How Often Should I Wash My Hair? An Expert Spills the Definitive Answer

Updated 08/15/19

There's been a lot of discussion recently about how often you should shower (and at what temperature), and occasionally the focus turns to the topic of your hair. How often you currently shampoo your strands probably depends on your hair type and lifestyle (i.e., how often you work out); but do you know how often you should wash your hair? It turns out there's a right and a wrong answer, and the frequency with which you shampoo can majorly affect the quality and health of your hair.

So to answer your question "How often should I wash my hair?" we reached out to Justin Anderson, co-founder and creative director of salon and haircare line dpHue, and ambassador for Olaplex. Turns out the answer is shockingly uncomplicated.

tips for washing hair
 Emily Roberts/Byrdie

So, How Often Should You Wash Your Hair?

If you're a daily shampooer, it's time to slow your roll. No matter how greasy your hair seems, if you're washing it every day, you're overwashing. "We hear the debate on how often you should wash your hair all the time, " he says. "Simply put, washing your hair is like washing your fine clothes. The more often you do it, the more it will lose its shape and texture. Overwashing your hair—which means every day or more—will dry out your hair, not only because you're stripping the hair of its natural oils, but also because you'll probably end up using heat on the hair more often (such as blow-drying, straightening, and curling)," he says. Not to mention, stripping your hair of its natural oils makes it even more oily, because your scalp feels like it has to compensate. It's a self-perpetuating cycle.

So what's the magic frequency? Anderson says the ideal amount to shampoo your hair is two to three times per week. If you work out regularly or feel like you "need" to wash your hair every day, you may be thinking that sounds impossible. And of course, frequency depends on a number of factors:

For Fine Hair:

People with fine hair know that—regardless of how much oil is in it—by day two or three, their hair is going to at least look greasy. You can do two things about this: use dry shampoo, or make a point to buy volumizing products in order to get another day or two out of your wash. If you do those things (and, if it's greasy, address the amount of oil in your hair,) nobody will be able to tell you're in between wash days. Try to shoot for washing your hair once every two or three days.

Thickening Shampoo 8 oz/ 236 mL
Bumble and Bumble Thickening Shampoo $28
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Boost your hair's body with this lightweight cleaner that gives limp hair a lift while infusing with fullness.

Voluminous Dry Shampoo
Rahua Voluminous Dry Shampoo $32
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This dry shampoo is completely natural, using starch and clay to absorb grease. It's great for lifting particularly greasy hair.

For Kinky/Curly Hair:

If you have kinky/curly hair, you get to avoid, for the most part, your hair looking oily. So your focus has to be on keeping it healthy and clean—and unfortunately, those two things are sometimes at odds, especially when it comes to shampoo. Washing it daily is a surefire way to dry out and break your hair, so you have to find a way around it. Your primary focus should be to keep your hair hydrated. Replacing your shampoo by co-washing is your best—and healthiest—bet.

What is co-wash?

Co-washing is conditioning your hair without shampooing. However, the term "co-wash" has started to be used to describe a category of non-stripping hair washes as well.

Because there are so many forms of curly and kinky hair, there is no exact way to quantify how often you'll need to wash your hair with shampoo. Depending on how your hair takes to co-washing, you won't want to wash it for three to five days.

No-Poo Original
DevaCurl No-Poo $46
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Practically everyone with natural hair has heard of DevaCurl at this point, so the fact they made a great shampoo specifically for co-washing should be a surprise to no one.

For Normal Hair:

"Normal" hair is hard to achieve, but even it would be best served by slowing down on washing. See if you can use a co-wash or a dry shampoo to extend time between washes if you feel the need to wash your hair every day, but if not, washing every two to three days should be fine.

For Oily Hair:

Because your hair can be any type and still be oily, you want to find ways to manage the oil before considering your hair thickness, etc. Try to see if you can get use of the co-washes up to once every other wash. Eventually, you'll be able to replace shampoo with it more and more as your scalp stops trying to compensate for the lack of oil. However, because some people have hair that's naturally oilier than others', the ratio of shampooing to using shampoo alternatives will always be based on personal preference.

New Wash
Hairstory New Wash $40
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One of the current most popular co-washes, Hairstory's New Wash ($40) is probably the first thing anyone will recommend you if you want to completely replace your shampoo. However, it doesn't need to replace shampoo either; it's great for the time in between washes.

Wash & Co
Together Beauty Wash & Co $29
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Cleansing conditioners can be notoriously difficult products to pick out; some leave thinner hair greasy. This one seems to work on every kind, and washes out with no hassle. It might even replace your shampoo.

For Chemically Treated Hair:

“If your hair has been colored or chemically treated, avoid shampoos with sulfates and parabens," Anderson advises. "I recommend gentle products, free of harsh ingredients." You want to take serious precautions to avoid breaking your hair, so try to wash as little as possible—once every three days is optimal, although it might take you a bit to get there.

Ghost shampoo
Verb Ghost Shampoo $16
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It's important to also find a gentle wash that's color-safe, though—this shampoo from Verb should do the trick.

Blonde Ale Brightening Shampoo 8 oz/ 236 mL
Drybar Blonde Ale Brightening Shampoo $27
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Bring back cool, beautiful blond in color-treated hair with this cleansing formula packed with deep purple pigments that cancel out any brassiness or warmth.

Washing Best Practices

“If your hair has been colored or chemically treated, avoid shampoos with sulfates and parabens," he advises. "I recommend gentle products, free of harsh ingredients."

Apple Cider Vinegar Hair Rinse 8.5 oz
DpHue Apple Cider Vinegar Hair Rinse $35
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Turns out, just like with skin, hot water is a no-go for your hair. "Avoid hot water if you color your hair," says Anderson. "It opens the cuticle and can strip the color. I recommend washing and rinsing hair in lukewarm to cool water." An open cuticle can also leave hair frizzy; your hair is more likely to snap and weaken after a hot shower than one that ends with cool water.

And finally, Anderson says to ease up on the conditioner, or at least be careful about where you put it. "Most people don't realize that while shampoo goes on the scalp, conditioner should be applied on the mid-ends. Shampoo cleanses the scalp, while conditioner on the scalp can make the hair have less volume."

Keep scrolling for some of our favorite shampoos.

Thickening Shampoo 8 oz/ 236 mL
Bumble and Bumble Thickening Shampoo $28
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Boost your hair's body with this lightweight cleaner that gives limp hair a lift while infusing with fullness.

Shampoo Fleur d'Oranger 6.7 oz/ 200 mL
Moroccanoil Moisture & Shine Shampoo $26
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You already love Argan oil to give extra shine and hydration to your strands—so why not wash with an Argan oil–infused shampoo? This one hydrates as it cleanses, locking in moisture and shine for a healthy finish.

IGK Hot Girls Hydrating Shampoo $25
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Give overworked hair a mini spa session every time you shower with this nourishing shampoo formulated with litchi extract to protect strands from pollutants and oxidant stress.

Phyto Phytologist Absolute Energizing Shampoo
Phyto Paris Phytologist Absolute Energizing Shampoo $29
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If hair is thinning or falling flat, restore it to its healthy nature with this fortifying shampoo that stimulates the scalp and invigorates locks for healthy growth while protecting each hair fiber.

Pantene Pro-V Repair and Protect Shampoo $4
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Repair each strand from the inside out with this protective shampoo that leaves strands silkier and stronger with each wash.

Curl Shampoo 10 oz
Ouai Curl Shampoo $28
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Achieve buoyant, bouncy girls with this refreshing shampoo that enhances your hairs natural texture while bringing out shine and structure.

Sea Shampoo 12 oz/ 355 mL
Verb Sea Shampoo $16
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Get the cool, carefree look of tousled beach hair with this seawater-infused formula with seaweed extract and kelp for a lightweight yet texturized finish.

This story was originally published on February 9, 2015, and has been updated.

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