When it comes to caring for your hair, sticking to a wash routine is pretty common. For some people, it’s once a day. Others, however, opt for anywhere from once to twice a week. But could you be washing your hair too often—or worse, not often enough?
We asked experts to weigh in on the best hair washing frequency to make sure your strands look and feel their best.
How often to shampoo based on hair type
Your hair type plays a big role in how often you should wash your hair. But rather than just sticking to a strict schedule, you should let your scalp and hair tell you what they need, says Philip B, a scalp expert and founder of Philip B Hair Care. “Signs that you need to wash include itching, flaking, product buildup, greasy strands, or naturally any unpleasant smells,” he says.
Michael Dueñas, a celebrity hairstylist and the founder of Veluer Creative, recommends that people with fine, straight strands (type 1) wash their hair two to three times every week to help combat oil buildup. Since there’s less surface area for oil to gravitate to on the scalp, those with fine strands tend to experience a greasier feel quicker throughout the week, he says.
Wavy to curly hair
Those with wavy to curly hair have type 2 or type 3 strands, which are bendable “S” shape curls and buoyant loop curl patterns. This hair type requires more oil on the scalp to keep strands hydrated, so Dueñas recommends washing about once a week, possibly twice, at most.
Coily textures have type 4 hair classification, which includes 4A, 4B, and 4C. 4A has an “S” or ringlet pattern, 4B is a tighter coil with a less defined curl, and 4C is a zig-zag pattern. If you have a coily texture, sticking to weekly washes is best. Washing too frequently can strip this more fragile hair type of oils needed to keep the strands hydrated, says Jasmine Rilington, a hairstylist, licensed cosmetologist, and the founder of The Glam Room.
Shampooing once a week with the right products can allow the nutrients used on hair to absorb into the scalp. “If your curls are dry, you will need to use a moisturizing shampoo and conditioner,” Rilington adds.
The impact of over-washing
So, how often is too often to shampoo? The hair experts we spoke to all agree that washing your hair every day is excessive. “Your hair needs those oils to stay hydrated,” says Dueñas. “If you feel the need to wash every day due to working out, I recommend mixing shampoo and conditioner in one while washing, as this helps impart more hydration into the hair and makes the shampoo gentler.”
One common side effect of over-washing is loss of shine since your hair is being stripped of its national oils, says Rilington. This is especially true if you have colour-treated hair and your product does not protect colour and the keratin protein, says Philip B.
When you wash your hair too much, it can disrupt the balance, scalp microbiome, and pH, says Philip B. The result? Your hair will be left with a straw-like feel and your scalp will feel dry, inflamed, and irritated. “The sebum, our natural scalp and hair food, is the oil produced by the scalp,” he says, adding that it provides moisture and smooths the strands. “Washing too much away leads to imbalance and that can lead to a tight, dry scalp and dry, coarse strands prone to breakage.”
Dueñas adds that if you have an overactive, oily scalp, over-washing your hair can make it even oiler. Plus, hair can grow limp and struggle to hold a style. If your hair begins to become desensitized, Clariss Rubenstein, a celebrity hairstylist with MONAT, recommends using a thickening shampoo or conditioner, like the MONAT IR Clinical Thickening Shampoo and MONAT IR Clinical Thickening Conditioner, to help it regain its strength and fullness.
The impact of under-washing
While deciding how long to go without washing your hair really depends on you as an individual, Dueñas says that once you start to see oil buildup on your scalp and your strands start getting flatter, it’s likely time for a wash. “Once you have buildup on the scalp, you need to detoxify it to remove excess sebum and dirt,” he says.
Like washing your face and body, you will avoid skin concerns on your scalp by washing your hair. “If you wash very infrequently, [oil] could start to build up in layers, which can plug scalp follicles, cause hair loss, and [stimulate] acne on the scalp,” says Dueñas.
Philip B notes that not washing your hair can also cause psoriasis, alopecia, and dandruff. “Cleansing is also great for circulation, scalp stimulation, oxygenation, relaxation, and de-stressing the tresses to make it a ritual that works for you—not a cleaning ‘chore,'” he says.
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