If you ask the five individuals closest to you how often they wash their hair, you’ll probably hear five different replies. Hair routines aren’t one-size-fits-all, especially when it comes to basic measures like washing.
While professionals provide broad suggestions regarding how frequently a person should wash their hair, several factors such as hair type, styling habits, and lifestyle can all contribute to why that frequency may not be the same for everyone.
Experts explain how to find your sweet spot when it comes to how frequently you should suds up your strands.
How Frequently Should You Shampoo Your Hair?
From scalp toners to dry shampoos, there’s no shortage of products designed to help you go longer between washes. After all, over-sudsing your strands (aka over-washing them) can dry up your hair and scalp.
The same compounds in shampoo that remove product buildup and grime may also take away your natural oils, leaving your hair brittle and prone to breakage and your scalp dry and flaky.
However, if you detect excess oil or product build-up on your scalp, or itching, it’s time to wash your hair, according to Anabel Kingsley, brand president and consultant trichologist for Philip Kingsley.
Otherwise, how frequently you should wash your hair — and scalp — will be determined mostly by your hair type, according to Kingsley. However, some lifestyle variables may also influence your shampooing frequency.
For example, if you exercise frequently and break a lot of sweat (you go, Glen Coco! ), you might be tempted to wash after every session. And, while you should do what makes you feel the best at the end of the day, according to the Cleveland Clinic, you don’t need to wash your hair after your daily workout – no matter how hard your routine.
On the other hand, if you color your hair, you should wash it less regularly because washing loses the color.
All of this being said, the key determinant of your wash frequency is, as previously said, your hair type. Following that, Kingsley lays out how frequently you should wash your hair dependent on the length of your strands. (Are you unsure about your strands?
In case you didn’t know, your scalp is covered with hair follicles, each of which is connected to a sebaceous gland, which generates oil (or sebum), which moisturizes your locks. “There’s more area on your head for more follicles when you have finer hair,” Kingsley has stated. Because each follicle is connected to an oil gland, more follicles = more sebum glands and, as you might expect, more oil.
As a result, persons with fine hair should wash their hair every two to three days (if not daily) to prevent sebum buildup on the scalp and strands, which, along with product buildup, can lead to concerns like scalp acne and hair loss.
Hair that is thick
Because there is less capacity for lots of follicles and consequently oil-producing glands, thicker hair types do not get weighted down by oil as soon as finer hair kinds.
And, when it comes to how frequently you should wash your hair, this may be a plus — especially for thicker-haired people who don’t appreciate (or are too rushed for) the lather-rinse-repeat process as much as Ethan Craft. If this is you, Kingsley recommends washing your hair at least once or twice a week to keep your head clean.
Textures for Coarse Hair
If you have coarse or curly hair, you may be able to get away with washing once a week, but you’ll be more likely to develop scalp concerns like dandruff, according to Kingsley. (This is due to the previously described oil buildup, which may also feed dandruff-causing yeast.)
If you start getting itching or those irritating white flakes, she recommends washing every three days. Although your hair may not become greasy as fast as fine, straight strands, cleaning is still important for preventing build-up, particularly of styling chemicals, which can block hair follicles, thereby limiting hair development.
Those with coarser hair textures may be tempted to co-wash — or wash just with conditioner — their hair entirely or in between shampooing.
Crystle Jones-Bond, a licensed cosmetologist at Classic Care Boutique, recommends co-washing to revitalize curls between washes, not as an alternative for shampooing. (Use a refresh spray or cream-based style product to keep curls hydrated between washes.)
According to Jones-Bond, co-washing is unlikely to achieve the same level of cleanliness as shampoo. This is due to the fact that the cleaning elements present in shampoos are more potent than those found in conditioners.
Should You Use Sulfate-Free Shampoo When You Do Wash?
If you’ve done any research on how often to wash your hair, you’ve definitely come across the contentious issue of sulfates and whether sulfate-free shampoos are a better choice for your strands.
Sulfates, which are surfactants or detergents used to eliminate debris and oil buildup, have a terrible reputation for being hair drying agents and carcinogens that should be avoided. (However, Medical News Today points out that there is no scientific evidence to support the latter.)
However, Kingsley claims that sulfates are harmless and effective in breaking down any gunk on the scalp that may be clogging your hair follicles.
“Just because a formula is sulfate-free doesn’t automatically imply it’s better,” Kingsley adds. “There are also many different types of sulfates, ranging from highly drying to considerably softer.” Shampoos containing sulfates are generally safe as long as you follow the washing instructions provided by the experts here and take care of your hair otherwise.
While many trichologists, including Kingsley, prescribe sulfates, if you have rosacea or eczema, it’s definitely preferable to speak with a dermatologist who can make recommendations based on your unique requirements.
(Sulfates are a typical rosacea trigger, and because the washing agent can be drying, they can aggravate eczema symptoms.) Sulfate-free solutions may also be preferred by individuals with curly or keratin-treated hair since their strands need moisture and such treatments are frequently less drying — and the same is true for those with color-treated hair, as sulfates can strip away color.
Some individuals who warn against sulfates also recommend washing your hair less frequently to avoid diminishing your scalp’s natural oils.
Some say that washing your hair less frequently might “teach” your scalp to cease creating more oil. However, according to Kingsley, this is not entirely correct.
“Regardless of how often you shampoo, the sebaceous (oil) glands associated to each of your hair follicles continually create oils that coat your hair,” she explains. “Frequent washing removes old, bacteria-laden oil from your hair,” Kinglsey adds. “This prevents too much oil from accumulating and gathering dirt and particles.”