How infrequently you wash your hair has become somewhat of a badge of honor in the beauty community. Going three days sans shampoo used to be an accomplishment to be proud of. Now, people are boasting about washing their hair every five days or even once a week. If all of this sounds like madness to you, allow us to explain with the help of some experts.
Meet the Expert
"Your hair thanks you," Longsworth says, "Seriously, it depends on your hair characteristics. If you have chemically treated hair, dry hair, damaged hair, or tightly curled hair, less frequent washing reduces dryness, which in turn helps reduce breakage and hair loss."
Washing less is just plain convenient but if you're struggling with oiliness, it could feel nearly impossible to train your hair. Fortunately, there are some steps (and habit changes) you can take to get your stubborn strands under control and nix everyday washing.
"Washing hair once or twice a week is plenty for most folks. The key is to cleanse your scalp and hair well without drying it out; this often means not using harsh shampoos and making sure you do not have hard water," Longsworth explains.
Ahead, try out these pro tips for extending wash time while keeping your hair (and scalp) healthy and happy.
How to Go a Week Without Washing Your Hair
To get through a full week without giving your hair a thorough lather will require a few habit changes. You should begin your no-wash week with a final thorough shampoo (twice!) with a clarifying shampoo of your choice.
Thank yourself later by prepping a scalp massager, dry shampoo, and a conditioning wash of your choice to keep on hand for extending wear beyond the first few days.
Throughout your no-wash week, make these habits changes to take on a full five to seven days without shampooing:
- Switch to a gentle and clarifying shampoo.
- Invest in a scalp massager to bust through buildup on the scalp.
- Only apply conditioner to the ends (never the roots).
- Avoid oils and pick a cream instead.
- Keep products away from your roots by at least an inch.
- Skip the hot water (it can stimulate the sebaceous glands and lead to boosted oil production).
- Reach for dry shampoo for a mid-week pick-me-up.
- When you really need to wash your hair between washes, pick a conditioning wash.
- Hands off! Try not to touch your hair as often.
How to Train Hair to Go Longer Without Washing
Can you actually train your hair to go longer between washes?
"Yes... and no," says Robinson. "What you're actually doing is training your scalp and the amount of sebum it produces, not your actual hair strands."
When we shampoo our hair, it strips natural oils from the scalp. This triggers sebaceous glands to produce more oil to make up for the loss. "The more you shampoo, the more you strip the scalp and the more natural oils it will produce," says Robinson. "So, if you can wash less you may be able to help balance out the amount of sebum your scalp is producing." This will then allow you to go longer in between washes.
Keep in mind, however, that this strategy is highly dependent upon the texture of your hair.
"Coarse, wavy, or curly strands can go much longer without looking greasy and weighed down than fine, thin strands," Robinson explains. "Another factor? Hair color—blonde hair will look darker when it’s greasy vs. darker hair that may just take on a shine."
Steps for Training Your Hair to Go Longer Between Washes
First things first, stop shampooing like you were taught to as a kid. The detergent-style ingredients in traditional shampoos can strip your hair of its natural oils, potentially causing it to overproduce oil. Ditching shampoo doesn’t mean you have to quit showering—you have more than a few options.
If you’re trying to stretch the time between washing, you're going to want to have a plan. Here's a day-by-day for your no-wash week.
- Day one is easy: You have clean hair, so it can be left lightly styled however you please.
- Day two should go a lot like day one; people with fine hair or particularly oily scalps may need to add dry shampoo, but only a little.
- Day three your hair probably isn't going to be as pretty as the first two days; try a messy bun or loose braid. Tease the roots slightly and muss up your part so it’s not perfectly straight (these tactics will help disguise any first appearances of grease).
- Day four can be a repeat of day three, or, depending on hair type, you can slick your hair back into a low bun or a high pony. If you’re going for the sleek look, you'll without a doubt want to use product.
- Day five is probably wash day for those with fine hair. Thicker or curlier-haired people may be able to get away with a slicked-back look (or a hat).
You can do a half wash in the shower with a shower cap over the rest of your hair or in the sink. Both ways work. And you get to maintain that third-day texture we all love so much.
"After a few days off from washing your hair, you will likely notice a buildup of sebum at the roots and overtime that will travel down the hair shaft," Robinson says. "If you brush your hair, you can more evenly disperse that oil down the hair shaft as a sort of natural conditioning treatment." You'll also need to be careful with any styling products you use as these can begin to build up on your scalp between washes leading to itchiness and odor.
Around days three, four, and five, you may have to get creative. When you just need a little boost between regular washings, you effectively have two options: rinsing or doing a half wash.
Rinsing is fairly self-explanatory. If you had a sweaty workout, but you just washed two days ago, merely rinsing your strands in the shower will take care of the extra grease and redistribute your scalp’s oils.
When the rest of your hair looks fine but the roots along your hairline and part are looking greasy, try a half wash. To do a half wash, pull your hair back into a loose low bun, and just wet, wash, and rinse about a 1- to 2-inch section along your hairline and down the front portion of your part.
Does Washing Hair More Often Make It Greasier?
If you're washing every day with a shampoo that is rough on your hair you may actually end up with greasier hair. Washing daily strips your hair of its natural oils which then lead to your scalp's sebaceous glands producing even more sebum.
The key takeaway is: It's usually better not to wash your hair every day to avoid stripping your hair of these natural oils.
"The few situations when you will want to wash more frequently is if you have bone straight hair that gets very oily quickly or if you sweat excessively during daily exercise. But even then, it is best to use a cowash and only use shampoo once a week," Longsworth explains.
Believe it or not, the simple act of repeatedly wetting your hair alone can be bad for your hair. "Wetting the hair repeatedly (and then using heat to dry it) can weaken the cortex and cuticle layers of the hair," Longsworth says. "And if the hair stays wet for extended periods of time, hygral fatigue can be an issue."
Case closed: Overwashing hair can lead to greasy, unhealthy hair.
The Final Takeaway
As long as you aren't taking it to the extreme, skipping a few days of washing can actually help your hair. As for how long you're going between each wash, be it every other day or once weekly, you should take a look at a few factors first.
If your hair is naturally on the oilier side and you incorporate a vigorous workout into your daily routine then going five days between washes is probably a no-go. On the opposite end, if you have thick hair that's on the drier side and lead a laidback lifestyle then you can probably squeeze a few wash-free days out of your hair with the help of strategic styling.
Hair is individual to you. What works for us, won't necessarily work for you. Use the advice in this guide to develop your ideal washing routine that will keep both you and your hair happy.
Is it good to go without washing your hair?
While stretching the time between washes can cut down on oiliness, going without washing for too long can lead to negative side effects. We're talking: dandruff, ingrown hairs, odor from trapped oil, and overall itchiness. When you're planning to cut back on washes, keep in mind that washing your hair is still good for your hair. (It's overwashing you want to watch out for).
How many days can you go without washing your hair?
There's no single right answer to how many days you can get by without washing your hair. This comes down to your lifestyle, hair texture, and hair type. For many, two to three days is the most. However, by day five you should definitely give your strands a good wash. You'll notice the signs of necessary cleansing when your hair becomes visibly oily, you notice dandruff or buildup, or your scalp begins to itch.