How Often Do I Need to Shampoo?


It's possible that you've heard that reducing shampoo use is better for your hair. Or maybe you're considering abandoning shampoo and joining the "no 'poo" trend for a healthier and more attractive hair appearance.

Experts state that there's no one definitive answer to the frequency of shampooing. You might not need to shampoo as frequently as you believe. The frequency mostly depends on your personal preference. To determine the right frequency, consider your hair type and styling options.

"I have always maintained that it's okay to skip shampooing for a couple of days," says Alli Webb, a professional hair stylist and the founder of Drybar. "For hair that is average in terms of oiliness and medium in texture, I often advise my clients to go without shampooing for as long as they can."

The reasoning behind this is that excessive shampooing can lead to lackluster hair.

Oil isn’t all bad

photo: Orami

Oily hair is often seen as a negative, but the sebum produced by the scalp is essential for healthy and shiny hair. Contrary to what is portrayed in shampoo advertisements, frequent washing of the hair can actually cause it to appear dull and be difficult to style. When hair lacks this natural oil, it can become rough and lack luster.

In America, there is a strong cultural emphasis on cleanliness, leading many to wash their hair daily with harsh shampoos. This excessive cleaning can cause damage to the hair, leading to dryness. However, there is a growing trend of avoiding shampoo or using gentler cleansing conditioners that do not contain harsh detergents. This movement, known as "no poo," promotes hair care without shampoo and encourages the use of alternative products or just water to balance the hair's natural oils.

There might be some truth to it. It is not necessary for most people to wash their hair daily or even every other day. The frequency of washing your hair depends on several factors. According to Seattle-based dermatologist Elizabeth Hughes, the general rule of thumb is to wash your hair when it becomes oily and feels unclean to the touch.

How Shampoo Works


To start with, let's cover the basics: what is the purpose of shampoo?

Shampoo captures oils, so if you shampoo too often, it can dehydrate your hair, making it more susceptible to breakage, says Angela Lamb, MD, an assistant professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

"Hair produces a natural oil called sebum, and shampoo acts as an emulsifier that captures and removes any excess oil, dirt, and product buildup, which you then wash out to cleanse the hair," Lamb explains.

It's okay to have some dirt and natural oils in your hair, as they play an important role in moisturizing and protecting the skin and hair. "They serve as a moisturizing and protective barrier," says Carolyn Goh, MD, assistant clinical professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

Who Should Shampoo Daily?


According to the experts, only a limited number of people need to shampoo daily, such as individuals with very fine hair, those who engage in intense physical activities (and sweat excessively), or those living in humid climates, Goh explains.

"If you have an oily scalp, then daily washing is necessary," she explains. "People may think they have a dry scalp when they have dandruff, but in such cases, more frequent washing can also be beneficial."

Who Can Avoid Washing for a Few Days? 

The more voluminous and less oily your hair is, the less frequently you need to shampoo.

"People with dry hair or curly hair can wash much less frequently without experiencing any issues," Goh says.

How Often Should You Wash? 


For the average person, not washing for every other day or every 2 to 3 days is typically sufficient.

"There is no universal guideline. If your hair is visibly greasy, your scalp is itching, or there is flaking due to dirt, those are signs that it's time to shampoo," Goh says.

There are various factors that can increase the frequency of washing your hair:

- Oil: Oil production is the main cause of "dirty" hair and can lead to limp and clumped hair. The amount of oil produced varies based on age, genetics, gender, and the environment. Children and older adults produce less sebum compared to teenagers and adults in their 20s and 30s. The production of oil may decrease as one ages, resulting in a drier scalp.

According to Hughes, the frequency of washing hair can vary greatly from person to person. Some individuals with delicate hair that is easily damaged by washing may only need to wash their hair every other week. On the other hand, some people produce enough oil to require daily washing, but they are not the norm, and most people only need to wash every couple of days.

- Type of Hair: Different types of hair have different washing needs. Straight and thin hair tends to get greasy faster and thus needs to be washed more frequently. On the other hand, thick, wavy or curly hair tends to be dry as the oil doesn't coat the strands as easily. For these hair types, sebum is important to maintain soft and defined curls, as they need more moisture.

African-American hair needs the least washing. Overwashing, especially with harsh shampoos, can cause damage and hair loss, especially when combined with chemical treatments or tight hairstyles. People with tight curls or textured hair should limit washing to once a week or every other week, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

- Sweat: Sweating during exercise can impact the appearance and freshness of your hair. The amount of sweat you produce affects how often you need to wash or rinse your hair. Sweat can mix with sebum and make your hair look and feel dirty, as well as causing an unpleasant odor. Hughes suggests shampooing after a sweaty workout or any time you wear a hat or helmet for extended periods.

- Physical dirt or pollen: Physical activities such as gardening or cleaning can also require a wash due to dirt, dust, and pollen that can become trapped in the hair. These can not only make your hair look dull, but also worsen allergies.

- Styling products: Styling products, such as creams and sprays, can build up on the hair and scalp and cause irritation and damage. Heavy or frequent use of these products may require more frequent washing of the hair.

How Long Is Too Long?

If you have styled your hair, you may be able to go longer without shampooing.

"If you're doing a blowout or using heat-styling tools, I emphasize the importance of starting with super clean hair," Webb says. "This way, your hair will maintain its style for a longer period of time, look better, and you'll need to use stressors like heat less often overall."

Lamb agrees that the frequency of shampooing depends on various factors such as cultural practices, natural hair texture and thickness, sweating and exercise, and styling.

"If your hair has undergone a keratin treatment or you have a blowout, you may choose to shampoo no more than once a week to reduce stress on your hair," she says.

Ultimately, you should go with what feels comfortable for you, but Lamb advises against going longer than two weeks without shampooing.

Goh, from a medical perspective, says some of her patients only shampoo once a week and as long as they don't have any scalp issues, she doesn't advise them to do it more frequently.

Read More: Reasons your hair is falling out

How to Go Longer Between Washes


With the growing trend of the "no 'poo" movement, the number of products designed to extend the time between washes has increased. People are also coming up with new ways to keep their hair looking fresh and healthy.

Lamb suggests using powders that absorb oil to reduce the amount of oil sitting on the scalp. Additionally, leave-in conditioners or "co-pooing" (using conditioner instead of shampoo) can help maintain the health and appearance of the hair.

For the most part, it comes down to personal preference in regards to how clean one wants their hair to be.

"Everyone has a different threshold for the level of oiliness or texture they desire in their hair," Webb explains. "I tell people, sweat is like salt, it adds texture, which can be natural and beautiful. That's where dry shampoo comes in, it revives your hair and adds volume to the roots."

To refresh your hair, Webb suggests using dry shampoo on areas where oil and dirt tend to accumulate - the roots, hairline, and nape of the neck. She advises spraying the shampoo about 3 to 4 inches from the head and lifting and spritzing small sections of hair.

You can also use dry shampoo proactively to keep your style looking fresh.

"I have my stylists use dry shampoo on a freshly blow-dried hair for added volume," says Webb. "You can also spray it on your hair before bedtime, and it will absorb any excess oil overnight, helping to preserve your style."

So, when is it time to shampoo?

"If it's already Day Five and your style is falling apart, it's time to wash your hair," says Webb. "Otherwise, try something different, like a side braid or a bun, to switch up your style. If you can use dry shampoo to camouflage any oil, great! Often, when you do something different, you receive more compliments."

The Trend and the Stigma

In recent times, the trend of skipping shampooing and washing hair less often has become more popular, with individuals opting to go a week or more between washes. However, this may not be the case for everyone. According to Goh, many of her patients have the opposite concern and actually need to shampoo more frequently.

However, going longer periods between washes is becoming more common. Caroline Lynch, a Michigan-based IT consultant, no longer feels the need to shampoo frequently. She explains, "I have thick, curly hair and a lot of it, so I started shampooing less often a few years ago. As I saw that my hair was fine without shampooing as often, I kept delaying the next wash."

Lynch only washes her hair once a week, and she says that reducing the frequency of shampooing has greatly improved the health of her hair. She believes that shampooing less often minimizes damage and dryness caused by shampoo and styling tools, such as blow dryers, flat irons, and curlers. Additionally, she finds that shampooing less frequently saves her money, as she can afford to purchase higher quality shampoo and conditioner.

However, Lynch still prefers to keep her once-a-week shampooing habit quiet.

"Although I receive a lot of compliments on my hair and stylists constantly praise its health, I am still reluctant to reveal the frequency of my shampooing due to the negative connotation or fear of being perceived as unclean for not shampooing more often."

Alternative shampoos


Many beauty blogs and magazines have praised alternative options to conventional shampoos, such as dry shampoo. Despite its name, dry shampoo does not clean your hair but rather absorbs excess oil and prevents clumping. This type of shampoo is ideal for people who are unable to wash their hair regularly or who wish to prolong the time between washes.

Co-washing, or washing hair with conditioner only, has become a popular trend. L'Oreal and Pantene, among others, offer products specifically designed to clean and condition hair without using traditional shampoos. Hughes suggests that this method is most beneficial for those with curly, wavy, or dry hair. To co-wash, simply apply conditioner to your scalp and massage like you would with shampoo. After scrubbing, comb through the hair and let it sit for a few minutes before rinsing.

When co-washing, it is important to avoid hair care products containing silicone, which can build up and make hair appear greasy and limp. Ingredients ending in -cone, such as cyclomethicone, dimethicone, and amodimethicone, are all forms of silicone.

The water-only washing method is popular among those who claim to have beautiful and lively curls, however, there is limited research on the benefits or drawbacks of using only water on hair.

According to Hughes, there is nothing wrong or harmful with washing hair solely with water and it can remove dirt, pollen, and sweat. However, this method does not provide the moisturizing benefits of conditioner or hydrating shampoos.


The main purpose of shampoo is to cleanse the scalp, not the ends of the hair, which are the oldest and most delicate parts that require extra moisturization.

According to a report from Johns Hopkins, conditioner is crucial for maintaining healthy hair, and those with dry hair should use it every time they wash. Focus on the ends of your hair when using conditioner, and consider applying it to the scalp as well if you have a dry scalp or curly hair. Ultimately, finding the right balance between cleanliness and moisture is a personal journey and may vary from person to person

Read More: Ways to Help Your Hair Grow Faster and Stronger


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