The Most Common Mistakes People Make When Shampooing Their Hair

A young woman washing her hair

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Odds are you're not shampooing your hair correctly. Now that I have your attention, I want you to know you're not alone. Most people make at least one mistake every time they lather up. Sometimes we don't spend enough time scrubbing our scalps, occasionally we don't rinse thoroughly, and sometimes we skip the deep conditioner. But, like anything, there is always room for improvement, and taking steps to take better care of our hair is pretty simple to fix. Well, once you know where you're making mistakes. 

With that in mind, we've outlined six common errors people make when shampooing and conditioning their hair.  

Mistake #1: Not Wetting Your Hair Thoroughly

Most people don't wet their hair thoroughly before applying shampoo. Every strand needs to be soaking wet in order to get a deep clean. The good news is, it just takes about a full minute standing under the shower stream to ensure every strand is drenched. The bad news is, it's different for everybody. If your hair is particularly dense—not even thick, just dense—run your fingers through to double-check that water has made it from the root to the ends of your hair.

Mistake #2: Using Too Much Shampoo

People generally have no idea how much shampoo to use in the shower. And if you use a fancy shampoo, you could be washing a lot of money down the drain. At the same time, using too little shampoo won't get your hair clean enough. It won't even coat your strands. There's a way of gauging how much shampoo you need, though. For short hair, aim for the size of a nickel. For medium-length hair, aim for a quarter. If you have long hair, you'll want to use about a half-dollar. Squeeze the shampoo in your palm, and then use your fingers to apply the product starting at the scalp and crown.

Mistake #3: Skipping the Scalp

Starting at the scalp is crucial. If you've ever had a professional shampoo at a salon, you know how much time they spend on your scalp. It's not just an impromptu head massage. Scrubbing the scalp is a key step to an effective shampoo. The magic number for cleansing the scalp is three minutes, no matter your hair length or hair type.

Focusing your initial shampooing efforts on the scalp helps remove dirt, sebum, and build-up that collects there. Spending less than three minutes on your scalp is like quickly running a mop over a dirty floor rather than scrubbing the surface of its grime.

Mistake #4: Not Rinsing Thoroughly

We recommend using the first shampoo to focus only on the scalp, not the actual hair. It turns out some of us actually should rinse and repeat, especially those with long or textured hair. 

It all goes down like this: After you've scrubbed your scalp for three minutes, it's time to rinse. A quick 15-second rinse should suffice, but depending on your hair type, you could need a little more time. Now it's part two of the shampoo, only this time you'll be focusing your efforts on your hair, not your scalp. To do this, take about a dime-sized amount of shampoo and apply it to your hair. Focus on massaging the shampoo into your actual hair strands. You can spend as little as 20 seconds on this part, or longer if you use lots of products that can cause build-up.

If you typically whip through the rinse portion of your hair washing process, you may be doing more harm than good. Especially since it's shampoo that can cause build-up on hair, not conditioners, according to the experts at NYC's Le Salon, this is why it's important to spend at least a full minute rinsing hair of shampoo before moving on to the next step.

The trick to using conditioner is only to apply it to the bottom two-thirds of hair to prevent your scalp and roots from getting overly oily since the scalp produces natural oils.

The trick to using conditioner is to only apply it to the bottom two-thirds of hair. Also, don't let conditioner touch your scalp since your roots, which develop a natural oil, can get overly oily and weigh down hair.

Skipping conditioner can be a time-saver, but your hair will pay for it in the end. The key to a productive condition is removing the excess water from your hair before you apply conditioner because this allows it to soak in and do its job. Take your time to work it in, making sure to coat every strand. 

Mistake #5: Uneven Application

If you want to avoid tangles and hair breakage, work the conditioner into the hair with a wide-toothed comb or a Denman 5 Row Classic Styling Brush if you have curly or coily hair. Make sure to rinse the conditioner out thoroughly. Depending on your hair type, leaving a little bit of conditioner on for softer hair can be beneficial, specifically for coily hair textures. 

Mistake #6: Forgoing the Cold Rinse

Finally, you should be giving your hair a cold water rinse. If you thought this was a beauty myth repeated over the years in magazines and on websites, this is a beauty do that is actually true. While hot water raises the cuticle and therefore makes products more effective, you need to rinse hair with cold water to close the cuticle. A flatter cuticle has a smoother surface, one which reflects light and makes hair look shinier. It's ok not to if you're afraid of a cold shower, but if you're brave and committed to having shiny hair, then take a chance and move that tap over to cold.

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