How Often Should I Wash My Hair? Dermatologists Weigh In


@THEOUAI / Design by Zackary Angeline

After learning how often we need to be conditioning our strands to keep them vibrant, healthy, and looking their best, we paused to revisit the frequently asked question of just how often we should be shampooing our hair. What we came to discover is that there are in fact a lot of common misconceptions around how we care for our strands on the daily.

Shampooing our hair isn't just about washing off the sweat from our last workout. It's a matter of caring for our scalp and keeping our hair healthy, starting at the roots (scalp is skin, after all). We use serums, exfoliants, and moisturizers on our skin, but there's still this recurrent disconnect when it comes to caring for our scalp.

As all hair rules go, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. We each have our own individual factors to consider. With that in mind, we're going to tackle this topic by three primary hair types: thin, thick, and textured. And since this is a matter of cleansing at the root, we took it one step further and spoke with two trichologists to help us understand not only the frequency of washing, but the importance behind it and how critical shampooing is to our scalp and follicle health, no matter what type of strands you have. Read on to see what these experts have to say.

Meet the Expert

  • Michelle Blaisure is a certified trichologist at Bosley Professional Strength. She is a product and technical specialist that oversees educational programs that focus on fine, thinning hair and hair loss.
  • David Adams is a master colorist, educator and trichologist consultant. He is the co-founder of Fourteenjay salon in New York City.

Thin Hair: Every Other Day

Let me just start off by saying, we are living in a time when many of us take pride on how little we shampoo our strands. I hear friends, clients, and colleagues discuss this lack of frequency with gusto on a regular basis. However, my fine haired friends remain perplexed. How can anyone go so long without washing?! they wonder. Fine haired strands tend to get oily much faster and much easier than other hair types, making it seem blasphemous to leave their hair in a dirty state for days on end.

"Most people with fine hair need to shampoo fairly often as oil and debris will weigh down the hair and make it look flat and greasy," explains expert trichologist Michelle Blaisure, "so usually every other day you will need to shampoo." Despite what's trending in hair talk, thin hair needs a more frequent cleanse.

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"It is a misconception that frequent washing increases hair loss," says Blaisure. "If a person is not experiencing genetic thinning, they can wash and keep hair looking fresh and fabulous even daily so long as they are using a gentle shampoo." For fine and thin hair, Blaisure suggests Bosley Professional Strength Nourishing Shampoo ($21). Try pairing with a volumizing conditioner (made specifically for fine strands and never too heavy) for added fullness. 

Blaisure also advises clients with fine hair to try a thickening treatment to aid in maximizing the benefits fine hair is looking for by maintaining a healthy scalp and healthy growth. Davines has a NaturalTech line specifically focused on thickening fine, frail strands that saved me personally during postpartum hair loss that I would highly recommend to anyone with thinning hair.

Thick Hair: Every Couple of Days

Thick hair, depending on its density, can be a lot to carry. But is it a lot to care for, or is it easier to take a step back and quite literally ride out our waves?

"Unfortunately, people who have reduced the frequency of washing often layer dry shampoo and over-use dry shampoo, which can cause clogging of the hair follicle," Blaisure tells us. For medium to coarse hair, she recommends shampooing every 3 to 7 days, though it will largely depend on the individual. Like we said before, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to hair care.

Bosley Professional Strength Healthy Hair Rebalancing and Finishing Treatment $17.00

Although thicker manes can get away with washing less frequently, it doesn't mean skimping in other areas is permissible. "With less washing, people often brush the hair less frequently. All of this combined reduces circulation in the scalp area and growth can slow down." You heard it here, Byrdies. Your scalp needs some TLC, no matter how often you choose to shampoo.

Even if the frequency of shampooing is slim to none, Blaisure warns us not over-use dry shampoos. "They are not a replacement for wet shampooing," she says. "Only shampooing can remove all the build-up, and environmental pollution on the scalp. For thicker hair, products that contain essential oils like Argan and Marula can help maintain moisture balance and add shine and smoothness, like this Rebalancing and Finishing Treatment from BosDefense, which also contains Burdock Root extract that helps to soothe the scalp."

Textured Hair: Once a Week

Textured hair that is naturally more kinky or coily in its curl pattern is known to need a lot of moisture. The natural sebum your scalp produces can actually be of service to textured strands. Although textured hair can stretch their shampoos to last longer than other hair types, it yet again does not excuse attention to scalp care and the need for recurring treatments.

While we are (thankfully) experiencing a cultural movement that encourages us to embrace our natural textures, playing with different hairstyles can be especially fun for this hair type. Textured hair is adaptable to a variety of different looks. Despite the beauty of it all, hair pro David Adams warns, "be mindful about over styling." From aggressive brushing, to the chemicals in low-quality styling products and home hair coloring treatments, Adams says all these factors can make our strands much more susceptible to damage and could actually ruin the health of our scalps. "Dry heat can damage the hair," he says. Avoid "holding the hair dryer too close to the hair [and] using curling irons and flat irons too often, and on too high a heat setting."

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"Shampoo at least one or more times a week," notes Blaisure. With less frequent suds, your scalp may need an added boost to assist in removing build-up. To keep your scalp's health in tip-top shape, try using an exfoliating scalp scrub every couple of washes. Blaisure adds that a scalp scrub can be especially helpful if your scalp becomes dry/flaky or oily.

Both experts agree that a good diet and low-stress lifestyle are huge factors to our hair's health. Shampooing with frequency is important after all. Our scalps are in fact skin and it needs to be approached accordingly, as a part of holistically caring for ourselves. Just remember that everyone's hair and scalp is different, and these washing frequencies are just a nice rule of thumb to follow.

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