How often should you *really* wash your hair?
By Chelsea Tromans
Beauty Crew Contributing Editor / July 31 2023
One wash cycle does not fit all
By Chelsea Tromans
Beauty Crew Contributing Editor / July 31 2023
Washing your hair. It’s a part of everyday life for some and a weekly hassle for others. And everyone is always certain that their way is the right way.
So how often should you wash your hair? Is it bad to wash your hair every day? What happens if you don’t wash your hair regularly enough? We need answers, and we're guessing you do too.
Well, a trichologist is a pretty good place to start. They are dermatologists who have expertise in hair and scalp health, and this is the kind of issue they discuss with their clients every single day. Because it’s not a stupid question; rather, it’s a pretty important one.
But since you probably don’t have a trichologist on speed dial, we reached out to one on your behalf. Together with trichologist Carolyn Evans-Frost at Absolique Hair Health Clinic in Brisbane, we're sharing all the answers to your top questions about when to lather and rinse (and how many days later to repeat)...
How often should I wash my hair?
Sadly, there’s no one answer for this, although the best rule of thumb is no more than two to three times a week. "It really depends on individual circumstances,” explains Evans-Frost. “We all have a hair type and scalp type, just like our skin type,” she adds, which she notes are the two main factors that will determine how often you should wash your hair.
While nobody wants oily roots, it’s important to realise that some oil is essential for keeping your hair healthy. Your scalp naturally produces an oily substance known as sebum (yep, just like your skin), which travels down the hair and nourishes it. By over-washing your hair, you are stripping the strands of oils (leaving them dry and brittle) as well as triggering your scalp to produce more oil to compensate. The result? Oily roots and dry ends; a double negative.
As a guide, this is how often you should wash your hair, according to your scalp type and hair type and length:
For a dry scalp: A dry scalp can lead to dry hair as there’s not enough oil being produced to hydrate strands. Try to stretch out how often you wash your hair as you need to give those natural oils a chance to reach and hydrate your parched lengths. Once to twice a week is ideal.
For an oily scalp: An oily scalp can result in oily hair (as well as dandruff), so it’s likely you’ll need to wash your hair every other day, although we recommend trialling every third day to help encourage your scalp’s natural oil production to normalise.
For curly hair: You should wash curly hair about once a week. Due to the texture of curly hair, hair oils take longer to travel down each strand, so waiting longer between washes will ensure your hair gets all the nutrients it needs from those oils from roots to ends.
For straight hair: Straight hair is prone to getting oilier faster than curly hair, so you will likely find you need to wash your hair every second or third day.
For thick hair: Thick hair, like curly hair, needs longer between washes to allow sebum time to make its way down the entire hair. Aim for washing your thick hair every three days or more.
For fine hair: If you have fine hair, you’ll know that it’s prone to getting greasy pretty quickly. Wash your hair every other day and avoid applying too many styling products as they tend to make matters worse.
For short hair: Given your lack of length, it’s not going to take long for your hair to start looking greasy. Your hair is relatively young and unlikely to be damaged already, so an every other day shampoo shouldn't be too harsh.
For long hair: Long hair is likely to be more damaged, so you need every last drop of nourishing sebum you can get. For this reason, try to stretch your washes out to just a couple of times a week (or just a sole weekly wash if you can handle it).
Is it bad to wash your hair every day?
While there are conflicting opinions over this, the general consensus among experts is that washing your hair daily is not a good idea. “Washing too often and with the wrong products for your scalp and hair can dry the hair and scalp and may cause over-stimulation and even irritation, particularly with some harsh anti-dandruff products,” explains Evans-Frost. Washing your hair every day also subjects your hair to more heat damage, be it from your shower or your styling tools. Hot tip: drying your hair first with a microfibre towel to reduce your blow-drying time and subsequent heat damage. We love the HER HEIR Head Towel Original ($30 at HER HEIR).
What if I already wash my hair every day?
Stretching out your hair-washing routine will benefit your hair in the long run, so we definitely recommend giving it a go. But be warned, you may have to suffer through some oily hair days before you see the light at the end of the tunnel. Your scalp will be used to producing a certain amount of sebum to compensate for your daily washing, but give it time and it will sort itself out. And hey, there’s always dry shampoo to help you get by in the meantime.
What happens if I don’t wash my hair enough?
“This can cause other types of problems such as oil blocks in the hair follicle, scalp scale build-up, scalp irritation and itchy scalp. There are a lot of environmental influences these days that require us to wash the scalp and hair more often than our ancestors. These may include pollution, dirt and grime," Evans-Frost explains. “Some people can get away with washing their scalp and hair once a week and everything is fine, but for others this would cause all sorts of problems”. As a rule of thumb, you should be washing your hair at least once a week.
We double cleanse our skin, so should we do the same for our hair?
Yep, there’s a good chance your hair could benefit from a double shampoo, especially if you regularly use styling products (including dry shampoo). The first shampoo wash will help remove build-up of all those products (a clarifying shampoo is great for this step), while the second wash can actually work on cleaning your hair - for this shampoo, opt for a formula that’s suited to your hair’s needs, such as a hydrating shampoo for dry hair, a repairing shampoo for damaged hair, or a deep cleaning shampoo for oily hair. We like Pureology Hydrate Shampoo ($44.50 at Adore Beauty), Oribe Gold Lust Repair & Restore Shampoo ($72 at Adore Beauty) and R+Co Oblivion Clarifying Shampoo ($41 at Adore Beauty) respectively.