Wondering how often you need to wash your hair? Two hairstylists break the complicated question down, according to hair types and concerns, below.
Everyone has that friend who brags about how they can go on for days without washing their hair. They’ll likely tell you that a spritz of dry shampoo on their scalp does just the trick. Meanwhile, you may be trying to wrap your head around how that’s even remotely possible. Or you may be asking yourself “Is it bad to wash your hair every day?” What if your roots get greasy after one day? (You’re not alone). And how often should you wash your hair if you work out? It turns out that pretty much every hair type out there—yes, all of them—can go a day or more without washing, while still being nice and clean. We spoke to two hairstylists to understand exactly how often you should wash your hair based on your hair type and concerns—along with tips on how to properly shampoo your hair.
Should You Wash Your Hair Every Day?
Believe it or not, it is possible to over-wash and under-wash your hair, which is why finding a middle ground is key to keeping your hair and scalp happy and healthy. Jenna Spino, a hairstylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago, says over-washing tends to lead to dryness. “It can cause more frizz and less shine,” she explains. On the other hand, failing to wash your hair on a regular basis can also have its downsides for both your scalp and hair. “Buildup of sebum, oils, and dead skin can clog your hair follicles, which can lead to some hair loss,” Spino says.
How Often Should You Wash Your Hair?
Since washing your hair too much or not enough can lead to problems, it’s important to find out exactly how often you should be washing your hair. Here’s the deal: Every hair type and concern has a different answer. While some hair types can get away with washing their hair every three days, others may need to shampoo more often. And with people on social media going four to five days without washing, you may be asking yourself, “Is it bad to wash your hair every day?” Not necessarily. For some, washing your tresses might be the best way to keep your scalp happy and healthy. It all depends on your unique hair type. Read on to find out how often you should wash your hair, according to experts.
Curly, Coily, or Thick Hair
If you’re wondering how often you should wash your hair if you have curly or thick hair, you’re in luck: you don’t have to wash your hair as often as those with straight or fine hair.
Those with curly and coily hair should aim for once a week, according to Shelley Aguirre, hairstylist at Maxine Salon. That’s because curly hair tends to be drier than other hair types, so overwashing your coils can lead to frizz, dullness, and damage. Pro tip: Make sure you add extra moisture back to your strands on wash day—whether through a deep conditioner or a hydrating hair mask.
If you have thick hair, try washing it every three days. Since your hair is so luscious, oil won’t be as obvious. However, you don’t want to run the risk of unwelcome buildup. If you use products to extend the time in between showers (no shame), make sure you try a scalp detox every four weeks or so to break down leftover product, dirt, oil, and sweat.
Straight or Fine Hair
Straight and fine hair types, according to Spino, will have to devote more time to washing their hair on a weekly basis than those without texture and thickness. “People with fine hair will also probably have to wash more frequently than people with thick hair because the oils can spread easier, making it look greasy faster,” she explains. Ultimately, she believes your hair washing schedule primarily depends on your lifestyle. Looking for a place to start? Try washing your fine hair every other day, says Aguirre.
Dealing with damaged hair? You still need to be shampooing. For those experiencing any sort of hair damage, Bethel says washing your hair every three days or so would suffice. It’s important to give your hair a rest from washing in order to preserve its natural oils. However, she says damaged hair also needs to soak up all the moisture from all the extra moisturizing treatments you can give once wash day comes back around. Focus the shampoo on your scalp and make sure you spend extra time adding some conditioning treatments to the bottom part of your hair.
If You Have Dandruff
Given that it’s already irritated, extra diligence must be observed when washing a dandruff-filled scalp. That being said, Nashville-based celebrity hairstylist Carly Bethel recommends using a gentle shampoo on a dandruff-stricken scalp “either every day or every other day to help remove some of that oil build-up.” On the days you’re not using the gentle shampoo, consider using a medicated shampoo to clear up those flakes. Dandruff is primarily caused by an overgrowth of yeast on the scalp, which is why an antifungal shampoo is key. Look for products like Nizoral shampoo (which contains ketoconazole), Selsun Blue (which contains selenium sulfide), or Head and Shoulders (which contains zinc pyrithione). Massage onto wet hair and make sure you let it sit on your scalp for a little to ensure the active ingredients can get to work. Another tip? Try giving your scalp a detox by scrubbing away any flakes or dead skin to keep the skin as clean as possible.
If You Have A Protective Style
When it comes to protective styles, wash day can be a lot of work (think: heavy, wet braids). To help avoid any unnecessary hassle (and to keep the protective hairstyle intact), keep the hair washing to a minimum. Bethel recommends giving your hair a wash day once every two weeks. “This way you can avoid any extra scalp build-up.” In the interim, consider using scalp rinses (you can make your own with apple cider vinegar or you can buy ones from the store, like Sunday II Sunday’s Root Refresh Micellar Rinse).
If You Work Out A Lot
So, how often should you wash your hair if you work out often? Between boosting overall health and boosting your immune system, the benefits of regular exercise are practically endless. Still, there’s one drawback: All that sweat can leave your hair feeling a bit, er, funky. But getting on a proper wash schedule can help massively. Gym rats and fitness buffs that are all about breaking a major sweat when working out should wash their hair every other day to every three days, Bethel says. “This way you’re not overwashing it.” Our advice? Spray some dry shampoo onto your roots before you start working out, so the product can absorb sweat as it appears, keeping your scalp a little cleaner.
If You Have Oily Hair
You may think oily hair needs to be shampooed every day to keep it clean, but that’s far from how often you actually need to wash your hair. “People with oily hair need to wash their hair one to two days [a week] with a gentle cleanser to avoid oil buildup,” says Bethel. Overwashing oily hair will only strip the scalp of its natural oils more and cause increased oil production. If you have greasy hair, Bethel recommends trying to extend the days in between wash days as much as you can and using a dry shampoo to curb oil production at the roots.
How Much Shampoo to Use When Washing Your Hair
Generally speaking, Spino says that a quarter size amount of shampoo works best, but some hair types (like thicker or longer ones) need more than others. “Shorter, finer hair [needs] about a nickel, and thick, long hair [needs] about a half dollar,” she explains. Whatever amount you use, make sure you rinse it out thoroughly so there’s no residue left behind.
Hair Wash Day Tips
Wash frequency is certainly the most important factor for maintaining a healthy scalp and hair, but there are a few other things to keep in mind in order to make the most out of washing your hair.
- Avoid using your nails.
Wash your hair with the pads of your fingers instead of your nails, advises Bethel. Using your nails tends to aggravate the scalp, whereas using the pads of your fingers helps to achieve a good, gentle wash.
- Double cleanse.
“If you’ve used a lot of products since the last time you shampooed, or your hair is oily, you may need to shampoo two times,” says Aguirre. Massage for one to two minutes, and then rinse the product out.
- Suds your scalp.
“Try not to suds up the ends quite as much,” Spino says. “Your scalp is skin, [which is] where the oils come from. [That’s where] dead skin cells will build.” If you’re washing your hair properly, she says you’ll notice that ”the shampoo will trickle down on its own to give your ends the lather it needs.”
- Warm it up.
Another factor to pay attention to on shampoo days is your shower’s water temperature. Bethel says hair should never be washed with hot water since it can dry out both the hair and scalp. Instead, use warm water. At the end, try a cool rinse. “Cool water helps close the cuticles for extra shine,” she adds.
Use these hair washing techniques and you’ll be set up for a lifetime of happy, healthy hair.
What to do on Non-Hair Wash Days
Dry shampoo can extend the time between wash days, but that doesn’t mean you should abandon washing your hair altogether. Bethel finds that one’s hair texture primarily plays a role in dry shampoo compatibility and longevity. If you’re regularly using dry shampoo, she says most people can get by either three or four days without washing their hair. Exfoliating your scalp on wash day is key here, as dry shampoo can accumulate on the scalp over time and cause irritation, itching, breakouts, and clogged hair follicles, which can lead to stunted hair growth.