How Often Should You Wash Your Hair? A Pro Tells All.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Washing your hair is one of life's most pedestrian tasks, one that you'd think most people would know how to do as adults. But if you're lathering up your hair in the shower every morning, then heads up: you're probably doing it wrong. So how often should you wash your hair?
We talked to San Francisco hairstylist Kristina Louise Welzien about how to wash your hair properly, from how long you should wait between washes to how you should go about sudsing while you're in the shower.
How Often Should You Wash Your Hair?
Fine Hair (Gets Oily After a Day)
Thick Hair (Gets Oily After a Few Days)
Coarse Hair (Gets Oily After a Few Weeks)
|WHEN TO WASH YOUR HAIR||
Every 2–3 days
Every 4–7 days
Every 2–4 weeks
Not quite what you were expecting? Kristina explains why certain hair types can go longer than others.
If your hair gets oily quickly...wash every 2–3 days.
If your hair gets oily quickly, you probably have fine hair. It's not that your scalp produces more oil, it's that your fine hair covers less surface area than thick hair, so there's less hair to absorb the oil. Often, your roots will look greasy after about a day, though your ends will look normal or even a little dry—usually the case if you have long hair.
"That's the most common scenario, that the ends of the hair are typically much drier [than the roots] and therefore they need special care," Kristina says. "But at the same time, people want that fresh, clean feeling at the scalp."
So how often should you wash your hair if you want an oil-free scalp but don't want to dry out your ends? About every 2–3 days.
Going two or (gulp) three days between washing your hair may be scary, but you shouldn't lather up at the first sign of oil because that oil is very beneficial for your hair.
"There's not a hair mask or deep conditioner on the market that is as great as our own natural oil," Kristina says. Plus, she adds, "if we use anything that's too astringent or too cleansing and we use it too often, it can actually have a reverse effect where [hair] can get very dried out. This can actually produce more oil in the long run. Then you have this combination of really dry and really oily together, which are two characteristics that are really hard to battle at the same time."
That's why it's key to shampoo every other day at the most.
Tips for Washing Fine Hair Like a Pro
1. Use shampoo only on your scalp: You don't generally need to pull shampoo through your entire head of hair because as the lather rinses down, that'll be enough to cleanse the length. If you pile on a lot of products while styling, you may want to shampoo your whole head about every other week to get rid of product buildup.
2. Make sure you really massage shampoo into the scalp: getting in there with your fingers helps scrub away the oil.
3. Use conditioner only on the midshaft down: "[Not putting conditioner on the top of your head] will support the scalp from becoming oily throughout the day," Kristina explains. Pick a formula that supports curls or color if necessary.
Pro Tip: Choose products formulated for your hair type to ensure your hair looks its best.
If your hair gets oily gradually...wash every 4–7 days (thick hair) or every 2–3 weeks (natural hair).
If your hair takes days or even weeks to get oily, you probably have thick hair to coarse hair. This means you only have to wash every 4–7 days for thick hair and about every 2–3 weeks for highly textured natural hair.
Those with the coarsest coils should "maybe shampoo once a month as a nice way to clarify the scalp from buildup of product," Kristina says. "Otherwise, there's really no shampooing that's going on, and it's all about the conditioning of the scalp and hair."
Some women with highly textured hair participate in water-only hair washing, which means that they avoid shampoo and conditioner entirely. Instead, they massage warm water into their scalps after taking care to move the oil from their scalp down into their hair with their fingers.
Want to go shampoo-free? Here's what happened when two of our writers went without shampoo for a month.
Tips for Washing Thick Hair Like a Pro
1. Use shampoo only on your scalp: thick hair tends to be even drier on the ends than fine hair, so avoid shampooing from the midshaft down.
2. Definitely apply conditioner through the length of the hair: "From the ponytail down, that hair's been around for a while, so it always needs conditioning," Kristina says.
3. Shampoo only once a month or just use conditioner if you have really coarse hair: If you're feeling too greasy, throw in an apple cider vinegar rinse once in a while. It dissolves oil and helps balance hair's pH levels. If you dye your hair, check with your stylist first to see if it's safe to use on your particular color.
Pro Tip: Need more help dealing with your thick curls? In our curly hair tips article, two editors talk about what hair washing and styling routines have worked for their curl types.
How All Hair Types Should Wash Their Hair
No matter what hair type you have, try using shampoo only on your scalp to avoid drying out the rest of your hair. Use hydrating conditioner on the middle and ends.
Don't forget the dry shampoo.
To keep from looking like an extra in the musical Grease, you'll probably want to spritz your hair with dry shampoo on oily days. Dry shampoo sops up oil and keeps your hair smelling fresh. If you have natural hair, you may not need it unless you have a press and haven't had time to go to the salon.
Need some extra help disguising oily roots? Read "Eight Hairstyles for Dirty Hair That Can Be Done in Five Minutes."
This article was originally written by staff writer Kelly MacDowell and has since been updated.