers they should use their products less.
How Often to Wash by Hair Type
There are a variety of opinions on this topic, even among experts. Below is a compilation of some current recommendations, but experiment and see what works best for you.
- Fine or oily hair – About 2-4 times a week or about every other day.
- Medium to coarse hair – About every 3-7 days.
- Coarse and textured hair – Once a week, or even once every other week.
How to Wash Hair
It may seem like a no-brainer, but there are a few tips when it comes to washing hair.
Experts recommend focusing on the scalp when applying shampoo. When it comes to conditioner, avoid applying too much to the scalp and instead focus on hair ends. The cleansing properties of the shampoo will get to the scalp where the most oil buildup is, and the conditioner will moisturize the ends where oil is less likely to reach.
It’s also important to choose shampoo and conditioner that work well with your hair type. Extra shine-boosting shampoo isn’t necessary or helpful for oily hair. That’s why we have both normal and extra moisturizing shampoo and conditioner sets over at Wellnesse.
An apple cider vinegar rinse can help to clarify hair and cleanse the scalp. Deep oil treatments on hair ends help provide extra moisture, prevent split ends, and add shine. Coconut oil or olive oil are good options for this. Simply massage a generous layer of oil into hair ends and wash out after about an hour.
Washing Hair Less Helps:
- Restore shine because we’re not stripping the oils all the time.
- Prevent split ends and breakage. If you blow-dry or use heat tools, the more often you wash the more often you’re using them and doing damage to hair and scalp.
- Save money and time.
- Give hair more body and makes it easier to style.
- Scalp to not be as dry and over time hair will be less greasy.
Making It Practical
There are a few ways to make it easier to stretch out shampoo sessions.
- It’s best to avoid conventional hair care products, perms and straighteners, hair dye, and any other chemicals that damage hair. The less we put into our hair, the less it will need washed.
- You can also scrub the scalp and rinse hair with water in between shampooing and conditioning.
- A boar bristle brush helps to evenly distribute hair oils, which protects hair and gives it natural shine.
- Eating a nutrient-dense diet and avoiding processed foods help the scalp and hair to stay its healthiest.
Or my favorite way to stretch out the time between washes:
Modern mom life is usually hectic and hair care can be difficult to fit in. Enter dry shampoo. Unlike regular shampoo, it doesn’t contain any soap and doesn’t clean hair the same way. Dry shampoo is more of a refresh that helps extend the length between washes.
I know a lot of moms who would sooner be without their coffee than their dry shampoo! Make your own using this easy at-home recipe, or try my all-natural dry shampoo for all hair types from Wellnesse.
This article was medically reviewed by Jessica Meyers, MPAP, PA-C, RH(AHG), who specializes in herbal protocols and functional medicine. You can also find Jessica on Instagram. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.
How often do you wash your hair? Leave us a comment and let us know!
- Cleveland Clinic. (2018, August). The Dirty Truth About Washing Your Hair.
- Puccetti, G., & Kulcsar, L. (2020). Hair surface quality: Laser scattering as a tool for characterizing the surface condition and deposits from shampoos and conditioners. International Journal of Cosmetic Science, 42(1), 89–98.
- Punyani, S., Tosti, A., Hordinsky, M., Yeomans, D., & Schwartz, J. (2021). The Impact of Shampoo Wash Frequency on Scalp and Hair Conditions. Skin appendage disorders, 7(3), 183–193.
- Rubell, Ashley. (2021, May). Asking For a Friend… How Often Should I Be Washing My Hair? Byrdie.