How long do you leave your hair before washing it?
Well, there is a corner of TikTok that leave a seriously long time between washes, instead focusing on styling unwashed manes, with hashtags such as ‘dirty hair’ racking up 169.1m views and ‘dirty hairstyle’ getting 19.7m.
But is it actually – as TikTok may have you believe – good for your tresses?
What happens to our hair when we don’t wash it regularly?
Whether you fall into the ‘can’t stand it greasy’ camp, or are more pro ‘leaving it and styling it for 17 days’, you may be wondering what happens when you leave your locks unwashed for days on end.
“Some people believe longer gaps between washes can make their hair healthier,” says Tom Smith (bytom.co.uk), stylist and hair trend forecaster – but this may not necessarily be the case.
“I don’t believe there are any scientific links between allowing your hair or scalp to get dirtier, but I think people notice this as less washing often means less heat styling and wear and tear, which can improve the long-term quality of hair.”
What is important is keeping your scalp clean.
“While the hair itself doesn’t need to be washed every day, the scalp should be respected, like the rest of your skin, and washing it daily, assuming the use of compatible products, should never cause an issue,” suggests Smith.
So washing your hair isn’t going to damage it?
No, says Inanch Emir (inanch.com), stylist to the stars.
“It is basically a load of rubbish, it’s an old wives’ tale to avoid washing your hair every day. It isn’t damaging, it is what we do after that damages hair. Washing regularly and air drying will look after the scalp and help hair to grow better,” she explains.
“If your hair is getting polluted regularly, the pores on your scalp will be clogged up. Not washing your hair, for, say, 17 days, will allow layers of dirt to sit on your skin and scalp. This makes it thinner and more brittle, meaning it gets damaged more easily.”
In fact, contrary to popular belief, “You cannot ‘train’ your hair to clean itself – this is a myth”, says Smith.
How long should we leave between washes?
You may then be wondering how often you should wash your mane.
It is personal, says Smith. “Every hair type varies, but daily washing is totally fine for those with uncoloured hair, who keep heat styling to a minimum. Those with heavily colour-processed hair, and who prefer lots of heat styling, can help locks stay healthier for longer by reducing the frequency of washes.”
It depends on lifestyle too.
“For some, daily shampooing will be the only way to keep itchiness or flakiness at bay, while others can happily go a week without shampooing. The amount you workout and perspire, as well as the amount of product you use, will determine how often you need to wash your hair. While dry shampoo can achieve a cosmetically ‘cleaner’ result, a proper shampoo and condition is essential to keep your scalp and follicles happy,” Smith says.
Some stylists want to see the natural state of your hair, so you may want to leave it unwashed for a few days before visiting the salon.
“I can see when someone has a clean scalp, so we ask clients to come with hair washed two days before, so we can see what your hair naturally produces. That way we can see what is causing any dandruff or oil issues,” says Emir.
Should I use dry shampoo?
“Dry shampoo was created for those not wanting to wash hair every day, it should not replace shampooing. It is meant to extend hair washing by a day,” Emir explains.